Associated Press

Duncan scores 18, Spurs rout Jazz to move to 21-0 at home

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Tim Duncan scored a season-high 18 points and the San Antonio Spurs had eight other players in double figures, rolling to a 123-98 victory over the Utah Jazz on Wednesday night that kept them unbeaten at home.

San Antonio (31-6) matched its best start in franchise history by winning its 21st straight home game to open the season.

Kawhi Leonard had 15 points in 23 minutes. David West and Manu Ginobili added 14 points apiece, with West grabbing a season-high 13 rebounds.

The Spurs set a season best with 68 points in the first half, enabling San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich to sit Leonard and Danny Green to start the third quarter.

It was part of an easy night for San Antonio, which sat LaMarcus Aldridge to rest for the first time this season.

Trey Burke had 21 points for Utah and Gordon Hayward had 18 on 6-for-16 shooting.

Unlike the teams’ previous matchup on Dec. 14, when the Spurs never trailed in a 37-point victory, the Jazz led for 15 seconds after Trey Lyles made the game’s opening basket.

It was one of the few highlights for Utah (15-18), which dropped to 5-11 on the road.

Duncan was resurgent in his third game back after missing two games due to a sore right knee.

The 19-year veteran made his first two shots and twice tapped a missed shot over Hayward and Jeff Withey to secure a rebound that he immediately fired to Leonard under the basket for a layup.

Duncan was 8 for 13 from the field and sat out the fourth quarter after playing 26 minutes.

TIP-INS

Jazz: Utah players have missed a total of 69 games this season due to injuries or illness. … Utah is 3-3 since losing Alec Burks to a fractured left fibula. Burks was hurt on Dec. 26 in the second quarter against the Los Angeles Clippers. The Jazz are hopeful he will be back after the All-Star break in February after undergoing surgery in late December.

Spurs: Tony Parker missed the game with right hip soreness. … Green had two 3-pointers, giving him 662 with San Antonio to surpass Bruce Bowen (661) for second in franchise history. Ginobili is the Spurs’ career leader, raising his total to 1,311 with two 3-pointers against Utah. … Aldridge missed the Spurs’ victories on Nov. 21 and Nov. 23 with a mild sprain of his left ankle. … San Antonio extended its franchise-record home winning streak to 30 straight regular-season games dating to last season.

 

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.