Spurs brought open practice, community fair to Uvalde, Texas

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UVALDE, Texas — The smallest gesture can have a huge impact.

That was reaffirmed to the San Antonio Spurs when the team held an open practice and community fair in Uvalde, Texas.

It was 137 days ago that the small town, 88 miles southwest of downtown San Antonio, was the sight of an elementary school shooting. On May 24, 19 children and two teachers were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary.

The Spurs held an open practice Saturday at Uvalde High School in support of the students of Robb Elementary and those affected by that tragic day.

“It’s extremely sad,” San Antonio guard Tre Jones said. “We wish everybody was with us, still being able to enjoy this moment. We are just trying to bring joy to the families and all the kids who were friends with those kids that died and help the teachers as well. We want to bring a moment of happiness into their lives again and try to just bring a smile to their faces.”

With a transformative roster brimming with young players, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich received the loudest ovation as the team took the court for a brief practice. The Spurs then literally lifted the community, raising toddlers on their shoulders to bring them closer to the rim for a basket.

The true elevation was felt off the court.

Monica Flores’ eldest daughter is still understandably traumatized by the day’s tragedy. Her daughter was in the fourth grade, the same classification as those who died. Her daughter’s classroom was directly across the hall from the two adjoining rooms where the shooting took place.

“She has her moments, but we will never forget,” Flores said. “Sudden hands, different people that look like the shooter – she did see the shooter through her classroom window. She is terrified by people who look like him, not that she judges, but people have (similar looks), and it’s just scary.”

Flores’ daughter is scared to leave her home. She is terrified of certain situations. But that was pushed aside for a few hours, thanks to the Spurs.

Flores’ daughter eagerly anticipated Saturday afternoon once she heard the Spurs were coming to Uvalde just to see her and the other kids from Robb Elementary.

Dressed in the Manu Ginobili jersey her uncle purchased for her a few years ago, Flores’ daughter and the crowd were surprised and delighted to see the Spurs’ hall of fame guard in attendance. Now a special advisor with the Spurs, Ginobili spent the entire event signing autographs and taking pictures with those in attendance.

Flores’ daughter sprinted directly for Ginobili at midcourt when it was her group’s turn to take the court and meet the players.

And just as hundreds of fans have done for more than a decade, Flores’ daughter was beaming in delight as she posed with Ginobili.

“I am so glad she got to experience this with Manu,” Flores said.

The feeling was mutual for the Spurs.

“It’s big for me to be able to come out here and see the kids smile,” San Antonio forward Keldon Johnson said. “We know it’s been tough. If we can just come out here and bring just a little bit of joy, it’s a successful day for us.”

The tragedy of May 24 is something the Uvalde community will never get over, but they are trying to get through it.

“Tomorrow, on the court and off the court, we will fly,” Dr. Kara Allen, Spurs chief impact officer, said. “We will do the work and we will fly, but today, today is just doing joy. So, on behalf of the brilliant humans on the court and the brilliant humans you are, thank you for letting us choose to just do joy with you today.”

Celtics lock-up Al Horford with two-year, $20 million extension

Washington Wizards v Boston Celtics
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Brad Stevens has locked up the core of this Celtics team — the one that reached the Finals last season and has the best record in the NBA to start this one — through the summer of 2025.

They did that with a two-year, $20 million extension (that kicks in next season). The story was broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN and later confirmed by the Celtics.

Horford, 36, is making $26.5 million this season, the final year of a four-year, $109 million deal he signed in Philadelphia. While he never fit well as a stretch four next to Joel Embiid, he has worked well as a role player in Boston’s front line. The Celtics have locked him up at a deal closer to the league average and about his value now, at an average of $10 million a season (both years are fully guaranteed). It’s a fair deal for both sides, and a low enough number that if Father Time starts to win the race it doesn’t hurt Boston much.

With Robert Williams still out following knee surgery, Horford has seen his minutes increase to start this season but he has handled it well, averaging  10.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game, shooting 55.5% overall and 48.8% from 3-point range. Joe Mazzulla will likely try to get Horford some rest down the line when he can, but for now he’s leaning on the veteran.

And the team has rewarded him.

Donovan says Lonzo Ball’s recovery has ‘been really slow’

Milwaukee Bucks v Chicago Bulls
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Watching the finger-pointing and heated moments between Bulls’ defenders on Wednesday night as Devin Booker carved them up to the tune of 51 points, one thought was how much they miss Lonzo Ball‘s defense at the point of attack.

Ball had a second surgery on his knee back in September and the team said he would be out at “least a few months.” It’s coming up on a few months, so Donovan gave an update on Ball and his recovery, and the news was not good for Bulls’ fans. Via Rob Schaefer at NBC Sports Chicago:

“It’s been really slow,” Donovan said when asked about Ball’s rehab. “I’m just being honest.”

Donovan added Ball has not necessarily suffered a setback. The Bulls knew this would be an arduous process. But he also noted that Ball is “not even close” to being cleared for contact or on-court work.

Ball had his first knee surgery in January and the expectation was he would be back and 100% by the playoffs. However, Ball’s knee didn’t respond well, and he was eventually ruled out for the season. Things didn’t improve over the summer, which led to the second surgery. How much do they miss him? The Bulls were 22-13 with him last season, and he averaged 13.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 5.1 assists, a game. However, it was his defense that was most crucial.

There is no timeline for his return. Which is not good news for Chicago.

PBT Podcast: Timberwolves without KAT, get Luka some help

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Minnesota has stumbled out of the gate this season, and now they will be without Karl-Anthony Towns for around a month with a calf strain. Just how much trouble are the Timberwolves in?

Corey Robinson from NBC Sports and myself discuss that and then get into Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s Team USA vs. Team World matchup — does Evan Fournier get the world team in trouble? Who guards whom?

From there, it’s time for Corey’s Jukebox and some New Orleans jazz for Zion Williamson. Some Mavericks’ talk follows that — Dallas has put a big load on the shoulders of Luka Doncic, and while he’s playing like an MVP it’s a long-term concern for the Mavericks and their fans.

You can always watch the video of some of the podcast above, or listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron calls out reporters for asking him about Kyrie Irving but not Jerry Jones

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Within days of Kyrie Irving being suspended by the Nets in the wake of a Tweet promoting an antisemitic film (and his initial refusal to apologize for it), Irving’s former teammate LeBron James was asked about it. He had to deal with the controversy, saying, “I don’t condone any hate to any kind. To any race.”

At the end of his press conference Wednesday night after the Lakers beat the Trail Blazers, LeBron scolded the assembled press for not asking him about the 1957 photo that surfaced of Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones outside North Little Rock High School while white students protested the integration of the school when they had been quick to ask about Irving.

“When I watched Kyrie talk, and he says, `I know who I am, but I want to keep the same energy when we’re talking about my people and the things they’ve been through,’ and that Jerry Jones photo is one of those moments that our people, Black people, have been through in America. And I feel like as a Black man, as a Black athlete, someone with power and with a platform, when we do something wrong or something that people don’t agree with, it’s on every single tabloid, every single news coverage. It’s on the bottom ticker. It’s asked about every single day.

“But it seems like to me that the whole Jerry Jones situation, the photo, and I know it was years and years ago, and we all make mistakes, I get it. It seems like it’s just been buried under, like, `Oh, it happened. OK. We just move on.’ And I was just kind of disappointed that I haven’t received that question from you guys.”

Irving and LeBron were teammates in Cleveland and won a ring together, there was a direct connection (plus Irving had been linked to the Lakers in trade rumors over the summer).

However, there was a connection between LeBron and the Cowboys as well. LeBron was for many years a very public Cowboys fan (despite growing up in Browns territory). It came up as recently as October, when LeBron was on Instagram Live promoting his HBO show with Maverick Carter “The Shop” and he said he had stopped rooting for the Cowboys in the wake of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protests, “There’s just a lot of things that were going on when guys were kneeling. Guys were having freedom of speech and wanting to do it in a very peaceful manner…. The organization was like, ‘If you do that around here, then you will never play for this franchise again.’ I just didn’t think that was appropriate.”

When asked about the photo, Jones said he was a curious 14-year-old who was watching and didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment or situation.