Beno Udrih

AP

Gasol’s season-high 21 points help Spurs end home skid

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) Pau Gasol signed with San Antonio because he believes the Spurs can win the NBA championship.

He knows the Spurs cannot achieve that goal if they keep playing lethargically at home, so the 16-year veteran helped change that.

Gasol had season highs with 21 points and six assists, and San Antonio snapped a three-game home losing streak with a 96-86 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

“I think he got tired of losing,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.

Gasol was 10 for 16 from the field as San Antonio snapped its longest home skid since dropping three straight in December 2014.

After winning their home opener against New Orleans, the Spurs lost to Utah, the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston. San Antonio went 40-1 last season to match the league record at home.

“You just can’t afford to lose at home, period,” Gasol said. “We just needed to snap out of that bad streak at home and start playing with some fire.”

Gasol, who also had nine rebounds and two blocked shots, had 13 points in the opening quarter. It was the most points he has scored in any half this season and was his second-highest total this year.

“(San Antonio was) definitely much more aggressive from the beginning,” Gasol said. “Established a good pace and we needed to as a team collectively to get off a good start because we haven’t done that lately at home.”

Kawhi Leonard had 17 points and LaMarcus Aldridge added 14 points and 12 rebounds for the Spurs.

Tony Parker added seven points and four assists in 21 minutes after missing the previous three games with a sore right knee.

Andre Drummond matched his season high with 20 points and added 17 rebounds in Detroit’s third straight loss.

“I’m not upset at anybody,” Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I thought we played the game well. As a matter of fact, in terms of both defense and ball movement, putting both ends of the floor together, that’s one of our best games of the year.”

After trailing by 13 points in the fourth quarter, Detroit held San Antonio to two points in a four-minute span to pull within 89-84 with 2 minutes remaining. Leonard’s 3-pointer ended the drought and helped seal the victory.

“The team is still trying to improve,” Parker said. “We have a lot of guys to try and put in our team like Pau. Everybody is trying to find their role in this team. And so, we’ll be fine. It’s going to take some time.”

TIP-INS

Pistons: Detroit is winless in five road games this season. … Former Spurs Aron Baynes, Beno Udrih and Boban Marjanovic are all reserves for the Pistons. Marjanovic did not play, but received a rousing ovation when he was shown on the video screen. A huge fan favorite during his one season in San Antonio, Marjanovic was showered with shouts of “Boban!” in the final minutes.

Spurs: Gasol’s previous season high was 20 points against Miami on Oct. 30. Aldridge did not play in that game for rest. … Spurs G Danny Green sat out for rest after playing 26 minutes in his season debut Wednesday. Green missed the team’s first six games with a strained left quadriceps. … The Spurs have yet to play a game with their projected starting five of Parker, Green, Aldridge, Gasol and Leonard. . San Antonio, which plays Saturday in Houston, is 3-1 in back-to-back games this season. The Spurs won both road games.

WINNING TRADITION

San Antonio has not lost more than three games in a row at home since 2002. Every other team in the league has lost at least five straight home games over that span.

GOT YOUR BACK

Leonard had his second-lowest point production of the season, shooting 6 for 14.

The 6-foot-7 forward has scored 30-plus points in four games after entering the season with four games of 30-plus in his career, including the playoffs.

Leonard scored 34 points in San Antonio’s 101-99 loss to Houston on Wednesday, attempting a career-high 26 shots.

“He shouldn’t need to get 30 to 34 every night,” Gasol said. “We have enough guys on this team, enough talent on this team that he shouldn’t have to have that responsibility or pressure.”

UP NEXT

Pistons: At Denver on Saturday.

Spurs: At Houston on Saturday.

NBA sets record with 113 international players, a plurality from Canada, on opening-night rosters

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Until last season, the NBA set or tied its record for number of international players on opening-night rosters the previous three years.

But after peaking at 101 in 2014-15, the number dropped to 100 last season.

A sign the league has hit its foreign saturation point?

Probably not.

The NBA boasts a record 113 international players from a record 41 countries and territories to begin this season. Canada, with 11, leads the league for the third straight year.

A count of international players in the NBA on opening night:

  • 2016-17: 113
  • 2015-16: 100
  • 2014-15: 101
  • 2013-14: 92
  • 2012-13: 84

Here’s a full list of 2016-17 international players, but before you read it, take our quizzes on opening-night rosters.

Report: Pistons claim Beno Udrih off Miami’s waivers

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Miami felt set at point guard with Goran Dragic starting and the up-and-coming Tyler Johnson as his backup. They decided veteran Beno Udrih wasn’t part of the future and waived him.

Detroit, looking for some help at the one until Reggie Jackson returns, saw a dependable veteran guard on the market. So they snapped him up, reports Shams Charnaria of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

At age 34 we are seeing Udrih’s game start to slip. Still, he has valuable NBA skills as a point guard: he doesn’t turn the ball over, can run an offense, and if you ignore him coming off a pick he will bury the shot.

Jackson is expected to be out at least another six weeks after getting PRP therapy to deal with knee tendonitis (he hopes to be back sooner). That leaves Ish Smith as the starting point guard in the short term; Udrih will help provide solid depth at the position.

The Pistons need to keep their heads above water until Jackson can return.

Report: Heat nearing buyout with Beno Udrih, which would get them under luxury-tax line

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The Heat signed Joe Johnson on Saturday, even though inking him so soon put them above the luxury-tax line.

Apparently, they have a way back under: Dropping Beno Udrih.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Miami Heat are nearing agreement with guard Beno Udrih on a contract buyout to offset the salary and luxury-tax implications of signing Joe Johnson, league sources told The Vertical.

The Heat approached Udrih’s representatives late last week about a possible buyout and discussions progressed over the weekend, sources said. Ultimately, the choice to settle for a buyout or be released outright rests with Udrih.

Miami has also held discussions with free-agent guard Marcus Thornton and could pursue a third point guard behind Goran Dragic and Josh Richardson, sources said.

The Heat are $42,582 over the luxury-tax line. Udrih is owed $574,535 the rest of the season.

So, if he gives up a portion of his guaranteed salary, Miami could dip far enough below the tax line to add another player (like Thornton) and remain below the tax. The tax is determined by team salary on the final day of the regular season.

But why would Udrih — in the final season of his contract and likely out the rest of the year due to injury — relinquish any money? Is he that loyal to the Heat, who acquired him in November and tried to flip him before even getting him?

 

If Udrih accepts a buyout, the NBA should investigate Miami. There’s no apparent reason for him to do so without receiving under-the-table payments.

However, even if the Heat agree to a buyout with Udrih, that doesn’t mean it would take effect. A player must clear waivers first, and the 76ers — below the salary floor — could save money by claiming him.

That’d be a huge win for Miami, which would clear Udrih’s entire $2,170,465 off its books. Udrih would also be owed the rest of his full salary from Philadelphia, the buyout agreement negated by the waiver claim.

The Heat should dangle Udrih on the waiver wire. They might even have known the 76ers would claim him before agreeing to terms with Johnson.

But Udrih accepting a buyout? That doesn’t make any sense for him.

Report: Heat frontrunner to sign Joe Johnson

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Joe Johnson reportedly planned to sign with the Cavaliers if he received a buyout from the Nets.

Brooklyn buyout complete, is Johnson headed to Cleveland?

Not so fast.

Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv:

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

Johnson will clear waivers tomorrow, so he has another day to weight his options. If he’s learning toward the Heat, he’ll probably have even more time.

Miami can add only 38 duty days of minimum salary to its payroll and remain below the luxury-tax line. So, a rest-of-season contract couldn’t begin until March 7 if the Heat prioritize avoiding the tax, which they surely do.

Miami also has two roster vacancies and could open a third by waiving Beno Udrih, who’s likely out for the season and on an expiring contract. So, the Heat might delay Johnson’s signing even further to accommodate an additional signing or two.

They’d have some discretion in when they’d get Johnson. They could sign him on up to two 10-day contract, not necessarily consecutively, and then a rest-of-season contract. As long as Johnson ends the regular season on their roster, he’d be eligible for the playoffs. The other requirement is he’s waived by his previous team by March 1, which the Nets satisfied.

Of course, Miami’s need to delay could also open the door for Johnson to change his mind (again?).