Dejounte Murray

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Tony Parker retiring

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Tony Parker‘s long run as the Spurs’ starting point guard – which began as a teenager who’d just come from France in 2001 – ended when he ceded way to Dejounte Murray last season. Parker’s time in San Antonio ended when he signed with the Hornets last summer. Parker’s 17-year playoff streak – which trails only Karl Malone and John Stockton all-time – ended when Charlotte missed the postseason this year.

And now Parker’s great career will end entirely.

Parker, via Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated:

“I’m going to retire,” Parker told The Undefeated. “I decided that I’m not going to play basketball anymore.”

“A lot of different stuff ultimately led me to this decision,” Parker said. “But, at the end of the day, I was like, if I can’t be Tony Parker anymore and I can’t play for a championship, I don’t want to play basketball anymore.”

Parker is a lock for the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili formed the core of the Spurs’ dynasty. They won four championships together, Parker winning 2007 NBA Finals MVP. Parker received an MVP vote in seven different seasons, peaking at fifth place in 2012. He made three All-NBA second teams and an All-NBA third team and six All-Star teams. It’s a heck of a resumé.

Parker sometimes caused issues with teammates, most recently Kawhi Leonard. But Parker provided steady production for a championship contender for more than a decade. That will be his legacy.

Though Parker spoke of playing 20 seasons, he finishes with 18. That’s nothing for him to hang his head about. The 37-year-old lasted far longer than most and had a storied career.

Parker’s $5.25 million salary for next season is unguaranteed. The Hornets will surely waive him. Parker previously said he’d retire with the Spurs. He could sign an unguaranteed deal with them just to get waived again, the technical process behind a sentimental move.

No matter how Parker ties this up, he’ll be remembered for his time in San Antonio – as a winner, as a pioneering European guard and as an all-time great player.

Gregg Popovich on Spurs drafting Derrick White: ‘Never even knew he existed in the world. Didn’t know he was on the planet’

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Under president-coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs have drafted legendarily well. Manu Ginobili (No. 57 in 1999), Tony Parker (No. 28 in 2001), Kawhi Leonard (No. 15 in 2011) stand out amid a long list of quality selections.

But maybe don’t give Popovich too much credit for Derrick White, the No. 29 pick in the 2017 draft.

Popovich, via ESPN:

I never even saw him, never even knew he existed in the world. Didn’t know he was on the planet.

I’m busy. I’ve got other stuff to do. I can’t watch this guy. I don’t know who these guys are. I’m at dinner. I’m ordering wine. I’m relaxing. They’ve got to find the talent, right? I’ve got to teach back-door, and I’ve got to find the talent?

Popovich is obviously joking about being too busy eating and drinking (though wine is actually quite important to Popovich). But not scouting White at all? I wonder how serious that is.

Though Popovich has the title and salary of a team president, he has empowered general manager R.C. Buford. It’s to the point people forget about Popovich when explaining why president-coaches “always” fail.

A big drawback of someone holding the dual title: It’s too much work for one person. However involved Popovich is in roster-building, he and Buford have clearly struck a productive balance.

White ascended to starting point guard after Dejounte Murray‘s season-ending injury and played well this season. White is a high-level defensive guard, and he showed his athleticism in Game 1 against the Nuggets:

San Antonio did well to identify and draft White, who began his college career at Division-II Colorado–Colorado Springs then transferred to Colorado for his senior year. White has also developed impressively while with the Spurs. At minimum, Popovich had a hand in that development.

But if drafting White were completely up to Buford, still give Popovich some credit for trusting the general manager. Popovich is in charge. Knowing how to delegate is part of good leadership.

DeMar DeRozan, Spurs defense too much for Nuggets in Game 1

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DENVER — Nikola Jokic overcame suffocating double teams to become the fourth player in NBA history to record a triple-double in his playoff debut and the first since LeBron James in 2006.

What did it mean to him?

“To be honest, nothing,” Jokic said.

It also mattered little to the San Antonio Spurs, who beat the Denver Nuggets 101-96 in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series Saturday night.

Jokic’s accomplishment was rendered a footnote by LaMarcus Aldridge‘s suffocating defense, DeMar DeRozen’s 18 points, Derrick White‘s clinching steal in the closing seconds and all those wide-open shots that just didn’t fall for Denver.

Although Jokic pulled down 14 rebounds and dished out 14 assists, he took just nine shots, made four, and was limited to 10 points, less than half his regular season scoring average of 20.1.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called it a wash because Aldridge wasn’t himself, either, going just 6 of 19 for 15 points.

“We didn’t let Jokic play as he wanted and they didn’t let LaMarcus play as much as he wanted,” Popovich said. “It is important because they are both great players and they are going to continue to get a lot of attention throughout the series.”

Aldridge said this is what everyone can expect this whole series, too.

“Both bigs kind of never really got comfortable down there. When you have two bigs that are so big for your team, it’s going to be like that,” Aldridge said. “We did a good job of just trying to mix it up on him. They did the same thing on me.”

Nuggets coach Michael Malone said he didn’t wish his All-Star had taken more shots.

“Every time he put it down, there was somebody right there. They trapped him every time,” Malone said. “So, I think Nikola has a high IQ. He’s going to make the right play. Unfortunately, we didn’t make them pay for double-teaming enough.”

The Nuggets made just 42 percent of their shots, 21 percent from 3-point range, and missed eight free throws while failing to score a single fast-break basket.

“I think if we’re making shots, it becomes a lot harder to double-team him consistently,” Malone said. “They stayed with it because we couldn’t make a shot. So, that was the tough thing about it. But I love Nikola’s approach. I love his play-making. I love his passing.”

The sellout crowd at the Pepsi Center, where the Nuggets went 34-7 for the best home record in the league, certainly wanted Jokic to take more shots. But even those calls quieted after Jokic shot an airball on a 3 at a crucial point in the fourth quarter.

White stole the ball at midcourt from Jamal Murray with 1.3 seconds left after Aldridge sank a pair of free throws following his key defensive rebound of Murray’s errant shot that would have given the Nuggets the lead with seven seconds left.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Denver.

Making their first playoff appearance in six years, the Nuggets trailed most of the night, but they trimmed a 12-point deficit to one in the final minute.

They had the ball with 6.9 seconds left and needed a 3 even though they were just 6 for 28 from the arc. But they never got the chance to tie it because White, a second-year pro who moved into a bigger role when Dejounte Murray got hurt in the preseason, stripped Murray and drew the foul, then sank both shots.

“He was spectacular,” Popovich said. “For somebody who got put in that position and to learn that position with a bunch of new players, it’s really remarkable what he’s done. Hopefully, he’ll continue to play that way because it’s going to be a long series.”

Asked what adjustments he had in mind for Game 2, Malone said simply, “Make shots.”

 

Spurs match record by making playoffs 22nd straight year

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Before the season, Kurt Helin and I did something ahistorical: We picked the Spurs to miss the playoffs.

Kawhi Leonard was gone. So were cogs Danny Green, Kyle Anderson, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Dejounte Murray was out for the year.

I didn’t feel great about omitting San Antonio, but the Western Conference was crowded. There were more good teams than postseason spots. Someone had to get left out.

Of course, it wasn’t the Spurs.

The NBA’s most consistent winner qualified for the playoffs yet again. San Antonio clinched its 22nd straight postseason berth with the Kings’ loss to the Rockets on Saturday. That ties the Syracuse Nationals/Philadelphia 76ers (1950-1971) for the longest playoff streak in NBA history.

Here are the longest postseason streaks of all-time:

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San Antonio’s success is particularly impressive considering the era. The league is bigger than ever with 30 teams. Contracts are shorter than before. It’s so easy to have an off year.

Tim Duncan ensured the Spurs remained competitive for so long. Lately, Gregg Popovich has gotten enough star production from LaMarcus Aldridge then gotten everyone else on the same page. San Antonio just avoids mistakes and keeps chugging.

Nobody else now even nears the Spurs’ playoff longevity. Their playoff streak is more than three times longer than any other current streak:

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Of course, people could again predict the Spurs to miss the playoffs next year. I even might. Weighted by playing time, they have the NBA’s second-oldest team (behind only the Rockets). The West will likely remain tough. They could easily drop.

But it will always be uneasy picking against this model of consistency.

Believe me, I know.

How Spurs’ Bryn Forbes went from afterthought recruit to NBA starter

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Bryn Forbes‘ 2014 transfer from Cleveland State to Michigan State was well-covered in the media. Nearly every article on it explained Forbes’ reasoning: The Lansing, Mich., native wanted to be closer to his son, who was born the year prior, and his sister, who was suffering from what would be a fatal illness.

And those explanations weren’t wrong. Family was Forbes’ primary concern.

But he had another reason: He wanted to better prepare for the NBA.

Forbes kept that one close to the vest. After all, he was a 6-foot-3 scoring guard with unexceptional athleticism. He ranked third in his 2012 recruiting class… at Cleveland State. He didn’t even make the All-Horizon League first team.

“People would have thought I’m crazy,” Forbes said. “They honestly would have thought I’m crazy.”

But Forbes’ self-confidence paid off. He’s now the Spurs’ starting shooting guard, averaging 12.4 points per game on 43.6% 3-point shooting.

It’s incredible how far he has come in just a few years.

Forbes worked hard in East Lansing, developing into a college star. Not bad for someone the Spartans initially offered only a preferred-walk-on spot despite Forbes playing in their backyard with Michigan State commit Denzel Valentine (now with the Bulls) at Lansing Sexton High School. Still, Forbes looked like the archetypical good shooter without the size or athleticism to make the NBA.

Leading up to the 2016 draft, DraftExpress ranked the top shooters in the draft. Forbes’ name appeared once – to note why he wasn’t otherwise included:

Please note that this is not an exhaustive study including all of the best shooters in college basketball or even in the 2016 NBA Draft Class. The only players included in this subset are those deemed to “draftable” NBA prospects. Players like Max Hooper (6-6, SG, Oakland, 3.3 3s made per game, 46% 3P%), Max Landis (6-2, SG, IPFW, 3.8 3s made per game, 46% 3P%), Bryn Forbes (6-3, SG, Michigan State, 3.2 3s made per game, 48% 3P%) for example were excluded, amongst others.

Jonathan Givony’s projection wasn’t exactly wrong. Forbes went undrafted.

He signed a barely guaranteed contract with San Antonio and quickly impressed Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich with his work ethic, coachability and 3-point shot. Against all odds, Forbes made San Antonio’s regular-season roster and earned an NBA salary.

Forbes still spent much of his first professional season with the Spurs’ minor-league affiliate playing point guard. He’s more of an off guard, but that time helped him develop his ball-handling and passing.

In his second season, Forbes became a rotation regular and spot-starter. He played 1,517 minutes on a 47-win team. After the season, he signed a two-year, $6 million deal with the Spurs.

Now, Forbes is one of just six full-time starters this season who went undrafted. The other five: Robert Covington, Joe Ingles, Wesley Matthews, Garrett Temple and Rodney McGruder.

“He’s carved out an NBA career,” Popovich said of Forbes.

Though Forbes has expanded his all-around game, that merely got other facets to tolerable levels. He remains a 3-point specialist, and his 43.6% 3-point percentage ranks 12th in the NBA:

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Maybe Forbes wouldn’t be in this position if San Antonio didn’t suffer so many backcourt injuries this season. Dejounte Murray is missing the entire season. Lonnie Walker just got healthy. Derrick White was sidelined for the start of the year.

Forbes has considered similar “what ifs” in the past. What if he stayed at Cleveland State? Would he have had the platform to showcase himself for the NBA? Eventually, he decided not to dwell on that.

“I think, one way or another,” Forbes said, “I would have found a way.”