Matt Bonner

James Harden’s triple-double leads Rockets past Spurs, 101-99

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) — James Harden had 24 points, 15 assists and 12 rebounds as the Houston Rockets held off San Antonio 101-99 on Wednesday night to hand the Spurs their third straight home loss.

Ryan Anderson was 4 for 6 on 3-pointers in scoring 20 points, and Houston snapped a four-game skid in San Antonio. Eric Gordon had 15 points and fellow reserve Sam Dekker added 12.

Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points for the Spurs but missed his final jump shot, which could have tied the game. LaMarcus Aldridge, who had 14 points, also missed a tip-in attempt at the buzzer.

Danny Green made his season debut for San Antonio, scoring eight points in his return from a strained left quadriceps. He missed his first 3-point try but drained his second from the right corner and finished 2 for 8 on 3s.

The Spurs used a rotation spearheaded by Leonard and Green to defend Harden, but found little success.

Harden set an aggressive tone early with nine points, six assists and three rebounds in the first quarter.

When he wasn’t draining jumpers and tossing in runners, he kicked the ball out to open teammates after drawing multiple defenders on his drives.

The Rockets were 10 for 30 on 3-pointers and shot 47 percent overall.

The Spurs sat Pau Gasol the entire second quarter in favor of a quicker lineup and it helped them erase a 13-point deficit to take a 51-50 lead.

San Antonio employed the same strategy late in the third quarter to pull within a point twice, but could not overcome Harden.

TIP-INS

Rockets: Harden had his streak of four straight games with at least 30 points and 12 assists snapped. . Houston played seven of its first eight games on the road. The last team to open with such an arduous schedule was Cleveland in 1970-71. . Corey Brewer started his second straight game. Gordon started the team’s first six games.

Spurs: Tony Parker missed his third consecutive game with a sore right knee. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich expects Parker to play Friday at home against Detroit or Saturday in Houston. . Manu Ginobili joined Rashard Lewis as the only second-round draft picks in NBA history with 13,000 career points and at least 1,300 3-pointers. Ginobili is the 15th second-rounder to reach 13,000 points. . Green became the sixth player with at least one 3-pointer in 300 career games for the Spurs. Parker, Ginobili, Bruce Bowen, Matt Bonner and Sean Elliott are the others.

 

The Matt Bonner era in San Antonio appears to be over

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It’s the end of an era in San Antonio.

No, we’re not talking that Tim Duncan guy. We’re talking about Matt Bonner.

Bonner has spent the past 10 seasons mostly coming off the Spurs bench as a floor-stretching big. Because of his outgoing personality he was a fan favorite, plus the man knows his sandwiches. However, with the makeup of the team shifting, his time in San Antonio appears to be at an end, he told Concord News Radio, as transcribed by NBC News 4 in San Antonio.

“Currently they haven’t signed me. Unless something changes going into the season, I’m probably not going to be with the Spurs.”

The Spurs have 14 guaranteed contracts on the roster, plus a few partial guarantees as they head into camp. They also are well over the salary cap line and are not likely to add another player.

Another team may give him a shot, though likely not at the start of camp. While on the older side at age 36, he’s a big who shot 44.1 percent from three last season (and he took almost 60 percent of his shots from beyond the arc). That skill has value in the league. When some team faces an injury to their front line, or realizes they need more floor spacing, Boner’s phone could ring.

But it will be strange not seeing him at the end of the Spurs bench.

Kawhi Leonard doesn’t care about trappings of stardom, but does love Wingstop

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Kawhi Leonard was the Finals MVP in 2014, but if you wanted to interview him one-on-one during media availabilities on off days, it wasn’t that hard. At the start of the session media members from around the world would crowd around his podium, but after 10 minutes of one word or short answers, and nothing insightful, they’d move on to Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili or even Matt Bonner — someone who would give them good soundbites.

By the end, it was just Leonard and a guy or two, not that he would loosen up and give detailed answers about Xs and Os, himself, or anything else. The most interesting thing I got out of him was he thought the tacos in San Diego (where he went to college) were better than San Antonio.

Leonard doesn’t care about being an NBA star or his brand — he is the perfect Gregg Popovich player that way. The Brilliant Lee Jenkins lays it out perfectly over at Sports Illustrated in a story you should just read all of right now.

And learn Leonard loves Wingstop.

He is the only star still rocking cornrows, an outdated tribute to Carmelo Anthony, and he shrugs when friends claim he’d expand his endorsement portfolio if he shaved the braids. He is happy to sponsor Wingstop, which sends him coupons for free wings, so he can feed his Mango Habanero addiction. This winter, after his $94 million contract kicked in, he panicked when he lost his coupons. Wingstop generously replenished his supply.

“You’d think we were talking about a starving journeyman in the D-League,” says Randy Shelton, San Diego State’s strength and conditioning coach, who trains Leonard every off-season. But the player’s hunger is real. He is the rare professional athlete who distinguishes between greatness and stardom. “He wants the greatness badly,” Popovich says. “He doesn’t give a damn about the stardom.” You won’t find him on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You probably won’t catch him in a photo shoot, on a red carpet or at an awards ceremony, even if he is the guest of honor. Check that—especially if he is the guest of honor. “He loves the game,” Popovich continues. “He ignores the rest of it.”

Read the entire story; it ‘s fantastic writing and reporting.

Spurs GM R.C. Buford admits Leonard gave this franchise a second chance, that there would be a chance to send Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili out on a high note, while helping set the table for the time when they are gone. Do you think LaMarcus Aldridge is a Spur without Leonard there?

The Spurs were hesitant to trade George Hill for Leonard on draft night — Popovich liked Hill a lot, and as Indiana has finally discovered if you use him in the right settings Hill is a quality NBA player. But the Spurs saw what Leonard could be before anyone else, and that’s why they’re the Spurs. They take calculated gambles, but in this case it paid off with a Top 5 NBA player.

And another shot at a ring. They need to get by Golden State, of course, but Leonard makes that more possible for them than any of the other 28 teams in the league.

Report: Spurs waiving Jimmer Fredette

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Jimmer Fredette was surprised the Spurs signed him.

Considering they guaranteed $507,711 of his salary – a pretty whopping sum for just a training-camp player – this might be more surprising.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Fredette is a good 3-point shooter when he can get his shot off. But he’s point guard sized and an a poor distributor. He’s an even worse defender.

He’s a borderline NBA player who probably belongs in the league, though not necessarily on this deep Spurs squad. That they saw enough in him to give such a large guarantee is a little surprising, but they might have just wanted to get the best player possible into camp. Over the salary cap and under the luxury-tax line, it’s just money.

This leaves six Spurs without guaranteed salaries behind 13 with fully guaranteed salaries:

Who will snag the final two regular-season roster spots?

Bonner, the only Spur with a partial guarantee ($749,594), seems like a safe bet. But considering San Antonio just waived the partially guaranteed Fredette, I’m not completely certain.

After Bonner, Williams or Butler looks like favorites. With the winner of that competition getting an NBA salary and the loser walking away with nothing, the stakes are high.

Fredette, on the other hand, will get more than half a million dollars for a few weeks of practice and a couple preseason games.