Tim Duncan

Set the DVR: 10 must-watch games this NBA season

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The NBA schedule is out — all 1,230 games this season are locked in place.

There’s a lot to like in the schedule. For example, no team has more than one four games-in-five-nights stretch, something the league has worked hard to cut down on (teams struggle in that final game). The league also continued its decrease of back-to-backs, with the league average now 16.3 such games per team (it was 17.8 last season and 19.3 the season before that). Spreading out the games leads to a better product.

With so many games to watch, we thought we’d highlight 10 where you should either carve out the evening to watch, or at least set the DVR and avoid your phone so you can watch and savor them. Here are the 10 must watch games of the season.

Opening night, Oct. 25:  New York at Cleveland. Carmelo AnthonyDerrick Rose, Joakim Noah and crew get to watch LeBron James hoist the first championship banner to go up in Cleveland in 52 years. This also could turn out to be an entertaining game — it’s too early in the season for the Knicks’ players bodies to have broken down, and teams often stink up the joint on the night of the banner/ring ceremony. Maybe the Knicks can pull the opening night upset.

Nov. 4: New York at Chicago. This is more than just the two rosters best built to win the 2011 NBA title, this is the return of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah to Chicago. They should get a warm reception (especially the beloved Noah). The interesting question: Which one of these teams is better this season? 

Nov. 10: Chicago at Miami. Dwayne Wade returns to South Beach wearing a Bulls uniform. Expect Heat fans to boo him, after they show up in the second quarter. This is another early season matchup of teams with relatively lofty playoff expectations that they may struggle to live up to, but wins like this help.

Dec. 9: Toronto at Boston. These two look like the second and third best teams in the East (although Indiana might have something to say about that) and this is the first meeting of the season. When they get together, the games should tell us a lot. Hopefully.

Dec. 13: Minnesota at Chicago. Tom Thibodeau returns to Chicago, coaching a younger, more athletic team — the kind of team Bulls fans (and about 25 other franchise fan bases around the league) wish they had to cheer for. Everyone is expecting a leap out of the Timberwolves this season.

Dec. 25: Christmas Day: Golden State at Cleveland. Do we need to explain this one? Don’t eat so much Christmas ham that you fall asleep during the fourth quarter. 

Dec. 25: Christmas Day:  Minnesota at Oklahoma City. While the Finals rematch noted above is the marquee matchup with all the big stars on Christmas Day, this may be the most interesting game. With Karl-Anthony Towns as their star, the Timberwolves are a team on the rise, but how big a leap are they going to make under Thibodeau? Conversely, how big a step back are the Thunder going to take without Kevin Durant? By Christmas we may have an answer to those questions, but this is a fascinating matchup. 

Jan. 13: Boston at Atlanta. It’s almost halfway through the season before Al Horford makes his return to Atlanta wearing Celtics’ green. Will Hawks fans boo him? And is Paul Millsap going to go off for a monster night to remind Horford of what he left?

Jan. 16: Cleveland at Golden State. Will the visitor’s locker room still smell like champagne? This is the Cavaliers’ one trip to Oracle Arena this season, and both times these teams meet we should watch the Finals rematch and likely preview.

Feb 11: Golden State at Oklahoma City. Thunder fans are going to be there to boo Kevin Durant early and often. He’s the villain now, and not just in OKC. Durant is going to find that’s a mental adjustment, just like LeBron did in Miami. Expect Westbrook to score at least 50 in this game.

March 11: Golden State at San Antonio. Even with all the changes — no Tim Duncan, instead Pau Gasol; and Durant forming a Bay Area superteam — these still are likely the two top teams in the West and they face off relatively late in the season. If any team is going to threaten Golden State in the West, the Gasol/LaMarcus Aldridge/Kawhi Leonard Spurs are the best bet.

 

 

NBA schedule is out, here are some highlights

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The NBA schedule is out for next season.

There are 1230 games over the course of an NBA season, and technically they all count the same. However, some you want to make sure you watch more than others. Here are a few highlights from this season’s schedule.

Opening night, Oct. 25: New York at Cleveland. Carmelo Anthony and crew get to watch LeBron James hoist the first championship banner to go up in Cleveland in 52 years.

Opening night, Oct. 25: San Antonio at Golden State. The other opening night game is Kevin Durant’s first official one in Warriors uniform. These are likely the two top teams in the West next season, and both come in with different looks (Tim Duncan is out, and Pau Gasol is in for the Spurs).

Oct. 27: Boston at Chicago. Al Horford in a Celtics uniform vs. Dwyane Wade in a Bulls uniform.

Oct. 27: San Antonio at Sacramento. The Spurs will be in town for the Kings’ first regular season home game in their new arena.

Oct. 28: Cleveland at Toronto. A rematch of the Eastern Conference Finals, with the Raptors trying to prove last season’s playoff success was no fluke.

Nov. 3: Oklahoma City at Golden State. The first time Durant takes on Russell Westbrook and the rest of his former team.

Nov. 10: Chicago at Miami. Wade returns to South Beach wearing a Bulls uniform. Expect Heat fans to boo him, after they show up in the second quarter.

Dec. 9: Toronto at Boston. These may well be the second and third best teams in the East (Indiana might have something to say about that), and all their meetings should be interesting.

Dec. 25, Christmas Day: This is the NBA’s unofficial second opening night, and they have stacked it with the biggest names and brands. The games in order are:

Boston at New York
Golden State at Cleveland
Chicago at San Antonio
Minnesota at Oklahoma City
L.A. Clippers at L.A. Lakers

Jan. 13, Boston at Atlanta. It’s almost halfway through the season before Horford makes his return to Atlanta wearing Celtics’ green.

Jan. 16, MLK Day: This is one of the NBA’s other big holidays, and they lined up four quality games:

Atlanta at New York
New Orleans at Indiana
Cleveland at Golden State
Oklahoma City at L.A. Clippers

Jan. 19: Minnesota at L.A. Clippers. The Timberwolves are one of the up-and-coming teams in the West. The Clippers are a team trying one more time to win with a lineup that hasn’t gotten out of the second round. This is an excellent mid-season measuring stick for both.

Feb 11: Golden State at Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant returns to OKC wearing a Warriors uniform and playing the villain.

March 11: Golden State at San Antonio. These still are likely the two top teams in the West, and they face off late in the season.

April 12: The final night of the NBA season, and a few of these matchups could have playoff implications.

Detroit at Orlando
Toronto at Cleveland
Milwaukee at Boston
Dallas at Memphis
Minnesota at Houston
San Antonio at Utah
New Orleans at Portland

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.

Doc Rivers: If Paul Pierce retires, Clippers would let him join Celtics first

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Clippers forward Paul Pierce is mulling retirement, which would mean another franchise icon could leave the NBA this summer — Lakers great Kobe Bryant, Spurs great Tim Duncan and Celtics great Pierce.

However, unlike Kobe and Duncan, Pierce left his original team.

Personally, I don’t think stints with the Nets, Wizards and Clippers do much to diminish Pierce’s Boston bona fides. Everyone will remember him as a Celtic. Fifteen years and a championship in Boston will do that.

But just in case you need more reason to tie Pierce to the Celtics, Clippers president/coach and Pierce’s former Boston coach Doc Rivers has a plan.

Rivers, as transcribed by Jay King of MassLive:

“If Paul decides to retire then we’re going to make sure that Boston picks him up for one day and he retires a Celtic because that’s what he should retire as,” Rivers said during an episode of The Vertical podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski, which was released early Thursday. “So we have all that in place. We just don’t know what he’s going to do.”

Apparently, Amar’e Stoudemire is a trendsetter. Stoudemire signed with the Knicks to retire, the first NBA player in memory to sign with a team for that ceremonial reason. Previously, it’d mostly been done in football and baseball.

If Pierce wants to follow that path, kudos to Rivers for allowing it to happen.

Rivers just has to make sure he executes the transaction wisely.

The Clippers would waive Pierce, and presumably, nobody would claim him to interfere. Pierce could then signed an unguaranteed contract with Boston. Pierce would retire, and the Celtics would waive him to clear his salary from their books.

But Pierce is due $3,527,920 on his current contract this season, and $1,096,080 of his 2017-18 salary is guaranteed. If the Clippers just waive him, they’ll be on the hook for that money. They can pay Pierce as a retirement gift, as the Spurs did with Duncan. But that seems foolish for a team facing the hard cap and without such deep ties to the player.

Before waiving Pierce, the Clippers should renegotiate the guaranteed portion of his salary (a buyout) — all the way down to $0. If Pierce is retiring, his team no longer has to pay him. Reducing his guaranteed salary would just hasten the process of getting him back to Boston.

This isn’t that complicated. It just requires Rivers to get the details of cap management correct. Actually…

Manu Ginobili says talks with Philadelphia were serious, but didn’t want to leave San Antonio

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Manu Ginobili was willing to give his beloved San Antonio Spurs a discount. Now, when that discount was $13 million — the Sixers offered $16 million, the Spurs first offer was $3 million — he balked and started having serious conversations with the Sixers. But the Spurs cut the gap down with a $14 million, one-year offer and Ginobili took it.

Ginobili told Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports that he really was a Spur at heart.

“It was not my main option. I never wanted to leave San Antonio,” Ginobili told The Vertical. “But I had to listen to all the options that are there….

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

Just a quick translation: $13 million is a lot of money to turn down. I love Brett Brown, but really $13 million. When the Spurs cut that to $2 million, I came home.

Gregg Popovich said the Spurs didn’t want to lose Ginobili and Tim Duncan in the same season.

“Losing Tim made it absolutely imperative that we keep him,” Popovich told The Vertical Thursday of Ginobili. “To lose them both at the same time, it would’ve been like death by a thousand cuts. It would’ve been awful.”

Ginobili will play one more season — right after one more Olympic run with Argentina — then walk away from the game. Having always been a Spur. Because that’s what he really wanted.