Spurs rally to beat Kings 106-99 (Yahoo Sports)

SAN ANTONIO, TX - OCTOBER 20: Jeff Ayres #11 of the San Antonio Spurs prepares to shoot a free throw against the Sacramento Kings at the AT&T Center on October 20, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Jeff Ayres had 15 points and rookie Kyle Anderson added 14 points as the San Antonio Spurs overcame DeMarcus Cousin’s 32 points and 11 rebounds to rally for a 106-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Monday night.


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Spurs Tackle NBA Title Defense with Consistency in Their Message and Players

SAN ANTONIO — Kyle Anderson has had it easy, relatively speaking. Not only did he have some help, from fellow rookies who, unlike him, aren’t expected to make the San Antonio Spurs‘ final roster. But when the first-round pick from UCLA was told to sing “Happy Birthday” to the organization’s latest import, long-time Euroleague coach Ettore Messina, he was allowed to do it in just one language:   

English. 

“That’s the only one I know,” Anderson said, laughing.   

It isn’t the only one spoken in these parts, of course. The Spurs have long been the most multi-lingual operation outside of Rosetta Stone, to the point that even the Jacob Riis quote about pounding the rock until it finally splitsthe one that Gregg Popovich has adopted as the squad’s mantrais posted in Spanish, French, Portuguese and Latin in the corridor leading to the locker room, where it is is posted in English on the wall adjacent to Tim Duncan’s locker. 

But there is another language spoken here, one that has been honed over the past 17 years, an era in which San Antonio’s NBA franchise has made 17 playoff appearances, reached six NBA Finals, won five championships and never produced a winning percentage under .610, even while playing in what has typically been the more powerful of the league’s two conferences. 

You can call that language Spurs-ian.

By now, it should require no translation. 

The dialect has evolved slightly over the years, twisted slightly by the tongues of dozens and dozens of different speakers. But it has always been marked by certain core characteristics, notably its liberal, earnest use of sports clichespouting time-honored principles such as discipline and teamwork and sacrificeas well as its rote, dismissive responses to the media’s silly storylines. 

It is still spoken in the Alamo City. This was evident on a reporter’s recent visit, when that reporter tried to push a series of premises, built on the notion that the Spurs are about anything other than striving for excellence for its own sake. 

The first premise? That the Spurs might struggle some to summon the same fire during the upcoming 2014-15 season, which follows their near-perfect NBA Finals victory, as they had last season, when they were driven to destruction by the 2013 NBA Finals heartbreak in Miami. 

Surely, the absence of that trigger has to be of concern, after Popovich openly acknowledged last season that his team had turned Ray Allen’s dagger into a motivational weapon. As veteran forward Matt Bonner acknowledges, “It’s impossible to replicate the same exact circumstances. I think, psychologically, there’s a difference between winning a championship and coming off losing the way we did the year before. It’s up to us to be professionals, be competitors. Same group of guys helps, I think, because we can hold ourselves accountable and play as a team, and try to build off that.”

But some teams can get full of themselves, especially if they’re being told just about every day, as guard Danny Green was by everyone, that they just played a beautiful, practically perfect brand of basketball. They might spend their summer reviewing that glorious tape, as they blistered the Heat in five games.

So the Spurs did that, right? 

“No,” Bonner said. “No. Not much. I’ve seen highlights a couple of times, but that’s about it.”

“No,” veteran center/forward Boris Diaw said. “I still haven’t. No. I just kind of remember. I don’t need to watch it.” 

Fine.

Still, Popovich had to have some concern about the way his team has come back from its most recent, somewhat more celebratory offseason.

So he’s pleased about their approach? 

“Well, I didn’t expect them all to come back 20 pounds overweight or anything,” he scoffed. “They just came back like they do every year. Just like Miami came back, I’m sure, after the loss last year. These guys are all pros, they come back. It’s their job, they go to work, and then we see what happens. None of us know what’s going to happen at the end of the year. But no, I’m not surprised by the way they come back.”

And they all did come backwell, all but one. Damion James, the only Spur not to play a minute in the 2014 playoffs, signed with Washington prior to training camp, with Anderson expected to take his spot. That’s 14 returnees, two more than the Heat had at the start of the season following their past two championships, six more than the Mavericks had after winning the 2011 title, six more than the Lakers had after the 2010 title (though it should be noted they had just 13 players on that 2010 title roster).

That’s three more than returned after the Spurs’ 2007 championship; four more than returned after the Spurs’ 2005 championship; eight more than returned after the Spurs’ 2003 championship, after which David Robinson retired and Steve Smith and Stephen Jackson were among the notables to sign elsewhere; and four more than returned after the Spurs’ 1999 championship. 

It’s the most returnees from a title team since the Heat brought back 13 players from their 2006 champion, including everyone but Shandon Anderson and Derek Anderson, and got swept out of the first round by Chicago

“It’s very rare,” guard Danny Green said. “Usually teams after they win one, they usually break apart. Guys go different places, and get traded. It’s rare when you see a team where everybody comes back. I think it’s different. Hopefully we can do something different. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to repeat at all. We know that. But at the same time, I think we have the professionals here, and guys to lead us to get it done. Pop, Tony (Parker), Timmy and Manu (Ginobili) on down, they’ve won before. This is the first for our young guys. We are just following their lead and we’ll be OK.” 

But, of course, none of those leaders have ever repeated either. The Spurs have never even reached the NBA Finals following a victory. 

How about that as a second premise?

Becoming the first team in franchise history to do that? 

Is that enough of a carrot?

“For sure,” Green said. “We’re all about reaching and achieving goals. Every time we set foot on the floor, we want to compete and win.” 

Right, Matt Bonner?

It’s about the repeat?

“I think just winning a championship, whether it’s a repeat or not, is all the motivation you need,” Bonner said. “You know, it’s the ultimate. You dedicate so much of your life to achieving that goal, you sacrifice so much, that you never know how many chances you’re gonna get.” 

What say you, Boris Diaw?

What would it be like to stand out among Spurs, as a back-to-back champion?

“What if they already did it?” the veteran forward/center said, smiling. “We wouldn’t want to do it again? We’d try to do it again anyway, even if they did it in the past.” 

So, if the “repeat” thing doesn’t engender extra excitement, and with 82 gamesplus the playoffsproving to be a grind for so many recent champions, is there a risk of boredom? Of complacency? Of getting tired of each other? Several members of the 2014 Heatfrom Chris Bosh to Dwyane Wadehave admitted that the grind got to them, and that many of them needed a fresh start. (They got it, incidentally, with only seven members of the 2013-14 Heat still in that organization, and only nine currently in the NBA anywhere).

How about that a third premise: that the Spurs will sour on each other? On the season? On the process? That they will take greatness for granted?

“You don’t just pick up where you left off,” Bonner said. “You can’t skip any steps, physically and mentally. You don’t come out of training camp playing championship basketball, generally speaking. I’m sure it’s easier said than done, but you can never relax, never be satisfied, especially the way the Western Conference is built. There are great teams getting better, so we’re going to have to get better too, if we want to try to win another championship.”

Can they commit to that? Again? Even without artificial enticements? Even without revenge on their minds?

“I think we’ll be OK,” Green said. “Just us being us. Just wanting to win. Everybody here is a competitor. And just having a mindset of not being satisfied. Obviously it’s a different year, it’s not the same size chip on our shoulder as we had before. We’ve still got to play like we do. And be just as hungry as we were before, just as motivated. We know we have to be even more perfect than we were last year, because teams are coming at us even harder, an even bigger sized target on our chest.” 

Even if it doesn’t appear to unnerve them. 

“We were close [in 2013], but we didn’t do enough, we [had] to be more perfect,” Diaw said. “We did better last year. Now the mentality is OK, we did good, now we’ve got to do it again. We’ve got to play the same way, we’ve got to bring back the same energy. At least we remember how we did it. It was not easy. We had a lot of work behind it, a lot of motivation. So now the mindset is to do it again. I think it should be the same. But just be a little bit better. We’ve got the same guys.”

Well, and one new one. 

“He’s obviously got a heck of a lot to learn,” Popovich said of Anderson, “but he’s done a good job in trying to jump on board and keep up with everybody.”

Shortly after Popovich said so before last weekend’s preseason game against Miami, Anderson sat in front of his corner stall in the quiet Spurs dressing room. He spoke of trying fit in, of using this season as a learning experience, of modeling himself after his elders, in terms of the way they prepare and eat and act.

“They’re professionals off the court, not only on the court,” Anderson said. “That’s something I can take with me as long as I’m a professional….And I think Kawhi [Leonard] is an excellent example, a guy who bought in. He trusted the staff that they would make him better, and it’s worked out for him. That’s the only thing I can do, is come in here and trust the Spurs.”

Yeah, he’s keeping up.

He already speaks fluent Spurs-ian. 

 

Ethan Skolnick covers the NBA for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter,@EthanJSkolnick.

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San Antonio Spurs’ Biggest Red Flags Entering This Season

The San Antonio Spurs are the reigning NBA champions, but that doesn’t mean they enter the 2014-15 season without red flags popping up.

While their problems might not be as damaging as other franchises face, the Spurs still must battle a supremely talented Western Conference throughout the year.

Overcoming these issues and starting hot early is important to securing a playoff spot, and San Antonio will rely on its deep bench—one that has some lingering questions surrounding it.

Begin Slideshow

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Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs 10/20/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The San Antonio Spurs looked to build momentum heading into the season when they faced the Sacramento Kings in a preseason clash on Monday night.

The Spurs’ preseason had been rocky at best, and they faced a tough test from a Kings squad eager to jell before the season gets underway. 

Watch the video for full highlights. 

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Can Dallas Mavericks Topple San Antonio Spurs in Southwest Division?

The Dallas Mavericks have been firmly entrenched in their Southwest Division rivals’ shadow over the last couple of years.

Ever since a glorious championship run in 2011, the Mavericks have been looking for ways to catch up to the ever-dominant San Antonio Spurs. After injecting some athleticism in the offseason, Dallas heads into this year’s campaign with a reinforced roster, and the Mavs may very well give the Spurs a run for their money.

The Mavericks barely managed to secure the eighth seed in the Western Conference in 2013-14. Their reward was a first-round series against the eventual champions, a matchup which initially appeared to favor the Spurs. After all, San Antonio had swept their regular-season series against Dallas, cruising to a fourth straight division title.

However, all but one of their regular-season meetings were close games, and the Mavericks didn’t have Shawn Marion in their only big loss. Regardless, the regular-season statistics were thrown out of the window as soon as the postseason tipped off.

The Spurs needed just five games to nullify the Miami Heat and dethrone LeBron James in the NBA Finals, but they struggled mightily to close out the persistent Mavericks roughly five weeks earlier. In fact, San Antonio obliterated every single postseason opponent last year, other than Dirk Nowitzki and Co.

San Antonio had a +3.4 net rating (offensive rating minus defensive rating) in their seven-game series against Dallas. The Oklahoma City Thunder offered some resistance and managed to snatch two games from the Spurs, but they still ended up with an abysmal -10.7 net rating.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich ran a well-oiled destruction machine last season, and Dallas was the only real hindrance in that path of obliteration.

 

Regular-Season Consistency

Both the Spurs and the Mavericks have been sitting on goldmines for over a decade. Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki exemplify what every single team in the NBA hopes for when drafting or trading for a young prospect: a durable superstar who remains with the team their whole career.

As it turned out, both players were just that and have yielded their respective teams a competitive edge over the years. The two stars are also similar in that they took major pay cuts in order to help their teams win, and it’s hard to find selfless individuals like them.

Sure, both Dallas and San Antonio have had their down years, but they’ve successfully reprieved the act of stripping down and rebuilding from scratch for well over a decade.

The Spurs, especially, may as well just be a synonym for consistency. Despite a lockout-shortened 2011-12 campaign, the Spurs managed to keep their streak of 50 or more wins in a regular season alive. They continue that trend to this day, having hit the 50-win plateau for 15 straight seasons now, an NBA record.

The Mavericks have stayed relevant even in their competitive rebuilding stages, but last celebrated a Southwest division title at the expense of their rivals in 2009-10.

 

Can Dallas Catch Up?

The Mavericks were close to bringing down San Antonio in the playoffs last year, and this is a team that certainly got better in the offseason. However, we’re talking about the reigning champions here, who have cruised through the Western Conference under Popovich’s tutelage for so many years.

One thing that is certain is that the Mavericks, if healthy, won’t struggle to secure a postseason slot. Dallas could even be considered a dark-horse contender, but the team’s regular-season ceiling is quite a mystery.

Popovich is a wizard when it comes to limiting the minutes of his veterans while still winning games. He has successfully kept Duncan under 30 minutes per game in three of the last four seasons, and San Antonio went 6-2 in the absence of their 6’11″ big man last year. The Spurs also managed to go 12-3 in the 15 games their floor general Tony Parker missed.

Rick Carlisle will be taking notes, as he is also expected to restrict the floor time of both Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler. It’s entirely possible considering the depth of his roster, and he is good at tinkering with various lineups and plugging holes. However, it’s highly unlikely that he can afford to give his big men games off and still expect to win consistently.

One thing that will help the Mavericks in their regular-season meetings with San Antonio this year is their modified roster. The Spurs struggled against up-and-down offensive powerhouses in 2013-14, going 0-8 against the Houston Rockets and the Thunder. Dallas added some great athletes in the offseason who excel in transition, and that will be a plus.

Predicting specifics in the regular season is almost impossible. The 82-game ride contains a profuse amount of variables that are simply impossible to account for. That premise doesn’t quite apply to the Spurs, as they are going into the year with an almost identical roster, and they should be setting the bar for other teams in the West.

Whether the Mavericks can spring beyond that bar will depend on a lot of those variables. Can they, still one of the oldest teams in the league, stay healthy? Will Carlisle find the right lineup combinations? Can the reserves provide sufficient two-way threats?

Dallas presented a lot of matchup problems for the Spurs in the playoffs. They did a great job running San Antonio off the three-point line, while also disrupting their motion offense with a healthy dose of zone defense.

The Mavericks should be even more lethal offensively with Chandler Parsons on their roster, who would provide another mismatch when bumped to the power forward position. In their preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Dallas played almost exclusively zone defense, and they will have a whole regular season to polish those schemes in preparation for the playoffs.

It would be silly to bet against the Spurs, who should breeze past the 50-win mark with relative ease yet again. While the division title will most likely remain in San Antonio, Dallas could present a serious threat to the reigning champions in a seven-game series.

 

All statistics used are courtesy of Basketball-Reference and NBA.com, unless otherwise noted.

You can follow me on Twitter: @VytisLasaitis

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Heat beat Spurs 111-108 in overtime

Shabazz Napier scores 25 points, Heat beat Spurs 111-108 in overtime

      
 

 

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Kawhi Leonard Illness: Updates on Spurs Star’s Eye and Return

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard is quickly developing into one of the NBA‘s most complete players. Unfortunately, the Spurs star is dealing with an eye infection that will likely sideline him for the remainder of the preseason. 

According to Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News, Leonard’s eye infection could also cause him to miss the Spurs’ regular-season opener against the Dallas Mavericks on Oct. 28.

“It is going back and forth between the two [eyes],” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said Saturday. “It’s crazy. Kawhi is still out for 10 more days.”

The San Diego State product has all the makings of an All-Star-caliber player. In addition to putting up the best statistical output of his career in 2013-14, Leonard is also the reigning NBA Finals MVP.

As seen in this graphic courtesy of NBA.com, the 23-year-old star was nothing short of stellar in the Spurs’ triumph over the Miami Heat:

Leonard has been an excellent perimeter defender ever since entering the league in 2011. During the 2014 Finals, he held his own against LeBron James defensively, but perhaps the most impressive part of his performance was his offensive eruption.

The 6’7″, 230-pound wingman set career highs in almost every major statistical category during the 2013-14 regular season, and he parlayed that into a great deal of playoff success as well.

Even with that type of progress, Leonard wasn’t satisfied entering the 2014-15 campaign. As evidenced by this Vine courtesy of the NBA’s official Twitter account, he worked hard to add even more diversity to his offensive attack:

Tim Duncan and Tony Parker will be considered the Spurs’ biggest stars until they retire due to the incredible amount of success they have experienced over the years. In reality, though, Leonard may be on the verge of becoming San Antonio’s most important player if he hasn’t already.

Compared to 2012-13, Leonard’s minutes actually went down during the regular season last year, as he played just 29.1 minutes per game. The third-year swingman’s production went up despite that, but he wasn’t shy about petitioning Popovich for an increase in playing time prior to the current campaign, according to Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News:

In the Finals I’m playing 35 minutes a game, so I’m on the floor more and able to score the ball more and get more rebounds. So I’m going to have to get consistent minutes to play at a consistent level like that. I’ve been trying to (be a dominant player) since I’ve been here. … It’s just in order to get me more involved in the offense, that’s what I go by. Like I said, if I’m going to get seven more minutes on the floor, that’s going to be important. We’ll see what happens. I mean, my role was supposed to expand last year and we played pretty much the same basketball. So we’ll see what Coach Pop has.

Popovich is well known for playing it safe with his star players, as he always has an eye toward the postseason. Given Leonard’s history of injuries—he has yet to make it through a full season, having missed 16 games last year with broken handthere’s no reason to expect Pop to push his star swingman to return before he’s 100 percent healthy.

As great of a player as Leonard is, the Spurs always find a way to persevere due to their commitment to team basketball. Even in the stacked Western Conference, San Antonio still has enough talent to thrive, even if Leonard was ever forced to miss significant time during the season.

There is no question that the Spurs are a better team with Leonard in the fold, though, which means everyone involved with the organization will eagerly anticipate his return.

 

Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter

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Heat beat Spurs 111-108 in overtime (Yahoo Sports)

SAN ANTONIO - OCTOBER 18: Shabazz Napier #13 of the Miami Heat attempts a free throw against the San Antonio Spurs at the AT&T Center on October 18, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — Rookie Shabazz Napier had 25 points, including four free throws in the final minute, and Miami held on for a 111-108 overtime victory over San Antonio on Saturday night in the teams’ first meeting since the Spurs routed the Heat in the NBA Finals.


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Spurs’ Popovich jabs Suns owner Sarver (Yahoo Sports)

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - OCTOBER 11: Head Coach Gregg Popovich of the San Antonio Spurs talks to the media following the game as part of the NBA Global Games on October 11, 2014 at the Ulker Sports Arena in Istanbul, Turkey. (Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

SAN ANTONIO (AP) — San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich dismissed Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver’s critical comments as silly and said they should have been made while wearing a ”chicken suit.”


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Suns owner apologizes after Spurs stars skip game

It was a class act.

      
 

 

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