38-year-old Tim Duncan plays 48 minutes (Dec 18 12:00 ET )
Tim Duncan played 48 minutes against the Grizzlies during a triple-overtime loss on Wednesday, scoring 23 points with 16 rebounds, five assists, three blocks and two steals.
The Memphis Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs have one of the best on-court rivalries in the NBA, dating back to the former's upset of the top-seeded latter in the first round of the 2011 playoffs through a 2013 conference finals in which the Spurs outplayed the Grizzlies in pretty much every way imaginable. When these teams get together, fans can be sure they'll see a hard-fought contest with two veteran squads. Yet Wednesday's matchup in San Antonio involved a few more surprises than usual. After go-ahead three-pointer from Danny Green, the Grizzlies entered the final possession of regulation at a 92-89 disadvantage with 2.5 seconds on the clock. Solid inbounds defense forced Courtney Lee to pass the ball to center Marc Gasol, who was immediately pressured by Manu Ginobili to several feet beyond the three-point arc. Gasol, who had missed all three of his long-range attempts this season and gone just 7-of-49 in his career prior to this shot, ducked under Ginobili's raised arms and launched a desperation leaner. His prayer was answered: That unlikeliest of buzzer-beaters gave the Grizzlies a second chance at a win, but it turned out to be just the prelude to more lunacy. Gasol hit a lay-in with nine seconds left in the extra period to lead to a 10-10 standstill and force a second overtime, which turned out to be the weirdest of all. Down 109-108, Memphis caused Tim Duncan to miss two shots around the basket before Zach Randolph pulled down a key defensive rebound with seven seconds on the clock. Courtney Lee then hit a three-pointer in transition to give his team a thrilling 111-109 lead: It turned out to be short-lived, though, because Duncan turned back the clock with his own buzzer-beater on the very next play. With just 2.6 seconds left, Duncan took the inbounds pass from Boris Diaw near the top of the key and hit a jumper while fading away to his left: If that play looks familiar, it's likely because it's nearly identical to one of the most dramatic shots of Duncan's storied career — the fadeaway he hit right before Derek Fisher's classic, nearly impossible 0.4-second buzzer-beater in Game 5 of the 2004 Western Conference Finals. Wednesday's shot helped detract from a fairly poor night for Duncan (5-of-15 shooting from the line, 9-of-22 from the field), but the Spurs obviously had to show their stuff in the third overtime. That didn't quite happen. Zach Randolph scored all six of the Grizzlies' points over a 2:30 stretch in the middle of the period as the Spurs' offense struggled mightily. Like many third overtimes, this wasn't a well-played five minutes. Nor was it particularly dramatic — no one scored after Danny Green's three-pointer with 40 seconds on the clock as Memphis came away with a 117-116 victory . Drama aside, this win was a very big statement by the Grizzlies, who are now a game behind the Golden State Warriors in the loss column with a 21-4 record. Yet that placement in the standings is almost beside the point — Memphis topped Golden State at FedEx Forum on Tuesday with their inimitable grit-and-grind style and persevered through several tough moments to beat San Antonio. The Grizzlies have two tough games this weekend vs. the Chicago Bulls on Friday night and at the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, but they have served notice to the rest of the league this week regardless of those results. This team is a contender. - - - - - - - Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @FreemanEric
Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive has recently been raked over the coals, and for good reason. He fired a very good coach in Michael Malone who had led a significantly improved Kings team to a solid record prior to center DeMarcus Cousins’ bout with viral meningitis. He has hired Tyrone Corbin to coach his team, perhaps for the rest of the season, despite Corbin’s uninspiring recent turn in Utah. Ranadive is also apparently begging Kings consultant Chris Mullin to take over the team , despite Mullin’s inexperience at coaching at any level, and the fact that Mullin would have to learn on the fly without assembling his own staff and without the benefit of a training camp. Ranadive is currently ignoring George Karl, who is practically begging for the job, despite Karl’s previous working experience with Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro. Ranadive then added to the ha-ha chorus by meeting with former Golden State flameout Mark Jackson on Tuesday night, insisting that the Kings at least attempt to run a 4-on-5 cherry picking defense at times, and then during the most recent Kings contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder he offered this bit of lovely : "I like to use a music metaphor. We had a Sousa marching band, which was needed when there was chaos. But now we need to shift to a jazz band, where people can be individually showcased and improvised. What we need is a jazz director. I think that's the kind of leadership moving forward." “Jazz director.” Because Rudy Van Gelder was perched at a podium in front of Miles Davis and his various bands, clicking a baton and telling the be-boppers which modal runs to explore next. Now that we’re done laughing down our sleeve at this guy, is it possible to find a strain of sensibility in all of this? Ranadive hired Malone without his GM’s approval, mainly because he didn’t have a general manager in place in 2013 when it came time to hire a coaching staff. At the time, Malone was considered to be the coaching candidate to go after, the next lauded assistant who was long overdue a chance at running his own team. After the Kings ran roughshod over former coaches Paul Westphal and Keith Smart while the franchise’s creepy former owners attempted to move the team, a defensive-minded coach needed to be in place in order to shore up the nonsense. Malone was not his GM’s choice, he was apparently not Mullin’s favorite guy, and he was far from receptive to some of the dumber suggestions tossed his way. Even with relative success, these are reasons to let a guy go. Even if he is a really, really good coach. The problem here is that this sort of maneuver works only if you have a proper replacement. If Malone was so off-putting, then the time to can him would be in the summer because by now we’d all be months removed from our massive “let’s dump all over Vivek Ranadive” pieces, works long forgotten as the NBA churns along. Someone like Mullin may have been persuaded to dive into the pool, and the Kings would be a quarter of a season into their “jazz director” phase. Instead, the team is stuck with Corbin, with no clear replacement on the way. If Mullin is the eventual successor but only for 2015-16 and beyond, then you’ll have a team full of players who can see it coming a mile away – working four more regular season months under an obvious lame duck. That’s no good for anyone. (There is also the little matter of the Kings’ draft situation. If the team falls apart again, it may be saved from having to send its first-round draft pick to Chicago. The selection is currently protected through picks 1-10 over the next three seasons; though it would be a stretch to assume that Ranadive wants to tank just to avoid giving up the 14th pick in the draft.) The free-flowing argument is a sound one. The San Antonio Spurs charmed the league last season with their beguiling ball movement, but even before San Antonio’s ascension to the championship podium it was long established that ball movement and spacing are keys to a killer pro offense. The issues here, in relation to the Kings, can be boiled down to two tenets. First, the Kings don’t currently have the personnel that would encourage defenses to flail about as they attempt to cover penetrators, dishers and shooters. Second, it’s more than possible to win a championship with a pass-happy offense that starts from the inside-out. Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan have enough rings in the modern NBA to prove as much. You shouldn’t go as far as to refer to Sacramento’s offense under Malone as staid; he had some continually developing action that made the Kings an intriguing watch, even when the shots weren’t falling. It’s just that the Kings don’t have the personnel, currently, to turn themselves into a mini-Spurs. The team is second to last in three-pointers made and third to last in three-pointers attempted. Darren Collison was signed last summer with the full knowledge that the point guard was not a good three-point shooter; Rudy Gay was traded for last season with his iffy perimeter credentials already in place; and though Ben McLemore has thankfully developed into an all-around offensive threat, rookie shooter (and Ranadive favorite) Nik Stauskas has had a rough start even by rough rookie standards. Is Ranadive aware of this? It hardly matters because he is in charge. And new owners want to get their licks in quickly. Just ask Mark Cuban, who knows where Vivek is coming from : “It’s not so much meddling and hands-on. That’s not the issue,” Cuban said. “The hardest thing in professional sports for an owner is hiring a coach. Period, end of story. I’ve said that a dozen times. The second hardest thing is hiring a general manager because there’s no template. No one does bad interviews because they’re all quality just to get there. I mean, it’s just not easy. “After that, it’s really hard to turn off some of your basic business instincts. I would always try to push myself to learn more and get involved on the business side more to kind of take all that anxiety.” In regard to basketball decisions, Cuban took an approach that is the polar opposite of Ranadive’s after purchasing the Mavs almost 15 years ago. He intentionally didn’t make any major decisions despite public pressure to fire coach Don Nelson and clean house. “I really tried to learn,” Cuban said. “That’s why I didn’t make any changes when I first got there on the basketball side, because I wasn’t smart enough to know where to go or what changes to make. I feel [Ranadive’s] pain. It’s not easy. It is not easy. And you make mistakes.” Younger NBA fans may not realize how inevitable it seemed in early 2000 that Cuban would dump Don Nelson directly after buying the Mavericks. I read about Cuban’s purchase of the Dallas Mavericks at an online kiosk in the Denver airport, and joked in an email directly after that Nelson would be out as both Mavs coach and general manager by the time my upcoming three-hour flight landed. With Nelson so deep into the development following the moves he was criticized for midway through 1999-00, however, it made more basketball sense to give Nellie’s crew one more chance. The team responded with a strong end to the season and the franchise’s first playoff appearance in over a decade the following season. That’s not to say Cuban didn’t play around quite a bit with his new toy – he signed Dennis Rodman a few weeks later and went after heaps of free agents the following summer – but as he points out, the head coaching business is an entirely different animal. The coach is your last line of communication down from the owner’s box through the general manager’s office and all other manner of capologists, scouts, analytics types and assistant coaches. He’s the guy who has the final word in the huddle, and his or her importance cannot be overstated. Despite the ham-fisted and laughable “jazz director” analogy, it’s important to note tha
The Scoop:All three players were rested on the second night of a back-to-back set on Monday, so this news comes as no surprise. Duncan is the only must-start option, while Ginobili is worth a look considering Tony Parker (hamstring) is on the sidelines. Splitter, on the other hand, is only an asset in deeper leagues until he earns a larger role.
If you want to pile on, you can. This has all the hallmarks of an easy read. The Sacramento Kings surprised everyone this season by racing out to 9-5 record. The team then lost its out and out superstar, the ever-improving DeMarcus Cousins, to a debilitating bout of viral meningitis. The Kings lost their last game with DMC, and expectedly whiffed on seven of nine contests with Cousins recovering (mostly) away from the team. The Sacramento Kings also feature a new’ish owner that sometimes embarrasses the team’s fan base with his musings on how the sport should be played, and they boast a general manager and influential consultant that were hired after the team’s coach was hired – a rare NBA move. That coach was fired, late on Sunday, as first reported by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski . Michael Malone was dumped after just 24 games this season, following the first year of a three-year deal with a team option for a fourth year. Clashes in basketball philosophy were cited as the reason for the dismissal. The NBA cognoscenti, as you’d expect, was gobsmacked. The quick take would mention something along the lines of a front office working under the whims of an unknowing owner. That the owner and front office needed to wait until the team had dipped under .500 with Cousins sidelined in order to make a move, hardly caring about the nearly two final years of pay it would have to throw Malone’s way. That the owner was foolish to hire a coach first, and front office second. The take would move on to speak to the idea to place Tyrone Corbin, a genuinely good dude and genuinely terrible NBA head coach, as interim head coach is an absolute joke. The take would then explain that expected the Kings’ flat-footed and poor-passing lineup to turn into some amalgamation of the 1970 New York Knicks and 2014 San Antonio Spurs is laughable. That this is just another incident of a new owner gone mad with expectation , and a general manager willingly following along so as just to keep his phony-baloney job. Toss this in … … and you’ve got a narrative, son. (Nik Stauskas has missed exactly two-thirds of the shots he’s taken this season, and over three-quarters of the three-pointers he’s tossed up. An unfair sample to rip on, I submit, but we’ve got a while to go on this guy.) What’s worth mentioning, though, is that Michael Malone presided over a 23rd-ranked defense last year, one that has only moved up to the 20th spot this season in spite of the Kings’ ascension to the ranks of the mediocre. He’s also watched helplessly as his team has wasted a 24 and then 26-point lead in losses to the Mavericks and Grizzlies this month. His team has fallen to the Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook-less Oklahoma City Thunder, the Dwight Howard-less Houston Rockets (twice), and the bleedin’ Los Angeles Lakers. Dude lost to the Pistons on Tuesday. Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro worked closely with George Karl in Denver, and it’s quite possible that Karl could work as the sort of go-between pitched in the middle of someone like Michael Malone, and more up-tempo sorts like Don Nelson – a coach team advisor Chris Mullin and team owner Vivek Ranadive adores. After all, Karl recently told SiriusXM that he still feels as if he has one more coaching stint left in him , taking on the Bob Hill role of tossing his name out in every open NBA coach candidacy out there, and he’s just 19 months removed from winning the NBA’s Coach of the Year award. Seriously, though. Come off it. DeMarcus Cousins was always going to be a star, once he figured this league out, but it’s hard to slough off Boogie’s accomplishments over the last two seasons without crediting Malone to some degree. Rudy Gay isn’t exactly a Houston Rocket-styled wet dream at this point, but he has at least modified his previously-untenable offensive game to an ideal that suits the modern NBA. The Kings dumped Isaiah Thomas at Cousins’ behest, reportedly, in order to bring in Darren Collison – and Collison is playing his best ball in years in spite of a role that probably doesn’t suit his strengths. Omri Casspi had to start a couple of games and even play huge minutes. Reggie Evans is the team’s supposed defensive force, and at times he makes Carlos Boozer look like Taj Gibson. RYAN HOLLINS IS ON THIS TEAM. Woj lists Karl and Vinny (seriously) Del (you’re joking, right?) Negro as possible long-term replacements, which apsatively boggles the mind. Karl is a fine coach, but his faux-zone trapping schemes and emphasis on position-less play seem ill-suited for this roster. Nearly as ill-suited as expecting a team literally centered on DeMarcus Cousins to turn into some flash and dash running outfit, as the Kings’ front office apparently expected. It should be noted that the longest-tenured coach in the NBA was a former front office executive that fired his head coach on the day that his team’s best player returned from a major injury. Gregg Popovich fired Bob Hill after San Antonio’s 3-15 start in 1996-97, a turn addled by David Robinson’s back injury. Robinson returned just in time for Popovich’s head coaching debut, and the team won three out of six games before The Admiral broke his foot, knocking him out for the remainder of a season that eventually netted the Spurs the chance to draft Tim Duncan. That’s how luck and timing goes in this league. Pete D’Alessandro’s mentor from Denver, the much-lauded Masai Ujiri, is currently kicking tail in Toronto while working with a roster and coaching staff primarily hired by the much-maligned and since-fired Bryan Colangelo. There are no easy answers in this gig. It’s more than possible that Michael Malone may not be the sort of coach to push a team over the top. He was thought to be the defensive mastermind in Golden State while working under Mark Jackson, and yet the Warriors shot up from 14th to fourth and then first in defensive efficiency in the seasons following Malone’s leave from the Bay Area (the actual basketball players involved may have also had something to do with that). George Karl could be in the wings. Tyrone Corbin may have been hamstrung by a mismatched Utah Jazz roster. The Kings could win the 59 or so games it will take to secure the seventh spot in the Western playoff bracket. We don’t know. What we are aware of is the fact that the Kings fired a very good basketball coach over the weekend, and that the owner has made some curious moves since taking over this team. It’s just fine to judge them from afar, and it’s up to the Sacramento front office to prove us all wrong. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops