Shootaround (May 22) -- Decision about future looms for Manu Ginobili
Plus, a look at Stephen Curry's amazing postseason and more from around the NBA
No. 1: Key decision looms for Ginobili — Game 4 of the Western Conference finals tonight (9 ET, ESPN) will mark the 211th playoff game in Manu Ginobili’s career. As the San Antonio Spurs try to stave off elimination in the series, a loss would hasten the questions about whether or not Ginobili, a free agent this summer, will return to the NBA or retire this summer. Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News takes stock of what lies ahead for Ginobili:
The Spurs face the top-seeded Warriors on Monday in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals at the AT&T Center. They are down 3-0 in the series, a deficit from which no team in NBA history has rallied to advance.
The Spurs’ season — and with it perhaps Ginobili’s extraordinary 15-year career — is on the clock.
“We’re here trying to make history,” Green said.
Ginobili reiterated Sunday he does not know what he will be doing at this time next year.
He will turn 40 in July, and has hinted throughout the season — often in the form of self-deprecating punchlines — that this campaign would likely be his last.
Ginobili has stopped short of formally announcing any decision. He maintains his mind is not yet made up.
All he knows at the moment: He will become a free agent July 1, with another life choice to make.
“I’m going to go game by game,” Ginobili said. “We’ll see if (Monday) is the last one of the season. We hope that it’s not, and that we have a few more. Once it’s over, then I’ll start wondering what the future brings.”
Ginobili’s NBA success, combined with an international resume that includes 2004 Olympic gold for Team Argentina’s little engine that could, is an ironclad lock to land him in the Naismith Hall of Fame.
“He’s been obviously great for the game of basketball, great for the NBA, great for the Spurs organization,” Golden State guard Stephen Curry said. “I want to see where that fountain of youth is so I can see if I can get a hold of that for the rest of my career.”
For the past 48 hours, Ginobili has been Tom Sawyer at his own funeral.
Since his Game 3 outburst, teammates, commentators, opponents have offered gushing eulogies of a career that is not yet over.
“This is getting a little weird,” Ginobili chuckled.
Even so, it doesn’t take much to get Ginobili in a reflective mood heading into what might be his final game.
Asked what he will remember most about his life in basketball, Ginobili did not hold back.
“It’s easy to remember the wins, the good moments, the highs,” Ginobili said. “Even the lows were great, too, in a different sense of connection, of camaraderie, of doing it together. Even the bad moments, I’m proud of them too.
“It’s hard to choose one moment. The whole trip is incredible.”
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No. 2: ‘Phenomenal’ play marks Curry’s postseason to date — Stephen Curry was the unanimous NBA MVP pick last season, the first player to win by such a landslide total. He also keyed the Warriors’ run to The 2016 Finals, which his Golden State Warriors ultimately lost in Game 7. Curry has dusted himself off from all that (and a somewhat statistically quiet 2016-17 regular season) to shine game after game in these playoffs. As Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle details, Curry continues to be a steadying force in this year’s playoff run:
Golden State trailed the Spurs 41-37 in Game 3 when Curry picked up that third foul. Though careful not to draw another whistle, he soon used his signature mix of deep three-pointers, dizzying dribbling and pinpoint passes to fuel a 24-8 run that gave the Warriors a 61-49 lead with less than two minutes left in the half.
It was yet another reminder that he is still the player who became the first unanimous MVP in league history last May. After hearing throughout the regular season about his inability to replicate the best shooting season ever, Curry has hushed his critics with a steady stream of awe-inspiring highlights.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference semifinals, after threading the ball between his legs, Curry stepped to his left and, on a crossover, sent Utah center Rudy Gobert — a Defensive Player of the Year candidate — into a 360-degree spin. In Game 2 of the West finals, Curry made San Antonio center Dewayne Dedmon slip and fall on his backside with only a hesitation — no major ball-handling display.
Early in the third quarter of Saturday’s Game 3 win, not long after engineering that big first-half run with three fouls, Curry shed 6-foot-11 LaMarcus Aldridge in the corner with back-to-back crossovers before knifing down the baseline and lofting a high-arcing floater over Danny Green. “Whoa, beautiful ball-handling from Curry!” ESPN analyst Mike Breen exclaimed on the telecast.
“Obviously, I’ve got a nice rhythm, nice flow to what I’m doing,” said Curry, who, with 21 points in Game 3, passed Rick Barry (1,776) to become the franchise’s all-time postseason scoring leader. “I’m playing aggressive. I’m trying to balance playmaking, scoring, all my different responsibilities when I’m out there on the floor. Things are going well.”
Now, with Golden State on the verge of a series sweep Monday at AT&T Center, Curry is playing his best basketball of the season. With the Warriors 11-0 in the playoffs, Curry leads the NBA postseason in three-pointers made (48) and is fifth in scoring (27.9 points per game) while dishing out 5.5 assists. He is averaging 30 points on 55.6 percent shooting in the West finals to go with 6.3 rebounds and 4.3 assists.
“He’s playing at an extremely high level,” Brown said. “His all-around game has been, in my opinion, phenomenal.”
Curry followed up a sterling regular season last year with a forgettable postseason. He tried to push through ankle, knee and elbow injuries, but was worn down as the Warriors squandered a 3-1 NBA Finals lead to Cleveland. He averaged 22.6 points during that seven-game series, 7.5 points below his league-leading regular-season output. He had more turnovers (30) than assists (26).
It was enough for Curry to develop a plan in the offseason to not overburden himself: rebuff a chance to play in the Olympics, trim his in-season sponsorship responsibilities and spend most off days unwinding with his wife and two daughters. These days, he is so in command that Brown had no qualms deviating from accepted practice to let Curry play through early foul trouble Saturday.
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No. 3: Report: Knicks not retaining Porzingis favorite Longstaff — If the New York Knicks are interested in making Kristaps Porzingis the future of their team, their latest move may not make the star forward happy. According to multiple reports, the Knicks are letting assistant coach Josh Longstaff back for next season. As Al Iannazone of Newsday reports, Longstaff and Porzingis have a very close relationship on and off the court:
The Knicks coach with whom Kristaps Porzingis was closest will not be back next season.
The team will not renew the contract of assistant Josh Longstaff, a Knicks official confirmed Sunday night. Longstaff worked closely with Porzingis as well as other Knicks players.
“We wish him well,” the official said.
The timing of this move, first reported by the Daily News, is curious considering what’s swirling between Porzingis and the Knicks.
The fact that Longstaff won’t return could be Jackson’s way of sending a message to Porzingis about who’s in charge. Jackson wouldn’t comment on Porzingis’ decision not to attend his end-of-season meeting when asked about it 10 days ago. Either way, Porzingis likely won’t be happy that Longstaff isn’t returning.
Longstaff went to Latvia last summer to work with Porzingis and attend his camp. He was the only Knicks coach there.
A holdover from Derek Fisher’s staff, Longstaff was popular in the locker room and respected by the players. Jeff Hornacek called Longstaff “sort of the leader of our player development.”
Longstaff, who climbed the ranks in Oklahoma City before joining the Knicks in 2014, spent much of his time developing the young players. He worked with Willy Hernangomez, Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Ron Baker, Maurice Ndour, Chasson Randle and Marshall Plumlee this past season and Langston Galloway and Lance Thomas previously.
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Former lottery pick Ekpe Udoh was named MVP of the Euroleague Final Four … Amy Schumer and “a fan” enjoy Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals … LeBron James had a problem with a particular reporter after Game 3 … Marcus Smart’s shooting from 3-point land in Game 3 was truly a statistical abnormality …