NEW YORK — Tim Duncan’s first All-Star Game was as a rookie in 1998 when the game was held at Madison Square Garden and he scored two points and had 10 rebounds in 14 minutes.
It was held at a time when Michael Jordan was exiting the league, though he returned three years later with the Washington Wizards. It was also held at the same time as Kobe Bryant’s arrival when he led the West with 18 points.
Seventeen years later, Duncan has returned as a 15-time All-Star. It’s a feat only matched by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who played in 18 games. Duncan’s All-Star resume includes winning co-MVP in 2001 and scoring 24 points on 12-of-14 shooting in the 2000 game.
While historically the amount of appearances are a big deal, the usually stoic Duncan didn’t make much of it when he spoke about playing in New York or coming full circle on Friday.
“I don’t know if it was that much different,” Duncan said. “It was a whole other cast and crew. I’m the original one left.”
That’s true. In his first NBA All-Star game, Kevin Garnett and Bryant were starters for the West. Garnett is possibly in his last NBA season, and Bryant is injured for the second straight season.
Of course, the media stuff or the overcrowded aspect of throngs of microphones and recorders are things Duncan could do without, especially when the league issues 1,800 media credentials for the All-Star weekend. He gets asked questions from an intern from the Late Show with David Letterman or asked about his dunking, which he no longer does.
“I enjoy the game, all the rest of the stuff I can do without,” Duncan said. “I don’t like this whole situation, but it is what it is, it’s what comes with the game.”
This year Duncan was selected by the coaches as a reserve. He didn’t expect to be here but even as he fielded the typical goofy questions during All-Star weekend, he still enjoys being here after all these years.
“I didn’t expect to be here,” Duncan said. “I’m going to be honest with you, but it’s an honor to be here, especially selected by the coaches. For them believing that I’m of All-Star caliber and that I deserve to be here (is big) so it’s just an honor.”
He is a five-time champion, averaging 14.5 points, 9.9 rebounds and 1.9 blocks, and there’s little doubt how he is regarded among his peers.
“He’s the greatest of all time,” Miami forward Chris Bosh said. “Just him being able to transform his game, I don’t really know how — I thought he was going to — every time you think he’s going to play — he’s an All Star. I don’t get it. I don’t think I’m going to be able to do that. But just to show his commitment to the team, what he’s done with his body to make sure he can continue to play and have this longevity that he’s had is truly amazing.”
He may be understated and underrated by those outside the game. Those within the game know differently.
“Not by the people in the business,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of his former teammate. “Everybody that I hear on TV, they always say Tim is a top-five player of all time. But he doesn’t have the same sort of reputation, I guess, as Magic or Michael or Larry, because he’s so low-key. The charisma that those guys had and all the endorsements and everything else made them sort of global icons. Tim prefers to go about his business and play hoop.”
Leftovers from commissioner Adam Silver’s state of the league address:
Besides discussing the concept of “cap smoothing” when the new television deal starts in 2017, scheduling improvements to minimize back-to-back games and possible tweaks to the playoff format, commissioner Adam Silver also addressed some other topics Saturday night.
On the looming sale of the Atlanta Hawks, Silver said:
“There are two investment banks that have (been) engaged by the owners of the team. It’s a very deliberate methodical process. They produce in essence a sales book that has data on the team. Groups look at it. They set dates in which teams make bids. That’s moving just along a course that they had expected.”
The last franchise sale was when Steve Ballmer purchased the Los Angeles Clippers for $2 billion. In its recently released NBA value rankings, Forbes Magazine valued the Hawks at $425 million based on revenue of $119 million and operating loss of $3.6 million.
The team has been for sale since a Jan. 8 announcement.
Silver also addressed the chances of Portland getting an All-Star game in 2017 or 2018. Portland has never hosted the game and the last game in the Pacific Northwest was 1987 in Seattle’s Kingdome.
While Silver said it was too early to decide, the issue could be space in terms of scarcity of hotel rooms.
“Historically for communities like Portland is frankly the number of hotel rooms,” Silver said. “We have 1,800 credentialed members of the media alone in need of hotel rooms. Then we have thousands of guests who come to town as well. I would love to end up having an All-Star game in Portland. It’s really just a function of ensuring that we can fit it in town.”
Rockets spoil Griffin’s return in testy affair
If James Harden needed any extra motivation against the Los Angeles Clippers, he found it in the first half.
Harden scored 34 points, and the Rockets held on for a 100-98 victory over the Clippers in a sometimes testy affair on Sunday at Staples Center.
Point guard Chris Paul, who finished with 23 points, missed a contested shot at the buzzer that would have forced overtime.
“It was very important for us just to go out there and play well,” said Harden, who hit seven of 16 shots from the floor, three of five from 3-point range and 17 of 18 free throws. “The last two games we kind of struggled a little bit, but we got our pop back a little bit today, and it was a good win for us.”
Harden provided much of that pop, particularly in the second quarter after Clippers forward Matt Barnes was whistled for a flagrant-1 foul after pushing Harden to the court at 6:02. Harden scored 15 of his 18 points in the period after that, leading the Rockets to a 58-50 halftime lead.
Did the flagrant foul add more fuel for the Rockets’ All-Star guard and MVP candidate?
“Yeah. Things like that are fun,” said Harden, who had 24 points in the first half. “We have fun, we got boosted off of that.”
The win ended a two-game skid for the Rockets (44-22). Houston forward Trevor Ariza scored 19 points and grabbed nine rebounds, while forward Terrence Jones added 16 points and 12 boards.
“This was a win that we needed, especially on the road,” Ariza said. “Going into the home stretch, these are the types of games we have to win.”
Los Angeles forward Blake Griffin returned after missing 15 games due to surgery on his right elbow. Griffin had 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists, but committed five turnovers in 41 minutes.
“I didn’t think I played well,” said Griffin, who managed 4-of-10 shooting. “I was out of rhythm. Way too many turnovers, obviously.”
Barnes scored 19 points and guard J.J. Redick had 15 for the Clippers (42-24), who fell into a tie for the No. 5 spot in the Western Conference standings with the Dallas Mavericks.
Paul lamented a host of turnovers in the defeat, including a critical one involving center DeAndre Jordan.
“I had some bad turnovers,” said Paul, who committed three of the Clippers’ 20 miscues compared to 13 for the Rockets. “On one, I drove it off DeAndre’s foot, the other one I lost towards the end of the half. We have to take better care of the ball. We still had an opportunity to win, but we just didn’t do it.”
The Clippers came back from a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit. Paul scored seven straight points, capping it with a 3-point basket to tie the score at 96 with 3:05 left in the game. Houston got a 3-pointer by Jones, but Barnes countered with a basket to keep Los Angeles within 99-98 with 1:35 left. Los Angeles, though, never scored again.
Griffin got a steal as Ariza attempted a pass to Harden, but Ariza drew a charging foul as Griffin bolted to the bucket with 12 seconds remaining. Griffin remained unhappy about the call after the game.
“If I speak on that, I’ll get fined,” Griffin said.
Harden hit one of two foul shots with 8.9 seconds left, capping the scoring before Paul failed to connect on a jumper in the lane with Ariza defending.
The Rockets outscored Los Angeles 36-20 in the second quarter despite making just 38.5 percent of their shots compared to 44.4 percent for the Clippers. Overall, the Clippers hit 43.9 percent to 37.2 percent for the Rockets. They also held an edge in 3-point shooting, converting 12 of 26 attempts to seven of 30 for Houston. The Rockets, though were 29 of 36 from the foul line to 14 of 24 for Los Angeles.
Jordan finished with 20 rebounds and four blocks.
NOTES: F Blake Griffin’s return benefits PG Chris Paul as much as any Clipper. “Teams have been able to trap (Paul) far more than they can when Blake is on the floor because of (Griffin’s) ability to pass,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “I’m sure CP is the happiest of all to have him back.” … Rivers isn’t sure if injured G Jamal Crawford would return before the playoffs. Crawford has missed six games with a right calf contusion. … Rockets C Dwight Howard sat out his 18th game with a right knee edema. “He’s doing everything he can, he’s trying to get better, but until you’re on the floor, it’s impossible to say,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said regarding Howard’s return. … Both clubs resume play Tuesday. Houston hosts the Orlando Magic, while Los Angeles plays the Charlotte Hornets at Staples Center.
Spurs’ Ginobili sprains ankle
SAN ANTONIO — Guard Manu Ginobili was helped off the floor late in the third quarter of the San Antonio Spurs’ game against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday due to a sprained right ankle.
Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points. He was immediately was led to the locker room, and he did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court. He did not return to the game.
In 19 minutes during the Spurs’ 123-97 win over the Timberwolves, Ginobili scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday and leading him to play limited minutes against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.
NBA notebook: Clippers’ Griffin cleared to return
Los Angeles Clippers power forward Blake Griffin, out the last 15 games with an elbow injury, was cleared to return Sunday against the Houston Rockets.
Griffin had surgery five weeks ago to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.
“He said, ‘I’m ready,'” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said before Sunday’s game. “Yesterday the trainers called me and said, ‘If he can go, he can go. He’s been cleared.'”
Rivers said timing likely will be an adjustment for Griffin.
“Timing is timing,” Rivers said. “You lose it when you don’t play in an NBA game. Sometimes you come back and you play great the first game and then you lose your timing. Sometimes it doesn’t. As far as the way we play, it won’t be hard for him at all.”
In 51 games this season, Griffin is averaging 22.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 5.1 assists.
–Spurs guard Manu Ginobili had to be helped off the floor late in the third quarter against Minnesota on Sunday. Ginobili went down with 43 seconds left in the quarter and with the Spurs leading the Timberwolves by 30 points.
He was helped off the floor and immediately was led to the locker room. He did not put any weight on his right leg as he was carried off the court.
Up to that point, Ginobili had scored 11 points on 4-of-5 shooting in 19 minutes. He battled a stomach illness last week, forcing him to miss a game against Toronto and play limited minutes against Cleveland on March 12.
–Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr sent emails to three fans who were disappointed that he rested several prominent players, including All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, in Friday’s loss to the Nuggets in Denver.
“There’s two really good sides to the story,” Kerr said, according to the Associated Press report. “Nobody’s wrong here. … I can’t argue with them.”
Kerr received an email from a family that drove from South Dakota to Denver to see Curry, Thompson and the entertaining Warriors play. But Curry, Thompson, center Andrew Bogut and reserve guard Andre Iguodala did not play so they could be rested, and the Warriors lost 114-103.
“I heard from some fans. I received a few emails, stories about driving in from a long distance off and spending a lot of money on tickets,” Kerr said. “I have great sympathy for those people. I really do. It’s a tricky one. It’s something that I think Adam Silver is trying to address through the scheduling shuffling that he’s talking about.
–The Dallas Mavericks recalled center/forward Dwight Powell from the Texas Legends of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
The 6-foot-11, 240-pound Powell played in one game during his most recent assignment to the D-League and finished with 28 points, five rebounds and two assists to lead the Legends in a 115-89 win over the Austin Spurs on Saturday night.
Powell has appeared in 19 games for the Mavericks this season, averaging 3.5 points and 2.2 rebounds in 10.0 minutes per game.
–The Atlanta Hawks signed forward Austin Daye to a 10-day contract Sunday.
Daye appeared in 26 games (four starts) earlier this season with the San Antonio Spurs, averaging 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds in 10.3 minutes.
In 10 games this season with the Erie BayHawks of the NBA Development League, Daye has averaged 16.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.1 blocks in 28.5 minutes.
–The Miami Heat recalled guard Zoran Dragic from the Sioux Falls Skyforce of the NBA Development League on Sunday.
Zoran appeared in four games (one start) and averaged 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.50 steals, helping the Skyforce to a 3-1 record over that span.