NBA AM: Spurs Showing Zero Signs Of Slippage

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Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry talks about the rivalry with the L.A. Clippers, his golf game and more in this one-on-one interview.

Are You Still Sleeping On The San Antonio Spurs?

The San Antonio Spurs have entered every season for the last five years with questions on how long the franchise can remain among the league’s elite. On paper, the question is a legitimate one. Future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan (37) continues to age, former Sixth Man of the Year Manu Ginobili (36) is nowhere near the caliber of player he was during his prime years and the team routinely adds new role players,  expected to play pivotal roles, to the roster each summer.

San Antonio was literally less than 30 seconds away from adding another Larry O’Brien trophy to their mantle last season before succumbing to the Miami HEAT in the Finals. Despite the sour taste still lingering from last season’s finish, the Spurs (54-16) have successfully rebounded and are currently in possession of the league’s best record with roughly three weeks remaining in the regular season.

While there are rising concerns about whether Duncan will honor the last year of his current deal next season, the Spurs are once again firmly entrenched in the role of a contender heading down the stretch.

Even with Duncan contemplating hanging up the laces for good, Spurs general manager R.C. Buford doesn’t view the current campaign as a last hurrah.

“I don’t know if you ever plan on when your last best chance is,” Buford told NBA TV (The Beat). “Everybody goes out with a goal of winning a championship and that’s where our season started. We’re still a long way away from that, but we’re on the journey.”

San Antonio is currently on a 14-game winning streak, which includes victories over playoff hopefuls such as Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Golden State, Miami and Portland. The team will face two more sub-.500 teams – Denver (twice) and New Orleans – before heading to Indiana to battle the Pacers on March 31.

One of the reasons the Spurs have been able to remain relevant at the top of the league’s standings has been the year-over-year development of Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard, the 15th overall pick of the 2011 NBA Draft, has improved his scoring in each month since January and is averaging 14.8 points and 6.9 rebounds in March.

While Leonard’s skill level has been on full display since he returned from injury, Buford says if the team is going to win a championship this season he will play an integral part.

“He does a lot of things for us,” Buford said of Leonard. “But I don’t know if he’s any more important than anyone else. Our group is playing well since he’s come back from injury and he’s a big part of that.”

The Spurs haven’t missed the playoffs since 1997, before Duncan arrived in town. It appears the Spurs are strongly positioned to continue their run for another championship.

Milwaukee Bucks Players Auditioning For Future?

Other than being on pace to secure a high lottery pick in this year’s talented draft class, there aren’t many positives for the Milwaukee Bucks to draw upon from the 2013-14 campaign. The Bucks currently own the league’s worst record, despite the fact the Philadelphia 76ers are in the midst of a 25-game losing streak.

Besides the injury bug, youth has been a primary driver in Milwaukee’s disappointing season to date with the team having nine guys on the roster with less than four years of professional experience.

Naturally, with so little to play for down the stretch, the question is how do players stay engaged in the process long enough in order to finish the campaign on a positive note?

Bucks point guard Ramon Sessions says he fully expects his teammates to give their all over the next month. Sessions says his teammates are too young and still haven’t fully carved out their individual roles in the league to fall victim to complacency.

“They should all be engaged,” Sessions told Basketball Insiders recently regarding his younger teammates. “We’re very young and we’re all living the dream, man. There’s no reason we shouldn’t come in day in and day out and be professionals, especially being young when you haven’t even been around success. We have a lot of youth here and there are a lot guys here in their first, second or third years in the league who are still trying to prove themselves [to management]. But overall it has been good.”

Sessions has a valid point.

The Bucks are in the beginning stages of what is sure to be a lengthy rebuilding project. In the current situation, the team’s front office is continually monitoring guys’ effort on the floor and seeing who is a keeper for the long-term.

Business Tidbit: Pay The (Tennessee) Tax Man

Here is a topic where we all can all relate. Whenever you have a few extra dollars in your pocket, you better believe there are entities out there devising ways to get in your pocket. This is especially true for professional NHL and NBA players who happen to play in the state of Tennessee whether it is a home or away contest.

According to Eric Snyder of the Nashville Business Journal, Tennessee lawmakers will vote this week on an alternative measure that would essentially end the “jock tax” in the state. The jock tax is a special tax on NHL and NBA players who play in the state. The tax charges these players $2,500 each time they play in the state, up to three times per year (or a maximum of $7,500).

Here’s the kicker.

While the state collects this special tax, the actual revenue is then directed to the Nashville Predators and Memphis Grizzlies. Estimates put revenue on the jock tax to be $3.5 million per year.

According to the report, the bill is expected to be heard by the state house and Senate finance committee sometime this week. The alternative would end the tax immediately for NHL players, while NBA players would have to pay it for an additional two seasons.