Manu Ginobili

NBA Notes: Manu Ginobili returning to Spurs for 16th season

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NBA Notes: Manu Ginobili returning to Spurs for 16th season

SAN ANTONIO -- Manu Ginobili is returning for his 16th season with the San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs re-signed the 40-year-old Argentine guard Thursday. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

Ginobili will become the eighth player in NBA history to spend his entire career with one team and play at least 16 seasons, joining Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Kobe Bryant, Dirk Nowitzki, John Stockton, Reggie Miller and John Havlicek.

Ginobili averaged 7.5 points, 2.7 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 69 games last season, In 992 career regular-season games, he has averaged 13.6 points, 3.9 assists and 3.6 rebounds. In 213 playoff games, the four-time NBA champion has averaged 14.1 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.8 assists.

Ginobili led Argentina to the 2004 Olympic title. He and Bill Bradley are the only players win an NBA and Euroleague titles and an Olympic gold medal.

Pacers: Team hopes new facility becomes selling point
INDIANAPOLIS -- Kevin Pritchard has a new sales pitch as the Indiana Pacers jump into the NBA's version of an arms race.

On Thursday, the team's president of basketball operations, players and other officials celebrated the opening of the St. Vincent Center, a five-story, state-of-the-art practice facility that is putting the health, training and comfort of players first.

"Indiana is not a small market, Indiana is not a big market, Indiana is good market and this matches that," Pritchard said. "We want players walking in here and thinking about how they can be their best and we want our coaches knowing they can do their best."

Everything inside the 130,000-square foot facility is intended to put players front and center -- from the offices where Pritchard and coach Nate McMillan can watch both courts to the circular locker room to the medical and nutritional facilities upstairs. The top floor has an 18,000-square foot sports performance center. The hydrotherapy room includes a big screen TV. The team meeting room has and the player's lounge both have customized oversized chairs.

The biggest difference might be that the Pacers will now have two full-sized practice courts overlooking Bankers Life Fieldhouse that are devoted exclusively to the NBA franchise. Previously, the team shared one practice court with the WNBA's Indiana Fever and that court also was used for community events (see full story).

NBA: G-League eliminates 4-game, 5-day stretches
NEW YORK -- Schedule changes have also come to the NBA G League.

Much like their NBA counterparts, G League players will no longer endure stretches of four games in five nights. Eliminating that for the first time was a key component of this season's NBA schedule, and it's now gone from the G League schedules as well.

The average number of back-to-backs also dropped in the G League, from nearly nine per team last year to seven this season.

"Much like the NBA, we had a strong focus on making our schedule more in line with our ongoing goals of player health and wellness," G League President Malcolm Turner said. "The NBA G League has always been a place for players to develop their skills and display their talents. These schedule adjustments will help up-and-coming NBA players perform to the best of their abilities."

There's four expansion teams in the newly rebranded G League, which has a record 26 franchises after adding the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario (affiliated with the Los Angeles Clippers), Erie BayHawks (Atlanta), Memphis Hustle (Memphis) and Wisconsin Herd (Milwaukee).

Teams in the G League play 50 regular-season games, starting Nov. 3 and going through March 24. In previous years, the league was known as the NBA Development League.

NBA Notes: Jamal Crawford chooses Timberwolves over Warriors, Cavaliers

NBA Notes: Jamal Crawford chooses Timberwolves over Warriors, Cavaliers

MINNEAPOLIS -- At 37 years old and having never played in the NBA Finals, Jamal Crawford certainly could have gone ring chasing when he received a buyout from the Atlanta Hawks.

The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers, who have met in the last three finals, were both interested in the veteran scorer. LeBron James was calling Crawford personally to recruit him to Cleveland.

So naturally, Crawford chose ... the Minnesota Timberwolves?

The Wolves have missed the playoffs for 13 straight seasons. But after Minnesota added Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague this summer, Crawford decided to join Tom Thibodeau's team in hopes of being an integral part of a team trying to break through as opposed to the latest hired gun on an established contender.

"I want to experience it with these guys and go through the wars and the struggles and just really embrace the journey with these guys," Crawford said Wednesday. "To me, that can be even more gratifying than just going to a team that's already made and ready to win a championship. Hopefully, we'll get there, but we'll all go through it together" (see full story).

Spurs: Ginobili indicates he’ll return for 16th season
SAN ANTONIO -- As the clock ticked down on the Spurs' season and Manu Ginobili was pulled from the game, a thunderous roar from the home crowd guided him to the bench.

Ginobili wore an appreciative but quizzical look on his face as he put a warmup shirt back on and prepared to head off into the summer. Clearly, the fans were saying goodbye to one of the most popular players in Spurs history.

Ginobili was not ready to do the same: The Argentinian posted a message on his Twitter account on Wednesday that he is re-signing with San Antonio for another season, which will be his 16th with the Spurs.

"It felt like they wanted me to retire," Ginobili said with a smile after the Spurs were swept out of the Western Conference finals by the Golden State Warriors. "Like they were giving me sort of a celebration night. And of course, I'm getting closer and closer."

Save those goodbyes for at least another year (see full story).

Clippers: Griffin calls decision to stay a ’no-brainer’ 
LOS ANGELES -- Blake Griffin was back in his usual place, front and center on a Clippers stage.

After opting out of his contract, Griffin didn't spend the offseason toiling over whether to sign with another team -- like his teammate DeAndre Jordan famously did. For Griffin, it was an easy decision to sign a max five-year deal to stay with the only NBA team he's played for in his seven-year career.

"I want to say how excited I am to be back. This has been my home since I was drafted. A lot went into this decision," Griffin said Wednesday. "In the end, I realized this was a no-brainer for me. This is the place where I want to start and finish my career. . This next chapter and next season for the Clippers and myself, I've never been more excited about an opportunity."

Griffin, 28, is undoubtedly the star of the Clippers with Chris Paul gone in the trade with the Rockets that sent Pat Beverley to Los Angeles.

Griffin said he and Paul talked about his decision to want to leave the Clippers.

"No hard feelings," said Griffin, a five-time All-Star. "I think we're all professional enough to know and we've all been in the situation now to know sometimes you have to do what's right and what's best for yourself and your family. I've never had hard feelings with any of my teammates who decided to leave or felt like it was best to leave. I wouldn't start now" (see full story).

Wizards: With Porter deal done, team keeps core intact
WASHINGTON -- Otto Porter is a quiet, complementary piece to the Wizards' talented young core. He is also now Washington's highest-paid player.

At least temporarily.

Guards John Wall and Bradley Beal garner most of the attention as Washington has made it to the second round of the NBA playoffs three of the last four seasons. But for now, Porter makes the most money after the Wizards matched a four-year, $106.5 million max-contract offer sheet the forward signed with the Brooklyn Nets.

There might be questions if the 24-year-old Porter is worth that money. But the Wizards believe he is a good fit alongside Wall, 26, a four-time All-Star, and Beal, 24, one of the league's top shooting guards.

"You just use that as motivation just like John and Brad did," Porter said at a news conference Wednesday. "They set the bar high. I'm going to set my bar, high, too" (see full story).

Grizzlies: PG Chalmers signs contract
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- The Memphis Grizzlies have signed guard Mario Chalmers, nearly 1 1/2 years after he ruptured his right Achilles tendon playing for the team.

The Grizzlies announced the deal Wednesday. Terms of the contract weren't disclosed.

The 31-year-old Chalmers was injured in March 2016. During the 2015-16 season, Chalmers played 61 games for the Grizzlies and Miami Heat, averaging 10.3 points, 3.8 assists and 2.6 rebounds.

Chalmers played for Miami from 2008-15 and was part of the Heat's 2012 and 2013 NBA championship teams.

Brett Brown still has lasting effect on Gregg Popovich's Spurs

Brett Brown still has lasting effect on Gregg Popovich's Spurs

Brett Brown left the Spurs in 2013 to become the head coach of the Sixers. Four years since his departure, his influence is greatly felt by his former team.

During the Spurs' trip to Philadelphia on Wednesday, head coach Gregg Popovich, and players alike, raved about Brown’s 11-plus seasons with the organization.

“He’s the most incredible, positive, sort of force that I’ve ever been around in my life,” Popovich said. “I don’t just say that because we worked together for all those years. He was with me from Day 1, putting our program together. So I know how intense he is, I know how much he loves the game, I know how he teaches, and when I would get down he’d be the positive one to lift me up.

“It’s just incredible to me that he stayed so even temperament-wise and still is in love with teaching guys. He doesn’t care if it’s somebody who’s a pickup for 10 days or a high draft pick. He just enjoys the process and he just never gives in."

Brown had an established coaching career in Australia when he first came to the Spurs on a volunteer basis in 1999. Popovich had heard about Brown’s reputation overseas as well as his college experience playing for Rick Pitino at Boston University. Popovich was intrigued by what Brown could bring to the table.

“I had heard good things from people back East about him and checked him out a little bit,” Popovich recalled. “... I thought that would be a good addition, just to see what I could learn from him, that kind of thing. As soon as he got there, we started putting it together, the way we wanted to run the program. We became fast friends and never changed since then.”

Brown returned to Australia after that first stint. He was then hired by the Spurs in 2002 as the director of player development.

That season, a rookie guard from Argentina, a former 57th pick was joining the organization after years of international experience. Brown was tasked with tapping into the talents of Manu Ginobili.  

“He was basically the guy assigned to me,” said Ginobili, now a 15-year NBA veteran. “We spent a lot of time together. We worked out a lot of hours. I absolutely love the guy. High-quality coach, even higher quality guy, fun to be around. I’m completely biased talking about him. I really appreciated him. He’s one of my favorite people, not coaches.”

Brown and Popovich struck a coaching balance that shined in the Spurs’ championship-winning culture. When Popovich was hard on the team, Brown, who was promoted to assistant coach in 2006, was there to lighten the message. Their dynamic helped breed success, including four NBA titles (1999, 2003, 2005, 2007).

“He’s always the cup-is-half-full kind of guy,” Popovich said. “With that, he’s got a really cool sense of humor. He’s a funny dude. The players appreciated it. He knew how to laugh at himself, he knew how to make them laugh. Win or lose, how to go on to the next game, or turnover or missed shot, how to go on to the next play. Sometimes I’d be more focused on something else and he would be there to slap somebody on the butt after I just drilled them, especially Tony Parker.”

That constant encouragement had long-lasting effects on the Spurs. Take Danny Green as an example. Green joined the Spurs in 2010, already on his second team in as many years after being waived by the Cavaliers.

Brown urged Green, who shot a mere 27.3 percent from long range his rookie season, to keep taking his looks no matter how many times he missed. Green listened and went on to set the record for most three-pointers made in the NBA Finals in 2013. Brown has been instilling the same mantra in Robert Covington on the Sixers.

“Brownie’s amazing,” Green said. “He was always the positive guy and kept things even-keeled. He always told me to shoot the ball every time. … He’s always that guy to brighten up the practice, brighten up the day, made our lives easier for us, made our jobs easier for us.”

As the years went on, Brown forged special bonds with the players. He poured into them and got to know them as both athletes and people away from the game. In turn, the players learned about Brown as more than a coach. Spurs guard Patty Mills, who also played for Brown on the Australian national team, was struck by his family values.

“I love him. He’s one of my all-time favorite coaches,” Mills said. “I remember how passionate he is. He uses a lot of his time and energy to making sure that whatever he’s doing, he gets the most out of it. It’s good when you have a leader or a coach that puts everything into it ... I think the word I would use to describe him is ‘genuine.’”

Brown’s tenure in San Antonio came to an end in the summer of 2013. The Spurs lost to the Heat in Game 7 of the NBA Finals that June. Both Brown and fellow assistant coach Mike Budenholzer (Hawks) accepted head coaching jobs for the following season. Brown’s presence was quickly missed when he parted ways to begin his career in Philadelphia.

“When he left and also Bud left, it was just different,” Green said. “It was after we lost, it was a tough summer, it was a tough year. ... Until we got back to the playoffs and back to the championship and won it, finally, the whole year was kind of a drag. … Everybody was hard on each other. There was a lot of tension, a lot of hostility, a lot of still thinking about that previous summer, previous year of losing.

"It was very hard and we lost that guy that mediates the locker room and the coaching staff — him and Bud. It was very different until we won it and then it kind of eased up a little bit. But still, since he’s gone, the locker room’s been different."

There was an adjustment period for Brown as well. His time with the Sixers has been far from smooth. The team went 47-199 in his first three seasons during the phase known as “the process.” It seemed hard enough to remember everyone’s name in the revolving door of players let alone win games. Still, Brown kept the locker room together.

Brown finally has the opportunity to coach a foundation of players with a more clear direction of the team’s future, centered around Joel Embiid and the anticipated return of first overall pick Ben Simmons.

“I think he’s the perfect fit for this job to turn things around, keep guys positive, stay above water,” Green said. “If there was any guy to do it throughout a whole season with things going in the opposite direction, it’s him.”

The Sixers matched last season’s win total (10) in early January and went 10-5 on the month. They were one of the most successful teams in the league during that stretch before hitting a current five-game skid without an injured Embiid. The Spurs looked past the record and see progress from years past.

“It’s night and day,” Parker said. “They’re playing a lot better. They’re understanding what Brett wants on the court and moving the ball and playing good defense. Their energy was pretty good and I feel like they’re going in the right direction. When everybody’s going to be healthy, they’re going to be pretty good.”

Popovich has gone up against Brown twice in the last week. Even though the Spurs won both of those games, Popovich had plenty of compliments after Wednesday’s contest for the job Brown is doing.

“They executed better than we did,” Popovich said. “They moved the ball better than we did. It was very impressive. I thought they outplayed us in a lot of ways. Their grit, their hustle, their denying, their defensive aggressiveness was great. … Totally impressed with the Sixers.”

Brown's time with the Spurs meant just as much to him as it did to those he worked with and coached. He brought the same approach to the Sixers and it hasn't changed, win or lose. For Brown, basketball always has been just as much about those involved with it as the final score.

“You went through five championships — four of which you won — a bunch of All-Stars, a lot of incredible memories,” Brown said. “But it always gets back to relationships. It always gets back to people. The defensive accountability was what I remembered most at the start and then it blossomed into this freestyle Euro ball and people passing, along with the accountability defensively.

“Somewhere in that world, you hope you had a small part in the way they do things.”

A small part seems to be an understatement.