|Spurs handle Heat, win 110-95 in NBA Finals Game 1|
|Thursday, June 05, 2014 7:56 PM|
SAN ANTONIO — Tim Duncan had 21 points and 10 rebounds and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Miami Heat 110-95 on Thursday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals inside a sweltering AT&T Center.
With an air conditioning failure making it feel like basketball in a sauna and causing LeBron James to battle cramps that knocked him out of the game's decisive stretch, the Spurs pulled away to win the opener of the first finals rematch since 1998.
Manu Ginobili had 16 points and 11 assists, and Tony Parker added 19 points and eight assists for the Spurs, who shot 59 percent and improved to 6 for 6 in NBA Finals Game 1s.
James finished with 25 points but played only 33 minutes, and Miami was outscored 36-17 in the fourth quarter.
Battier heads toward retirement with no regrets: Shane Battier learned how to be a teammate from his father and Little League coach, Big Ed Battier. He was guided by Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. He played for respected NBA coaches — Hubie Brown, Mike Fratello, Jeff Van Gundy, Rick Adelman and Erik Spoelstra among them.
But it was Barry Sanders who taught him how to say goodbye.
Battier is a son of Detroit, fiercely loyal to its teams. When Sanders retired from the Detroit Lions while still able to play at a high level, Battier learned by example.
"My goals when I started this whole crazy thing, they weren't to win championships or make the All-Defensive team," Battier said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It was to play 10 years and to be able to walk away from the game before the game kicked me out."
Missions accomplished. Battier played 13 years. And he's kicking himself out.
These NBA Finals between his Heat and the Spurs are Battier's farewell to playing. He is retiring at season's end, something Battier knew would be the case when he signed with Miami three years ago. He'll start broadcasting for ESPN soon, though it be no shock if the game lured him back in some capacity before too long.
"I wanted to come in on my terms," Battier said. "I wanted to play on my terms. I wanted to leave on my terms. It may not be the best financial decision, but I'm kind of excited to live out that dream."
Battier may have amassed fame and fortune but he's hardly a silver-spoon guy.
"I still distinctly remember the taste of a government-cheese sandwich," Battier recalled. "My family was on food stamps at one point. But we always had enough. My parents did amazing things for me, to give me every opportunity possible. I just wanted more. It was no fault of my family. I just wanted more."
In his neighborhood, he stood out in many ways.
He was the smart kid. He was the tall kid. He was the athletic kid. And with a black father and white mother, he didn't look like anyone else.
"My white friends couldn't empathize. My black friends couldn't empathize," Battier explained. "When I played on the playground with my white friends, I was the black kid. When I went to the inner city to play with the black kids, I was the white kid from the suburbs. I didn't have my first kiss until I was in high school."
Her name was Heidi. Battier wound up marrying her.
So that first kiss worked out. Then again, for Battier, things always seem to fall into place.
One of his closest friends from his time at Duke was the team manager. His name is Nick Arison, who just happens to be CEO of the Heat. And when Battier was a free agent three years ago, Arison lured his buddy to Miami.
Three years in Miami together, three straight NBA Finals appearances, two titles — and perhaps counting.
"If Shane was president one day, I wouldn't be surprised," Arison said. "The two guys I was closest to there was Shane and Mike Dunleavy. They're great guys. They just happen to be basketball players. Shane's the type of guy who would be successful in any field at any time. He just happens to be really, really good at basketball."
During his Miami days, Battier has been best when the stakes have been highest. He's made six field goals in a game six times in his Heat career — with three of those six occurrences coming in NBA Finals games.
"Shane's been unbelievable for us," James said. "Unbelievable guy. Unbelievable player, in terms of sacrifice. Unbelievable teammate."
And soon, a career that Battier calls unbelievable will come to an end.
He could still play. The Heat would gladly re-sign him. But Battier doesn't want to miss school pageants and Little League games any more.
"You need a balance," Battier added. "As I've gotten older, I understand that more. When I was younger, I lived basketball. I lived it. I only knew one way — put everything on the back burner and focus on basketball. So it's time."
Bickerstaff wins Daly Lifetime Achievement Award
NEW YORK — Bernie Bickerstaff was honored Thursday as the winner of the National Basketball Coaches Association's Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award.
"Chuck Daly was an inspiration to everyone that loves NBA basketball," Bickerstaff wrote in a statement. "To be a part of his legacy is one of their greatest honors of my career."
Bickerstaff, an assistant coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers, began his NBA career at age 29 as an assistant with Washington and helped the Bullets win the 1978 title.
He was a head coach in Seattle, Denver, Washington and Charlotte and interim head coach with the Los Angeles Lakers; he also has worked for Chicago, Portland and the Cavaliers.
The award is named after late Detroit coach Chuck Daly.
AP Sources: Saunders to coach Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Timberwolves' best days came with Flip Saunders on the sideline.
Now that the organization is shrouded in uncertainty surrounding the long-term future of star forward Kevin Love, Saunders is returning to the bench to try revive a franchise that hasn't made the playoffs in 10 years.
With the team's coaching search complicated by Love's status, the Timberwolves decided the best course of action was to have Saunders, who was hired last season as president of basketball operations, step in for a second stint as coach until the situation stabilized, two people with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Thursday. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the team has not officially announced the move. A news conference was scheduled for today.
Saunders previously coached the Timberwolves from 1995-2005. He won 411 games in 10½ seasons in Minnesota and guided the Wolves to the only eight playoff appearances in franchise history, including the Western Conference finals in 2004. He has a career record of 638-526 in 16 seasons as an NBA head coach, a career that also includes stops in Detroit and Washington.
Saunders is joining a short list in the NBA of coaches that also have final-say executive authority, one that includes newly-hired Stan Van Gundy in Detroit, Doc Rivers with the Los Angeles Clippers and, to a certain extent, Gregg Popovich in San Antonio. Saunders will continue to work closely with GM Milt Newton in the front office while handling coaching duties.
When Rick Adelman retired at the end of the regular season, he did so in part to try to help the Timberwolves move forward with a plan to show Love, a 3-time All-Star who can opt out of his contract next summer, that there was a long-term plan in place for success.
But Love's tenuous situation didn't help the search process, with trade rumors serving as a caution sign for several high-profile candidates.
Saunders was in the market for a coach with extensive head coaching experience, either in the NBA or at a major college program, one that could command the respect of a young locker room and also handle the media scrutiny that comes with the questions surrounding Love. Names like Tom Izzo, Billy Donovan and Fred Hoiberg came and went without any traction.
The Wolves hosted Memphis coach Dave Joerger for an interview two weekends ago but Grizzlies' owner Robert Pera sweetened his contract to keep him around. Sam Mitchell, Lionel Hollins, Scott Skiles and several others received consideration as well.
Unable to find what they felt was the right fit for a delicate job, Saunders and owner Glen Taylor met this week to reassess the situation. Taylor said when he brought Saunders back as team president that he would not put him back on the bench. He fired Saunders as coach once before, in 2005 when Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell, unhappy with their contracts, submarined the follow-up to the team's stirring run to the Western Conference finals.
Saunders was also hopeful that he could find someone other than himself to take over the team. But with Love's status preventing them from pursuing the coaches they felt would fit best, the two decided that Saunders should take over for at least this season if not longer.
The Timberwolves have not given up on convincing Love to play out this season in Minnesota and re-sign next summer to a contract that can pay him and extra year and about $26.5 million more than any other team. It was not immediately clear what the appointment of Saunders would do for Love's desires to stay or go.
Love has yet to make the playoffs in his six seasons in the league and is believed to be growing impatient with the Wolves, who finished 40-42 and in 10th place in the West this year. Love created a stir when he spent last weekend in Boston, where the Celtics are rumored to be making a run at trading for the 25-year-old power forward before the June 26 draft.
Just how long Saunders will coach remains to be seen.
There is the possibility that Saunders will add assistants to his staff who could be groomed to eventually take over. The Wolves were expected to reach out to Mitchell, a former Timberwolves player and Raptors head coach, and David Blatt, who has spearheaded Russia's return to Olympic relevance and coaches in Israel, to gauge their interest in joining his staff.