Derrick White Spurs Jersey

The San Antonio Spurs' Derrick White doesn't just post quality stats for a guard, he's even chipping in blocks.

In a crucial win over the Mavericks on Tuesday night that vaulted the team into the sixth seed in a contentious Western Conference, the Spurs’ star duo of DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge produced at least 25 points in the same game for the sixth time this year. Surging second-year combo guard Derrick White also helped the winning cause with 23 points, his fourth career 20-point game, all of which have come this season.

An excellent free-agent acquisition to consider for the fantasy playoffs, White has a Dwyane Wade-like block rate for a guard, as only John Wall and White have produced a block percentage of at least 2.2 percent this season among players 6-foot-4 or shorter. White dropped seven dimes and secured three steals last night, good for his fifth-highest game score (a linear estimate of player efficiency rating) of the season.

White is slashing for 14.7 PPG, 5 RPG, 5.8 APG and a stellar 3.3 combined blocks and steals during his past six appearances and yet is still floating for the price of a few clicks in three-quarters of ESPN leagues.

Tuesday recap

Highlights

Jalen Brunson, Dallas Mavericks: 34 points (12-16 FG), 5 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 TO

DeMar DeRozan, San Antonio Spurs: 33 points (11-19 FG), 4 rebounds, 6 assists, 4 steals, 3 TO

Elfrid Payton, New Orleans Pelicans: 14 points (6-15 FG), 15 rebounds, 11 assists, 3 TO

Lowlights

Will Barton, Denver Nuggets: 6 points (2-9 FG), 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 TO

Tim Hardaway Jr., Dallas Mavericks: 10 points (4-13 FG), 4 rebounds

Lauri Markkanen, Chicago Bulls: 11 points (4-17 FG), 5 rebounds, 2 TO

Tuesday takeaways

  • Payton is thriving from a statistical perspective with Jrue Holiday sidelined, producing consecutive triple-doubles for the first time in his career, and he’s now averaging 14 PPG, 10.3 RPG, 9.0 APG, 2.0 3PG, and 1.7 combined blocks and steals the past three games. Holiday is likely to miss several more games. You can find Payton in free agency in roughly 30 percent of ESPN leagues.
  • It was a particularly rough night for star rookie Luka Doncic, who netted only 12 points on 18 shots and made just one of nine free throw attempts while turning the ball over a career-high nine times. With the Spurs swarming Doncic at the point of attack on defense, led by White, it’s best to chalk this up as an outlier poor game for the gifted rookie. Fellow NBA freshman Brunson was brilliant in producing a career-best scoring effort as a pro. ESPN’s Tim McMahon noted this was Brunson’s top scoring performance since high school. In 10 games since the All-Star break, Brunson is averaging 16.0 PPG, 3.3 RPG, 4.3 APG and 1.6 3PG in 29.6 MPG, while he’s currently rostered in only 3.4 percent of ESPN leagues.
  • The 76ers have held opponents under 100 points in consecutive games for just the second time this season after downing the Cavaliers last night. Collin Sexton and Cedi Osman delivered strong fantasy performances for Cleveland, while Philly’s Ben Simmons tallied 26 points, 10 rebounds and 8 assists, good for his fourth career game with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists; and second such outing this month.
  • The Trail Blazers’ CJ McCollum poured in 35 points in a big win over the Clippers on Tuesday night. This marked the Lehigh product’s 14th 30-point game this season after posting seven such games all last season. McCollum’s 23 points in the final frame last night marked the most he’s ever scored in a fourth quarter in his career.

Injuries of note

  • Andrew Wiggins was a late scratch on Tuesday night with a quad ailment and is considered day-to-day.
  • Golden State’s Kevin Durant is expected to miss tonight’s tilt with Houston due to a right ankle injury suffered in this past Sunday’s loss to the Suns.

Analytics advantage for Wednesday

Two teams heading in opposite directions meet on Wednesday when the Thunder host the Nets at 7 ET on ESPN. Brooklyn has won four straight and is 28-15 since Dec. 6, tied for the fourth-best record in the NBA during that span, trailing only the Bucks, Rockets and Warriors. The Nets were 8-18 before that stretch.

The Thunder, meanwhile, are 4-6 since the All-Star break, tied for 11th in the Western Conference over that stretch. Paul George is shooting just 31 percent from the field in four games since returning from a shoulder injury.

The Nets are averaging 47.6 bench points per game this season, second most behind the Clippers (53.0). Brooklyn has outscored the opposing bench a league-high 58 times this season, thanks in large part to the work of Spencer Dinwiddie, who is averaging a career-best 17.4 points this season. That’s the second-highest scoring average by a bench player this season, trailing only Lou Williams (20.4 PPG). While Williams is a respected fantasy contributor, the market is still sleeping on Dinwiddie (rostered in just 61 percent of leagues).

Top players to watch tonight

The Warriors visit the Rockets Wednesday at 9:30 ET on ESPN. The Rockets have won four straight regular-season meetings against the Warriors by an average of nine points. Houston has a chance to become the first team to sweep a four-game season series against Golden State in the past five seasons, per ESPN Stats & Info.

We’re always watching James Harden, as the bearded one is averaging a ridiculous 36.1 PPG for the season, on pace for the most by any player since Michael Jordan in 1986-87 (37.1 PPG). This would mark the second-highest average over an entire season in the past 50 seasons.

With Durant sitting this one out, it’s worth noting Klay Thompson consumes a team-high leap in usage (an estimate of team plays consumed by an individual player) of nine percent in such scenarios.This means Thompson’s usage roughly doubles when Durant isn’t on the floor, while Stephen Curry is second on the roster with a 6.8 percent boost in usage rate. Even if you missed out on drafting the “Splash Brothers” in season-long leagues, stacking the Warriors’ backcourt in DFS could prove rewarding, given these impressive opportunity rates with Durant on the pine.

Anthony Davis Jersey

The New Orleans Pelicans have parted ways with general manager Dell Demps, the team announced on Friday, clearing the way for a new top basketball executive to oversee the Anthony Davis trade talks.

Demps had been Pelicans GM for nine years, which included three trips to the playoffs but advancing only once past the first round.

“I would like to extend my appreciation to Dell for his tireless work and commitment to our team over the last eight-plus years,” Pelicans owner Gayle Benson said in a statement. “Dell, his wife Anita, and his family have been a credit to our city and I wish them nothing but the greatest success going forward.”

Former Cleveland Cavaliers and Atlanta Hawks GM Danny Ferry, a consultant for the Pelicans, has been named the team’s interim GM. New Orleans assistant GM David Booth was also considered for the interim role, league sources said.

“My focus for the rest of the season is to provide leadership to our basketball operations group and give [coach] Alvin [Gentry] and our players the resources and support to positively impact the culture and foundation now and going forward,” Ferry said in a statement.

For now, Gentry and his staff are safe, sources said. The organization has been pleased with how he’s navigated the team under difficult circumstances this year, and he’s expected to finish out the season, sources said.

Gentry’s future is likely dependent on the next GM’s purview. Gentry signed a contract extension in the offseason.

Benson has been angry over the Davis trade demand and her belief that “outside forces” are trying to push the franchise into decisions that don’t make sense, league sources said.

Her mandate has been to “take back control from outside forces,” one league source told ESPN. Benson has been adamant with the organization about finding a pathway to sustainable winning in one of the league’s smallest markets and plans to be aggressive in pursuing the best available candidates to oversee basketball operations, league sources said.

“We will immediately begin the process of restructuring our basketball operations department,” Benson said. “This will include a comprehensive, but confidential, search aided by outside consultants to identify a new leader of our basketball operations, directly reporting to me.”

Among preliminary possible candidates, league sources tell ESPN: former Cleveland GM David Griffin.

Benson owns the Pelicans and the New Orleans Saints and had Demps reporting to Saints GM Mickey Loomis. The Pelicans are eager to conduct a search that will attract a top basketball executive who will take on a more prominent role in the franchise. Benson is promising to pursue a top-level GM to revitalize a franchise that’s coming to a crossroads with the Davis trade.

Davis can become a free agent in July 2020 but publicly demanded a trade on Jan. 28. The Pelicans refused to negotiate with the Lakers, who made offers in hopes of landing Davis prior to the Feb. 7 deadline.

The Pelicans have endured a succession of trades and missed draft picks that have depleted the roster of a sustainable path to long-term success, but Benson hopes the team remains competitive this season.

“My expectations, and the expectations of our fans, are that this team will compete at a high level for the remainder of the season,” Benson said.

The team is 26-33 after beating the Oklahoma City Thunder on Thursday night, but is six games behind the LA Clippers for the final Western Conference postseason spot.

Joel Embiid Jersey

76ers center Joel Embiid sat out Friday night against Atlanta because of a sore left ankle.

Embiid hurt his ankle in a loss at Washington on Wednesday night. Embiid was one of the final players to leave the court during warm-ups and shot long jumpers wearing “Trust the Process” sneakers.

Embiid leads the 76ers with averages of 26.9 points and 13.5 rebounds in 40 games.

Mike Muscala started against the Hawks.

Jonas Valanciunas Jersey

Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas will miss at least four weeks after undergoing surgery on his left thumb, the team announced Thursday.

The surgery was performed at Stanford Medical Center in Palo Alto, California, by Dr. Jeffrey Yao, a specialist in hand, wrist and elbow surgery.

Valanciunas will be in a cast for four weeks, and then his status will be re-evaluated.

Also Thursday, the Raptors listed Kawhi Leonard as questionable for Friday night’s game at Portland. Leonard has missed the past two games with a bruised right hip.

Valanciunas’ injury occurred in the second quarter of Wednesday’s victory over the Golden State Warriors. Valanciunas was posting up Draymond Green when, as he turned to make a move, Green swiped down at the ball and hit him on the hand.

The backup center immediately fell to the ground in agony, then got up holding his hand while in visible pain. A trainer spent time working on Valanciunas along the bench before eventually escorting him to the locker room.

Valanciunas is averaging 12.8 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for the Raptors, who have the best record in the NBA at 23-7.

Tyson Chandler Jersey

LeBron James passed Wilt Chamberlain — another all-time great who joined the Los Angeles Lakers in the latter stages of his career — for fifth place on the NBA’s all-time scoring list Wednesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers.

James tied Chamberlain on an and-1 runner with 3:55 left in the fourth quarter and passed him on the ensuing free throw. James finished the game with 44 points — his first 40-point game of the season and the most by a Laker since Kobe Bryant scored 60 in his career finale — and he now has 31,425 points for his career. James added 10 rebounds and 9 assists in Los Angeles’ 126-117 win at Staples Center.

“When I’m able to do what I love to do, and do it at this level — and even being mentioned with the greats that have ever played this game — it just always brings me back to my hometown of Akron, [Ohio],” James told ESPN’s Dave Pasch on the telecast after the game. “And knowing where I come from, knowing how hard it was to get to this point — it’s just never being in satisfied mode. I give it all to the man above for giving me God-given abilities. I’m taking full advantage of ’em. And then my coaching staff and my teammates throughout these 16 years so far, have gotten me to this point.”

James said the ball and his jersey from the game would be sent to his I Promise School in Akron for display.

James put Chamberlain in the same category as Shaquille O’Neal — the No. 8 all-time scorer — as a phenomenon to be reckoned with.

“One of the most dominant forces we ever had in our game along with Shaq,” James said. “One of the greatest Lakers ever to play the game. One-hundred-point scorer. One of the greatest scorers, rebounders to ever played this game. Multisport, [multi]dimensional type of athlete. People had never seen something like that in that era. So, just dominated in all walks of life. Not only just basketball, but just period.”

Next up on the career scoring list is James’ childhood hero, Michael Jordan, in fourth place with 32,292 points. If James maintains his season scoring average of 26.4 points and doesn’t miss any games because of rest or injury, he should pass Jordan in late January.

Other than Jordan, the names ahead of James on the list have ties to the purple and gold. The top three scorers in league history all played for the Lakers at some point in their careers. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (38,387 points) is first, Karl Malone (36,928 points) is second and Bryant (33,643 points) is third. Including Chamberlain and James, five of the top six scorers in NBA history played for the Lakers at some point.

James shot 13-for-15 from the foul line against the Blazers — a season high in attempts — but Lakers coach Luke Walton said his star deserved even more. Way more.

“He takes a beating out there, he really does. He takes a beating every time he drives, and you have to put hands on him. You have to put elbows into him because of his size and strength,” Walton said. “He probably — if you looked at video — he could probably shoot 100 free throws a game if everything was called, but it was the same when I played with Shaq. Shaq used to get fouled a lot and not get free throws, but he does a great job of playing through that either way and making plays.”

Tyson Chandler took exception to some of the hits Portland laid on James — Jusuf Nurkic made contact with James’ head and CJ McCollum was called for a flagrant foul 1 for hooking James’ arm and pulling the forward to the floor.

“I just don’t like to see any of my teammates get hit like that, especially a vet like LeBron who has taken enough hits throughout his career,” Chandler told ESPN. “You don’t like to see that at all. I thought it was a little aggressive after the foul, which is what upset me.”

Nurkic pantomimed a child crying after the McCollum foul while James was on the floor.

“He goes in and he draws contact, a lot of times he’s so big and strong it doesn’t look like much, but it is, they’re fouls,” Chandler continued. “He’s earned the respect [of the league] to get those type of calls. He’s not one of those guys who is going in there and [exaggerating contact] every play, so maybe that’s why [he doesn’t get the calls].”

Chamberlain, of course, had to deal with his own set of unfair circumstances as the league widened the lane so he could not straddle it to avoid a three-second violation and also created offensive basket interference to prevent him from scoring the ball when it was on the rim — something in which he specialized.

“Well, it’s part of what makes working for the Lakers so amazing,” Walton said when asked about James passing Chamberlain. “You have this history here. … For him to be up there speaks more to what he’s done over his entire career, obviously, as a player. The fact that he’s in a Laker jersey as he does anything more just adds to the legacy of what the Lakers are.”

Walton then shared an anecdote illustrating the dominance of the man known as “The Big Dipper.”

“I’ve heard great Wilt stories from being around the Laker organization, including where in practice he would just take the ball and put it in the paint because he said, ‘That’s an automatic two points, so I’m not going to waste my energy jumping if I get it in the paint,'” Walton said with a smirk. “So there’s some good Wilt stories around the halls of the Lakers. But just one of the all-time dominant players our game has ever seen.”

Some of James’ young teammates were left to marvel at his dominant performance.

“It’s surreal, it’s surreal sometimes,” Brandon Ingram said. “You don’t really think about it sometimes until it actually happens, and you notice you’re playing with the greatest player in the world.”

“I grew up watching him do that so it was pretty cool being on the floor with him,” Lonzo Ball added. “Just being out there, I didn’t know that he had the numbers he had tonight. But obviously he had a great game, and the stats showed it.”

Nikola Mirotic Jersey

The Chicago Bulls are walking away from the oft-injured Omer Asik, announcing they had waived the center on Sunday.

Asik hadn’t played for the Bulls this season after he was ruled out indefinitely with inflammatory arthritis in September.

Asik’s $11.3 million salary for 2018-19 was fully guaranteed, and he is owed $3 million for next season as a partial guarantee. The Bulls would owe him the full $14.3 million unless a team claims him off waivers, which is unlikely.

Chicago acquired Asik, 32, as part of the trade that sent forward Nikola Mirotic to the New Orleans Pelicans in February. He has career averages of 5.3 points and 7.1 rebounds per game in his eight seasons.

The Bulls also announced they have signed guard Shaquille Harrison, who averaged 6.6 points and 2.7 rebounds in 23 games for the Phoenix Suns last season.

Dirk Nowitzki Jersey

Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki doesn’t have much left to prove in his career, having won an NBA title, an NBA Finals and regular-season MVP while nabbing countless other accolades. Perhaps a run at the Kia Sixth Man of the Year award will be in Nowitzki’s sights next season as he closes in on the twilight of his career?

The Mavs’ offseason addition of free-agent center DeAndre Jordan should bump Nowitzki from the starting center spot he played in some lineups for Dallas over the last few seasons. In his 20 seasons with the Mavs, Nowitzki has started 1,440 of the 1,471 career games he has played with Dallas. As youngsters like Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes and rookie Luka Doncic fill into the rotation in 2018-19, Nowitzki told reporters yesterday he is open to a reserve role if that is what will help Dallas most.

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News has more on how Nowitzki may fit into the Mavs’ various lineups:

Nowitzki knows that the Mavericks are transitioning to a younger team with new stars. His prime was awesome. But this is a team that has to find a new identity with Dennis Smith Jr., Harrison Barnes, Luka Doncic and Jordan.

“Obviously, DeAndre’s going to be our starter at the five position and the rest will just kind of fall in place after that,” Nowitzki said. “If [Barnes] goes back to the four or we start other ways, I have no idea as of yet. But it’s a great problem to have. We want to be a franchise that is back in the playoffs and plays well and has fun again.”

In the last couple seasons, Nowitzki has played well with Devin Harris and J.J. Barea and logically it makes sense for him to help anchor that second unit.

And he’s certainly open to the idea of coming off the bench.

“I’ve always said the last few years, if it makes our team better — I want to be part of a winning team and if that’s what helps us win — then of course,” Nowitzki said. “I have no problem with that. I already told [the training staff] if that’s the case, they better keep me loose. We better get a [stationary] bike ready somewhere because if I warm up and sit for 15, 20 minutes, that’s going to be an issue.”

Coach Rick Carlisle has been opposed to bringing Nowitzki off the bench for years, even though the Mavs’ star was open to the idea in early 2017. But, Sefko notes that all that matters to Carlisle this season is winning games.

“Hey, if that’s the role, and we play great with it, then I’m all for it,” he Nowitzki said. “But that’s what camp is for — to see what works, who works best with each other. So I don’t think we necessarily need to answer that question now. But it’s definitely something to look at as we go deeper into camp.”

Nowitzki recently participated in his first scrimmages with the team since undergoing minor surgery on his left ankle in the offseason. He told reporters on Thursday that he had some mixed results as he works himself back into form.

“The ankle where I had the surgery is actually great,” he said. “There were two bone spurs that kind of blocked me from doing things. So they took those out and now there’s a lot more movement in the ankle. But all the tendons aren’t used to moving that much now. Every now and then, it’s a little stiff. I scrimmaged a little last week and on Monday and it hasn’t really reacted amazing to it. But we’re positive that it’ll be fine. By the time we get into camp and especially the regular season, I’ll be 100 percent.”

The Mavs re-signed the 13-time All-Star Nowitzki this summer after they declined a team option on his contract at the start of free agency to create more salary cap room to add Jordan.

The 40-year-old forward averaged 12.0 points (on 40.9 percent shooting from 3-point), 5.7 rebounds and 1.6 assists during 77 games this season — his 20th in the NBA. The 12-time All-Star sits 232 points behind Wilt Chamberlain for No. 5 on the NBA’s all-time scoring list. Nowitzki is set to become the first player in NBA history to play 21 consecutive seasons for the same franchise. The 7-foot German is one of six players overall, and the only international player, with more than 30,000 career points.

Gordon Hayward Jersey

Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward will return to Boston next week and are expected to join their teammates in informal workouts as Celtics players begin pickup play in advance of the late September start of training camp.

Irving and Hayward have been rehabbing this summer from follow-up procedures on the injuries that shortened their 2017-18 campaigns and prevented them from playing in Boston’s surge to the cusp of the NBA Finals.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told ESPN on Monday that both Irving (knee) and Hayward (ankle) appear at full health and are ready for the new season.

“I don’t want to hype it up too much, but I’m saying that if our training camp were starting today that they would be here today going full speed,” Ainge said. “It’s not like they need an extra month. I think that they know they have an extra month, so they are sort of pacing themselves. They’re playing as if to build up to that opening day of training camp [Sept. 26].”

Celtics players have expressed excitement in starting 5-on-5 work after Boston brought back much of the same roster from last year’s squad that, even without Irving and Hayward, took the Cleveland Cavaliers to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.

“They’ll both be here within the next week or so; by the time Labor Day is over, they will all be playing 5-on-5,” Ainge said of Irving and Hayward. “I think it’s just a matter of, if they’re not playing 5-on-5 now, then it’s only because they want it more of a controlled environment, I guess. They’re doing everything — dunking the basketball off both legs and playing one-on-one live and jumping and cutting and defending. I’m excited for them.”

Ainge said the team will carefully ramp up activity for Irving and Hayward during camp and that the emergence of Boston’s younger players should ease the burden on the returning stars early in the new season.

But there’s an obvious excitement for the Celtics in having their team whole again for the first time since the 2017-18 opening night in Cleveland.

“I’m really excited about the upcoming season with [Irving and Hayward],” Ainge said. “Obviously, there’s a transition from rehabbing to playing one-on-one to playing 3-on-3 to 5-on-5 and then playing NBA basketball, so I don’t want to build up expectations too high. I think there will be a little bit of an adjustment once that last phase is made.

“But physically, they look great, and I think they’re very excited about the upcoming year.”

Cheap Kawhi Leonard Jersey From China

Just like they did at the start of training camp, the San Antonio Spurs announced Wednesday that they plan to keep All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard out indefinitely as he continues to recover from right quadriceps tendinopathy.

“Kawhi has made significant progress and continues to move forward in his rehabilitation,” Spurs general manager RC Buford said. “This is the best approach for the next steps in his return to play.”

When asked about it before Wednesday’s game in Brooklyn, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich ruled out the possibility of Leonard missing the rest of the season.

The Spurs initially announced during training camp that Leonard would miss the preseason because of the quadriceps issue, but the recovery process lingered into December, with Popovich admitting in November that the forward was “coming along more slowly” in rehabilitation than the club had hoped.

Leonard missed San Antonio’s first 27 games this season because of the condition, which causes pain and weakness in the knee. The two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year has appeared in just nine games this season as the Spurs have restricted his playing time to ensure a full recovery.

Despite playing just 23.3 minutes per game, the 26-year-old Leonard is averaging 16.2 points per game.

“For us to go where we want to go, we both have to play well,” LaMarcus Aldridge told ESPN. “Golden State is a prime example, Houston with James Harden and Chris Paul. It’s not impossible to co-exist. I feel like I’m playing more confident, I’m playing better this year, where it’s not going to be an issue. When he’s back 100 percent, he’s going to be who he was and I’m going to be who I am. I feel like that’s going to make us better down the stretch.”

Leonard also missed time with what Popovich said is a partial tear in his left shoulder.

A two-time NBA All-Star, Leonard averaged career highs in points (25.5) and assists (3.5) last season while also averaging 1.8 steals. When Leonard debuted against the Dallas Mavericks on Dec. 12, he hadn’t suited up to play for San Antonio since Game 1 of last season’s Western Conference finals, a series he missed due to a sprained ankle.

As part of the recovery from quadriceps tendinopathy, Leonard had been working through a rehabilitation process comprising several steps, including individual work and two-on-two and three-on-three drills, before receiving clearance to practice fully with the team. Leonard had been working out with veteran point guard Tony Parker, who was recovering from a ruptured quadriceps tendon, as well as former Spurs players Matt Bonner and Tim Duncan.

It’s unknown whether the Spurs plan to re-enter Leonard into a similar protocol for recovery.

Popovich said Leonard would return “sooner rather than later” during Leonard’s absence earlier in the season, and despite the conservative approach to bringing back the forward, San Antonio finds itself back still involved in the rehabilitation process. Sources said, however, that Leonard did not experience a setback.

“It’s been pretty hit and miss the entire season,” Popovich said last Saturday. “Even with minutes limitations, when the guys come back like Tony [Parker], Danny [Green] and Kawhi, it makes it a little awkward, a little weird for the guys to really get into a rhythm. But that’s the way it is. We just have to deal with it. Hopefully, everybody will stay healthy after tonight’s game, and we can put something together.”

Throughout Leonard’s recovery, the club was reluctant to offer a timeline for his return, as there’s a level of unpredictability involved with rehabilitation from quadriceps tendinopathy, according to a source. With Leonard out of action, fourth-year veteran Kyle Anderson moved into the starting lineup and took advantage of the extra minutes, forcing Popovich to admit he needs to be on the floor more, even when Leonard is back in the rotation.

Anderson will return to the starting lineup with Leonard out indefinitely.

Leonard returned to action Saturday after missing three games with a shoulder injury. He played 28 minutes, contributing 19 points and 8 rebounds. Leonard appeared to be finally close to full strength in San Antonio’s 112-80 victory over the Denver Nuggets.

Aldridge has averaged 34.1 minutes and 18.0 field goal attempts per game since the beginning of December, and it’s highly unlikely the Spurs will limit the power forward’s minutes moving forward. Aldridge told ESPN.com that during a heart-to-heart sit-down discussion with Popovich over the summer, he actually asked the coach for more minutes this season.

“I think I’ve always been able to do it. I don’t want to sound arrogant. I think that’s who I’ve been,” Aldridge said. “I think having the talk with Pop helped it happen. Having the talk, and telling him I play better when I’m playing more minutes, and maybe we can try to find different ways for finding rest.

“I struggle with playing low minutes, and trying to keep a rhythm. I’ve just never been able to do it. When I was really rolling in Portland, I was top five in minutes every season. So that’s kind of who I’ve become. So, I think Pop understood that, and he’s letting me play more minutes. We’ve all kind of enjoyed how I’ve come along playing more minutes. I’m staying in great shape. I’m feeling good. My rhythm is better. Being out there more, this is just me.”

Cheap Toronto Raptors Jersey Discount

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, born and raised in Nigeria before moving to the United States and becoming one of the most unique front-office success stories in professional sports history, responded strongly to President Donald Trump’s reported disparaging remarks about immigration.

Multiple outlets have cited sources in reporting that Trump referred to Haiti and some African nations as “shithole countries” during a meeting with Republican and Democratic lawmakers this week. In a tweet on Friday morning, Trump denied using the specific term. Later in the day, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), who was present at the meeting, said the president used the word.
"I don't think it's fair, and I don't think it's what inspiring leadership can be. What sense of hope are we giving people if you are calling where they live -- and where they're from -- a shithole?" Masai Ujiri told ESPN.
“This summer, I went to Kigali and Nairobi and Lagos, and I went to Kampala and Abidjan and Dakar and Johannesburg, and I saw great cities and great people,” Ujiri told ESPN on Friday. “And I went to visit the refugee camp in Dadaab, and I met good people and good families with plenty of hope. If those places are being referred to as shitholes, go visit those places, and go meet those people.”

“I don’t think it’s fair, and I don’t think it’s what inspiring leadership can be. What sense of hope are we giving people if you are calling where they live — and where they’re from — a shithole?

“I’ve spent a lot of time in the United States and Canada and I am grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been given by people, and the game of basketball, and the NBA. As leaders, I think we have to give people in many places a chance to have success, not continue to put those people down.

“We have to inspire people and give them a sense of hope. We need to bring people along, not ridicule and tear them down. This cannot be the message that we accept from the leader of the free world.

“… Just because someone lives in a hut, that doesn’t mean that isn’t a good person, that that person can’t do better, that person isn’t capable of being great. And just because it’s a hut — whatever that means — doesn’t mean it’s not a home. God doesn’t put anyone someplace permanently. I am a living testimony to that. If I grew up in a shithole, I am proud of my shithole.”

Ujiri, 47, was hired by the Denver Nuggets as the first African-born general manager in NBA history in 2010, and voted the league’s Executive of the Year for the 2012-13 season. After leaving Denver to oversee the Toronto franchise in 2013, he has elevated the Raptors into a consistent Eastern Conference contender.

Ujiri has engineered humanitarian efforts through his Giants of Africa basketball program and the NBA’s Basketball Without Borders. Giants of Africa has raised and donated millions of dollars toward facilities, coaching and education of young basketball players throughout the African continent.