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    ‘No Smile, No Trash Talk’: Behind Tim Duncan’s Quiet Excellence

    A bank shot carried Duncan from St. Croix to Wake Forest, five championships with the Spurs and now the Hall of Fame.Tim Duncan stoically spent 19 fundamentally sound seasons allowing his play to speak for him.Nineteen playoff appearances. Fifteen All-Star selections. Five championships. Five total Most Valuable Player Awards, three in the finals, two in the regular season. And this week, he’ll be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in a heralded class alongside Kevin Garnett and the late Kobe Bryant.“You always get the question: What would you change? What would you do differently?” Duncan said in a video released by the Hall of Fame after his selection was announced last year. “Honestly, I don’t think there’s a change I would do differently.”Duncan’s journey was one of happenstance and perseverance. He grew up a talented swimmer in St. Croix and left the sport when Hurricane Hugo devastated the island in 1989, destroying the pool where he competed. He started playing basketball in the ninth grade, setting him on a path to Wake Forest University, San Antonio and, now, Springfield, Mass.The New York Times asked a group of his friends, teachers, teammates and coaches to speak about his journey.Chris King (Wake Forest, men’s basketball, 1988-92): We had a group of guys that played in the N.B.A. they wanted to take down to the Virgin Islands because there was a lot of violence going on at the time.The group of guys that we had was myself, Alonzo Mourning and Mark Tillmon from Georgetown, and we played games against guys from the islands.The guys were getting ready to play one night and the whole place was packed. Here comes this skinny kid, walks in the gym — I didn’t know who he was — named Tim Duncan.That was the first time I ever laid eyes on him.The first thing I noticed about him was he had something that I had developed in high school: He could use the glass. I was very impressed.Dave Odom (Duncan’s coach at Wake Forest): [King] came back early in September and was walking by my office and I just hollered at him: “Chris, come in here. I want to talk to you. Tell me about your trip.”King: I said, “There was this kid down there.”Odom: And I said: “Well, who was he? What was his name?”He said, “I don’t know.”I said, “Well, what island was he on?”“I don’t know.”So, he didn’t give me a lot other than there was a kid who had some skill. There was a coach on my staff at the time, Larry Davis, and he had coached a kid from the islands, maybe even St. Croix.He came back the next day in our staff meeting and threw Tim Duncan’s name on the desk and said, “Coach, this is the kid.”Odom was sold on Duncan after a trip to St. Croix. Wake Forest went 97-31 in his four years and finished 26-6 in two of those seasons, 1994-95 and 1995-96.Duncan during a conference tournament game during his senior year at Wake Forest.Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesRandolph Childress (Duncan’s teammate at Wake Forest): It was a cold slushy, rainy day outside, and he didn’t have a jacket. So, he pulled his arms inside the short sleeve shirt and just walked around. That was my first image of him. So, I just thought: “Wow, this kid doesn’t have a coat. This skinny kid, is he going to be able to help us?”I saw him play. And then I thought, “OK, he can definitely help us.”Tracy Connor-Riddick (Wake Forest Sports Hall of Famer for women’s basketball and Duncan’s longtime friend): The first time I met him, he was in the cafeteria area and he just looked lost to me. So, I just went up to him and I asked him if there was anything I could help him with, and because my country accent was so strong, he couldn’t understand me and I couldn’t understand him. And I thought, huh, this is not going well.Odom: We played him against Vanderbilt. He scored something like 9 points and had five or six blocks and probably almost 10 rebounds. And it was at that point, I’m talking to my staff, I’m saying, “We might want to look at this kid a little more closely and let’s see which way this thing takes us.”Deborah Best (chairman of the Wake Forest psychology department and Duncan’s academic adviser): They were playing on a Sunday afternoon game, and my son and husband and I sat and watched the game on television and there was Tim playing. Later that evening, I had to go into our building to get something out of my office.This was back in the day when we had computer labs and I had to walk past the computer lab and the door was opened and I thought, Oh. Who is in there? I leaned in and it was Tim. I said, “You were just on TV.”He says, “Yeah, I’ve got a research methods lab report due tomorrow.”As a senior, Duncan won the men’s basketball John Wooden Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding player. The Spurs also landed the top overall pick in the draft lottery.Duncan the day before the Spurs drafted him in 1997.Chuck Burton/Associated PressSean Elliott (Spurs teammate, 1997-2001, current Spurs television analyst): Back when we won the lottery, I was at home watching it and I swear, I could feel the ground physically shake.Avery Johnson (Spurs teammate, 1997-2001): I’ll never forget watching the lottery with my wife and kids. We were positioned to be the fourth pick and boy, when our name wasn’t called, my heart just started beating fast.Elliott: One minute later, Avery Johnson called me and he said, “We’re back.” And this is when we just won the lottery, so we knew we were going to draft Tim. It was a no-brainer.Mike Budenholzer (Spurs assistant coach, 1996-2013. Current head coach of the Milwaukee Bucks): You have those things, Where were you when this happened? What were you doing? It might be the only thing in my life where I can tell you exactly where I was and exactly what I did and just how impactful it was.Elliott: The first time I met Tim, he came over to the house. I had these big video games there that I used to play, it was Mortal Kombat. I used to beat up on the neighborhood kids. I was like the master.Tim, he came in and he’s like, “Oh, what’s this?”I said, “Oh, yeah, come on over here,” thinking I was going to give him a whooping. He proceeded to thoroughly annihilate me. And it was the first time he had played the game and I just could not understand it.Outwardly, I was very gracious, but in my mind, I couldn’t believe it. So what struck me about him is that it has been proven time and time again, he’s the type of guy, you can be doing it your entire life and you show it to him and in five or 10 minutes, he’s actually better than you are.Tim Duncan and David Robinson blended harmoniously, guiding the Spurs to the franchise’s first two titles in 1999 and 2003. “Tim, he’s a humble guy,” Robinson told TNT’s Ernie Johnson. “I always thought I was kind of quiet, and Tim made me feel like I was loud.”Duncan and David Robinson celebrated their 2002-3 championship win over New Jersey.Barton Silverman/The New York TimesElliott: David wasn’t threatened by Timmy. Whereas a lot of franchise players in David’s position, they would maybe have some animosity or resentment toward the new No. 1 pick coming in, the new franchise-type player. But David wasn’t like that.Timmy came in with a lot of humility too. He wasn’t coming in like he was a big shot. He was willing to learn from everybody, and guys can sense that in the locker room.James Borrego (Spurs video coordinator/ assistant coach, 2003-10 and 2015-18, Current head coach of the Charlotte Hornets): What was so surprising to me was one of the first few days of that summer, he invites me to play pickup. We’re coming back, he doesn’t know my name. He just knows I’ve been hired to be in the video room.He goes, “You’re in.”He puts me in a game to play five-on-five with the group. That day, the way he made me feel welcomed and comfortable in his space, in his facility, that’s when I knew he was different.Speedy Claxton (Spurs teammate 2002-3): Everybody knows Tim was a great guy, but he’s a funny guy as well, and likes to have fun. I remember when I first got there, the first day we worked out as a team, we played pickup. After that, he got all of us to go play paintball together, because Tim was a big paint baller.But he was a great teammate. He was always encouraging. No matter if you missed two or three shots in a row, he’ll get the double-team and he’ll still kick it out to you no matter if you missed three shots in a row and tell you to shoot the ball every time you’re open.Kareem Abdul-Jabbar had the skyhook. George Gervin, the finger roll. Allen Iverson, the crossover. Duncan is forever known for his fundamentals, especially his bank shot.“When we were playing together,” Steve Kerr said, “he’d come in after a loss and he’d be like, ‘That’s my fault guys.’ And you’d look at the box score, he’d have 30 and 17 and 6 blocks.”Mark D. Smith/USA Today Sports, via ReutersGregg Popovich (Spurs Coach, 1996-present): It wasn’t like an eight-footer or 10-footer. He did it from 18 to 20 feet, and his footwork was great, and he knew how to land it on the backboard. It was a rarity, it still is as a matter of fact, but that was his first signature move that I think everybody realized there was probably something pretty special about this guy.Antonio Daniels (Spurs teammate, 1998-2002): Tim Duncan on that box was utterly unstoppable. I remember sitting on a bench watching like, this is his second year, like: This dude is incredible. He’s incredible.He was able to do it with such a stoic mannerism. No smile, no trash talk, no nothing. Just go out and put up 30 and 15, 40 and 12. Like it was nothing, so efficient. Just footwork and fundamentals.He couldn’t jump over a piece of paper, but he could not be defended.The Spurs were on the precipice of winning a championship in 2013 in Game 6 of the finals before Ray Allen’s dagger 3-pointer for the Miami Heat. Duncan had 24 points and 12 rebounds in the deciding game, but misfired at the free-throw line in the clutch. It was one of several heartbreaks for San Antonio.The Spurs lost to the Miami Heat in the 2013 N.B.A. finals in part because of the play of Miami’s Ray Allen, right.Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesBorrego: We always felt like we had a shot because of 21.He didn’t have to say anything. We just knew it and you could feel it. It was his confidence, his spirit, his fire, and his focus that we all drew from. That was obviously a devastating shot [from Allen], a tough moment for all of us.Steve Kerr (Spurs teammate, 1998-2001, current head coach of the Golden State Warriors): I’m watching all these games on N.B.A. TV and Game 7 of the 2005 finals came on, the Detroit, San Antonio [series]. I started texting Tim.I had retired already, but I texted something like, “Watching Game 7, I’m nervous.”That’s how those Game 7s are. And his immediate response was, “I was so bad in that game.”Meanwhile, he’s dominating the game and it may not have been his best game statistically or anything, but the Spurs were throwing him the ball on the block every single time. And Detroit had to respond to that. The whole game was going through him and typical Tim, he lamented in his texts that he had a lousy game. And that was Tim. When we were playing together, he’d come in after a loss and he’d be like, “That’s my fault guys.” And you’d look at the box score, he’d have 30 and 17 and 6 blocks.George Karl (Opposed Duncan, while coaching the Seattle SuperSonics, Milwaukee Bucks, Denver Nuggets and Sacramento Kings): He was a “we” player, so Tim Duncan would be happy getting 15 points and 10 rebounds. Tim was never going out to get 35 or 40 [points]. He was just going out to beat you and so the game plan was trying to disrupt their offensive efficiency more than anything else.It’s not one person. It was how do you make them not make shots? Because they got the best shots in basketball for over 10 years. Their shot selection was impeccable and a lot of that was because of Popovich, but a lot of that was also because of Duncan, and then [Manu] Ginobili and [Tony] Parker would be in there and they were always on the same page. They never could be disrupted from a standpoint of game plan.Duncan and Popovich bonded on and off the court. “We’re more soul mates in life than we are in basketball,” Popovich told reporters leading up to Duncan’s jersey retirement ceremony in 2016.Popovich said he was “fortunate” to be able to coach Duncan.Barton Silverman/The New York TimesBrett Brown (Spurs coaching staff, 2002-13): It was almost a ritual where at halftime, he’d come out from the locker room and Pop, he’d go out earlier than us. Timmy would be sitting on the bench and Pop would just go sit down with him.As I remember it, oftentimes nothing was said. Sometimes, they’d share a comment, but it seemed to be just a ritual that the two would meet every halftime on the bench.And what was discussed?I don’t know.Popovich: Any coach who has their best player as a leader who is respected by everybody and who can handle criticism makes the job much easier, so I was very fortunate in that regard.Duncan announced his retirement in the summer of 2016, through a team news release. Over his 19 seasons, San Antonio went 1,072-438 in regular-season games, the best winning percentage over that time among all N.B.A., N.F.L., N.H.L. and M.L.B. franchises.Daniels: I remember saying this on national radio and Spurs fans killed me for it. I said, “The moment Tim Duncan walks out that door, the culture is going to walk out with him.”You hear people say all the time and I think it’s the most overused cliché statement in sports, “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win the championship.” And what’s missing at the end of that sentence is “unless.” “Unless I can’t get the minutes I want, unless I don’t get the contract I want, unless I don’t get the role that I want.” Tim Duncan actually took the “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win a championship” and lived by it. More

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    Becky Hammon Becomes First Woman to Serve as Head Coach in N.B.A. Game

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }The NBA SeasonA Year of Kobe and LeBronThe Warriors Are StrugglingMarc Stein’s Fearless PredictionsThe Reloaded LakersAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyBecky Hammon Becomes First Woman to Serve as Head Coach in N.B.A. GameShe took over coaching the San Antonio Spurs after Gregg Popovich was ejected from a game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night.Becky Hammon took over as head coach of the Spurs.Credit…Eric Gay/Associated PressDec. 31, 2020Updated 9:53 a.m. ETThough 2020 is nearly over, it keeps turning out sports milestones. On Wednesday night, for the first time, a woman served as head coach in an N.B.A. game.When Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich was ejected after arguing with a referee in the second quarter of a game with the Los Angeles Lakers in San Antonio, he turned to his assistant, Becky Hammon, and indicated that she should take over the team.“He officially pointed at me,” Hammon said. “That was it. Said, ‘You’ve got them.’ Obviously, it’s a big deal. It’s a substantial moment.”“It was business as usual,’’ she added. “They’re used to hearing my voice in practice. In practice, Pop will put us in two teams and we’ll each have a team. So they’re kind of used to hearing me out there, seeing me draw a play on the board or whatnot.”Although not much was made of the milestone during the game, which the Lakers won, 121-107, reaction poured out afterward and on social media.“It’s a beautiful thing just to hear her barking out calls, barking out sets,” said LeBron James of the Lakers. “She’s very passionate about the game. So congrats to her, congrats to our league.”Hammon, 43, played for 16 years in the W.N.B.A., where she was a six-time All Star. After being passed over for the U.S. Olympic team, she represented Russia, where she had also played professionally, in the 2008 and 2012 Games.In 2014, she becoming the first full-time female assistant coach in the league. At the time, she said of Popovich: “Honestly, I don’t think he gives two cents that I’m a woman. And I don’t want to be hired because I’m a woman.” She was head coach of the Spurs’ Las Vegas Summer League team three time, winning the title in 2015.Hammon’s trailblazing in the league has prompted speculation that she will one day be a head coach, and she has been reported to be a candidate for several top jobs in the past, most recently the Indiana Pacers.“The future is bright for her,” said Dejounte Murray of the Spurs after the game. “I hope she just sticks to it and doesn’t give up. One day it may happen, it may not happen, who knows, but she’s definitely on the right road.”Hammon sought to keep the focus on her duties.“I’m just in the moment with the guys,’’ she said. “Trying to figure out what’s the best way to help them.”AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    N.B.A. Western Conference Preview: The Lakers Reloaded

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyN.B.A. Western Conference Preview: The Lakers ReloadedTheir championship glow still strong, the Lakers are poised to make another run, even as the Warriors bounce back and the Suns ascend.The Los Angeles Lakers could be having a double-championship parade at the end of this season behind Anthony Davis and LeBron James.Credit…Kirby Lee/USA Today Sports, via ReutersDec. 21, 2020Updated 10:00 a.m. ETLeBron James was surprised, and a little annoyed, when the N.B.A. unveiled its schedule for the 2020-21 season. He had been hoping for a mid-January start for his title defense with the Los Angeles Lakers. It was wishful thinking.“I was like, ‘Wow!’” James said at a recent news conference.The Lakers, just 72 days removed from winning the franchise’s 17th championship, will return to the grind on Tuesday when they face the Clippers, another team with big goals, at Staples Center, the Los Angeles arena that both teams share.Here is a look at how the Western Conference shapes up after the shortest off-season in league history:The ContendersSomehow, the Lakers look even better this season than they did for last season’s championship run.Credit…Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesLos Angeles Lakers2019-20 record: 52-19 (No. 1 seed, N.B.A. champions)Key additions: Dennis Schröder, Marc Gasol, Montrezl Harrell, Wesley MatthewsKey subtractions: Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Dwight HowardOutlook: The mere presence of James and Anthony Davis, both of whom recommitted to the freshly minted champions with new deals in recent weeks, would be enough for any team to contend for a title. But give the Lakers credit: They were anything but complacent over the league’s abridged off-season. In fact, the front office made upgrades by acquiring Schröder and Harrell, the league’s two top reserves last season. And Gasol and Matthews are crafty veterans who add depth. Add it all up, and the Lakers are even better positioned for a championship run than they were in the bubble.The Clippers have a new coach but the same two stars and threshold for success: winning a championship.Credit…Mark J. Terrill/Associated PressLos Angeles Clippers2019-20 record: 49-23 (No. 2 seed)Key additions: Serge Ibaka, Nicolas Batum, Luke KennardKey subtractions: Montrezl Harrell, Landry Shamet, JaMychal GreenOutlook: The Clippers would probably love to have a little more distance from their debacle in the bubble, a premature exit in the Western Conference semifinals that raised questions about the team’s chemistry and led to Coach Doc Rivers’s departure. (He landed on his feet with the Philadelphia 76ers.) But the bubble memories have surely lingered for Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, two stars who watched from home as the Lakers claimed the ultimate prize that both teams had been chasing. Now, under the direction of Tyronn Lue, the team’s new coach, the pressure will only mount on the Clippers to deliver.Michael Porter Jr. showed a lot of potential during the bubble over the summer, raising expectations for his play this season.Credit…Mark J. Terrill/Associated PressDenver Nuggets2019-20 record: 46-27 (No. 3 seed)Key additions: Facundo Campazzo, JaMychal GreenKey subtractions: Jerami Grant, Torrey Craig, Mason PlumleeOutlook: Coming off an enthralling run in the bubble in which they reached the Western Conference finals for the first time in 11 years, the Nuggets appear primed to build on that momentum. Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray have established themselves as bona fide stars, and Michael Porter Jr. is an elastic-limbed talent with enormous potential. The off-season was a mixed bag — the losses of Grant and Craig could hurt the team on defense — and Coach Mike Malone has groused about the team’s focus in the preseason. But no team put more into the league’s restart last season, or came out of the experience better for it.The MaybesLuka Doncic could end Giannis Antetokounmpo’s reign as the league’s most valuable player this season.Credit…Jerome Miron/USA Today Sports, via ReutersDallas Mavericks2019-20 record: 43-32 (No. 7 seed)Key additions: Josh Richardson, James Johnson, Wesley IwunduKey subtractions: Seth CurryOutlook: Is this the season when the Mavericks — and Luka Doncic, a fashionable pick to win his first N.B.A. Most Valuable Player Award — break free from the middle of the Western Conference pack and make a deep playoff run? The team tried to address concerns about its porous defense by acquiring the likes of Richardson and Johnson, who add toughness. But there are lingering concerns, too, and Kristaps Porzingis finds himself at the center of them. Porzingis, who has struggled to stay healthy dating to his days with the Knicks, had surgery on his right knee in October.The Jazz signed Donovan Mitchell, left, and Jordan Clarkson, right, to big deals this off-season.Credit…David Zalubowski/Associated PressUtah Jazz2019-20 record: 44-28 (No. 6 seed)Key additions: Derrick FavorsKey subtractions: NoneOutlook: Since 2016, the Jazz have doing good job being relevant. Not extraordinary. Not dominant. Just relevant. Now, after their second straight first-round playoff exit, the Jazz are hoping that they can take another step with largely the same pieces. Over the off-season, they committed millions to Donovan Mitchell and Jordan Clarkson while doing little to remedy their issues defending perimeter scorers.Stephen Curry is back, but without Klay Thompson the Warriors are unlikely to contend for a championship.Credit…Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via ReutersGolden State Warriors2019-20 record: 15-50Key additions: James Wiseman, Kelly Oubre Jr., Kent BazemoreKey subtractions: Klay Thompson (again)Outlook: After making five straight appearances in the N.B.A. finals and coming away with three championships, the Warriors were essentially on hiatus last season. Their stars were injured. Coach Steve Kerr played a bunch of young guys, and things got glum in a hurry: Golden State finished with the worst record in the league. The good news is that Stephen Curry is back this season, and the Warriors bulked up their frontcourt by selecting Wiseman with the second pick in the draft. Now, the bad news: Thompson, after missing all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, tore his right Achilles’ tendon in an off-season workout and will be sidelined for his second straight season. Without him, the Warriors cannot expect to vie for a title. But they should be back in the playoff hunt.Damian Lillard will have a little bit more help this season with Robert Covington and Derrick Jones Jr.Credit…Pool photo by Kevin C. CoxPortland Trail Blazers2019-20 record: 35-39 (No. 8 seed)Key additions: Robert Covington, Derrick Jones Jr., Enes Kanter, Harry GilesKey subtractions: Trevor Ariza, Hassan WhitesideOutlook: Credit the Blazers for addressing one of their weaknesses by acquiring Covington and Jones, versatile forwards who can defend and shoot. But all eyes are again on Damian Lillard, the All-Star point guard who is coming off his finest season for an underperforming team. He has repeatedly pledged his loyalty to Portland, and he has a long-term contract to prove it. He needs his supporting cast to come through.James Harden wants to be traded, but the Rockets don’t need to rush to oblige him.Credit…Mark J. Terrill/Associated PressHouston Rockets2019-20 record: 44-28 (No. 4 seed)Key additions: John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Christian WoodKey subtractions: Russell Westbrook, Robert CovingtonOutlook: In the wake of a tumultuous off-season in which the general manager (Daryl Morey) and the coach (Mike D’Antoni) both decamped for new roles, the team’s best player wants out, too. James Harden finally showed up late to training camp after partying in Atlanta and Las Vegas, and it is clear he wants to be traded. The front office can take its time with that request as the franchise acclimates itself to a new-look roster that includes Wall and Cousins, two big-name reclamation projects who are coming off serious injuries.The NoncontendersThe Suns haven’t made the playoffs in 10 seasons, but this could be the year they return.Credit…Rick Bowmer/Associated PressPhoenix Suns2019-20 record: 34-39Key additions: Chris Paul, Jae Crowder, Abdel NaderKey subtractions: Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky RubioOutlook: The Suns, led by Devin Booker, made an impression by closing out last season with an eight-game winning streak in the bubble. Then they made an even bigger splash in the off-season by engineering a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder to acquire Paul, the veteran point guard. Don’t overlook the addition of Crowder, either. There are plenty of reasons to be optimistic about the future of the Suns, who could find themselves back in the playoffs after a 10-year absence.The Grizzlies may not win a championship, but they should be fun to watch.Credit…Mike Ehrmann/Getty ImagesMemphis Grizzlies2019-20 record: 34-39Key additions: NoneKey subtractions: NoneOutlook: Led by Ja Morant, the N.B.A.’s rookie of the year, the Grizzlies were among the league’s fun surprises last season. They are young and talented, and this figures to be another growing season — especially after they welcome back Jaren Jackson Jr., their starting center, from a knee injury he sustained in August.The Pelicans lost Jrue Holiday, but Zion Williamson should make a major leap in his second season.Credit…Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports, via ReutersNew Orleans Pelicans2019-20 record: 30-42Key additions: Eric Bledsoe, Steven AdamsKey subtractions: Jrue Holiday, Derrick Favors, E’Twaun Moore, Frank JacksonOutlook: The Pelicans are going to be preaching patience after trading Holiday to the Bucks for a gleaming collection of future first-round picks. They also re-signed Brandon Ingram to a long-term deal. And Zion Williamson should take another step in his development if he can stay on the court. But this figures to be a building year under Stan Van Gundy, who has returned to coaching after a foray as a broadcaster.Last season was rocky for the Timberwolves, but their core of D’Angelo Russell, left, and Karl-Anthony Towns, right, should be better this season.Credit…Hannah Foslien/Getty ImagesMinnesota Timberwolves2019-20 record: 19-45Key additions: Anthony Edwards, Ricky RubioKey subtractions: James JohnsonOutlook: The Timberwolves are coming off a disappointing, injury-marred season. But they presumably have their core in place, after adding Edwards, a shooting guard and the top overall pick in November’s N.B.A. draft, to a roster headlined by Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell. There will be growing pains, of course, and it would be surprising to see the Timberwolves in the thick of the playoffs. But they should show improvement.The Spurs had made the playoffs for 22 straight years before missing them last season. A return is not guaranteed this season, either.Credit…Soobum Im/USA Today Sports, via ReutersSan Antonio Spurs2019-20 record: 32-39Key additions: Devin VassellKey subtractions: Bryn ForbesOutlook: The Spurs had made 22 straight playoff appearances before they fell short last season. It could be another challenging season for Coach Gregg Popovich after a quiet couple of months for the front office. The Spurs still employ DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge, which means they will have a fighting chance to make the playoffs. But in a power-packed conference, it will be a steep climb.The Thunder are firmly in rebuilding mode.Credit…Sue Ogrocki/Associated PressOklahoma City Thunder2019-20 record: 44-28 (No. 5 seed)Key additions: Al Horford, George Hill, Trevor ArizaKey subtractions: Chris Paul, Dennis Schröder, Steven Adams, Danilo GallinariOutlook: The Thunder have amassed an incredible collection of future first-round picks by trading players like Paul, a veteran who had been instrumental in leading the team last season. But General Manager Sam Presti has chosen to take the long view as the Thunder seek to build through the draft. In the short term, that means they could be facing a lean few months.De’Aaron Fox is a promising player for the Kings, but overall team success doesn’t appear likely in the short run.Credit…Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via ReutersSacramento Kings2019-20 record: 31-41Key additions: Tyrese Haliburton, Hassan WhitesideKey subtractions: Bogdan Bogdanovic, Kent Bazemore, Harry GilesOutlook: It seems a safe bet to add another season to the league’s longest playoff drought. The Kings opted not to match the Atlanta Hawks’ contract offer to Bogdanovic, a restricted free agent, as they look toward the future with De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley III and Haliburton, a first-year shooting guard.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More