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NBA superstar re-signs for 3 more seasons

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NBA superstar re-signs for 3 more seasons

From Comcast SportsNet
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- The Tim Duncan era isn't over yet. The San Antonio Spurs announced Wednesday that they had re-signed Duncan, bringing back the 36-year-old forward for at least a 16th season. Terms were not disclosed, though Yahoo Sports cited anonymous sources in reporting it was a three-year, 36 million deal. The first overall pick in the 1997 draft, Duncan in 15 seasons has led the Spurs to nine division titles and the playoffs every year, including four NBA championships. The Spurs are 830-352 in the regular season during his tenure, the highest winning percentage over any 15-year span in NBA history, and Duncan has two league MVP awards to go along with three NBA Finals MVP honors. "Tim Duncan has established himself as one of the best players in NBA history," coach Gregg Popovich said. "He is an unselfish superstar who loves to compete and has only one goal when he steps on the court -- to do whatever it takes to help his team win. We are all thrilled that he'll spend his entire career as a San Antonio Spur." Duncan, a 13-time All-Star, has averaged 20.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.22 blocks per game over his career. The Spurs have other questions headed into the offseason. He experienced a bit of a renaissance this season after injuries and age led some observers to speculate his career was nearing an end. Duncan averaged 15.4 points and 9.0 rebounds in leading the Spurs to the Southwest Division title and a league best 50-16 record. "I think (his health) probably had as much to do with solidifying in his mind how long he wanted to go into the future," general manager R.C. Buford said. "He played well throughout this whole season and he even felt better than he ever had. I think in his mind, that was what was important. We're going to play him as long as he says he can play and then probably a couple of days longer. We're hoping he's going to extend us." The signing was expected, especially after Duncan told Yahoo Sports, "I'm here and I'm a Spur for life," during their Western Conference playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder. "You're never confident that is going to happen until it's done," Buford said, "but he made it clear he wanted to be here. We laid out what our realities were and here's how we thought we could accomplish the best team we could put around him and he said, I want to be a part of it.'" To that end, the Spurs also announced restricted free-agent Danny Green had re-signed with the team. Buford said there was nothing to report about whether forward Boris Diaw re-signed or if 2009 second-round pick Nando De Colo would join the Spurs, because there are "logistics involved" with signing international players. De Colo and Diaw are both playing for France's Olympic Team along with Spurs point guard Tony Parker. De Colo played the past three seasons with Valencia of the Spanish League. With the possible exception of De Colo's addition, the Spurs are expected to return virtually their entire roster from this season. "I was going to announce that we traded for Steve Nash, but the Lakers beat us to it," Buford said. "I think we won't go into the season with the exact same team as we had a year ago. (But) we think there is a lot of opportunity for internal growth, especially this summer when we have our gym and our players and the opportunity to get our coaches with them." But the Spurs have other questions headed into the offseason. The Spurs lost in the playoffs to Oklahoma City, blowing a 2-0 lead. They don't have many glaring needs, with the bulk of the roster on track to return. Parker has apparently healed from a bizarre eye injury in time to play for France in the Summer Olympics. He got a shard of glass in his eye, damaging his cornea, during a New York City night club fight involving Chris Brown and members of hip-hop star Drake's entourage. The 30-year-old Parker has two years remaining on a 50 million contract. He is coming off averaging 18.3 points and a career-high 7.7 assists. Manu Ginobili is also in London this summer playing for his native Argentina, a moonlighting stint that always makes the Spurs anxious because of the 34-year-old playmaker's propensity for injury.

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With or without Justin Verlander, Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to stay in first place: ‘We have the pieces’

With or without Justin Verlander, Jake Arrieta expects Cubs to stay in first place: ‘We have the pieces’

The Cubs already have a Cy Young Award winner, someone who was transforming into the hottest pitcher on the planet around this time in 2015, and then beat the Cleveland Indians twice on the road in last year’s World Series.

So the Cubs can keep discussing Justin Verlander and trying to figure out the price point where it makes sense, what caliber prospects they would have to give up and how much money the Detroit Tigers would have to kick in to cover a bill that could soar toward $90 million. 

But Jake Arrieta showed why the Cubs might finally start to run away from the division and become a very dangerous team in October, dominating the White Sox on Wednesday night at Guaranteed Rate Field during an 8-3 win that vaulted them into first place in the National League Central.          

“We expect to remain in first place,” Arrieta said. “We know it’s going to be a tough task, but that’s kind of what you deal with at the highest level of sports. You expect to have really good competition from teams that are either equal with you or close behind.

“We feel like we have the group to separate ourselves at this point in time and remain in first place for the remainder of the way.”

The Cubs probably don’t have the blue-chip prospects – and the appetite to raid their farm system again – to blow away the Oakland A’s and win a bidding war for Sonny Gray. The Cubs kick the tires on everything, but Yu Darvish would be a rental and the Texas Rangers are torn over what to do with their Japanese star. 

This is another reason why the Cubs are focusing on adding a veteran backup catcher and strengthening the bullpen before the July 31 trade deadline: Arrieta Watch is back, taking a no-hitter into the fifth inning in front of a sellout crowd of 38,517 before Omar Narvaez drilled a ground-rule double into the right-center field seats.  

The Cubs are 10-2 since trading for Jose Quintana during the All-Star break, erasing a 5.5-game deficit against the Milwaukee Brewers heading into this weekend’s showdown at Miller Park. At 53-47, the Cubs are a season-high six games over .500, and it all starts with pitching.  

“I think we’ve got the pieces to get it done,” Arrieta said. “If there’s a situation where we can get another guy and not lose any key players, it might work in our favor.

“Obviously, when we traded for Quintana, that’s a huge addition to our ballclub. This guy’s really good. He works his butt off. And just seeing how he carries himself in between starts is a really great sign. To have a guy like that who works extremely hard and cares about the team winning ballgames – you can’t replace that.

“That trade right there in itself is one that’s going to pay huge dividends for this ballclub, not only for this year, but for the next couple years. But we’re a great team right now, and I think we have the pieces to get it done.”  

Arrieta was on cruise control until Yoan Moncada launched his 98th and final pitch – an 0-2 curveball – 409 feet over the center-field wall with two outs in the seventh inning. Arrieta only allowed those two hits, giving up two runs and finishing with five strikeouts against two walks, continuing the correction super-agent Scott Boras predicted when the Chicago media and Cubs fans wondered about his flashes of diminished velocity and spikes in hard contact during a free-agency push.

Arrieta has methodically put together 10 wins and three straight quality starts after the All-Star break, chopping his ERA down from 5.44 in the middle of May to 4.03. Ricky Renteria’s White Sox are obviously tanking for the future and there are a lot of conditions attached to this statement: 

But if Arrieta pitches like this, Jon Lester continues to be one of the best big-game pitchers of his generation, Quintana excels in a pennant race and Kyle Hendricks regains his feel and rhythm after six-plus weeks on the disabled list, then the Cubs might have a better playoff rotation than the one that ended the 108-year drought.     

“We’re feelin’ it,” Arrieta said, thinking back to last summer, when Theo Epstein’s front office added 100-mph closer Aroldis Chapman to a team with close to a 99-percent chance of making the playoffs. “I remember last year we were in this clubhouse around this same time, and it’s no different.” 

Look at the competition: The Washington Nationals might be forced into adding a frontline starter now that Stephen Strasburg is headed to the 10-day disabled list with a nerve impingement in his right forearm. The Los Angeles Dodgers are hoping a strained lower back won’t stop Clayton Kershaw from making a few tune-up starts in September before becoming their Game 1 starter in October.

With or without Verlander, the Cubs are ramping up to defend their title.

“I’m going to continue to get stronger as the year progresses,” Arrieta said. “I feel like my best baseball, my best pitching, is still ahead of me. And I’m ready for it.”