From Comcast SportsNetMINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- A nationally televised game with Commissioner David Stern in the house, and there sat Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.No controversy or fines coming this time. Duncan and Ginobili were both out with legitimate injuries for the San Antonio Spurs, who taught the Minnesota Timberwolves a lesson on how to handle adversity.Danny Green hit eight 3-pointers and scored a career-high 28 points to help the Spurs to their 11th straight win, 104-94 over the Timberwolves on Wednesday night.Tony Parker had 31 points and eight assists and Kawhi Leonard added 19 points and 10 rebounds for the Spurs, who kept right on rolling without two of their big three."I think they do have a confidence level. The system doesn't change when guys are out," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. "If Tony was out, somebody else would play. We just run the same stuff, we don't change anything. I think they're pretty used to the execution no matter who's on the court. Obviously you've got to make shots and Danny and Kawhi were pretty good at that tonight."Nikola Pekovic had 21 points and 10 rebounds and Derrick Williams added 15 points and 12 boards for the Timberwolves, who added do-it-all forward Andrei Kirilenko (bruised right quadriceps) to a seemingly endless list of injured players.Still, the game was tied at 77 with 8 minutes to go, but Green hit two 3s and scored on a putback to put the Spurs back in front for good."It came out of nowhere. Sometimes it happens that way," Green said. "I got a little rhythm going, guys started looking for me and they started falling. We needed it."Unlike the Spurs' game at Miami in November, when Popovich sent Duncan, Ginobili, Parker and Green home early to rest, drawing Stern's wrath, the coach had an excuse this time around. Duncan has a sprained left knee and Ginobili has been bothered by a nagging left hamstring injury."Timmy's missed four, five games in a row, Manu's been in and out of the lineup, so we've gotten used to playing without them," Parker said. "Obviously I'd rather have them because it would be a lot easier to have Timmy and Manu, but it definitely helps the other guys."Whether his big stars have been injured or just needed the night off, the rest of the Spurs have never laid down. With Parker on the throttle and Green hitting every 3-pointer in sight, the Spurs were able to pull away from the Wolves. Green only missed four times in 12 attempts and scored 11 straight points for the Spurs in the fourth quarter."You've got to play perfect for 48 minutes to beat that team," Pekovic said.San Antonio's nine-game road trip began with some good news when there was no structural damage in Duncan's left knee. He was hurt after taking a nasty fall in a game against the Wizards, an injury that first was feared to be season-ending. He is day to day."It looked awful," Popovich said before the game. "He just kind of grinded the bones there, bone on bone."The Spurs improved to 21-1 against losing teams and have not lost a game since Jan. 11 at Memphis in overtime.J.J. Barea scored 15 points for Minnesota and Mickael Gelabale made a last push to have his second 10-day contract extended into a deal for the rest of the season with 10 points. Ricky Rubio had 11 assists, but was just 3 for 13 from the field.The injury-plagued Timberwolves (18-28) have won only twice in their last 15 games, with a season that started with playoff aspirations in danger of swirling down the drain."We can't worry about who is not here," coach Rick Adelman said. "We have to play with the people we have."NOTES:The Spurs and Timberwolves are at the forefront of the NBA's international movement. The teams combine to have 13 foreign players on their rosters. At one point in the second quarter, seven international players were on the floor with just three Americans. ... Timberwolves F Kevin Love returned to the team for the first time since having surgery on his right hand Jan. 15. Love is expected to be out until mid-March after breaking two bones in his hand for the second time this season. ... Rubio picked up a technical foul from official Joey Crawford for gesturing after not getting a foul call in the first quarter.
Tom E. Curran and Phil Perry attended Thursday’s OTA session and offer their analysis on some of the new additions in Quick Slants the podcast.
Also on the docket, a look at some upcoming contract situations for the team, Tom Brady’s 17th season and Robert Kraft taking legal action in support of Brady.
Listen to the entire podcast via the player below, or by searching CSNNE on iTunes.
It's easy -- obvious, even -- that Clay Buchholz should be immediately replaced in the Red Sox rotation.
What's more, it's apparent who should replace him. Eduardo Rodriguez, though his velocity remains mysteriously subpar, is otherwise healthy and available.
Even with the acknowledgement that Rodriguez's fastball isn't as lively as the Red Sox would prefer it to be, he remains a logical option.
And there can be little debate over the move to extract Buchholz from the rotation. In 10 starts, he's compiled a 6.35 ERA, and while pitcher’s won-loss records are notoriously misleading, this stat isn't: the Red Sox are 3-7 with Buchholz starting and 26-11 with everyone else.
Buchholz's confidence is shattered. You can see it in his body language on the mound. You can sense it with the glacial-like pace in which he works
with runners on base. You can observe it in his postgame remarks, where he looks and sounds like someone with no idea how to reverse his slide.
But the next part of the equation is a little trickier: what do the Red Sox do with him now?
It's highly unlikely that the Sox will just release him. For one thing, there's more than $8 million coming to him for the remainder of the season and those decisions aren't made lightly.
For another, it's possible -- hard as it might be to imagine now -- that Buchholz could help the 2016 Red Sox before the season is through. And if you think that's a ridiculous notion, then you've forgotten other similar stretches in his career.
In 2014, when Buchholz had what was, until then, the worst season of his career, he still managed to put together a seven-start stretch at the end of the season that saw him go 4-3 with a 3.18 ERA.
Or the 13-game stretch inside the otherwise hideous 2012 (season ERA: 4.56) in which Buchholz was 6-2 with a 2.53 ERA.
Those two stretches are at the heart of the paradox that is Buchholz - even in the course of miserable seasons, he invariably finds a stretch where he figures some things out and pitches brilliantly for a time.
It's one reason the Red Sox have stuck with him for the first two months -- the knowledge that, at any time, something may click, sending Buchholz on one of his patented rolls.
After all, Buchholz is just 31, too young to be finished. And as both the pitcher himself and manager John Farrell said Thursday night, in the wake of another poor outing, health isn't an issue.
And that's the rub here.
If Buchholz hadn't been given a public clean bill of health, the Red Sox could have discovered a heretofore undetected "general soreness'' somewhere on Buchholz's body -- a balky shoulder here, or a tender elbow there.
That would have bought Buchholz and the Red Sox some time to place him on the DL, take a mental break from the mound and work on making some adjustment away from prying eyes.
Now, that would seem not to be an option -- unless Buchholz, ahem, stubbed a toe getting on or off the Red Sox charter flight to Toronto early Friday morning.
Finally, Buchholz is long out of options and has sufficient service time to refuse an assignment to the minor leagues.
So what's left? Not much, beyond a trip to the bullpen. And that's where things get complicated.
In a 10-year major league career, Buchholz has made exactly two (2) appearances in relief, the most recent of which took place in 2008.
Given that Buchholz has struggled mightily early in games -- until Thursday's start, when he completely flipped the script and retired the first nine hitters he faced, Buchholz had allowed a batting average of .366 the first time through the order -- it's difficult to imagine him being successful in relief.
Sure, the Red Sox could designated him as their mop-up man in relief, brought in when the team has fallen behind early or jumped out to a huge lead in the middle innings.
But such scenarios can't be counted upon to provide Buchholz with enough regular opportunities, and even if they did present themselves, there's no guarantee that Buchholz would thrive under such circumstances.
So, the club appears at a dead end -- unwilling to release Buchholz because of meager starting depth options and the likelihood that he might be needed in a few weeks or months, and unable to find a spot for him to get straightened out.
It's the ultimate conundrum, which, when you think about it, is the perfect way to view Buchholz's career.
Chris Long’s been in the NFL since 2008. As the offspring of Hall of Famer Howie Long, he knows the ways and means of life in the league.
So, it’s instructive that a player who’s been around this long decided that success here hinged on allowing himself to be led. Check the ego, check the pride, behave as if you know nothing.
In doing so, Long’s affixed himself to the side of fellow defensive end Rob Ninkovich like a 275-pound remora.
“Rob and I really clicked,” Long said Thursday after a Patriots OTA session open to the media. “We’ve got a lot of similarities, and he’s a great guy to learn from and shadow. He’s been here obviously a long time. Rob knows how to do things the right way around here. When you see a guy like that, if you’re halfway smart, you follow him around and do what he does. If Rob goes to lunch, I go to lunch. That type of thing. Rob’s a good buddy already.”
Long was also observed Thursday spending a lot of downtime with Jabaal Sheard, the two defensive ends on a knee near the Gatorade conversing for a couple of minutes.
With Chandler Jones now a Cardinal, the Patriots defensive end depth chart this offseason has have Sheard and Ninkovich at the top, with Long in the mix situationally, one supposes. Reps need to be split for freshness. Meanwhile, Geneo Grissom and Trey Flowers are coming into their second seasons and will push for time as well.
For his part, Long isn’t projecting anything.
“Well, I’m still learning, so I can’t make the determination yet,” Long said. “Ask me again during training camp. Every day in the NFL is an opportunity. A coach I’ve had before said every day is an interview, and that’s how I like to look at things. Every day, you have a chance to get better and learn and worry about your own — farm your own land and do all that good stuff. That’s the way I approach everything. It would be a disservice to the other guys if I was worried about anything other than myself, that opportunity just to get out here on the practice field and compete and get better.”
And let yourself be led.