Kawhi the X-factor for Spurs' success, Pop on the US shutdown, & Manu's new contract nabbed by a bird

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Ticket deal now live! Opening night tickets for Spurs vs. Grizzlies

The ticket deal includes early entrance to watch pre-game warmups, and a post game free throw on the court.

From The New York Times: It’s not even the main point in the article, but one detail included in this piece on the Spurs‘ scouting of the international game is how one team intern in Argentina had his bag – including his passport and Manu’s new $15 million contract – stolen in a park, allegedly by a bird.

Hours before the Spurs’ intern was to fly home from Buenos Aires, team officials said that he was strafed by a bird in a park. As he tidied up at a fountain, his backpack disappeared. Inside were Ginobili’s signed contract, along with the intern’s passport, cellphone and laptop.

From Grantland: Zach Lowe knows basketball. Zach Lowe likes Kawhi Leonard. Zach Lowe explains why Leonard is good, how he’s just beginning to tap his potential, and what he means to the Spurs’ title hopes this season.

The Spurs need this Finals version of Leonard, this all-around force, to emerge as a consistent weapon if they want to make yet another improbable push for a championship. The field around them is deeper, in both conferences, and there will come a day when age really does take a permanent bite out of Tim Duncan. Manu Ginobili looks great right now by all accounts, but he has never been more vulnerable to the combination of age, lingering injuries, and ultra-athletic defense that disrobed him for all but one game of the Finals. We may have already seen the offensive ceilings of both Tiago Splitter and Danny Green, and none of the other young pieces here look ready to make a huge contribution against the best postseason competition.

From Hardwood Paroxysm: A video of Pop’s poignant words on the U.S. government shutdown, as well as a glimpse at what the country would look like if he was the POTUS.

Some might say many of those new Popovichian government standards would violate the Constitution and the living law of the United States, to which I respond: Gregg Popovich is the law. Accept it. Love it. Live it.

From SI.com: The NBA’s tough task of topping last year’s Spurs-Heat Finals matchup, including a few dream matchups for this year.

Miami and San Antonio delivered a more or less perfect series – a work of achievement and drama, execution and splendor. Both teams pushed one another in fascinating ways, and with the Heat and Spurs set to make another run at the title, it would be foolish to overlook their known chemistry for the sake of some other hypothetical matchup. This isn’t a default doff of the cap to recency, but an acknowledgement that this latest final round of the NBA playoffs meets the gold standard. Even if there are richer rivalries to mine, NBA fans can only hope that next year’s Finals yield such a pure, refined basketball product.

Also from SI.com: Corey Maggette mulling over retirement after being waived by San Antonio.

Maggette told the San Antonio Express-News earlier this month that he would retire if he didn’t make the cut with the Western Conference champions.

“It was either this or I was going to retire,” Maggette told the paper. “I’m either going to play, or I’m not. And if not, I’ll be done.”

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