The Spurs traded Rose and two No. 1 draft picks to the New York Knicks on Thursday for center Nazr Muhammed and guard Jamison Brewer. Rose, a high-energy reserve who became one of the most popular players in team history, had more than five years left on the $42 million contract he signed after the Spurs’ 2002-03 championship season.
“You don’t not trade somebody because he’s a good guy,” coach Gregg Popovich, who brought Rose to San Antonio as a free agent in 1997, said Friday. “This is about winning.”
However, the Spurs lost 84-82 to the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday in their first game without Rose. Tim Duncan had 26 points and 19 rebounds, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili each added 16 points for San Antonio, which lost at home for just the second time this season.
The Spurs committed a season-high 24 turnovers, including seven by Ginobili — more than triple his average. Ginobili had the ball stolen from him with time running out, sealing the win for Memphis.
“We have the best record in the league, so teams are going to come hard at us,” Ginobili said. “We’ve got to be ready and expect everybody to do that. We were not (tonight), so that’s why we lost too many balls.”
Duncan and Ginobili, both of whom were close to Rose, said that their friend’s departure wasn’t to blame for the team’s sloppy play.
“I don’t think it had any part to do with this game,” said Duncan, who had five turnovers. “We take care of the ball a little more and get a couple of extra shots, that’s the difference in the game.”
The Spurs are percentage points ahead of the Phoenix Suns (43-14) for the best record in the NBA.
Mohammed was in uniform but did not play Saturday. The Spurs waived Brewer on Saturday, as expected.
The Cavaliers are coming off Sunday’s 104-98 loss to the New Jersey Nets— their second straight defeat and third in four games. James had 28 points, seven assists and five turnovers, and played 45 minutes despite a cold.
Jeff McInnis added 23 points and Zydrunas Ilgauskas had 20 points and a season high-tying 18 rebounds for Cleveland, which opened a tough stretch of games that includes matchups with Seattle, Philadelphia, Miami and Orlando.
“This is not the way we wanted to start,” McInnis said. “But this is one game. It’s a tough loss. When you fight back from 20 down you want to get the win. We just have to keep playing.”
The NBA is expected to announce early this week its approval of the sale of the Cavaliers to Detroit buisnessman Dan Gilbert. Gilbert agreed to purchase the franchise for $375 million from owner Gordon Gund, who is keeping a 10-percent share of the team.