July 26, 2010
To those of you who don’t know, the Spurs just signed Richard Jefferson to a contract that pays him about 8-10 million for the next 4 seasons. A lot of Spurs fans saw “Rage” looking confused, bewildered and out of sync with his teammates. In a stroke of luck for the Spurs, RJ opted out of his $15 million contract. That stroke of luck turned worse when the Spurs resigned him for just short of $40 million for 4 years. There seemed to be no other teams bidding for his services, why then would the Spurs give him so much money.
There are of course a few options:
- They think that Richard can be an important part of the team moving forward. Obviously there were limited options available at the Small Forward position. The FO must have thought he was worth the money.
- Kelly Dwyer, of Ball Don’t Lie, had this to say about the resigning: “The Spurs did this guy a favor. He turned 30 earlier this summer and has seen his per-minute contributions decline two years in a row. He could bounce back for a season or even two, and the Spurs need someone at his position.”
- Last, but not least, I think it’s a sign that the Spurs know he won’t be as bad as last year. He started looking good when he was paired up with Manu in that second string. If we have a second string that includes Manu, RJ and Blair, we suddenly have a more lucid offense that plays to each of those players strengths, while saving Duncan’s legs.
I see this as an added bonus for Richard Jefferson. He knows he didn’t play well last year. Everyone knew it. Coach Pop worked with Jefferson relentlessly in the off-season. I fully expect that we will see good things from this, especially with RJ not thinking about money.
June 25, 2010
I’m not big on giving out letter grades for drafts. Mostly because I only follow one college team during the season, it’s impossible for me to see how a prospect’s NBA chances will turn out. For instance, I had no idea who George Hill was (who did?) and look how he turned out. I knew about Blair, and was very excited to get him last year. I could see him turning into a player similar to Paul Millsap. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, the Spurs FO (front office) makes good choices more often than bad ones.
Here’s a few things that I know about James “Mr.” Anderson:
- He was the Big 12 player of the year in 2009-2010. For those of you who are keeping track, the last two winners of the Big 12 player of the year were: Blake Griffin, Kevin Durant. Big shoes to fill (though we hope he doesn’t get injured).
- He reminds me of a not as skilled Marcus Thornton. For the Spurs, this is a very good thing. At first glance, it seems like he’ll supply a good off the bench scorer preferably taking Keith Bogans’ and Roger Mason’s minutes.
- He tweaked his hamstring before workouts (though maybe the Spurs paid him off to not workout with any other teams) so most teams weren’t willing to take the chance on him. If he is as good as I think he’ll be, he’ll be another late round steal for the Spurs. The Spurs benefit once again from medical “miracles”
This off-season is beginning to look more and more like Splitter is coming over now. With the CBA expiring in 2012, this is the best year for him to make money while coming over to the NBA. Not to mention, the Spurs have a need for a starting center, and Splitter knows he fits the bill extremely well. I’m looking forward to July 1. Please come over Tiago!
May 25, 2010
One of the oft-ignored but important reasons the Spurs only (and it’s wonderful to type only right there) won 50 games this year was their defense. Looking past the misleading opponents PPG stat, which was 96.3, the Spurs had a 104.5 defensive rating, which was good for 8th in the league. Defensive rating divides the average opponent points per game by the average pace. Simply put, the Spurs allowed their opponents to score between 104 and 105 points per 100 possessions.
Since their title run in 2007 (the last time the Spurs had a defensive rating of under 100), the Spurs have begun to stumble. The last three seasons have seen a defensive rating of 101, 104.3 and 104.5. Obviously there are a few reasons for this. The first of which is the fact that the scope of the NBA has changed. When the Grizzlies gift-wrapped Paul Gasol to the Lakers in January of 2008, San Antonio could no longer afford to play 4/5 on the offensive end. This forced RC Buford’s hand to trade Bowen, Oberto and Thomas for Richard Jefferson. With Bowen gone, we no longer had a phenomenal perimeter defender and the opposing players could easily get into the paint (see Nash game 1).
Another reason is that the Spurs have lost inches on their average height. In 2007, Oberto was the starting “center”. This year McDyess got the starter position. For the Spurs 4 championship runs and their string of amazing defensive runs, they have always had a 7 footer to help Duncan out down low. Whether it was a hall of famer, like David Robinson, or Oberto. The main purpose for these guys would be to guard the opposing big man or be a weakside shot blocker. Unfortunately, last season and this season, the Spurs didn’t have that shot blocking. The only player to consistently block shots has been Tim Duncan. He’s also the only player that is able to guard down low. McDyess tried, but he’s slightly undersized to be guarding the starting centers of the league.
What makes a great defense? Is it ability? Is it height? While both of those are good answers, the only thing preventing a team from being good defensively is trust. Why is trust so important? Let’s take a look at the all-star game. In itself, this is the biggest exhibition game in basketball every year. But if you notice, there’s no defense being played. Some of this has to do with the fact that the fans want to see high scoring games, but it’s also because the players have never played before. They don’t have the experience to that allows them to trust the other person to make the right play. The same is prevalent in pick up games at your local gym. No one wants to pressure the ball-carrier because if they get burned, they lose a point. Better to let him shoot over you, than to let him get to the basket because your center didn’t rotate over.
The Celtics, when they finally decided to trust each other, have become the best defensive team in these playoffs. The Magic all trust that Dwight Howard will be the defender he was created to be. Because of age, Tim Duncan has fallen off enough that he is only the third best defensive center in the league. He can only be considered 3rd best (behind Howard and Perkins) because Bogut and Ming got injured. Duncan, through age and fatigue, has lost a step or two on defense. Unfortunately, this lends itself to being untrustworthy.
Suddenly, the other players on the Spurs don’t trust each other as much as they used to. Previously, as long as the opposing slashers were funneled towards Duncan, things would end up ok. Now? Age has turned into a lack of trust. If the perimeter defenders don’t stay in front of their guys, it gets Duncan in foul trouble. And no one wants that. In any case, to get back to a championship, the Spurs need a better defensive rating. Being the #1 defensive team in the nation doesn’t cut it anymore. They need to be the best they can be and the only way that’s gonna happen is with the trust to return.
May 18, 2010
Splitter is a Brazilian 7-footer that the Spurs currently own the draft rights to. He was picked 28th overall in the 2007 draft by the Spurs. Unfortunately, due to the league rules regarding salaries for players drafted in the first round, the Spurs were unable to pay enough for Splitter to buyout his contract. If he had come to the Spurs, he would have lost money for the first year. So, Splitter stayed in Europe. Since that time, he has matured into the best non-NBA center in the world.
This summer, Splitter’s initial contract with the Spurs is up (if he had signed that is). Now, the Spurs are allowed to pay Splitter as much as they are allowed to under salary cap laws. Since the Spurs are above the cap, they can only use their mid-level exception on Splitter, between 5 – 10 million. IF this is enough to lure Splitter over, what does that mean for the Spurs?
A starting frontcourt of Tim Duncan (30 minutes) and Splitter (25-35 minutes) effectively moves SA’s frontline into the upper echelon of the NBA. Only a few would be better, like LA’s Bynum and Gasol. The backcourt would be Tony Parker and George Hill. Obviously the Spurs would have to find a spot minute 3 who can hit that corner 3, but, even with that spot unfilled, that’s a pretty potent backcourt.
The bench would be the icing between the black cookies of the oreo lineup. If the team stayed as constructed we would have Manu, RJ, Blair and Mcdyess. Blair and Mcdyess would be somewhere in the 15-25 minute lineup. Again, this bench could hold with anyone in the league.
But… it all hinges on whether or not Splitter is willing to come over and play with the Spurs. Rumors have it that Real Madrid are looking to sign him. If they are, the Spurs would have to hope that Splitter’s sense of competition. Without him, the Spurs will have to get lucky with a trading partner to get a similarly skilled player.
May 12, 2010
Last night the Celtics beat the Cavaliers on their homecourt. It was the worst home loss in the playoffs that the Cavs had ever had. That’s not the story though. For the entire game, Lebron James looked unmotivated, disinterested, and lethargic. He didn’t make a field goal until the 3rd quarter. He finished 3-14 with 15 points. When I watched a few minutes of the game, he took 5 jumpers with his toe on the line. Those are the worst shots in basketball, but for some reasons he was content to just shoot those shots over and over again. He looked like he didn’t want to be there in one of the most important games of his career.
Yahoo’s main NBA correspondent, Adrian Wojnarowski, has decided to speak up against James’ antics.
James is chasing Warren Buffett and Jay-Z the way he should be chasing Russell and Jordan and Bryant. He wants CEOs to bow before him, engage him as though he is a contemporary on the frontlines of industry. Only, the truth of the matter is, he’s a singular talent who’s going to watch his playoff failures start to chip away at the thing that seems to matter most to him: his marketability and magnetism.
He also points out that there seems to be no real drive to win a championship. He only seems to attempt to achieve that goal because that’s what NBA players do:
This isn’t a part-time thing. Winning everything takes a single-minded, obsessive devotion. Michael Jordan had it. Kobe Bryant does, too. They didn’t want to win championships, they had to win them. They needed them for validation and identity and, later, they became moguls. LeBron James is running around recruiting college kids to his marketing company. He picks up the phone, tells them, “This is the King,” and makes his pitch to be represented in his stable. Think Kobe would ever bother with this? Or Michael? Not a chance when they were on the climb, not when they still had a fist free of rings.
Lastly, he discusses the distractions that Lebron brings into the arena just by puffing up his own ego:
He invited all this drama about walking out on his hometown team this summer, and now free agency hung over the Q like an anvil. Here’s a city that’s waited 46 years for a championship, a town that reacts viciously to the sheer suggestion that James could leave for New York this summer. These fans have been much better to James than he’s been to them. It hasn’t been the media that’s built his role in the summer of 2010 to a crescendo, but James himself. He constantly manipulated it with suggestions and hints and wink-winks to New York.
What does this have to do with Duncan though? Well, as recently as the summer of 2000, two of the best players were free agents. Tim Duncan had finished his rookie contract and was testing the waters of free agency. There was no “declaration” that July 1, 2000 would be a day that would go down in infamy. There was no fanfare for the greatest power forward to play the game. He didn’t wear Magic colored shoes. He never asked for the attention on himself.
Comparing the two of these players, one being the greatest power forward ever (so far) and the other being the best small forward to play the game so far, it’s obvious that one has an air of professionalism, while the other seems perpetually sunk in the mire of his own ego. If you had the choice, which would you choose to lead your team? Would you want the one that prances around while never having won a championship, or the one that combines professionalism with his profession?
Duncan’s personality has exuded into Spurs culture. For the past 20 years, Robinson and Duncan have been the platonic figure of professionalism in the NBA. And they are the reason that a lot of fans have chosen the Spurs as their favorite team. There may be more talented players out there, Michael Jordan, Kobe and Lebron James come to mind, but rarely is talent and humbleness combined so effectively. Thank God for those two professionals playing on the same franchise, which in turn, changed the organization to emulate their persona.
May 11, 2010
For some reason, Spurs fans have decided that Tony Parker is a necessary evil. Ever since he was a rookie, fans have wished for a different point guard. I have fallen into the same trap. If I see a guy with a Tony Parker jersey, I think, “That’s a guy who likes the player not the team.” For some reason, Parker seems to illustrate the selfish, me-first star that Spurs fans love to hate. He’s considered a “shoot-first” point guard who should pass the ball more to Manu. We’ve never accepted that Parker is the best option for the Spurs to have. Are there “better” point guards out there?
Let’s take a look at the career statistics for Parker:
- Points Per Game: 16.7
- Assists Per Game: 5.6
- Turnovers Per Game: 2.5
- Field Goal %: 49%
It’s fairly obvious that Parker is asked to score in the Spurs system. Doing so with a 49% field goal percentage and a effective field goal percentage of 51% means he does this very efficiently. His ability to get into the paint frees up both Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. It also gives people like Matt Bonner and Bruce Bowen (RIP – retired in peace) open 3 pointers. The offense runs efficiently because three players on the Spurs are able to get into the paint nearly at will.
Well, because we didn’t win the championship this year, there have been rumors that Tony Parker would be traded. Kelly Dwyer, over at Ball Don’t Lie, has said,
Trading Tony Parker? It’s worth exploring. Technically, Parker should be in his prime, but his status may have taken a dip with a flat 2009-10. He has a year left on his contract and could be perfect for a veteran team trying to get over the hump offensively, like the Spurs, but the returns would have to be perfect. “The returns” also involve George Hill(notes) playing full time point guard, and two seasons in, I just don’t know if he has that in him.
It’s definitely worth looking into. If you can bring a superstar like perhaps Bosh, Wade, Lebron in, that might be beneficial to the Spurs. But the problem is that losing TP means that you’re losing one of the most effective point guard in the NBA. He, in my own humble opinion, is the third best point guard in the NBA. Yes, I think he’s better for the Spurs than Rondo, Paul, Nelson, and Kidd would be for the Spurs.
I think he’s better at finishing at the rim than Kidd and Nelson. I think he’s less of a ballhog than Paul and on par defender with Kidd, Paul and Nelson. He shoots a higher percentage than Rondo from 18 feet which is hugely helpful for the Spurs. Now, I must qualify that if I had 3rd pick in a draft where you had to take a point guard first that I would choose Parker. But, if I had Manu and Duncan, it would be a tossup between Parker and Rondo.
So, who would I take in a heartbeat for Parker? Deron Williams and Steve Nash.
I’ll be going through a few pros and cons with these two point guards which will (hopefully) explain why I would want them.
1. He’s the second best defender at the point guard position. Rondo is the only defender that is better. Jennings is pretty good as well. But, you have a big strong body that is very good at keeping an opposing point guard in front of him.
2. He’s big and strong and fast. Everyone fawns over Tyreke Evans size and strength. Deron Williams was there first. Especially in this past playoff series against the Nuggets, he’s been dominant.
3. He can shoot the three very effectively. If there’s one thing that Parker has never been able to do well, it’s hit 3 pointers efficiently. If the Spurs could have anything they wanted, it would be another 3 point shooter.
4. He plays in a system. He doesn’t hold the ball for 18 seconds waiting for someone to move like Lebron James does. He doesn’t dribble around until Tyson Chandler jumps for the lob like Paul does. He plays the point guard position like a guy who controls the flow of the game, similar to Parker. Williams just does it better than Parker.
1. He’s a lights out shooter from all areas. Nash would be the best offensive option, if the Spurs wanted to trade for him. He does over-dribble but he also shows a willingness to give up the ball to his teammates.
2. He knows how to run the pick and roll.
1. He’s old. While he does take care of his body, anyone else but the Phoenix training staff might destroyed Nash a few years ago. If the Spurs traded for him, I would expect his back to spontaneously combust in the midst of tightly contested series between the Spurs and Lakers.
2. He’s a poor individual defender. He has trouble with quick point guards even if he is an average team defender.
In any case, I wouldn’t trade Parker for anyone but those two and it would have to have a few other pieces to trade for Nash. So when you hear people saying, “Parker sucks! Trade him for Calderon or Billups.” Realize that these guys are speaking out of their butts and don’t know a thing about how basketball works.
Well, THe Spurs got swept. It wasn’t pretty, but the Suns had every matchup at their disposal. No matter what lineup the Spurs put out there, the Suns were able to throw one that performed better. Alvin Gentry has done a phenomenal job with this team and he should be congratulated. As soon as the series is over, I am a gracious loser. Except for Amundson and Stoudemire, I wish this Suns team the best.
The question though is in the title. Should this season be considered a failure by the Spurs FO, Spurs fans, or the players? I’m of the opinion that this season was doomed before we started. We just didn’t know it yet. McDyess was a phenomenal sign. I think it worked out very well. Blair falling into our lap was perfect and he’ll help us for years to come. The negatives though were Roger Mason Jr. performing like a d-league rookie, Duncan was a year older and a step slower on defense, Parker was injured, Manu took a long time to recover from his injury, and most of all, Jefferson was a poor fit.
From the get go, this team peaked one night and then would fall the next. It didn’t matter against whom. They beat the Mavs without Duncan but lost to the Nets. They blew Orlando out at home, but lost to a Lebronless Cav team. They beat a very talented Mavericks team in the playoffs, but lost to a nearly blue-collar Suns team. The whole season has felt very odd, almost as if no one on the Spurs roster cared.
But they did. We know they did. We could see it every night. Rage might not have been the best fit for the Spurs. He wasn’t Bruce Bowen (there will never be another Bruce). He struggled with spot up shooting and while he defended decently, he wasn’t a difference maker on both sides. If he opts out, I expect the Spurs not to sign him back without a major pay-cut.
The season started off with the Spurs as the second best team in the West. A legitimate threat to the Laker’s chokehold. The first game aided that assumption. The Hornets were supposed contend for the Southwest division crown, and the Spurs obliterated them. Spirits soared among the fan base and many “experts” declared the Spurs to be back. Alas, instead of being solidly consistent, the Spurs went out and lost their next game to the Bulls by double digits. These two games captured the season. At the all-star break, Hollinger wrote that the Spurs had a 60% chance of making the playoffs (stat is off the top of my head, please don’t quote me). Once Parker got injured, it looked like the Spurs might miss the playoffs for the first time of Duncan’s illustrious career. Luckily, the Spurs showed their resolve and made it to the playoffs. After winning their series against the Mavericks, the Spurs were again toted as a challenger to LA’s crown. Then, the Suns picked them apart with their matchups.
This season is a disappointment for sure. For the Spurs and their fans, anything less than a championship is a disappointment. It should be, we don’t want any Spur to just be “happy to be in the playoffs”. But this season was not a failure. The Spurs performed above expectations. They became the first 7-seed to win a 7-game series. They won 50 games for the 13th season in a row (only the Lakers with Kareem and Magic did better). They showed Spurs pride and also developed two phenomenal players in Blair and Hill that will carry the banner of the Spurs for years to come. Congrats to the Suns on their victory. But, don’t get too complacent. The Spurs will be back.
May 8, 2010
This is it. We’ve been in tougher situations before (though I can’t remember when). We’ll be in tough situations again. The time to play with a sense of urgency has been tossed out the window. You’re not longer playing for pride, you’re playing for your life.
At every turn the Suns have had all the answers. If the trend holds, the Spurs will lose this game 110 – 102. Some fans will leave before the game is over because they think they know that it’s over. I don’t condone this, but I understand it. But they’re missing what being a fan is all about.
When Larry Bird was swept out of the playoffs by the Bucks in the second round, he said the most humbling and amazing thing that happened was that the front office on the Celtics signed him to an extension. As a fan, we can bring the same experience to our favorite team. Win or lose, this team has performed above expectations. As late as February, we were considered by many to fall out of the playoffs. We made it to the second round. Yes, defeat to the Sun will be bitter to swallow, but I’m not giving up yet. This team has the talent to win 4 games straight against these suns. We just have to believe. It starts with the fans. I’m tired of seeing fans sitting on their butts during the games. Have we been so spoiled?
Tony Parker (much maligned over the course of his career with the Spurs for not being a conventional point guard) is showing his true colors. A refusal to have an MRI today means that he will be playing in the game tomorrow. He’s still willing to lay his injured body on the line for the team. He should be toted as a hero.
A preview of this game wouldn’t do any good. The Suns can beat the Spurs in any way they want. What remains to be seen is if the Spurs can beat the Suns at all. They’ll do their best and more Sunday. We’ve got some old dogs, that I don’t think are ready to go down quietly.
So cheer, Spurs fans. Win or lose, this team deserves a standing ovation for everything they have given to us this year. A toast! To Peter Holt, Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili (especially Manu) et al. They’ve performed admirably, and I’m proud to say that I support this team. Go Spurs Go!
May 8, 2010
This whole series has been bizarre. The Suns have been able to beat the Spurs with every adjustment that Pop has made, and trust me, he’s made a lot of them. Whether it’s let Nash score while limiting the role players (game 1), limiting Nash and letting the role players beating them (game 2), or switching on every screen to limit 3 pt. attempts (game 3), the Suns have shown the resiliency to overcome each of these. There will be Spurs fans who ignorantly will clamor for Pop to be fired and that we hire another name. Personally, I hope Pop never leaves, I just think he needs to make an adjustment like he never has before.
The game started right for the Spurs. They held the Suns to less than 20 points and scored a good amount. They played good defense without fouling, and, as has been the case all year, let the lead slip away from them. Free throws missed, defensive lapses, better offense from the Suns got them back into the game and the Spurs went into the locker room with a 4 point lead. More of the same happened in the third, and the Spurs held a 1 point lead heading into the fourth. Then, Dragic happened.
This kid hit some shots that have no business going in. He juked Duncan, Blair, Parker and Hill out of their shoes on several different occasions. He hit a shot “over” George Hill that the refs called a foul on (more on this later) which gave him a 4 point play. He went 8/8 over a stretch in the 4th quarter and had 24 points in the final frame. To say he was the difference maker is understating his importance.
Those who know me closely know that I yell at the refs more than anyone. However, I usually give credit where credit is due. However, this doesn’t mean that I don’t believe that refs can affect the game more than many “experts” believe. A ref is able to affect the game with how he calls a foul, if he calls a foul (obviously) and who he calls it on. This leads me to my last point. This game was very poorly reffed. After 1 quarter, the Spurs had not committed a foul and there was no way the refs could legally call a foul. They played fantastic defense, moved their feet and blocked shots after the ball had left opponent’s hands. However, the last 3 quarters were called very poorly. The Spurs would get called for touch fouls (see Gragic’s 4 point play) while the Suns were allowed to mug anyone going to the basket without getting a foul called. Give credit to the Suns, they recognized what they were getting away with and capitalized. It’s very frustrating to watch.
Amar’e Stoudamire… This guy is not very good. I don’t like him and I’m glad that the Suns are winning in spite of his play. He throws dirty elbows and his foul on Parker was extremely cheap. It may look like he was trying to get out of the way, but on the replay it shows that he continues to undercut him, hoping to not get called for the foul while knocking the legs out of an airborne player. I have no doubt that this play changed the game. Parker missed 4 free throws after that, and shot short for the rest of the game. He definitely sprained something on that play. Amar’e also pushed Bogut on the dunk that Bogut broke his wrist. If you watch the replay, you can see that he gives him a small push as he grabs the rim.
Lastly, I have decided I hate small ball. I hate watching teams that have no big man play. It’s not pretty basketball. I could shoot 40% from the 3 if I was playing in the Suns system. All they do is run that high pick and roll over and over again and wait until someone who is just standing there is open and they pass it to him and he shoots it. It’s not fun to watch, it’s irritating. It’s fun to watch Orlando because they have a legitimate low post presence. It’s fun to watch the Jazz and the Lakers because they have a system that requires off-ball movement. The Suns? They run the pick and roll. Then they either shoot a jumpshot over the big that switched, pass to the open 3pt threat or drive to the basket. It’s like playing Madden and having your opponent running the same play over and over again because there is a glitch in the system that makes that play uncoverable.
In any case, the Suns have wanted this series more than the Spurs. They’ve exploited their small ball matchups and come away with three wins already. But even if the Spurs lose on Sunday, I will not hang my head. They have nothing to be ashamed of. At the end of a topsy turvy season, they have competed hard and have been exploited by a shooting guard playing power forward, a small forward playing center. They will compete on Sunday, and I will be there to cheer them.
May 7, 2010
Why should I name a blog about the San Antonio Spurs this?
There are a few reasons:
The first of which is the consistency of the Spurs since they joined the NBA. Sure, there have been more “successful” teams in terms of championships, like the Bulls, Lakers and Celtics, but none of those teams have had the consistency the Spurs have had for three decades. Since the franchise joined the NBA from the ABA, the Spurs have won 4 championships (holding a 4-0 record in finals appearances) and made the playoffs every year for the past 20 years except for the 1996-1997 season when Sean Elliot and David Robinson were injured for lengthy periods of time.
The Spurs are also one of the most blessed franchises in the league. After George Gervin retired, the Spurs slid down into something less than mediocrity. Only through their #1 draft pick, David Robinson, in 1987 were the Spurs finally able to make the playoffs and start their winning ways. Robinson’s first lengthy injury happened to coincide with Tim Duncan’s senior year at Wake Forest. The Spurs lucked into the #1 overall pick in the draft (The Boston Celtics had the worst record in the NBA at the time), which they used to pick Tim Duncan. Since that point, the Spurs have posted a 70+ winning percentage and won four championships.
Beginning with the lockout season of 1999 when the Spurs won their first title, the team seems to coast through the regular season, seemingly content to allow lesser teams to beat them, until the all-star break. This is another reason why I like the title for the blog. It seems that every spring, the Spurs get on a roll and blitz into the playoffs. People attribute this to many things, but the most likely reason is that Gregg Popovich tightens up his rotation and plays his best players.
Irregardless of the questions, “why?” or “how?”, the Spurs are a force to be reckoned with every spring.