Don’t Rock the Boat… Too Much
The Spurs enter their annual rodeo road trip with a disappointing loss in what has been a frustratingly inconsistent season. While the Spurs have been okay, the moves made this summer were done with grander plans in mind than okay.
Today and tomorrow each writer here at 48MoH will play devilâ€™s advocate for one of four positions regarding the Spurs and this trade season: making no move, a minor roster tweak, a huge trade or focusing on the future.
There is a standard of excellence unlike any other with the San Antonio Spurs. Fans not only expect wins, but flawless basketball.
At this point in this season, the wins have come at a slower pace than normal and the flawless basketball that made basketball purists smile has come once in a blue moon for San Antonio.
And yet, here the Spurs stand. They are fifth in the competitive Western Conference and two and a half games back of the top spot in the Southwest Division. Another 50 win season is not out of the question, but this week’s Rodeo Road Trip kicks off what could be the Bataan Death March of second half schedules.
This year’s team shows flashes of why analysts and experts viewed them as one of the few title contenders coming into this season. San Antonio’s class was evident in the first half of their win over the Atlanta Hawks on Wednesday night. Unfortunately, those flashes have come few and far between this year.
But the flashes are there, and it’s for this reason that the Spurs are not in need of any drastic changes leading up to the February trade deadline.
“We played really well before we struggled a little bit. Thereâ€™s going to be ups and downs, smiles and frowns,” Richard Jefferson said after San Antonio’s win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday night. “Thereâ€™s going to be a lot of things that go on throughout the course of the season.”
The Spurs possess a roster with skill in every area. One of the strengths of the San Antonio Spurs over the last several years has been their ability to play at a high level in every type of game. They can control tempo in a fast-paced game with the Phoenix Suns and grind out possessions against a defensive team like the Boston Celtics.
This year’s Spurs have a similar ability, they simply haven’t replicated the same consistency as Spurs teams of past years. The Spurs still lack the “corporate knowledge” that was damn near instinct for former Spurs teams. Doing too much to shakeup the current roster could undermine the progress this year’s team has made.
“When we were struggling we werenâ€™t shooting the ball particularly well, but we werenâ€™t getting blown out,” Jefferson said. “We were in every single game, but it was just coming down to one or two shots here and there that we werenâ€™t making.”
But things are starting to come together. Matt Bonner recently returned to the lineup and got rid of the leather splint/Nintendo Power Glove on his shooting hand. Michael Finley was on the active roster for the first time in a while on Friday night. And Manu Ginobili is showing some resemblance to the players that was one of the most feared players in the world just a couple of seasons ago.
Tony Parker recently went down with an ankle injury and has been hampered by plantar fasciitis, however he still shows an innate ability to get to the rim when playing.
Assuming Tim Duncan doesn’t encounter the same second half knee troubles he faced last year and DeJuan Blair’s lack of ACLs don’t become a problem over an 82 game season, this year’s San Antonio Spurs team will be a formidable one come playoff time.
What the Spurs are missing is a player to fill the Bruce Bowen role. Not necessarily a shut-down defender as good as Bowen was, but a defense-first player who can knock down 3-pointers and not take much off the table offensively. Early in the season, it looked like Keith Bogans could fill that void, but his playing time has been limited as of late. George Hill shows a knack for defense, however he has a tendency to get into foul trouble when marking the opposing team’s best perimeter scorer.
The Western Conference is close. Even the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers have looked vulnerable at times, and more injury-prone than the Spurs. San Antonio is getting closer to the form that fans and analysts expected of them after their summer moves. The roster’s grasp on the system is developing and becoming second nature to those players who were tasked with learning a different team framework.
The front office needs to add one more ingredient to complete the full, title-contending dish. However, doing too much to shake up the recipe, or not enough, could leave Spurs fans with bland dish worthy of an early playoff exit.