Coach Pop may be a covert stat geek


Gregg Popovich is a simple man. He likes fine wine and defensive basketball. On the surface, his gruff demeanor gives the impression that he has little time for the Scott Seredays of this world.

Or so we thought.

Before the Spurs’ 109-84 win over the New Orleans Hornets, Coach Pop was holding court for a few minutes in the innards of the AT&T Center in his typical (and league-mandated) fashion. One of the gathered writers asked Coach Pop about the continuing use of DeJuan Blair in the starting lineup.

“He’s finding his way. He’s trying to figure out where to be in relation to everybody else,” Coach Pop said. “With all those crazy stats people do these days, that group comes out a big plus. It’s hard to argue with it.”

Who are you and what have you done with Gregg Popovich?

This Bizarro Coach Pop is right. Both and have the Spurs’ starting lineup of DeJuan Blair with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson as one the team’s most effective lineups.

To be fair, though, lineups featuring McDyess instead of Blair and Bonner instead of Blair and also very effective. So the foundation for excellence could be determined more by the other four players than Blair, but that doesn’t change the fact that the lineup featuring Blair is statistically excellent.

The Spurs have advanced stats guys on the payroll. But I never in my wildest imagination thought that Gregg Popovich would listen to them. I was told that the only stat he cared about was field goal percentage. What are they shooting? What are we shooting?

But by his own admission, Pop at least hears what is said to him regarding other statistics. And in this case, he uses it to justify keeping DeJuan Blair in the starting lineup.

Next thing we know, Jerry Sloan — the oldest of the old-school — will be talking about Al Jefferson’s effective field goal percentage. Then there’s nothing to stop the statistical revolution from taking over.

  • andy


    who says erudition isn’t infectious?

  • Alix Babaie

    Thanks for sticking to your guns with Blair, Pop. He is a complete badass and only needs to time to get used to the heady competition he faces in starters.

    This team is so stacked and even though we are slightly thin on frontline, I feel like our guard play and depth in other areas, especially once we get “Mr. Anderson” back will offset that deficiency.

  • sliced bread

    Imagine a conversation between Pop and Sloan about Hollinger’s Power Rankings. Awesome…

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • doggydogworld

    I’m surprised the starting 5’s +/- is that good. Just from glancing at box scores it looked like Blair has been minus (or low plus) a lot of nights. Maybe he goes minus when playing with others.

  • td4life

    maybe this is a better place to post this:

    Net Production (PER) by Position v. Opponents’ net PER


    ….. SA ….. Dal ….. Bos…..LAL….Mia….LAC….Min
    PG +5.1 …..+2.2 ….+3.0….-10.0….+0.5…. -6.0 …. -4.7
    SG +6.1 …..+3.9 ….+4.2….+13.5….+6.3…..0.6…. -7.4
    SF +6.0 …..+1.4 ….+6.4….. +4.1….+13.5…-8.9…. -7.4
    PF -3.4 …..+5.03… +4.6 ….+2.9…. -1.4….+1.9…. +7.1
    C +3.1 ….. +0.1…..+1.7…. +5.5…..+0.5…..-2.0…. -3.9

    bigs -0.3….+5.13….+6.3…..+8.4…..-0.9….-0.1…..+3.2

    Only Bos and Dal are net positive at every position, both of these teams got off to relatively slow starts.

    LAL’s +8.4 bigmen PER is without a soon-to-return Bynum.

    Bryant and Lebron are once again MVP candidates, offsetting a low producing PG rotation (LA), and weak front court (Mia). Each of these stars are aided at their position by Shannon Brown and James Jones, respectively.

    On a weak team, the Timberwolves center production is their second strongest position. Clippers’ center production is their third strongest, or third weakest position.

    SA’s bigman production is lower than all other contenders. Lower even than Minnesota, yet the Spurs are as good overall as the Wolves are bad. The Spurs smalls are carrying them rebounding numbers is probably the easiest way to improve SA’s frontline PER. Scoring and fewer fouls are next in line.

  • Sriram

    Here is a great read from The Bleacher Report…

    The crux of the story is that the Spurs are definitely more insulated from scoring lulls these days when Manu is having an off night…it is a great perspective on our succesful season so far.

  • SG

    ….. SA ….. Dal ….. Bos…..LAL….Mia….LAC….Min
    bigs -0.3….+5.13….+6.3…..+8.4…..-0.9….-0.1…..+3.2

    This is bad…but partialy due SA saving their best big’s (TD + McDyess) for the playoffs.

    I don’t expect many min’s for Blair/Bonner/Splitter against Dal/Bos/LAL.

  • Espoon

    This Bizarro Coach Pop is right. Both and have the Spurs’ starting lineup of DeJuan Blair with Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Richard Jefferson as the team’s most effective lineup.

    Read more:

    That’s not true; neither one of those sites says that that is the most efficient lineup, both have that line up #1 for minutes played together.

  • Andrew A. McNeill


    You’re right, that’s a good catch. My mistake, it has been corrected.

  • Ruel21448

    I agree with you all guys!!! We are very short handy on the front line but We and Our Team stand still? It’s our coaching staffs and front office call and they have done a great job so far and to our players as well being on the same page working together as a team? Putting Blair to the test in the line of fire early this Season was a must thing to do I believed? Blair has proven himself a Worthy being No.37 draft pick last year? We are all believed on Him last year? Our coaching staffs and front office believed on Him last year? This year, he gave us a reason to believed even thou many of us not the way we want it? For sure last year Blair drawn alot of attentions from coaches, players, and teams which is hard to forget and ignore it? This year early of the season? He might not be productive like last year? I don’t know the real reason why maybe by design or disguise but whatever it is? It’s working and must keep going but I wouldn’t be surprise maybe half way of the season or before play off comes? There will be a big change!!! Who knows? Only our Coaching Staffs and Front Office knows what futures hold which they have done it many years but this year kind of different but still remain a San Antonio Spurs basketball to keep us/fans guessing and reason to get motivated and cheer up? Tiago will get his turn as the season goes but I doub’t it maybe below 20 minutes a night? The way Antonio and Matt playing right now? It’s hard to tell but inserting Tiago Splitter along side with Tim Duncan on the mid season or before the play off? Will surprise and confuse alot of teams and Blair will bring whole lot of energy coming off from the Bench? It’s going to be a whole of story for the opposing teams to figure out and make adjustments? I don’t know if that’s our coaching staffs and front office had in their minds before the season start? Just Guessing but whatever is it? It’s Working!!! Right now we might be Under-size and Short-handy in the front line but our Team Stand Still? Our Team doesn’t need to prove anything to other teams? The Chemistry is there and everybody are in the same page? Great Job to our Coaching Staffs, Front Office, and Players for working together a Team!!! Stay Humble guys and Mentally Ready/Prepare as the Season goes and I believed our Team can get the Job done!!! Win or Lose keep Pounding the Rock!!! Always always pray for our Team, coaching staffs, front office, specially to our players and to their respectively families to stay in Good Health!!!

  • Ruel

    I agree with you all guy? We/Our Team San Antonio Spurs Under-Size and Short-Handed on the Front Line but Our Team Stand Still!!! Our Team doesn’t needs to prove anything? To our Coaching Staffs, Front Office, and Players? You guys are doing a great job stay Humble and Working together as a Team!!! Win or Lose Keep Pounding the Rock!!!

  • duaneofly

    I’m sure Sloan already uses some statistical measures in his coaching, and in what players to draft/trade etc.
    I acknowledge the usefulness of statistics, but honestly, I still think the best way to find out how good a player is, is to watch that player play, again, and again, and again.
    One thing I think statistics are still lacking is in defensive measures. Yes, they measure steals, blocks, opponents FG %, deflections etc.
    Things that don’t get measured however, but are important to the game are these things:
    1. How many seconds ticked off the shot clock while Manu harassed Jason Terry before he was able to make a pass?
    2. Was Mcdyess in such good defensive position on Dirk that instead of Kidd passing him the ball as the play called for, he had to pass to Marion for a long desperate 3?
    3. Does Parker zip around the court fast enough that it wears out his defender at an increased rate? Forcing the coach to rest him while subbing in a lesser player?
    4. How intimidating is a player? LeBron is a really good player, but are the Celtics scared of him? Hell no. Are the Magic worried about LeBron? Highly doubt it. But Kobe, yeah I think he intimidates some opponents, especially in 00-02 when he was paired with Shaq. There’s no statistical measure for that, but you can see it on the court.

    I do see the value in statistics, but I am more of a watch players play type of guy. Using both together, however, is probably the best way to go. And to people who don’t think watching players play is a good enough way to determine how good someone is, how do you think Red Auerbach put together such great Celtics teams without all these advanced statistics?

  • Espoon

    I personally wouldn’t mind a trade to upgrade the frontline. However, I don’t believe it is a huge issue and I was calling/begging for a trade in ’07 and didn’t think Duncan/Horry/Oberto was good enough. I hope this team proves me wrong again, whether Blair,McDyess,Splitter, or even Bonner is the starter.

  • grego

    TP/MG/TD/RJ are the best starting 4 in the league when it comes to +/-. However, their score drops when you look at 5 because of Blair.

  • ThatBigGuy

    @ td4life

    I think the numbers for our bigs are skewed a bit. Timmy and Dice are both averaging way less minutes than they will come playoff time, so their numbers are less that optimal. Plus Blair is having a terrible year statistically, so he’s skewing the PF numbers.

    LA and Dallas are both playing their best bigs a ton of minutes. Gasol is averaging 39 mins a game and Odom is getting 36. Dirk is getting 36 mpg as well. It’s easy to put up big numbers when you’re playing big minutes. But Timmy and Dice and Pop are all cool with letting some advanced stats suffer a little in order to keep minutes down.

    If you look at the why, you’ll see that we can rest Timmy and Dice because we have 3 other bigs who can contribute positive mins, day in and day out. LA doesn’t have that until Bynum returns, but he’s a fragile man, so they might never have that. After Dirk, Dallas only has a set of big man twins (Haywood and Chandler) who split time.

    We are 5 deep, so we can sacrifice stats in order to keep our playoff bigs rested. The other teams aren’t, so they have to play their best 3 guys all the time, and so their production surpasses ours.

    I would be interested to see these same stats after the playoffs are over.

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  • Bushka

    Thatbigguy beat me to it.

    One of the things about our record is that Timmy & Dice are playing fewer minutes.

    This year in particular we will only go as far as our frontline can take us.

    Obviously our growth potential is almost all in our front line.

    James Anderson and Neal may get better and George may tinker with his game, but Tiago is just about completely untapped right now and Dejaun is on an upward spiral.

    Hopefully thats potential that gets harnessed as the year moves forward.

  • Greyberger

    I had always heard it as, “the only statistic Pop wants to know about at halftime is the opponent’s FG%”.

    It would be just like the Spurs to have a stats consultant on board, and it would be just like them to keep that fact quiet. They play with the cards as close to the chest as they can.

    A basketball stats employee can provide much more than just suggestions about lineups. They work with the scouting team on learning about other teams, players, and potential acquisitions. A stats guy can help the decision makers make sense of stats from other leagues or circumstances.

    They can also tell you which statistics that you’re already using are meaningful, and (politely) which stats might not belong in decision-making. A good example is Dejuan Blair and rebounding. A truism of advanced stats is that rebounding ability as captured by reb. rate is consistent and carries over from college to the pros and from one circumstance to the next. Betting on a good college rebounder is historically a safer bet than a scoring or defensive specialist, as those skills are less likely to make the jump to the NBA level.

    Pretty much every advanced stat nerd in the public realm was high on Dejuan Blair, despite the medical prognosis. On paper he wasn’t just a great rebounder, he was a once-in-a-generation rebounder at Pitt. If we had a nerd on the payroll back then he was no doubt lobbying for DeBeast.

  • viper160

    OK, lets all remember that Pop’s mentor is Larry Brown and Coach Brown is a stat’s nut who preaches team defense and basketball fundamentals, hmmm sounds a little familiar. As for the stats regarding the team personnel on the floor, it is a ho-hummer-DeJuan Blair’s(Please look at DeJuan’s numbers against taller bigs) numbers against teams like the Lakers – really stink, against the Celtics-PU. DeJuan is not going to grow anymore height and yes there are teams with centers taller than 6 foot 5. The Lakers and Celtics have bigs and lots of them-these teams that come playoff time will be bringing deep benches and bigs. The writers and pontificators can write and say all they want but Blair, and Bonner are problematic and liabilities on the defensive end. The Spurs will need to address getting an athletic big with a decent 15 foot shot and can get 10 boards, unless this is done -Spursnation should keep the rosary beads out. When Bonner is making consistent shots all is well but when he isn’t making shots there is no one around to fight for a board. Bonner just cannot guard or make stops, as for DeJuan he is a liability on the defensive end against taller bigs and his lack of a outside shot (consistent), only helps the other teams defensive schemes. This week the Spurs are playing teams they should beat, the question mark is Atlanta and given that Joe Johnson is injured the Spurs should win all 3 games. This team today looks great but until it plays better defense consistently during games , Pop has every right to worry and to be hammering this team.

  • Hobson13

    December 7th, 2010 at 9:35 am
    “….. SA ….. Dal ….. Bos…..LAL….Mia….LAC….Min
    bigs -0.3….+5.13….+6.3…..+8.4…..-0.9….-0.1…..+3.2”

    This is very interesting. I knew our 1-3 positions were essentially carrying this team and I knew the 4-5 positions were our weakness, but I simply didn’t have the numbers to back up this claim. This is why I’m not completely sold on our chances at a 5th ring.

    Playoff basketball is all about the big guys. Those who watched the Lakers-Celtics Finals saw what it will take to hoist the trophy. Last June’s Finals was some of the roughest and most physical ball I’ve seen since the Spurs-Pistons finals when Timmy was still in his prime. The ultimate question for this team is how much can Tiago and Blair improve over the next 4-5 months. Barring a trade, which is almost categorically refused on this blog, they are our best hope of beating LA and (as much as I hate to admit this) Dallas in the West.

    Many on here believe that our front court dip is mainly due to preserving Tim and Antonio by playing them fewer minutes. I only partly agree with this assessment. I assert that Duncan and McDyess will not be able to produce at the same level as they did last year. We are witnessing Father Time take his toll on both. Let me prove this: PER is adjusted for minutes and for game tempo. Duncan’s current PER is 21.89 or 17th in the league. Last year, his PER was 24.79 or 4th in the league. And this is after his PER undoubtedly took a dip in the early spring due to his balky knee (last year was the second straight year Duncan’s production dipped later in the year which certainly has ominous implications for what may occur later this year). Last year McDyess had a PER of 12.29. This year his PER is 11.16.

    IMO, we will continue to win a ton of regular season games with our new-found perimeter oriented offense and barring a collapse will take a top 3 seed. However, we need a much better front line in order to beat the C’s, Lakers, and Mavs of the NBA. I submit that if we are pinning our front court hopes on Tim, McDyess, and Bonner, many will be dissappointed. Splitter or Blair must make up the difference OR we need a trade. From my perspective, our championship hopes are really that simple.

  • Flavor

    I’m sure if someone looks @ all those years we won Championships, you’d find there were other teams with “better bigs”… yet we still one. Odom will be handled by Dyess and Spiltter. Pau = Duncan. Bynum will be injured. The Mavs will flake again in the P.O. and Boston cant score.

  • Hobson13

    December 7th, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    During all those other years, we had Duncan in his prime (outide the 2007 finals which was a foregone conclusion before the series ever started). That won’t be the case this year.

    “Odom will be handled by Dyess and Spiltter. Pau = Duncan. Bynum will be injured. The Mavs will flake again in the P.O. and Boston cant score.”

    With all due respect, this is a very simplistic statement that makes a number of HUGE assumptions. Wake up people and realize our front line needs help. This euphoria won’t last once we have our first 3 game skid.

  • Phife

    “…….. SA ….. Dal ….. Bos…..LAL….Mia….LAC….Min
    bigs -0.3….+5.13….+6.3…..+8.4…..-0.9….-0.1…..+3.2”

    This is without a developed Splitter. I’ve been working too much lately and haven’t kept up with his production outside of statistics lately. He needs to work on not picking up fouls. That comes with time, and with TD/Pop/Dyess giving you advice on the matter it should take a matter of weeks.

    Once Splitter is acclimated I believe our bigs, if healthy, can stand up to anyone in the league come playoff time.

    Odom/Gasol will be gassed by April; neither of them have had rest for about 3 years straight and are both 30+ big men. Throw in Bynum’s injury wild-card and who knows where the Lakers will be once the tournament rolls around.

    Front court-wise: Boston is our biggest threat.

    Shaq can play until he is 50 and still put up 10/10.

    A healthy Jermaine O’Neal is comparable to a more offensively gifted, while less sound fundamentally, McDyess.

    Garnett and Duncan don’t quite compare at this stage in their career. Duncan is better on both ends by the time Garnett wears himself out in June.

    Perkins is the problem here. If we reach the Finals and face Boston (my ‘unbiased’ prediction) Tiago will have to be a heavy part of the rotation. Perkins will EAT DeJuan and Duncan that late in the season; considering he will be returning in January with a few months to acclimate/get-in-game-shape.

    If the NBA is REALLY changing to small ball, all that I have written is for not. Our team wins. We have too much depth 1-3 once Anderson returns.


    2 thumbs up to the Spurs victory against Nawlins.
    2 thumbs down to Splitters freethrow shooting- 59.5%. Not acceptable, especially with everyone shooting their freethrows well this season. I know it’s only a small detail, but we don’t need another big who is a poor freethrow shooter, especially in the playoffs. He needs to practice more on those and every other part of his game. I know he can’t practice much without getting much pt so it’s kinda a catch 22.
    We need to get Tiago more minutes but at the same time we can’t afford to sacrifice games and coast through the season by trying to develop him. It seems like he’ll only getting playing time in a blow out game or if Mc Dyees has the day off.
    I agree with Phife, he definetly needs to be developed for the playoffs and even the finals; but how can you develop a guy without ever playing him???
    BEAT L.A.

  • d.iyer

    I agree with all the comments about our front line. We will not be able to contend with the league’s elite bigs with the current situation. Unless Splitter can make a quick and sudden impact by February.

    A lot of teams worry me in the west. Dallas has had our number for the last 4 years. Don’t let last season’s 4-1 win fool you. They are a different team with Tyson Chandler.

    As far as LA goes, let’s not bet on Bynum’s injury. We should prepare as if he will be 100% healthy come playoff time.

    Utah also scares me for some reason. I think they are a better team this year and a disciplined group.

    I am very excited about our start so far this season. But I am not so convinced that we are a championship team with our current roster. I hope the FO will make a trade by February if we start seeing bigger holes in our front line.

    IMO, this is the last year to win a title in the Duncan era. Next year may result in a lockout. Even if it doesn’t, TD and Dice will be a year older, not to mention Manu.


    Also does anyone know when Anderson will be back??? And I wonder if the frontoffice will make another move by the trade deadline?? Hopefully for another shotblocking, rebounding, defensive big. Please!!!

  • andy

    three things:

    i agree that we need more beef down low, but i’m not that worried about it. i think we have the pieces, even if we’re not fully deploying them yet. it’s a long season folks.

    with PER, i understand it’s minutes and tempo adjusted, but i’d wager that as bigs you need more minutes to achieve a higher PER because of the fact that you don’t control the ball. in our new perimeter offense, wouldn’t you expect a dip in PER because of decreased opportunities? just conjecture on my part, but am i off base?

    honestly, with all the injuries we’re seeing around the league to players who participated heavily in summer ball (top of my head, pau, iggy, durant, and i’m sure there’ll be more), i’m glad pop’s taking it slowly with splitter. let him get some rest; i think he’ll figure things out quickly once he gets some extended burn.

  • Flavor

    Excellent point andy… Seems to make sence to me(but I’m not a numbers guy). If we were to get another big, when/where would he play? I mean, Duncan and Blair WILL get there minutes as will Bonner and McDyess. Splitter should come along… Now with this in mind, the only game time I see for another big is if someone gets injured (enter Tiago Splitter). What quality big, that can come in and contribute right away, is out there that hasn’t been signed? As far as getting one thru trade, we’d be giving away more than we get in return. This team is 17-3. We have yet to play the Lakers or Boston and the loss to Dallas could have gone either way in the last 5 + minutes… Their frontline did not “dominate” ours.

    BTW: where’s Jim Henderson?

  • lvmainman

    If the Spurs are going to win a championship, the bigs of Blair, Splitter, and Bonner will have to better, which I doubt. I still don’t know if Splitter can play. Duncan and McDyess can give 54 effective minutes in the playoffs, which means 42 minutes to divvy up between the other 3.

    The Spurs will have to beat 2 or 3 teams with bigs in the Lakers, Mavs, and Celtics to win a championship.

    Interesting that Mahinmi got to play the entire 4th qtr against the Warriors in a close game for the Mavericks and got the 1st double-double of his career.

  • Anoop

    My take is it is not stats but the stubborness of Coach pops which made him bring out the stats to supports DB. After making him a starter, he doesn’t want to make a chnge, especially with a 17-3 record. It could be for various reasons, hopefully not confined to a three letter word – ego. Am also concerned on “Splitter Situation”, hope TS does not find himself in the famous Pops doghouse. Yet, given the upside he has v/s Bonner, it surprises the minutes Bonner keeps getting over TS. Lastly, hope Ian does not join the group of “no hopers” which SA let go and they came back to haunt , I am not even trying to point towards a particular Argentine playing in Houston!

  • rob

    Mahinmi’s 2/2 was more of a reflection of who they were playing more so than Mahinmi’s talent. Both Duncan (triple duce) and Blair had monster games against the Warriors also.

    Regarding our talent (or lack there of depending on how you look at it) in the front court… I think what is being demonstrated with regards to this article is that Pop (knowing his individual players’ strengths and weaknesses) is using stats to insert and get the best production out of those players.

    They may not be everything that is wanted…but are being used in the most efficient manner possible to help the team.

    We’ll know soon enough if it is going to be a big issue come playoff time depending on how well/poor our bigs produce against teams like Dallas, L.A., Boston, etc.

    But until we actually play them this season…there’s no way of determining (with any concrete evidence) if our front court is as bad as some (including myself at times) think they will be against those teams.

    And if the team can’t/won’t bring in another post player without disrupting the cohesion being established by our backcourt because we would have to trade X player just to get said post player…then Pop’s rotational patterns regarding our current post players will have to be trusted that he knows (via stats or other means) to infuse those players to be utelized to the best of their abilities.

  • ITGuy

    I agree with the fact the we need help in the frontcourt.
    But I also wonder if other teams fear or have doubts about their team’s ability to compete against the Spurs. In other words, are other teams thinking; how are we going to beat the Spurs backcourt? How are we going to stop Manu, Tony and even RJ? Are other teams fearful or concerned of/about playing the Spurs in the playoffs?

    I think it’s too early in the season but we all know it’s the playoffs that matter.

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • SG

    “I submit that if we are pinning our front court hopes on Tim, McDyess, and Bonner, many will be dissappointed. Splitter or Blair must make up the difference OR we need a trade. From my perspective, our championship hopes are really that simple”

    Who would you trade for? There are not that many quality bigs in the league available right now. I would be hesitant to bust up the team right now.

  • SG

    I’ve looked at a couple different scenarios, but can’t really find anyone who will come in and help the Spurs front-line this season. Maybe Varejao? But we’d have to trade some valuable players on our end: like McDyess and Blair…

    I wouldn’t count on a trade to improve front-court this year. We will have to make do with what we have and hope that Splitter/Blair continue to develop in time for the playoffs. Matt’s stroke is pure…maybe he’ll get “hot” in the playoffs this year…all he needs is a one-handed off balance jumper to get his game going…

  • BOSS

    We need to trade for Antwain Jamison he is a savy vet that it wouldn’t take long to pick up the offense and the cavs would love to have DB…Jamison could avg at least 12-15 pts in our offense and he isn’t as short as DB b/c if Blair isn’t putting up the crazy rebounding numbers what is the argument for keeping him plus this is our last shot at ring #5 for Timmy we have to go all out this year b/c once Miami gets things worked out over the next year or so rings will be very hard to come by lets put all our chips on the table now it is our best shot.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Sigh. Here we go again… I guess Jim Henderson has given up after that last nasty exchange about Blair. Frankly I’m tempted to do it as well, especially after Tim Varner’s column that provoked the last one.

    But I’ll venture into the fray one more time: Listen, great frontcourts don’t win championships, great backcourts don’t win championships, trios of big stars don’t win championships, elite point guards don’t win championship, elite centers don’t win championship, defense doesn’t win championships… Great TEAMS win championships. John Wooden was once asked how many championshipshe thought Kobe Bryant would win and he said “None. Kobe Bryant doesn’t win championships. The Lakers win championships.” It’s about all the players and coaches on the roster. And from where I sit, with nearly four decades of basketball playing and watching behind me, this team has the best collection of players and coaches in the league right now.

    Yes, when you look at individual numbers, performances, talent, depth, and so on, we are a little bit weaker in the frontcourt than some of the other championship contenders. Some of those frontcourts are overrated in my opinion (e.g. Orlando) and some aren’t (e.g. LA). Some are even underrated (e.g. Dallas). But all of them have questions every bit as profound as ours. Will Bynum ever return to form and if so when? Ditto for Kendrick Perkins. Will Gasol and Garnett wear down in the meantime. How durable will Tyson Chandler be? And so on. But what so many here consistently ignore is that there’s only one widely acknowledged contender that can begin to handle our perimeter players, and that’s Boston. Either Parker or Ginobili or both are deadly to Dallas, Orlando, LA, Miami and Utah. And now that Jefferson is playing at such a high level, even Boston is in a difficult pick-your-poison situation because Ray Allen will have to cover somebody who’s either way too quick, way too athletic, or way too big.

    Meanwhile, as many have pointed out, the Spurs’ frontcourt has been sandbagging. This team is 17-3 (17-3 for Christ’s sake!) with relatively little need to rely upon Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess. Yet, despite all the cries about their age and decline, both are playing extremely well on a per-minute basis. They haven’t lost much, if anything. They’re just playing fewer minutes. Meanwhile Gasol is already starting to break down from the load he’s had to carry–even though the Lakers have lost ground to the Spurs while playing a weaker schedule. Garnett has been carrying a large load, too. When the playoffs roll around, a reasonably well rested and healthy Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess will be able to step up their minutes and production and make this team that much better. The Spurs will actually improve when the playoffs hit, without adding any players, because they’ve been resting their best big men and giving Blair and Splitter the opportunity to gain some valuable experience without having to sacrifice their record to do so (as Boston did last year).

    I think a trade right now would be a colossal mistake, unless there’s a major injury. This team is tearing up the league even while they’re resting veterans and developing younger players for the playoffs! Why would you want to screw with that?! I’m sorry, but there’s simply no way that adding Jason Thompson, Anthony Randolph, or any other youngster who can’t even produce for lottery teams, or Antwan Jamison, James Johnson, or any other biggish guy who doesn’t play defense will do anything other than hurt this team. And that’s especially true when you factor in what so many of you forget to include in your trade scenarios–what it would take to get those players.

    Face it Spurs fans: THIS is your team for 2010-11. And hey, this team is winning like crazy. Two months ago, nobody on this board, not even optimists like myself, would’ve expected the Spurs to have the best record after 20 games and be the statistical favorite to win the Western Conference. And yet the most common sentiment on this board is concern because we don’t have a frontcourt as good as the ’86 Celtics! Newsflash: This team has a better frontcourt than a LOT of championship squads and it has the best group of perimeter players in Spurs history, by a wide margin. In my opinion, barring unforeseen injuries of substance, this is the team most likely to win the 2011 NBA championship.

    (…he said, unwittingly reciting an ancient and powerful injury-producing incantation).

  • mac

    re: Spurs’ net negative bigman PER

    This would/will improve as Duncan and Dyess get more minutes.
    It also requires Blair and Splitter to improve. Bonner is what he is.

    If Blair starts hitting some shots, that’s a gain. If Blair plays minutes at dirtywork center, he can gobble up more rebounds, so that’s a major gain, taking opportunities away from the opposition. Whether he can do it against Dallas, LA, Boston, idk.

    If Splitter gets plays, and scoring opportunity, that’s a plus. His defense should be a plus as he learns the rotations. Hitting FTs is a plus.

    These are the guys we have.

  • Flavor

    Tim in Surrey: Love the post. I agree.

  • ITGuy

    Well said Tim in Surrey.

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • luk

    defensive stats are tough because the best defenders’ men dont get passed to as much! Time with ball per passes received might be one indicator, but would need co-pilot stats, perhaps being the FG% and assists of man covered.

    seeing how for long and how effective an opposing player is *before*, *during*, and *soon after* being guarded by Player X would be a cool defensive stat to develop, too.

  • luk

    somebody get Tim in Surrey his own highlight reel of comments on this site. what a post, tim!


    Great post Tim in Surrey, I agree also especially about resting our bigs-
    “The Spurs will actually improve when the playoffs hit, without adding any players, because they’ve been resting their best big men and giving Blair and Splitter the opportunity to gain some valuable experience without having to sacrifice their record to do so (as Boston did last year).”

  • Bankshot21

    As much as I agree with your post Tim In Surrey I am inclined to point out something which agrees with your statement but adds a twist.

    I am completely against the idea of a trade. Why mess with 17-3 chemistry. This team could easily have been 20-0 when you look @ the games we loss. That being said I am not against the idea of a line up change. Blair to the bench. I feel we are not utilizing this kid properly. The difference between this and a trade is if it doesn’t work out it can be changed back and Blair can return as the starter. With a trade once the trigger is pulled there is no going back. Those 20-20 monster games are still in him, just not in the role he’s currently in. 17-3 we can not keep worrying about how we match up with others. I watched a 67 win Mavericks team coming off of a Finals in which they lost but had a 2 game to 0 lead alter their line up to match up with the 8th seed Golden State Warriors and LOSE. We all remember this I’m sure. The Mavericks would have held serve had they played their style of ball and kept Dampier in the line up. Let’s play our game with the pieces we have and roll the dice with them. Any match up issue’s can be made in game as POP is infamous for doing on the fly. We are in a wondeful position. You guys do not see how good we are, but we are competitive 10 players deep. GO SPURS GO.

    Jim Henderson, I know you have been reading these well written post and blogs. Your input is missed. Don’t let the heat of the moment exchanges have you feel otherwise.

  • rob

    Tim in Surrey

    “Frankly I’m tempted to do it as well, especially after Tim Varner’s column that provoked the last one.”

    Now don’t go do anything rash. But I find it unfair that one can’t have a different point of view without being considered lame, unknowledgeable, or ignorant just because of having a different point of view.

    And regarding your last post…I agree whole heartedly regarding the facts of the team as they stand now.

    But Tim Varner wasn’t “provoking” anything. He was pointing out facts at hand too. As they stood at the time. If one can’t form an opinion…post it as they feel and observe only to be condemed as if they were commiting a felony…then something is wrong and hypocritical with operating a site that many rely to help form an inteligent, fact based opinion.

    Timothy Varner did nothing wrong IMO. Some may need to just accept difference of opinion for what it is…a difference of opinion. Move on. Look forward to the next post. And enjoy the comradery of excited and thoughtful fans even though they may have a different opinion.

    If any of us were so intelligent that our “opinions” were always correct….we wouldn’t be posting them on a blog but rather hired, working and actually part of the Spurs team. (Who knows…some of the posters here could be Spurs players or coaches)

    But I for one look forward to differences of opinion than mine. It helps me grow in knowledge. Form better opinions. And have great dialog with other fans that share a passion for this team as much as I.

    Anyway…I miss Jim’s post too. But I would never consider not posting here just because some may have a different opinion. And if any of the people running this site were to tell me to calm down, let it go, or take the upper road…I would have to honor their request. For what I can see…they do an awesome job and deserve that respect.

  • td4life

    Tonight’s easy home win against GSW showed me what I have been asking for against weaker competition… 20+ minutes from Taigo. Not to mention, major minutes for Blair at “center” with the second unit. This not only improves our bigman PER versus their counterparts, it show’s Pop’s commitment to use these young guys to the most advantage. By showing us, we don’t have to speculate as to what his strategy is or isn’t. We need Blair’s rebounding, and I like Tiago’s offense, and we need both these youngs to mature defensively as much as possible so minutes are required. I think we can still bring Blair along slowly as a PF, without using him exclusively as a would-be McD.

    I also liked seeing Hill get heavy usage. I’ll take as much Hill and Neal as possible. I know we can’t keep Manu’s minutes under 30 and win at the current clip, but though he and TP are our MVPs right now, I think we need to protect him just as much as we do TD. This is what Tim in Surrey (who’s comments I appreciate) is overlooking when he touts SA’s advantages while predicting gimpy Boston and LA bigmen come playoff time. It’s a long season, and a hobbled Ginobili would alter our chances drastically.

    I have said repeatedly since last July that the Spurs will not be acquiring any new bigs (other than Tiago– who RC had promised earlier in the season). It has been clear for a long time that they are going with the guys they got, for better or worse. So far, so good. Tonight, TD was +11, Bonner +9, while Blair was +8, and Splitter brought up the rear at only +6. But so what. I would like to see Tiago thrown into the fire to the tune of 20mpg or so to hasten his development, if Pop is not gonna do that, play him against the lottery teams, thank you very much. This current home stretch is an interesting opportunity for these guys to learn and apply, to study and demonstrate… but the coach calls the shots.

  • Tim in Surrey

    @td4life – Yeah, that’s a really good point you make. I’m not thrilled with Manu’s career-high minutes per game right now. But I assume that it’s mostly because of the injury to James Anderson. Has there been any word on when he’ll be back?

    @Rob – Thanks for the reply. You make a great point about a lineup change versus a trade. Big difference. I’ll admit that I was a little bothered by Tim’s essay on Blair. It seemed as if that was all we had been discussing for a couple of weeks and it was obvious it would just set off the arguments again, much like last year with the trade TP discussions. But after thinking about your response, of course you’re right. Why should I get so annoyed? We don’t all have to have the same opinion and, hey, if I get tired of it I can always just move on to the next post.

    To all the guys at 48MoH, I do really enjoy this blog. It’s one of my favorites in any subject area. You provide a steady variety of creative and intelligent essays that continually spark exchanges between a big group of fans that are both astute and cool. So thanks to all of you.

    But I think I will let my comments on Blair rest for a long while–I’ve certainly had my say (and enough for a couple dozen others).

  • Bankshot21


    Dead on!!!

    I tried hammering the opinion point home to no avail. I had been feeling slightly bad for possibly contributing to the self imposed ban of JH but your post spoke volumes. And let us not all assume Jim isn’t posting due to something that was said. We have lives beyond this fine blog. He could be tending to personal matters in which he hasn’t had time to post. Let’s all just remember that your opinion is no more valuable in the grand scheme of things than the next man’s opinion.

  • spurs fan thru & thru

    Statistics do not reflect hustle, energy and heart.
    Blair brings all 3. He is starting to put all the new
    summer lessons into work and now has the double-doubles to prove it.
    He will be a monster in the starting line-up in the
    weeks and months to follow.

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