Lockout basketball and the Manu-less Spurs


AT&T Center–The thing about nuclear winter is that the aftermath has more to do with resourcefulness, luck and survival than it does actual skill. Thursday night’s game was a battle of attrition and the San Antonio Spurs were fortunate enough to land the night’s first blows.

Gary Neal, starting at Manu Ginobili’s vacated shooting guard spot in only his second game back, opened the game with a flurry of three-pointers and the Dallas Mavericks did not have the resolve to answer back. By the third quarter both teams were slogging through the motions trying simply to get through the night.

“San Antonio’s energy was better to start the game and that was the difference,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said. “We struggled, but their competitive level was higher and really, the decisive part was the first half.

“It’s a hit first league, they hit us first, and we didn’t respond well enough in the second half.”

This was the very definition of a lockout game:

lockout  game|ˈläkˌout gām|

1.) A game played  played in a compressed, shortened season as the result of a labor dispute in which the quality of play suffers enough to make one wish to divert their eyes.

2.) Any game in which San Antonio Spurs reserve Matt Bonner outscores future Hall of Famers Tim Duncan and Dirk Nowitzki combined.

That second fact is enough to throw away the box score and bury the game film. Trying to affix any additional meaning to the game would be a fruitless endeavor, not that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich will apologize for the victory.

“[The Mavericks] were  on their fourth game in five nights, we were on our third in four nights, and neither team was very sharp,” Popovich said. “We happened to shoot well. We’re thrilled to have the win; we’re not going to give it away.

“Our guys played hard and we ended up with a good win, but both teams have a long way to go.”

There is a long way to go and a short time to do it in. There will be injuries, dead legs, and bipolar play from one night to the next. But the same goes for the entire NBA. This was an asterisk game in a season that will be full of them. There was no magical formula for defending Dirk Nowitzki (3-11, six points) the Spurs can replicate that a night of rest would not cure for the Mavericks. And as putrid as their three-point shooting was (1-19, 5.3%), the Spurs know there will be nights they easily match it.

“When we played at Houston we might have rivaled that,” Matt Bonner said, referring to the Spurs 85-105 loss to the Rockets in which his team shot 2-17 from three. “It was just one of those nights for them. They’re a much better shooting team, we know that and we have a lot of respect for them. We just caught them on a good night for us.”

As Bonner pointed out, there will be nights in which the schedule proves to be more dangerous than the opponent. Games the Spurs were never going to win. These are called accountable losses, and Popovich has had the Spurs taking advantage of them with rest and opportunities for younger guys over the past five years.

“It’s a long season and I think Pop understands that,” Tim Duncan said. “We’ll continue to spread it out, hopefully get a lot of games like this where we can rest guys and not wear ourselves out. Everybody’s got to do it.”

The Spurs of course will be doing it for a large stretch without the injured Manu Ginobili. While his prognosis (six weeks) was enough to bring thought of doom and gloom and talks of tanking, doesn’t the chaotic schedule soften the blow?

There are enough bad, undisciplined teams in the NBA for the Spurs to tread water on the legs of Tony Parker, a young second unit stocked with defenders and shooters, and the mind of Gregg Popovich. These are the games the Spurs have to win.

Then there are the games the Spurs can already pencil in as losses. That fourth game in five nights on the road in which all the Manu Ginobili’s in the world were never going to make a difference.

But between those games will be a minefield of asterisks. Games the Spurs would not have won otherwise without Ginobili that are made possible because in the chaos of a lockout game sometimes a Matt Bonner will inexplicably destroy a Hall of Famer (something about nuclear winters and the meek inheriting the Earth).

The Spurs might have lost their greatest closer when Manu Ginobili went down, but in the lengthy battle of attrition that is this NBA season, often times all that matters is who hits first.

  • sam

    lol ,   to be honest this mav. team doesn’t scare me .  even if both teams were rested.    they look old and slow out there .   especially on the perimeter

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic article.  Hits the nail on the head and should be a reminder to us all during this season when the Spurs eventually lose some games due to attrition and a compressed schedule.

  • Anonymous

    Something else I’m noticing in this lock-out shortened season.  It seems like an abnormal amount of key players across the league are getting injured.  Some more serious than others…but enough to add another definition to “lock-out game”.

    That which utilizes a team’s bench players more often due to injury(s) sustained to key players because of too many games played in a short period of time.

  • Anonymous

    Just like last year . We made lot’s of 3’s we win. What remains to be seen is Winter shoes going to pull that stunt (empty holster) again in the 1st round of the playoffs? This will be his 3rd time or fourth time?

  • Wambofilo

    GO SPURS whatever you all call it, we won and thats what I like!

  • Lvmainman

    Can’t Pop use more of these type games to get Splitter more post touches? Or maybe Blair? The Spurs need to start working on the post-up skills of the bigs when up 20(last night) or down 20(in Houston) and it’s garbage time, especially the nights when the 3 isn’t falling.

  • http://profiles.google.com/lordxar Ray Briggs II

    Completely agree. I wish Pop would go to Splitter more in the post. He has the skills to at least be decent down there but he needs the touches to adjust his speed with the ball. He holds it way to long right now. I’d like to see him get the ball and immediately make his move.
    And he needs to take it strong to the basket. For a man his size he does not play above the rim.

  • Pingback: The Point Forward » Posts Court Vision: Knicks may offer Amar’e Stoudemire to rent Dwight Howard? «()

  • Pingback: Spurs Nation » Takes from my blog brothers: Why Pop gets it()

  • Anonymous

    This is really his first real year and I think Pop just wants him to be Orberto. Pop should focus on Tiago and plays for him as you posted and such.  

  • Tyler

    ?? Maybe I’m crazy, but we’ve posted Tiago more in the first 7 games that we did in all of last year. 

    I love what Tiago brings, but I seriously doubt he’ll ever be a guy you can work through down low. His feel isn’t great with his back to the basket. However, his jumper and free throws look much better, much smoother.  

  • http://twitter.com/blanchard48moh Jesse Blanchard

    All the experience in the world isn’t going to help a busted hook shot. He just doesn’t have a great scoring feel/touch creating for himself. 

  • Kingofamericans

    I’m not an expert or anything by I think our team should try and find a decent big man scorer on the inside to spread our offense some more.

  • Justin-ray

    A win is a win


    The Utah Jazz a loaded with big men.  Two of which ( I presume what they consider to be their future front court tandem of Favors and Kanter) are locked in for 4 to 5 years.  Milsap and Jefferson’s contracts are for (including this season) 2 years.  Also, Utah has several young draft picks in Miles, Hayward and Burks.  Yet Utah, even with Devin Harris, is a weak perimeter team.  The division they play (NW) is a tough division.  OKC, Portland, Denver, Min.  It will be some time before their young players develop any consistency as a team and truly contend for a top spot in that division.

    What are they going to offer Al Jefferson in two years?  Enough for him to stay?  How long do they keep their young post players from getting enough minutes per game to develop into solid nba players because of Jefferson in the rotation?

    I have an idea.  In a strait out trade of Parker for Jefferson works in the trade machines but don’t know if Utah would bite on that proposal.  What the Spurs would lose in Parker I think could be made up with Ford, Neal and the development of Cory Joseph.  What the Spurs gain in Al Jefferson is one of the top centers in the league who could spell Duncan’s minutes on the court thus allowing Duncan to play at a higher level for the next several years plus giving the Spurs a solid DEEP front court presence.  Which we all agree is their weakest attribute on the team.

    Does that weaken the Spurs perimeter game? Definitely.  But does it weaken it to the point that the current set of perimeter players could not still perform solidly.  NO.  It could easily be the case that with a front court presence of Jefferson, Duncan, Splitter and Blair that it would help enhance the team’s perimeter players just by solidifying it’s front court and the loss of Parker compensated because of it.

    Anyway, a long description to your simple question.  As Pop pointed out, the team isn’t just going to inject any big man.  It’s a way to get a top big man while Parker would provide experience and leadership to a young group of talent on the Utah Jazz while also improving their weak perimeter game.  Utah already has a first round pick next season in a solid nba draft.  If they manage to not make the playoffs (it might behoove them not to this year) they then have at least TWO first round picks in next years draft that is loaded with talent but oddly enough not so much talent in the PG area of that draft.  Parker for them locked in for the next 4 years would be a great way for Utah to load up in other areas for a bright future in that division.  At least one that gives them a chance to be competitive in that division.

    The Spurs…it helps them remain competitive for at least another 4 years for title contention all the while being able to develop their young players for the future.


  • spursfanbayarea

    His release point on his hook shot is way too low. He is a legit 6 foot 11 player but his release point is that of someone 6 6. Thats why it is usually blocked. He should never get a hook shot blocked. That is something he must improve on to become a reliable post up option. HIs footwork is actually good, and he is crafty in getting off shots, but the problem is the low release. 

  • JustinFL

    I like were your head is at.  If the Spurs make such a move, it won’t be until the offseason which is smart.  They’re riding this thing 1 last time which I think is the best decision.  The only way that changes is if GOd Forbid, Duncan goes down for the season.  Then I think they would make some moves for the future.
      In my opinion, the Spurs are going to rebuild through the draft either by making trades for picks, or trades for players that just got picked like the GHill trade this summer. 
       It is a good strategy because draftees have to come out of college now which usually teaches them some level of maturity and discipline.  I would have to say one of the strengths of this organization is drafting. Do they always get it right?  Well,  maybe not, but we really haven’t been in top 15 position since Duncan, so it’s hard to say.  I for one trust them in regard to picking the right talent for the team. 

       Also with draft picks we would be getting talent on the cheap and when their rookie contract runs out, they’re restricted free agents so we can match all offers and keep them longer, as to say Al Jefferson would be an Unrestricted Free Agent after his contract is up.  But I know what you’re saying it is a win now scenario with Jefferson.  I think this FO is going to reevaluate everything after this season.  
      To me the biggest variable is Duncan.  After that, what value can you get for Parker if you decide to trade?  And after that, do you give RJ another year?  If he keeps playing this well we have to keep him.  Does Holt really want to pay this guy just to go away and not contribute for this team.  I feel we will need RJ for the future of the franchise unless you can sign a big free agent this offseason by amnestying him.  But there again those decisions cannot be made without knowing the outcome of Duncan’s future. 

  • rj

    that was one of the worst basketball games i have ever seen, on both ends, the execution and energy level was pathetic.

    looks like james anderson is falling out of the rotation. even though he was showing agression, the execution and finess was lacking. tiago is on a downswing. it wouldn’t surprise me to see digou get an opportunity on a back to back and outplay splitter.

  • Easy B

    I appreciate the thought process around this trade proposal. I don’t think this is the right trade for SA. If we could have got Al Jeff 2 years ago to compliment Duncan, maybe. IMO Tony is more valuable to a team. As rare as good bigs are, you can’t replace Tony so easily.

    The best plan the spurs could follow would be to look for a young athletic big who has the height and inside scoring to complement Tiago. Someone with height to work well with Blair also.

    The spurs will have more cap flexibility with Timmy off the books, and hopefully resigning for $7 mill a season.

    That’s a sizable chunk of coin to sign an emerging big. I like the guard and wing rotation…we have everything a team needs now: shooters, defenders, length, 3pt, speed, distributors, rebounders, closers, youth and experience.

    Perhaps the reason why Pop hasn’t added a genuine big is he is holding out for next year, and hasn’t found anyone who is the right fit for the right price.

  • Bry

    Well that’s a whole lot of impulsive speculation coming from a tiny sampling group. Everybody is throwing Anderson to the wolves and damning Splitter because of one or two disappointing games. It’s a long season. Everybody will get a ton of minutes.

  • spursfanbayarea

    Not really a fan of jefferson. Doesnt really rebound well enough for a big, doesnt play solid d, not a good weak side help defender. You are correct that utah has way too many big men. If we could take a big away from them, I would prefer we go after favors. If we could trade parker for say favors and devin harris. I think that helps out both teams. harris isn’t working in utah. He is still young, super fast and not too much of a downgrade from what parker gives us. Plus it would give us a top 3 talent that can contribute some shot blocking now and develop in the future and allow for us to have good core group of guys for many years to come. nba trade machine is down due to update for new cba, so what every else needs to be thrown in to make it work money wise would be a good trade. 

  • spursfanbayarea

    What does everyone think about a trade of parker for nash. We get a player who can replicate manu’s ability to create for others. we get a motivated player trying to go for a title. He is an expiring contract. We then have duncan and nash contract expiring. 33 million off of the cap. we can then amnesty jefferson for another 8 or so. that opens up 40 million in cap room. we can then go after deron williams and maybe kevin love or dream scenario howard(super long shot due to sa small market). This trade keeps us competitive for this year, and also sets us up for the future with lots of cap space to chase after a strong 2012 class. and then hopefully resign duncan at 5 million per year. 

  • spursfanbayarea

    also would ask suns for their first round pick, which likely will be a lottery pick. also another big man available in 2012 is r. hibbert. 

  • Anonymous

    1) you have to realize that Favors is the future of the Jazz franchise. Given the fact that they are not a playoff team this season, why aren’t they starting Favors? To showcase Al Jefferson for trade purposes, that’s why. They would likely swap AJ for Parker, maybe even AJ + Harris (the 2 guys they most want to dump) for Spurs assets. They also have a top 6 protected GSW pick in the next draft, so they might make a good trade partner given their 2 lottery picks, but dont get too excited… they NEED their lottery picks to continue their rebuild.

    As for the Spus, I agree with you that rather than add AJ, the Spurs need to get YOUNG talent, young talent with greater upside than AJ has maxed out at, young talent you can hopefully build around.

    2) Nash For Parker isn’t a bad swap, depending on what happens with TD next summer, as it would make us more competitive in the short-term. One problem is that TP instead of Nash isn’t gonna sit well with their fanbase (who HATE all things Spurs not named Duncan. Believe that, I listen to PHX broadcasts when we play them) and would definitely hurt tix sales, while also not making them better, but just serve as a stopgap PG for the franchise, allowing them to shore up every other position in the meantime. Bottom line: the Suns need to keep their lottery pick, they have TOO many holes to fill.

    What I’m getting at is the Spurs don’t have many pieces that can fetch lottery picks in this draft (they should have been more proactive a couple years ago). Their best trade partners are teams that are in win now mode, but that still need to take that next step and improve their roster now. A good example of this is HOU, with a core of Scola, Martin, Dalembert, and Lowry. Other good examples are ATL, IND, DEN, MEM and PHI… these are teams that will take a proven player over a draft pick.

    Pork ex

  • spursfanbayarea

    I didnt say that the jazz would do that trade, but rather thats what I would want instead of jefferson. also I do not think that favors is untouchable as well. His potential is very high, but he isn’t a proven product like a d. howard. they also have plenty of big men and just drafted another(katner). 

    phoenix is going to lose nash at the end of the season most likely. Do you think the fan base would rather have him leave for nothing instead of getting back a top ten pg? Yes the fans hate the spurs. but i don’t think they are soo ignorant that they would reject getting talent back for a player who is most likely to leave to pursue a championship. 

  • Anonymous

    Idk if Favors is untouchable, but he is better than Kanter, and it’s not crazy to say he will become Howard-like over time. Would they package him for D12, then lure back D-Will, and win now? Sure, but outside of unrealistic scenarios, I wouldn’t think he’s available, and not for Spurs assets. They might part with ONE of their 2 picks, they’d rather trade nothing other than AJ and Harris. I strongly agree with your valuing of Favors over AJ, and i guess we also agree that so do the Jazz.

    I did say that the Nash-Parker swap isn’t unreasonable, it just doesn’t really change either teams status in any remarkable ways. Would the Suns prefer to be a less marketable version of what they are now, or start over with a shot at their next Stoudamire?

    We could use a MEM, or DEN draft pick, trade partners SA should consider.