San Antonio Spurs 106, Orlando Magic 97: the Popovich plan

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AT&T CENTER — Suffocating defense in the last five minutes? Check. Timely 3-pointers? Check. Sprinkle in a little Manu Ginobili in at the end for good measure and this victory over the Orlando Magic looks oddly familiar yet so, so, different.

Several years ago, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich started transitioning the team, making contingency plans for Tim Duncan’s eventual decline. Gone were the days of playing 4-on-5, or 3-0n-5 on offense for the sake of keeping an extra defensive player or two on the court.

Perhaps knowing that at some point Duncan would no longer be able to compensate for their offensive deficiencies for 35+ minutes a night throughout the season, and eventually that lack of offense would put too much pressure on the defense, Popovich started making changes.

It began with the reduced role of Bruce Bowen, opting instead to start the declining offensive talents of Michael Finley and keeping five players with offensive capabilities on the court at all times. Throughout was the dedication to floor spacing big man Matt Bonner. Trading for Richard Jefferson. And the final piece was to have begun last season, handing the keys to the offense to point guard Tony Parker.

The fruition of these plans were delayed, mostly by injury, but Popovich and the Spurs have always been more about the process, knowing that results would eventually follow. Last night, the Spurs showed a glimpse of what might be Popovich’s masterstroke–rebuilding around an aging Tim Duncan. Last night, each of those moves paid off.

As Timothy Varner pointed out, Duncan totaled only 28 minutes against a team that featured a dominant big man in Dwight Howard. In the first half, the San Antonio Spurs failed to get a single point out of the post, either via Duncan, free throws, or a kick-out to an open shooter, opting instead for a steady diet of pick-and-rolls, fast break opportunities, and isolations for Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. And yet the Spurs prevailed.

This is not to rush Duncan into retirement by any means, or to transition him completely into defensive anchor and offensive afterthought the way David Robinson once did — though Duncan was brilliant in this last night, staying active, coming up with three steals, two blocks, and a number of other deflections and altered shots.

Instead, this was a display of the Spurs might, even when Duncan is not doing the heavy lifting. The defense has yet to come together completely, and right now, while they have not completely abandoned their stay-at-home defensive principles, the Spurs have adapted to their opponents increased field goal percentage by getting their hands in the lane, getting deflections, creating turnovers.

But that offense, that offense is a thing of beauty. It starts with the backcourt, which is the best in the NBA and led by Tony Parker, who Chris Paul be damned, is playing as well if not better than any point guard in a league increasingly dominated by them (24 points, 10 assists, and another near perfect balancing act between the two).

Ginobili still remains the closer, mostly due to the fact that he is the primary option to drawing fouls or pulling up for a 3-pointer as he did last night.

If there is any separation between these two elite teams, it’s that the Spurs backcourt generates layups, free throws, and assists while the Magic guards, they generate pull-up jumpers off the dribble or curls. Which can make them look extremely dangerous when the shots are dropping, but inconsistent because ultimately shots don’t always drop — even for the best shooters.

Augmenting the dribble penetration of Ginobili and Parker is Matt Bonner, who might be proving the exception to the rule regarding shots not always dropping. Admittedly that last line was a bit of an embellishment, but 4-4 from three, 15 points, and a team-high 36 minutes of plus/minus goodness.

Second in minutes was Richard Jefferson, who proved again that not all 2-7 nights are not created equal, playing aggressive defense, drawing fouls, and hitting two huge 3-pointers, one from the baseline in the closing minutes in typical Spurs small forward fashion.

With the Spurs off to their best start ever, having passed their biggest test to date, the question becomes: How good can this team be? The Los Angeles Lakers still remain the measuring stick, with all that length supplementing a league-leading offense in a way that the Spurs frontline rotation will only be able to match if Tiago Splitter develops just right.

But again, that offense, that offense has the potential to be so much more than the Lakers. Because it’s not clicking on all cylinders yet, hard as it is to believe. The Spurs have a roster perhaps matched only by Boston in it’s ability to create offense from every position on the court.

Preventing it from peaking is the missing post presence of Tim Duncan. Again, in keeping with the process, the footwork, drives, and looks have been stellar. There have been opportunities. Shots simply have not dropped. And when they do?

In championship years, in moments before celebration, there was often an opposing player in the closing seconds, smothered, suffocated, and cut off from anything resembling a good look. Last night, watching Jameer Nelson hounded, 3-pointers cut off until eventually forced into a turnover, it all looked oddly familiar. Even if it was so, so, different.

  • Bankshot21

    Not only a great write but dead on target regarding my favorite player as my name suggests. Tim Duncan is getting what he wants when he wants it. He is still damn near unstoppable on the low block when in single coverage but the only person who ever could stop TD is stopping TD, and that’s TD himself. Not father time as many of you would like to suggest. His FG% isn’t even the lowest of his career. He’s just missing chip shots. Easy left handed hooks. Easy rolls to the basket after setting the screen. I’m confident this will change, but if he does begin to get as efficient as we’re are used to I hope the Spurs don’t begin to rely too much on it. What we have going now is masterful and no one can tell me different.

  • Hobson13

    Good article. Our offense is indeed looking very good. We put up 106 points on a very good defensive team that only gives up 91ppg (third in the league). This was only the second time all season a team has scored 95+ points on them. BTW, let’s not forget that this was our 3rd game in 4 days.

    “But again, that offense, that offense has the potential to be so much more than the Lakers. Because it’s not clicking on all cylinders yet, hard as it is to believe.”

    To me, this is the scary part. Yes, Tim hasn’t put up big numbers but more importantly, Blair and Splitter have yet to fully develop and Anderson has missed time. The big question I have now is how good can this team really get? Are we a 65 win club? A 60 win club? Or merely a 52 win club (like many thought before the season started) off to a fast start? In a way, its a very good thing these previously mentioned haven’t played to their potential. I wouldn’t want the Spurs playing their best basketball in November. Let’s save that for the Spring.

    Manu, Parker, RJ, Bonner, and Dyess are all playing as well as we can expect them to play. This team’s ceiling will come down to how the young guys develop (not a big surprise). I would expect to see heavy minutes from Tiago, Blair, Neal, and Hill against the T-wolves. We should be 13-1 by Thursday.

  • ali

    orright here is my main concern. right now we look like the mavs. good reg. season team awful palyoff team. y MATT BONNER.

    he is playing great now. his shots r going in, and we r winning largely because of him either making shots or opening the offense up. which provides more good than his bad def.

    but here is the problem. in the last 2 playoffs he chocked. what makes u think he wont this time. and if he chockes his offense will not outplay his D. and at this rate blair and tiago wont be ready 2 contribute in the palyoff.

    so r we really a good team or just a good regular season team, like the mavs?

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  • quincyscott

    “BTW, let’s not forget that this was our 3rd game in 4 days.”

    That’s a great point. The first two of those three were back-to-back, and, unlike seasons past, the Spurs do not appear the least bit worn out in that situation. A testament to the low minutes by the stars and the quality of our bench.

  • ITGuy

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • quincyscott

    @ali

    I am not a Matt Bonner fan, as a rule, and your point about his performance in the playoffs has validity. My biggest complaint has always been that his poor defense nullifies his good offense. However, I do think the following things are true:
    Regarding last night’s game, Bonner contributed in many other ways besides his timely shots. I never thought I would say these things, but Bonner played tough against the likes of Howard and Bass. He crashed the boards. He passed well. He really played a great overall game, and I was genuinely impressed. If he is able to contribute in other ways besides just shooting, he is a very valuable player. My other assertion is that I do not believe this team is riding Bonner’s shooting for victories. Our 3 point shooting is certainly an important part of the offense, but that offense has a lot of things working well right now.

    Bonner is being asked to chip in open 3s, not hit game-winning 3s. It’s going to be Ginobilli or Parker shooting those. I think he is capable of doing that very well. Yes, he needs to perform come playoff time, but I think that is an uncertainty for just about anybody on the team not named Duncan, Parker or Ginobilli. I am skeptical, too, until I see results. It’s a long season. But I am also cautiously optimistic. Players can turn into winners, even late in their careers, given the right situation with the right team. Paul Pierce comes to mind, and Lamar Odom, and even crazy Ron Artest. I’m hoping the same can be said of Antonio McDyess and Richard Jefferson, and, strange though it may sound at the moment, maybe even Matt Bonner can be an NBA champion. If Duncan, Parker and Ginobilli stay healthy, anything is still possible.

  • quincyscott

    The Mavs have never won anything. Their “star” still does not know what it’s like to win a title. I am not saying they never will, only that it’s maybe harder to do it if you’ve never done it before. The Spurs have three players and a coaching staff who have been to the mountain and back, and I think this means a lot, even if they are a few years older. Those guys will be clutch when the games really matter, and hopefully our newer players will learn from them.

  • rabis

    Spurs are playing well right now. Hopefully they can continue to get better. They have to develop TS to match with PG of lakers. If not it will be 6 game series. Lakers have formidable front line with PG, LO and AB. Spurs have slight edge at 1, 2 positions.

  • http://www.bpifanconnect.com Alix Babaie

    @ali

    so r we really a good team or just a good regular season team, like the mavs?

    Dude, bite your tongue! The Spurs have skins on the wall with their current big 3 stars and have other guys to compete in the NBA Finals such as McDyess and Jefferson….what do the Mavs have? One of the biggest “choke” jobs in NBA Finals history, so think before you type.

  • MJ

    The Spurs are clicking on all cylinders right now because of Pop’s methodical way of rotating his players. He uses Timmy only when he needs to. It’s like his trump card. Why pull it out when everything is going as planned? This Spurs’ team’s defense still rotates around Tim Duncan being that anchor in the middle, but Pop utilizes that only when necessary. Along with that the offense has shifted from throw down low, spreading the shooters philosophy to Manu-Tony mayhem which leads to an unpredictable offense. This really confuses the defense of the opposing team because now there’s no one way to actually guard the Spurs. Throw in a rejuvinated Richard Jefferson who is running around the court like a roadrunner and a Matt Bonner that never seems to miss from beyond the line, you have the creation of an explosive offensive lineup. And the crazy part about all this, this offense works without TD being a major contributor in it. As for Tiago, he will get his opportunities. He is still adjusting to the way of life in the NBA, and the rules of the Euroleague is completely different then how the NBA runs things, and I can only assume that TS has not acclimated these changes yet in practice, so why allow him to be a de-factor on the court in an actual game. I think everyone knows that TS is part of the Spurs long term plans, along with George and DeJuan. It’s all about transitioning them slowly. Unlike other teams in the league, the Spurs have a system developed and in place that allows them to create and develop a team with the resources that they have. It’s like a high-prep university. Consider the Spurs to be like the Harvard of the NBA.

  • junierizzle

    Great win!! It was close and the SPURS got the stops. That was the best part.

    I also think that this win humbled them a little. They just came out unfocused in the 3rd quarter. Everything has been coming pretty easy. They made lazy passes and had four straight turnovers. Just when it looked like they were about to pull away, like they have been doing. The MAGIC end up taking the lead. They had to regroup for a second.
    This was a great reminder to them that they haven’t done anything yet.

    I would also like to add RED ROCKET TO THE RESCUE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I know some of you were cringing when Lewis started to post him up. SO WHAT. I loved that strategy. Let LEwis take all the shots and take Howard out of the game.
    BESIDES, Matt held his own last night. He even made BASS give up his dribble at one point.

    I don’t know why everybody gets scared just because they take MAtt to the hole a couple of times? Relax. Besides he is on fire right now. Ill gladly trade 2 for 3.

  • VP of Common Sense

    Just ran across this…

    Joseph (Chicago)

    how good would the Spurs be if they didn’t screw up the Scola thing? They’d currently have Timmy, Scola, Blair, McDyess, Splitter for bigs. Competition for the Lakers unlike any other team.

    Bill Simmons (2:00 PM)

    Yeah, the Scola thing was their biggest mistake of the past 10 years and it’s never really been explained why they panicked like that – it would have been a luxury tax hit for one year (and not even for THAT much) and they just gave him away. >>I’m still not sold on them maintaining this pace… keep hearing that Manu’s ankles and knees are in much worse shape than they are letting on.<<

    Any validity or is this a "BS" report?…

  • Pegg Gropovich

    @quincyscott:

    “@ali

    so r we really a good team or just a good regular season team, like the mavs?

    Dude, bite your tongue! The Spurs have skins on the wall with their current big 3 stars and have other guys to compete in the NBA Finals such as McDyess and Jefferson….what do the Mavs have? One of the biggest “choke” jobs in NBA Finals history, so think before you type.”

    … and spell check before you post.

  • http://www.operaforthemasses.com David G

    @VP of Common Sense

    “keep hearing that Manu’s ankles and knees are in much worse shape than they are letting on.”

    That’s exactly why I just came to 40minsofhell…

    We all know SG is often full of sh*t and I’ve heard nothing about Manu’s ankles and/or knees being in somewhat bad shape.

    Can any of the 48 min guys clear this up?

  • ITGuy

    “maybe even Matt Bonner can be an NBA champion”

    Do you mean again? He’s already a champion.

  • bSwift

    Two things, number one we still have 4 guys from that 07 championship, one of whom was not on the playoff roster but should not be ignored. Yes its him, our sandwhich lovin, three point drainin, ginger definin, MATT BONNER. Bonner might have “choked” in playoffs the last two years, but the guy knows what it takes to win and he has been on a winning team before.

    As for Simmons, he usually does have inside information on alot of teams, usually only ones in the Boston area, but I agree, we don’t need to worry about what he thinks about the Spurs. He tends to believe that the only teams worth mentioning in sports are from Boston, New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles, you see this in his Baseball and Football writing more than anywhere else, (probably because New York and Philadelphia havent had competative Basketball teams in almost a decade). He provides great analysis in retrospect but I always take his predictions with a big market grain of sand.

  • Flavor

    Bill Simmons is mad we’re looking so good here in San Antonio… Just creating some poo poo story to make himself feel better

  • rob

    Hobson13

    “BTW, let’s not forget that this was our 3rd game in 4 days.”

    I think this is a great point. Ginobili and some others were looking a little dead legged towards the end of the 3rd. And I had not realized this point.

    It only goes to show how determined and really good this team is proving to be this year. To somehow munster the determination to not lose this game was phenominal.

    It was like two heavy weights having a slugfest of 3 point barrages and the team that flinched first would lose.

    And in looking at the post game comments of Pop, Ginobili and Parker…you could see they had nothng left to be excited about regarding the win. They were completely physically and mentally exhausted.

    Hence my concern of Ginobili playing too many mpg early in the season. I know it’s great for the win/loss expectations and desires…but will that be good for the long haul of what’s going to be a demanding season?

  • Mike T

    Simmons just won’t admit that he underestimated the Spurs (even in his retro NBA preview with hindsight) and he is looking to play the “old card” by specifically citing some issue with Manu. If Manu breaks down, Simmons can say “See, I told you”. He acts like he enjoys watching the Spurs but then he sounds like he has no clue what he is talking about. Stampler on Pounding the Rock tore into him about his retro preview. Manu sure doesn’t look hobbled to me.

  • DorieStreet

    Good article, although one main point was not listed- FO stopped getting past-their-prime/over-the-hill league veterans & started to draft young collegiate players with game. We need Anderson back ASAP so he can get into the rotation flow by all-star break (& before Manu injures himself-that’s just his style of play-maybe he can temper it “just a bit”. The rebounding discrepancy worries me- it was a double-digit margin most of the game. Halfway through the 10-game test of +.500 opponents/BTB/west coast road trip—I thought going 7-3 would mean the Spurs mean business; can the team be 15-3 when December 2nd arrives (or better)?

  • Robert

    @ali

    What separated us from the Mavs is championship pedigree…

    Enough said.

    Go Spurs Go

  • jwalt

    Manu is playing differently than ever before. Not nearly so reckless. He actually is acting like there is a tomorrow. Injuries can happen to anyone, but right now Manu seems to have figured out that diving all over the place is not the answer.

    Yes, his minutes need to be monitored, just like Timmy’s. But that sure as heck doesn’t mean he shouldn’t start, still Pop’s worst decision over the last few seasons. (I’m giving the Scola giveaway to a Buford decision).

  • Big Whit

    @ Hobson13

    Great point, the Spurs have not peaked yet. Add to your list that G Hill has not played his best ball yet. Plus there are two new guys at the end of the bench that can provide spot help plus hit some 3′s

  • Daniel B.

    I’m loving our winning ways, but I’m wary of pulling out the “65 wins” predictions yet. Fast starts come and go (anyone think the Hornets are going to be championship contenders? Really?), and we’re shooting the ball unsustainably well. We shot 63% from 3-point range last night. That simply won’t continue to be true. We’re going to regress to the mean eventually. Hopefully, when we do, we’ll continue to have the re-emergent TP and Manu playing well, and they’ll be joined by an improved Duncan, a catching-on Blair, and a well-acclimated Splitter.

    With all that said, I’m loving the ride so far. Hard not to!

  • Jim Henderson

    ali
    November 23rd, 2010 at 9:05 am

    “orright here is my main concern. right now we look like the mavs. good reg. season team awful palyoff team. y MATT BONNER.”

    I think your point is exaggerated, but a good one nonetheless (although no need to compare us to the Mavs). But let me preface my comments with a high-five to Matt Bonner for last night’s game. While his continued blistering shooting beyond the arc is great, it was his ability through max effort & mental focus to hold his own against Lewis & Bass defensively, and his ability to accept the challenge on the boards in the 2nd half that was most deserving of praise in my view. Let’s not forget, Bonner is not the most athletic 4/5 in the world. It takes “real” dedication for him to hold his own against the likes of Lewis & Bass, and to rebound effectively against a front line as talented as Orlando’s. And Pop knows how to get the most out of Bonner, which was critical in last nights match-up. The fact is, at this stage of his career, Lewis is a very difficult cover for DeJuan Blair, who still is not comfortable enough with defending out on the perimeter. So Pop wanted to go with Bonner’s experience & hot-hand as long as he could. But there was a problem brewing as we headed toward half-time: Bonner had ZERO rebounds in his first 13 minutes of playing time. The fact is team’s are normally not going to win if they finish the game greater than a minus ten on the boards. I don’t know what Pop said to Bonner, but he battled as much as his abilities would allow to scratch out 7 boards in his last 23 minutes. No doubt, Bonner played a crucial role in that game last night. So hats off to him for his preparation, effort and professionalism.

    Now back to Ali’s point. Unlike last night, Bonner has yet to prove that he can be a factor for us in the playoffs. So the question is, is this a special year for the team, and for Matt Bonner in the playoffs? In my view it can be, but I’d still say that the odds are long, despite both Bonner’s, and our team’s blistering start.

    My reasons are as follows:

    (1) The playoffs are distinctly more intense defensively than during the regular season, and tend to be dominated more by half-court play. Both of these realities do not play into Bonner’s strengths.
    (2) We do not have a dominant low-post scorer, nor a real “intimidating” presence at the rim, which have almost always been necessary ingredients to win a title. As a 4th/5th big Bonner does not help us with this relative soft spot.
    (3) Traditionally 3-point spot-up shooters get less “open looks” in the playoffs compared to the regular season. Bonner is not as good of a 3-point shooter when the coverage is tighter for a variety of reasons: his release is not particularly quick, his release point is on the “low” side, and he doesn’t shoot nearly as well with a hand in his face (and he cannot run off screens like Ray Allen!).

    The caveat to this is: how good can our play makers be in the playoffs to free up Bonner for enough open looks, and will our young guns (Blair, Splitter) improve enough in the low post to draw attention away from Bonner setting up on the perimeter? So far this year, with the big three healthy, the play makers are looking pretty special, and the team in general is executing extremely well on the offensive end for this early in the season. Now, can Blair & Splitter improve enough offensively in the low post to help give Bonner that extra second he needs to maximize his 3-point bombs? To me that remains a big question mark for this season come playoff time. Can the two young guns on the front line come through in time for this season’s playoffs? Can the stretch 4 concept with Bonner pay off this year by helping us win a few important playoff games?

    Penny for your thoughts?

  • Francesco

    Next one with Minnesota (anxious to watch Tiago again), then Dallas and the rematch with NO…

    Really a pity Anderson is out, he would have helped keeping Manu’s minutes low in the less important games.

  • Francesco

    @Jim Henderson

    my thoughts exactly, although it was encouraging to see how we won a game against a battle-tested team whose style is suited for the playoff.

    Our pace scares me, but then again if we really are 7th defensively so far…

    But then again, and as always in the end, the real test are the Lakers.
    I’ve watched quite a few of their games, and they win so effortlessly… And with Bynum out!
    Come May, Bryant can play for 40 minutes offence and defence while remaining effective, Manu can’t.

    But fuck it’s good to see Tim play with emotion, and Manu getting into his teammates’ face: he’s finally accepted his “on the court coach” role.

  • duaneofly

    Of course we don’t want Manu playing so many minutes that he is injured in the spring and misses the playoffs, however we shouldn’t limit his (or TD/TP) minutes so much that it costs us victories.
    There is a psychological aspect to basketball; the more we win, the more we blow opponents out, the more we pull out last minute victories out of our butts, the more it demoralizes our opponents, which will definitely affect their play.
    If we can get back to that level of play, where teams fear us again, we will be truly deadly.
    Yes, guys like TD, TP, and Manu understand Pop’s plans for winning, but if he benches them, and we lose, that only goes to demoralize OUR team. Players like to win, the more they win, the more they’ll enjoy playing the game, playing hard nose D, and the more we will continue to win because of it.

  • rj

    anyone think we can run some iso post plays for splitter? maybe tim duncan isn’t as dominant a scorer as he was 5 yrs ago and was relatively innefective o n the low block against varejao and d12, but if we can go to splitter on the low block, maybe he can compensate for the waning interior post presence of duncan. splitter has a nice touch and solid footwork. dyess is playing better d and is nearly automatic from 15, so how can we get splitter involved?

  • Bankshot21

    Jim,

    “(2) We do not have a dominant low-post scorer, nor a real “intimidating” presence at the rim, which have almost always been necessary ingredients to win a title. As a 4th/5th big Bonner does not help us with this relative soft spot.”

    ???….Did Tim Duncan die and no one told me? I watched Tim get doubled over and over and when he didn’t he either missed an easy lay or blew the doors off of D12 and took it to the rack for the lay. This man is still getting what he wants when he wants. They will start to fall. He will be back to 50%+ by seasons end. Can a man have a rough start without being declared done? And on the defensive end he’s getting us 2 blocks a game. Tell Duhon that we don’t have an intimidating rim protector and he’ll ask you “then who sent my floater out of bounds”

    Am I biased? Look at my name. No shit I am. But I do know what I’m watching and TD is anchoring the defense as good as any other big in this league. If 3 steals and 2 blocks don’t intimidate I don’t know what will.

  • badger

    This (the original post) was a great article. By the time I finished all the comments, I had to go back and read the original post again so that I could remember why I liked it so much.

    I liked it, because it may have identified prescisely what Pop had been trying to accomplish last year, but was unable to bring to fruition. If Pop sat back the last 4-5 years, and watched TD slowly lose a little here and a little there, he must have spent plenty of hours sipping the pinot noir trying to come up with a solution.

    Obviously, even the TD we have now is still well worth putting on the court game after game. However, Pop had to have a plan for how to win when TD could only reasonably be counted on for 10-15 points and 8-10 rebounds over 20-25 minutes, as opposed to the stuff that makes him the best in Spurs history, and likely the first or second best power foward of all time.

    Well, the time has come for Pop’s solution to come to fruition.

    TD clearly is no longer our No. 1 option on offense. Hell, sometimes he isn’t the third option. Instead, he is now part of a team that can see 5-7 players in double figures for points, and 3 in double figures for rebounds,EVERY SINGLE NIGHT!!!! Add in career high assist totals for a healthy TP, and this team is the most well balanced, deepest in memory.

    The article may well have identified the master plan that’s been hiding behind injuries, players learning the system, contract negotiations, etc. If so, Pop is a genius, and he deserves NBA coach of the year honors if we keep pace with the Lakers record from start to finish!
    Coach of the cetury if we knock off the Lakers and hoist another O’Brien trophy in June.

    GREAT ARTICLE

  • http://www.taxi4hire.com/ orlando taxi

    so r we really a good team or just a good regular season team, like the mavs?

  • http://www.operaforthemasses.com David G

    My favorite moment from last night was after Gary Neal fouled Duhon instead of Howard at the end of the third quarter he Pop brought Neal over the the sideline and screamed “HOWARD!”

    some other notes from last night

    http://www.operaforthemasses.com/2010/11/nba-thoughts-november-23-2010.html

  • andy

    yeah, i second the kudos on the article.

    it makes me proud to be a spurs fan to see the logistical niggling that had to happen for our current status. what is most intersting to me now, though, is what this could mean for the idea of needing 3 megastars.

    if, and that’s a huuuuuuuge, way further down the road if, we challenge for, and win the title, does that make some of these younger athletes re-evaluate what it takes to win a championship? does it seed doubt in the lebron method? right now, with what we hear from the athletes, it seems unanimous that they’d pull a lebron (in action, not in promotion) and join forces. however, if we show that through superior teamwork and execution, that 3 mere stars can get it done, does that change the picture?

    sidenote: look, i’m not saying duncan, ginobili, and parker aren’t worth their weight in gold. however, they’re clearly not perceived as megastars or all-nba players anymore. if we win, people will most likely be saying that we won because of teamwork; it’s the perception of things that i’m curious about.

  • NYC

    @Jim Henderson

    Great points about Bonner and the team. He is what he is, so let’s give him scorn where scorn is due, and credit where credit is due.

    Last night, he deserves a lot of credit for the way he hustled. I watched him just yank the ball out of an Orlando player’s hand near the end out of sheer “wanting-it-more.” That play was huge. Not anything that will make a highlight reel, but just as crucial as any 3-pt shot he hit. And he did that IN SPITE of his limited athleticism, so you know he was working extra hard.

    I hope for the sake of the team he continues to perform come playoffs. Maybe he will, maybe he won’t. I suspect it is a lack of confidence in himself that is causing him to choke on the big stage. Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m not. No one can honestly say they know what will happen at this point, so let’s all just be cool and wait and see before we rush to hang him or anoint him the savior.

    Same is to be said when he inevitably has a bad shooting night.

  • andy

    hmm… niggling does not mean what i remembered it as meaning. i think most get the point (manuevering).

  • Duff Beer

    Even if Matt’s shots aren’t going in, his presence is still felt on the floor because he spreads the floor. This allows our 1s 2s and 3s to penetrate the lane more easily.

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Len

    I would take the Spurs validation of Manu via the 3 yr extension over anything that Simmons has to say about Manu. Give me a break.

    Bill needs to stick to what he knows…

    Sports movies
    His girl
    Boston

    And prepare a big apology for his lowball of the Spurs this season.

    Simmons is a Spurs insider… LOL.

  • Flavor

    Bankshot21: Spot on!

  • ChrisC

    I tend to cut Bill Simmons some slack; he’s the first person I’ve seen out of Boston to consistently give high kudos to Gervin, Duncan, and the Spurs org. If you cut your pro ball teeth on the ABA, like I did, the Boston-SA animosity can run deep.

  • jwalt

    Jim H. — one correction regarding Bonner. He has a quick release, actually exceptionally quick for a big man. So many times his defender thinks he can close out on Bonner but the ball is gone before he’s there.

  • jwalt


    Ginobili still remains the closer, mostly due to the fact that he is the primary option to drawing fouls or pulling up for a 3-pointer as he did last night.”

    No, Manu is the closer because he is one of the most clutch players in the league. His will to win is Jordanesque. Drawing fouls is one of the ways he beats you, but the fact is he will find some way to beat you. He’s the closer because Pop likes to win!

  • jwalt

    Wish I had the stats available but if you compared FT and FG pcts. in the last five minutes of close games, I’d bet my house Manu’s pct. are much, much higher than either Tim’s or Tony’s. In fact, I’d bet both my house and car.

    So saying Manu is the closer for any other reason than just that he can get it done is plain silly.

  • Jim Henderson

    jwalt
    November 24th, 2010 at 9:40 am

    “Jim H. — one correction regarding Bonner. He has a quick release, actually exceptionally quick for a big man.”

    Matt Bonner’s shot release speed is at best mediocre (maybe “slightly” above for a big man). That combined with the fact that he has a relatively low release point, and is clearly on the slow and un-athletic side of the ledger (even compared to other stretch 4′s), makes it very difficult for him to get off as many good looks in an uber-intensive playoff atmosphere.

  • Jim Henderson

    jwalt
    November 24th, 2010 at 9:48 am

    “…..FG pcts. in the last five minutes of close games, I’d bet my house Manu’s pct. are much, much higher than either Tim’s or Tony’s.”

    I’d say TD’s FG % was higher in his prime.

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