Pounding the Rock, a strike for strike account of the San Antonio Spurs regular season

by

The NBA playoffs open up with the San Antonio Spurs in their lowest playoff seeding of the Tim Duncan Era. But to understand why the Spurs are not discouraged about opening on the road in Dallas, instead of the friendly confines of the AT&T Center, there must first be an understanding of their philosophy.

San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and his team operate under a different philosophy than the rest of the world. Rather than living, dying or overreacting to every win or loss, the Spurs continue to chip away and build towards something.

“When nothing seems to help, I go look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock, perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before.”

Earlier in the season, around the trade deadline, I made an argument for the San Antonio Spurs holding steady to their current roster–something that, for better or worse, happened minus a Theo Ratliff or Michael Finley. Then I ventured to say that the Spurs were still championship contenders, even if Tim Duncan and company were not following the usual script.

The point I would make in my argument for keeping the team intact would be that each season, just as each stone, is different. Just because the plaque states on the hundredth and first blow the stone split in two does not mean every stone will break in 101 blows. Some take longer, especially when working with unfamiliar tools. Follow the process, however, and the results end up satisfactory more often than not.

A tough first round match-up with the Dallas Mavericks makes it hard to vindicate those words just yet, but there is a lot to learn sifting through the 82 blows the San Antonio Spurs have struck so far–each one is relevant, connected to the ones that came before it, and will affect what lies ahead.

Strike no. 24: The Science Was Sound, Richard Jefferson was not

The biggest story of the offseason, Richard Jefferson struggled and, perhaps unfairly, caught the blame for the brunt of the Spurs disappointments in early February, prompting everyone to label the trade a bust, as written byTimothy Varner:

But as the Richard Jefferson trade has shown, basketball is not all science. It’s science, some stuff you can’t quantify and luck. And the Richard Jefferson trade has failed on the last two accounts. No sense in pretending the world is round, when we all know it’s flat. Or some such.

But was it fair to expect a player, groomed in the Princeton offense and comfortable as a first or second option, to step in a impact a team right away? Perhaps early expectations pushed aside common sense.

Strike no. 1: The Two Week Reload, Richard Jefferson, DeJuan Blair and Antonio McDyess

A personal note from Graydon Gordian back in September:

And yet as I watched Spurs, both old and new, smile and nod, I got excited. Not just excited. Ecstatic. The season is approaching. Do you realize that? The 2009-10 season. Richard Jefferson. DeJuan Blair. Manu Ginobili. Those are just a few of the guys who are gonna be dressed in silver and black with a ball in their hand, a hoop in either direction and glistening hardwood beneath their feet.

Graydon’s sentiments were mirrored by Spurs fans everywhere, and why not? Over the course of a few weeks the San Antonio Spurs traded for Richard Jefferson, drafted DeJuan Blair and signed Antonio McDyess.

But as Timothy’s piece from earlier alluded to, chemistry might look good on paper, but you cannot be 100 percent sure how variables will react together until it’s tested out in the lab.

Strike no. 53: Standing Still, Richard Jefferson Struggles

Richard JeffersonIn short, handing the ball to Jefferson at a standstill against a set defense was never going to work.

Does that mean I believe the San Antonio Spurs front office was short sighted in acquiring such a poor fit? Without any insight into the team’s line of thinking, what makes sense is that if the team was not going to move Jefferson around it could at least move the defense.

In last year’s playoff series against the Mavericks, Tony Parker was able to collapse their entire defense. Only, with the rest of the supporting cast being nothing but spot-up shooters, Dallas was able to sell out in chasing shooters off the three-point line without fear of anyone outside of Parker getting to the rim.

In theory, even in a pick and roll offense Jefferson should be able to exploit the scrambling defense created by Parker and Ginobili’s penetration. Rotating defenders create opportunistic driving lanes.

Not being a primary creator, Jefferson’s production is a great indicator of how well or poorly Tony Parker or Manu Ginobili are playing. So where did things initially go wrong?

Strike no. 9: The New Realities of Tony Parker

Tony Parker has plantar fasciitis.

Strike no. 20: Whether All-Star or Role Player, Ginobili Key to San Antonio Spurs Success

Manu GinobiliThere are worries about extending Ginobili, to be sure. If it was a matter of being out of rhythm or out of shape, those are things that one would expect to be remedied. But the craftiness, the instincts and skill set all seem to be in place. It’s an inability to get to the rim or finish—his FG% at the rim is 50 percent, down from 66 percent and 64 percent the last two seasons according to hoopdata.com—once there that would indicate a physical decline. While those gifts could return to a certain extent, his age and recent history make it hard to know what to expect from him.

Strike no. 37: The Roots of Defensive Decline

At the heart of the piece linked above is the debate on the merits of small ball, something that has slowly disappeared from Gregg Popovich’s lineups. In Varner’s piece, he uses quotes from George Karl to punctuate his point.

“Defensively, they are not a dominant defensive team as they once were. They used to be incredible around the basket. You now can score around the basket on them more than ever before. But they’re still solid. They’re still sound, conceptually. (Pop) has tricks, he can mess with you. But they were so good for so many years.

We chart our baskets within five feet of the basket every night. Halftime, I’d go in there against SA and we’d be 2-for-15. They just wouldn’t let you score around the basket. That’s different now.

They used to play two bigs. Now you can take Duncan away from the basket. You can take their bigs away and attack their smalls a little more. You take Duncan in the pick and roll, you’ve got Bonner, or McDyess or Blair covering the basket. That’s just not as good as it was when it was David Robinson, or Nesterovic or Mohammed or someone like that.”

While there is some truth to this, in years past the San Antonio Spurs have been able to retain their defensive identity even while going small. In 2003, David Robinson may have been the starter, but Malik Rose logged heavy minutes next to Tim Duncan.

Important as it is to have quality defenders, defense is a system, not a collection of athletes. The San Antonio Spurs supporting players were all new to Popovich’s defensive schemes, which are perhaps the most complex in the NBA. The result–the new acquisitions at times looked inept.

Ultimately, it’s not really the rising age of their core which has contributed to the team’s decline. The core is still playing well enough to lead a better-fitted supporting cast to a title. But the current supporting cast does not share in the team’s previous defensive identity: they lack (or don’t play) the additional shot-blocking bigs of past lineups; Robert Horry’s offense was replaced, but not his defense; Bruce Bowen’s defense was invaluable, and better than imagined.

With hindsight as a weapon, I can now say that at the time the core was not playing up to their elite standards. And how can a new role player, brought in to fit around the trio of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, be expected to fulfill their roles when those three do not measure up to their lofty standards?

So what’s changed, and why do the Spurs feel better going intot the playoffs this year as a seven see than last year as a third seed against the same opponent?

Strikes no. 20, 57-71 and 74-77: Whether All-Star or Role Player, Ginobili Key to Spurs Success

Since February, Manu Ginobili hasn’t been chipping away at the rock so much as he’s alternated between taking a sledge hammer and wrecking ball to it.

As the San Antonio Spurs struggled through February, Ginobili was slowly finding his rhythm, getting to the rim even as he still struggled to find his shot. While that early production did not initially translate into wins, it was enough to hint at the things to come, as I wrote in a piece titled, “Ginobili!”:.

Ginobili healthy is the ultimate x-factor. As I’ve written before, he is the lone Spurs player to work outside its system. The artistry and impulsiveness makes the Spurs unpredictable and really holds everything else together.

Through that time, Ginobili turned the elite teams of the NBA into fodder for his personal highlight reel.

El contusion blocked Kevin Garnett. He blocked Kevin Durant (and walked on water). And after wins over the Thunder, Magic, Cavaliers and Lakers, it became apparent that Ginobili was back.

AT&T Center—For all of Manu Ginobili’s strengths, perhaps no attribute is more significant than his indelible sense of the moment and ability to take full control of it.

Strike no. 56: Pop to Manu re: Jefferson, “Can you fix him for me?”

And as insightful as those Ginobili numbers are, they barely tell the story. Manu Ginobili is making everyone better, most noticeably the previously pronounced dead on arrival Richard Jefferson. Jefferson is openly campaigning for heavy minutes alongside Manu Ginobili. It’s almost as if Gregg Popovich turned to Manu and said, “I can’t figure this guy out. Can you fix him for me?” And then Ginobili grabbed Jefferson by the hand, walked into a nearby phone booth, and emerged in Superman garb. Jefferson can be seen just behind Ginobili, with a fistful of cape.

With Ginobili back, for the first time all season the Spurs received All-NBA quality play from more than one of its big three, enabling the the Spurs role players to quietly fall into place.

Strike no. 55: Matt Bonner, Beyond the +/-

In Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, the Spurs have a trio of stars that excel at both scoring and generating shots for teammates. The flipside is, for all Duncan’s length, Ginobili’s craftiness or Parker’s speed, none are particularly explosive leapers, thus each requires sufficient space to work at peak levels (Ginobili less so).

And not all spacing is equal. It is important to consider what part of the defense is stretched thin and what section of the floor the three-point shooting is coming from. Pulling a big man out of the lane is much more valuable than keeping wings and guards at home. It changes the dynamics of defensive sets and rotations.

Strikes no. 45 and 82: DeJuan Blair as Oberto

In this morning’s Express-News, Jeff McDonald and Manu Ginobili pick up the same conversation.

“I played with Fabricio for over 10 years,” said Ginobili, who first met Oberto when they were teenagers in Argentina. “He knew exactly how I wanted the screens. He had a passion for setting screens like I’ve never seen.”

Blair and Ginobili are only in the courtship phase of their relationship, but they pick and roll like an old married couple. With Ginobili supplying the trick-shot passes, and Blair producing the kind of slick catches and nimble finishes that belie his 6-foot-7, 270-pound frame, the Spurs’ second unit often has become must-see theater.

Where Oberto was a Hall of Fame pick-setter, Blair has proven himself adept at the other half of the equation.

“He’s a really good roller,” Ginobili said. “I know he’s going to be attacking the rim. That’s something you can count on, even when you don’t see him.”

Strikes no. 3, 17, 72, 73 and 78-80: George Hill is the NBA’s Most Improved Player

When San Antonio Spurs point guard George Hill (an Indiana native) returns to the American Airlines Center for the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the court and its dimensions will remain as they were in last year’s playoffs. It will be George Hill who has changed.

“Oh, what wonders one summer with Chip Engelland can do. It may be a small sample size, but judging by the blistering shooting percentages, George Hill can shoot. From deep. Especially from the corner. Now, a lot of attention will be paid to his development as a point guard, and rightfully so. Hill finally looks comfortable there. But the most important development for him, so far as his future with the Spurs is concerned, is his jump shot.

You see, if Hill is to carve out more than cameo appearances in meaningful games it will have to be as more than a backup point guard because there’s no way you’re limiting Tony Parker’s minutes come Spring and Summer. So if Hill is going to be an impact as a Spurs player he needs to be able to play beside Parker rather than replacing him. For years the only prerequisite for that, at least offensively, is the corner three.”

Strike no. 41: What Would Jacob Riis Do? Winning a Title

Back in February I believed this group of San Antonio Spurs were capable of competing for an NBA championship. After the gauntlet they ran through in March, there has been very little to change my opinion.

In that piece, I wrote a few things that had to happen should the Spurs decide to stay the course.

The first step, I believe, was the reintroduction of Antonio McDyess into the starting lineup. Without Bruce Bowen in the lineup it has become increasingly difficult for the Spurs to contain penetration (whether it be Hill or Parker defending). As such, having another presence capable of altering shots is imperative and a step towards returning to our previous defensive philosophies.

“Antonio’s defensive rebounding has really picked up. He’s always been able to shoot an open jump shot so that’s not a surprise. But his rebounding and defense have been excellent,” San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s really been doing a lot of that grunt work on the boards. So he’s been doing real good for us.”

The rest of the San Antonio Spurs have since bought into Gregg Popovich’s defensive schemes, and it shows.

“(The defensive improvement) is just the persistence of Pop sticking with what we do and it’s finally started to click for everybody,” Tim Duncan said. “It took a month or two longer than we thought it would, but it’s headed in the right direction.”

The final piece, I believe, will be the return to prominence of either Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker as devastating scorers. Last playoffs the Spurs were exposed when none of the role players were able to do anything once Parker or Duncan broke down the defense.

This season the Spurs have a myriad of players capable of taking advantage of a broken defense. The only problem is that Ginobili and Parker have been ordinary enough as scorers that defenses have been more apt to stay at home.

Whether through rest or just continued rehabilitation, one of the two will break through eventually and take the games of our role players (Richard Jefferson, McDyess, Hill and Blair) to new levels.

How do I know this? Because if both fail, there isn’t a trade the Spurs could pull off that would provide a big enough hammer to break this stone.

Strikes No. 83-101

Begin Sunday in Dallas.

  • rj

    excellent piece. way to maintain patience as the rest of us ran around with our collective heads cut off

  • Colin

    @48moh

    Great compilation and good overview of the season. The Spurs don’t give a shit about what people (bloggers included) think, they’ve got other things in mind. Time to get after it tomorrow!

  • Spurlady

    An excellent recap of what’s been bad, good, and getting better this season. Let’s hope the Spurs can break the stone wide open, starting with the Mavs. The image of Ginobili as superman with Jefferson hanging onto the cape is indelible.

  • idahospur

    Really makes you think about how crazy this season is. The trade deadline seems years ago to me, and I thought this team would be lucky to be in the playoffs. However, things starting clicking in a near impossible schedule, and hopefully we’ll be healthy on Sunday. Last year, this team limped into the playoffs and collapsed dead on the floor. This led to Pop asking Duncan to start the year out of shape and hopefully the team would be ready come playoffs.
    These next few weeks are all that matter. Trades, drafts, signings, etc. all lead to hopeful success and a title. The sad thing is, if this team loses, what will be the problem? RJ tanked? No 3-pt shooting? Pop’s bad rotations? The other team is just better?
    All I hope for (besides a title) is to see this team perform and not be cast away at the end of the year as a lost dynasty. With some new blood infused to the program, we still have a few miles left on the tires.

  • Reev

    Pop has been resting Duncan in time for the playoffs. I think Tim will provide the firepower alongside Ginobili, Parker and Hill.

    I miss those times when, on any given night, Finley, Barry, Horry or Bowen can suddenly explode. There were so many options for the Spurs if the key players were having an off night.

    Game on tomorrow!

  • Jim Henderson

    Thanks for all the effort you put into this post today, Jesse. I’d like to just make a few points in response to your post, which is essentially a general overview of the 2009-10 Spurs season. My points will focus on some passages within the main post that talk about the Spurs “defense” this year as it relates to player “size” on the teams’ front line”.

    Below, I quote some lengthy excerpts from the body of the main post, and my comments will appear, interspersed, between the quotes provided.

    “In Varner’s piece, he uses quotes from George Karl to punctuate his point.

    “Defensively, they are not a dominant defensive team as they once were. They used to be incredible around the basket. You now can score around the basket on them more than ever before. But they’re still solid. They’re still sound, conceptually. (Pop) has tricks, he can mess with you. But they were so good for so many years.

    We chart our baskets within five feet of the basket every night. Halftime, I’d go in there against SA and we’d be 2 for 15. They just wouldn’t let you score around the basket. That’s different now.

    They used to play two bigs. Now you can take Duncan away from the basket. You can take their bigs away and attack their smalls a little more. You take Duncan in the pick and roll, you’ve got Bonner, or McDyess or Blair covering the basket. That’s just not as good as it was when it was David Robinson, or Nesterovic or Mohammed or someone like that.”

    Jesse responds to the Karl quote:

    “While there is some truth to this, in years past the San Antonio Spurs have been able to retain their defensive identity even while going small. In 2003, David Robinson may have been the starter, but Malik Rose logged heavy minutes next to Tim Duncan.”

    In contrast to Jesse, I believe that George Karl has articulated “exactly” why the Spurs will have difficulty making a bonifide challenge for the title as currently constructed. We have not adequately assembled and/or acquired the “key” parts that allows our special & unusually successful brand of basketball to rise to the top again. In particular, we do not have the same type of front line that was a “key” ingredient to making our teams of the past so successful, specifically on the “defensive” end (i.e, two, tall, shot-blocking bigs in the game for significant minutes).

    In his post, however, Jesse suggests that the Spurs have been able to maintain “their defensive identity” in the past by using smaller/shorter players for significant minutes on our front line, such as Malik Rose during our 2002-03 title year. I have to say, this is a weak point, and it is in fact unintentionally misleading in my view.

    The pertinent facts are as follows:

    For the 2002-2003 team:

    Duncan – 26 yrs. old, 39 mins./game, 6’11″, 2.9 blocks/game.

    Robinson – 37 yrs. old, 26 mpg., 7’1″, 1.7 bpg.

    Team:

    527 total blocks
    opposing team FG% – .427

    For the 2009-10 team:

    Duncan – 33 yrs. old, 31 mins./game, 6’11″, 1.5 blocks/game.

    McDyess – 35 yrs. old, 21 mpg., 6’9″, .4 bpg.

    Team:

    381 blocks
    opposing team FG% – .452

    In summary, the 2002-03 team got 65 minutes per game from our two tallest, front court players with the most mpg., they also averaged 7 feet tall, averaged 4.6 bpg., and their average age was 31.

    The 2009-10 team got 52 mpg from our tallest, front court players with the most mpg., they averaged 6’10″ in height, averaged 1.9 bpg., and their average age is 34.

    The 2002-03 team had 148 more blocks for the season, and held their opponent’s FG% to almost 3% less per game than the 2009-10 team. The main “bigs” averaged 3 years younger, 2 inches taller, played on average 13 more minutes per game, and blocked 2.7 more shots per game. Thus, I conclude that the 2002-03 team was much better defensively than the 2009-10 team, and that, despite Bruce Bowen being on the 2002-03 team, HEIGHT AND SHOT-BLOCKING ON THE FRONT LINE WAS A CRITICAL VARIABLE IN DETERMINING THE DEFENSIVE PROWESS OF THE 2002-03 TEAM.

    Jesse then continues:

    “……….Important as it is to have quality defenders, defense is a system, not a collection of athletes. The San Antonio Spurs supporting players were all new to Popovich’s defensive schemes, which are perhaps the most complex in the NBA. The result–the new acquisitions at times looked inept.”

    “The first step, I believe, was the reintroduction of Antonio McDyess into the starting lineup. Without Bruce Bowen in the lineup it has become increasingly difficult for the Spurs to contain penetration (whether it be Hill or Parker defending). As such, having another presence capable of altering shots is imperative and a step towards returning to our previous defensive philosophies.”

    First of all, “defense” is both a “system”, AND a “collection of athletes”, athletes that gives human life to the system in the form of “players”, and these players are instrumental to carrying out the actions that the system calls for.

    Second, I don’t buy that our problems on defense simply resulted from the “complexity” of the Spurs defensive schemes. Not that it’s not a factor at all, but it’s just unlikely for it to be the primary reason, and in fact there is no compelling evidence to suggest otherwise. It’s more likely that we simply don’t have the “right” players to properly and most effectively carry out the defensive assignments that the “system” calls for to function at an optimum level.

    Jesse mentions “reintroducing McDyess into the starting line-up as a way to solve this problem, when in reality it merely mitigates the problem – it does not “solve” it. In other words, starting McDyess is simply our only option (we have no other high-level defending “bigs”) to get anywhere close to getting the “defensive system” to even function half-way effectively, but by no means at optimum. Dice is too old, not tall enough, not a very good shot-blocker, merely an above avg. defender in the paint, and is paired with an older, aging TD that’s getting half the blocks that he used to.

    Jesse apparently suggests that getting McDyess back into the starting line-up has in fact resulted in us getting much closer to “Spurs defense”. I think you dated this defensive emergence at around February 1st. However, if one looks at our opposing FG% allowed for the 36 games commencing from the date of February 1, one comes up with .448, as opposed to .452 for the entire season. This is not what one would call a “meaningful” difference, and is nowhere near the .427 from 2002-03 title year, not to mention other title years that epitomize and border our period of “defensive” reign: 2004-05 (.426), and 1998-99 (.402). Of course, we also had two tall, shot-blocking “bigs” during those title years as well. In fact, the great majority of our most successful teams over the past 13 years had the “two, tall, shot-blocking “bigs” make-up.

    The fact is, we are merely a shadow of our former self defensively. We do not employ the same “type” of front line that is best suited for ultimate success using our unique defensive “system”. We must address this problem as soon as possible if we’d like to hold the title again in the near future. We cannot effectively rationalize this problem away.

    That said, I will root just as hard for our team as anyone else in these playoffs. We still have a number of exciting pieces on this team, and we could get to the WCF, as a best case scenario. Of course, that would be quite an accomplishment. But, a title? Now we’re getting into miracle territory, and there’s nothing wrong with coming to terms with that. Indeed, that’s how you get better.

    Good luck, Spurs! Give it your best shot! If you shoot really well, you have a shot at the unthinkable! Go Spurs!

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    This is where, pardon the pun, underused 7-foot-1 Ian (Yawn) Mahinmi might become the “sleeper” for the cited lack of bigs inside the shaded lane. Oh, I know, most of us have written off this guy. But if anyone who might feel like his chomping on the bit, Mahinmi might just be the man. If Pop, gives him the chance – which, again, most of us doubt – I have a gut feeling that he might just surpass our expectations. Do I have any empirical basis for this? Nada, except, the young man seems to have this determined look of a player who wants to prove himself.
    Take note, too, that SI’s Ian Thomsen, a veteran NBA watcher, cited the Spurs as one of five teams that could go all the way in his latest post. Indeed, opposing teams, starting with the Mavericks, selling the Spurts short do so at their own peril.

  • SpurredOn

    Excellent compilation with reflections of your own analysis. For those who read this blog often it’s a reminder of how long the season has been and how bumpy the road was on occasion.

    I think the Spurs have still yet to hit their full stride. They have another level or so to which they can rise. They have championship players that will bring even more to the competition. The Mavs are a team that has over-achieved most of the season and has shown what their ceiling is. Ours has been a bit higher lately with room to grow.

    Gear up for a long playoff run Spurs faithful. Expect to be analyzing, watching and rooting into June.

  • BALLHOG

    Lets give credit to Jesse.

    A post that wreaks of Pop’s deodorant. It is as if he wrote it himself. Is Pop paying for that post or did you just owe him money?

    Those of us that know the game and truly follow and support this team, know the truth about this season. That truth is certainly not filled with praise.

    Instead of pointing out the obvious, I hold on to the glimmer of hope that at least one sports writer, at least one, will have the balls to tell it like it is. Someone that will ask the tough questions and be courageous enough to point out some of the bone headed moves that occured this season.

    Still, Even though reporters will continue to lie and kiss Pop’s azz, The Ball will not lie in the playoffs…

    But, as is usually the case…Reporters will sing “Joy to the World” praise toward Pop and continue to act as if he can do no wrong.

    Its like being pissed on, yet told that it is raining.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Jesse Blanchard

    In 2003, by the time the playoffs rolled around David Robinson was hobbled. Malike Rose logged around the same number of minutes as David Robinson (who actually was injured in the first round) and was essentially the Spurs no. 2 big man.

    In our last title, 2007, the no. 2 big man was Fabricio Oberto with no real no. 3 to speak of. And while Horry was still with the team, he was a mere fraction of himself.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Jesse Blanchard

    For defensive purposes, is it better to have two mobile, athletic shotblocking bigs on the court at th same time? Absolutely. Is it a requirement? No. And Dalembert is still not the answer.

    Athletes are great to have, and certainly all things being equal you’d rather have the more athletic guy. But defense simply requires functional athletic ability and a mindset. Notice how some of the better defensive players in the league are average athletes? (Bowen originally, Afflalo, Battier).

    Once the role players (Finley, Bowen, etc.) lost that functional athletic ability due to age, the defense slipped.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Jesse Blanchard

    @Ballhog–if you’ve not been impressed with the Spurs play since March, then I’m sorry, you’re just not a Spurs fan. I mean, the complaint for most of the season was the Spurs could not beat any elite teams. And I think the reasons why were outlined in some of the stories I’ve linked here.

    But since March, we’ve gone through a murderer’s row of elite teams and have come out smelling like roses. That’s not to say that this is an easy matchup or we will win a title this year, but what more could you ask out of this last month?

    I mean, we get it. You have some irrational hate of all things Popovich. To the point that after every loss you’re here blasting the guy, and after every win you’re here blasting the guy.

    That being said, I’d hope that the comments section for this piece could at least focus on regular season storylines and not reactions to a few spiteful rants.

  • BALLHOG

    @ Jesse Blanchard

    My post had nothing to do with wins/losses. It had nothing to do with losses to scrubs or wins against studs.

    Hate for Pop…No hate here bud…My criticism of this coach is based on the obvious. The difference is, I choose to pay attention to it, you dont. No problem…I get it. Doesnt change anything though.

    In my opinion, the actions of this coach and FO this season raised many questions. As fans, should’nt we be privy to knowing what direction our team is going in? What the ultimate goal is? Why players wanted out to the point of quiting on the team half way thru the season? Why our front court was depleted? Why good players sit while scrubs play, etc..etc…etc…

    Even the best coaches and players and organizations in the world recieve criticism at times. Pop is no best in the world, but he does seem to be above reproach. That is what bugs the shit out of me. Never one line of negative press. No tough questions, no accountability toward the fanbase….

    Seems disturbingly odd to me….and should to you my friend….

  • http://blackprint.cc The Wes

    You forgot a post:

    http://www.48minutesofhell.com/2010/02/09/closing-one-window-cracking-open-another/

    And I’m sure if I dug a little more I’d find quite a few other doom and glooms.

  • Daniel B.

    As usual, a good post. Always enjoy reading you guys. You’re my one-stop Spurs shop (or at least “first-stop,” since I’ll generally follow the links to S.A. Express and Pounding the Rock).

  • Pingback: Manu Ginobili, Spurs seek redemption against Mavericks | 48 Minutes of Hell

  • SpursfanSteve

    Great post, Jesse. I’ve enjoyed most everything you’ve written since coming on board.

    And to answer some of Jim’s complaints, instead of looking at fg%, look at ppg. Early in the year, it didnt matter who we played, we were giving up around 100ppg. In this killer stretch against the best offenses in the league, we’ve held them to down around 85-90. I’m on my lunch break so i dont have time to look up the stats right now, but i would imagine thats pretty close to tops in the league, especially considering our strength of schedule.

  • Jim Henderson

    Jesse Blanchard
    April 18th, 2010 at 5:59 am

    David may have been hobbling a bit in the 2002-03 playoffs, but it didn’t seem to have much impact on his game.

    2002-2003 regular season:

    26.2 mpg.
    1.7 bpg.
    .531 TS%
    17.8 PER
    8.5 ppg.
    7.0 rpg.

    2002-03 playoffs:

    23.4 mpg.
    1.4 bpg. (2nd highest on team)
    .591 TS% (highest on team)
    17.7 PER (2nd highest on team)
    .204 WS/48 (2nd highest on team)
    7.8 ppg.
    6.6 rpg.

    Not much of a difference there.

    And Francisco Elson was our primary “center” for the 2006-07 team next to a Tim Duncan that had only “just” passed his peak (TD’s numbers were considerably better in 2006-07 than this year, particularly in shot-blocking). And at least Elson was 7 feet tall and was able to avg. 1.6 bpg. per 36 minutes. In addition, 2006-07 was in fact our “weakest” defensive team during our championship decade (.443 opposing team FG%, DRtg. 99.9).

    Jesse Blanchard
    April 18th, 2010 at 6:03 am

    “For defensive purposes, is it better to have two mobile, athletic shotblocking bigs on the court at th same time? Absolutely. Is it a requirement? No. And Dalembert is still not the answer. ”

    For the “Spurs” specific “defensive system”, it is a requirement to be functioning at its peak. The bigs don’t have to be super athletic, just tall, very good defenders down low, and good enough shot-blockers where they’re actually altering shots on a regular basis. Our bigs now DO NOT do this. As George Karl noted, very few teams are nearly as reluctant to drive the ball to the cup on us now as they used to be.

    Dalembert was merely a proposal for a big that was at least in some respects “realistic” to acquire. He is 28 yrs. old, and has more than twice as many bpg. as anyone on our roster not named Tim Duncan. Is he the best big man we could get? Perhaps not, but I don’t here anyone else offering anything else worth looking at. Do you? (hoping for the phantom European, Splitter, to arrive does not count, nor does merely settling for a big at the MLE – it’s probably not enough, considering we have a noticeably declining TD).

    On athletes? I never meant to imply that excellent defenders need to be great athletes. Obviously, TD is one prime example. In the passage you’ve responded to, I was simply referring to “collection of athletes” in the generic sense because you were suggesting that “good defense” resulted principally as a byproduct of the “system”, not from the players (“collection of athletes”). I was simply pointing out that excellent defense results from the “system”, AND the skill-sets and athletic talents the “players” bring to the equation. You may have been just unclear in how you wrote up that passage. I don’t know, but I suggest you review it again.

    “Once the role players (Finley, Bowen, etc.) lost that functional athletic ability due to age, the defense slipped.”

    No, the defense “began” to slip as our center, shot-blocking bigs got weaker, and as TD began to decline (past peak). In addition, it’s at it’s weakest now with the loss of Bowen, AND having a weaker shot-blocking big to go alongside Duncan.

  • AP

    Awesome, wonderful post Jesse.
    A very good recap of the roller-coaster season with its roller-coaster emotions.
    Ballhog is full of personally biased, weak, repetitive, and unfounded basketball analysis.

  • Jim Henderson

    SpursfanSteve
    April 18th, 2010 at 9:38 am

    Opposing team “points per game”:

    2009-10 regular season: 96.3

    Since February 1st: 96.4

    Since 2/1 against +.500 teams: 96.6

    Since 2/1 against playoff teams: 95.6

    Since 2/1 we’ve played 9 games against the “top five offenses” that are in the playoffs. In those 9 games, we’ve given up an average of 99.9 points per game.

    And no, it’s not even close to tops in the league. For example, Orlando held opponent playoff contenders to an average of 92.3 ppg. since February 1st.

    Sorry, but any way you spin it, our defense is only marginally better, if that, since February 1st, and it does not compare with other top teams during this stretch.

  • Bushka

    “Those of us that know the game and truly follow and support this team, know the truth about this season. That truth is certainly not filled with praise”

    Ballhog are you a lakers fan by any chance?

    Is there some insider info you have access to? Or are you just going to make another negative generic statement and give no support for it.

    Care to elaborate on this horrible train wreck that only you can see?

    Apparently no one who writes for this blog you frequent, nor most of those who post on it, truly follow this team or know much about the game of basketball.

    Way to alienate the world mate.

  • SpursfanSteve

    I guess you were right about the D, Jim, although i definitely feel like we’ve been better. When i’ve been watching the games, it seems like until the end of the 4th quarter when the game is in hand we’ve held them pretty low. Just memory, which of course could be flawed.

  • Nick

    In 2003, by the time the playoffs rolled around David Robinson was hobbled. Malike Rose logged around the same number of minutes as David Robinson (who actually was injured in the first round) and was essentially the Spurs no. 2 big man.

    In our last title, 2007, the no. 2 big man was Fabricio Oberto with no real no. 3 to speak of. And while Horry was still with the team, he was a mere fraction of himself.

  • Simon

    Excellent compilation with reflections of your own analysis. For those who read this blog often it’s a reminder of how long the season has been and how bumpy the road was on occasion.

    I think the Spurs have still yet to hit their full stride. They have another level or so to which they can rise. They have championship players that will bring even more to the competition. The Mavs are a team that has over-achieved most of the season and has shown what their ceiling is. Ours has been a bit higher lately with room to grow.

    Gear up for a long playoff run Spurs faithful. Expect to be analyzing, watching and rooting into June.

  • Pingback: Manu Ginobili, Spurs seek redemption against Mavericks