Spurs slowly acclimating Tiago Splitter

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AT&T CENTER — By now you’ve probably seen the numbers for Tiago Splitter. 18 points on 7 of 10 from the field. Five rebounds, two assists, two steals and two blocks in 26 minutes of action. After not playing in the previous two games, Splitter entered the game with 8:12 left still left in the first quarter.

As much as I’d like to write about something other than Tiago Splitter’s performance on Saturday night, it was the story of the game. The Spurs beat a bad Cleveland Cavaliers team in convincing fashion.

Coach Pop was non-committal before the game as to when Tiago Splitter would play.

“He’ll play when he plays,” Coach Pop said. “I don’t have a thought in my head about when I’m going to play him or how I’m going to play him. If it’s appropriate, he’ll play.”

But I think coming into the game, Pop knew Splitter would get heavy minutes against Cleveland, considering the circumstances (second night of back-to-back, bad opponent, Orlando on Monday).

Coach Pop had previously expressed concern that Splitter’s summer schedule was too much for him thus far. Going from a Spanish ACB League season that ended in a title right into preparation for the FIBA World Championships and then Spurs training camp, Popovich felt that Splitter’s preseason injury was the Brazilian’s body telling everyone he needed a little break.

Most of Splitter’s action so far this season was in five minute bursts. But on Saturday night, with the Spurs trying to rest the veteran’s as much as possible, Splitter got his first stretch of extended action.

At one point in the fourth quarter, Tim Duncan teased Splitter about not quite being in game shape. Leaving the timeout, Duncan tried to demonstrate how the winded Splitter should breathe deeply.

The interesting thing is how Splitter is being inserted into the lineup. At this point in Tiago’s NBA career, he’s almost exclusively handcuffed to Matt Bonner in live action.

This is both an advantage for the Spurs and a necessary partnership. Tiago Splitter is excellent at running the pick-and-roll, as his performance last night indicates. Pairing Splitter’s talents on the offensive end with Bonner’s floor-stretching ability creates a dangerous offensive second unit.

If the pick-and-roll is working well, there is time and space galore for Bonner on the perimeter. Likewise, if Bonner is shooting well, there are plenty of driving and cutting lanes for pick-and-roll action.

On one play last night, Tony Parker (I think) and Tiago Splitter ran the pick-and-roll. Bonner was on one of the blocks and as Splitter rolled to the basket, Bonner popped out to the corner. Bonner’s movement meant that the man guarding him shouldn’t have been able to help out on Splitter’s roll to the basket. But he did, and Tony Parker found Bonner in the corner for a wide open 3-pointer.

One player who you will almost never see Splitter in the game with is DeJuan Blair. Both have similar skillsets that don’t necessarily complement each other. Offensively both are pick-and-roll players with extremely limited shooting ability. You also have to pick and choose when to throw the ball in the post to them.

If Splitter can develop a similar big-man-to-big-man passing chemistry that DeJuan Blair enjoys with Tim Duncan, eventually Splitter can be the game-closing big man that many hope to see. Just as long as he gets over the burning in his lungs.

  • Greyberger

    Well, as long as what he brings to the team on defense makes up for the offense (Bonner) or rebounding (Blair) that you stand to lose by playing twin towers.

    And of course in the playoffs last year, it wasn’t long before Pop settled on Duncan and Dice as the go-to frontcourt, presumably for the mix of jumpshooting to go with the PnR and defense on Dirk.

    I have no idea what will emerge as the number one option, and how many different teammates Tim will get to close the game with. Like a lot of people I thought Splitter would eventually be that guy but I would no longer bet on it.

    On our team Tiago Splitter’s game looks most like Tim Duncan’s. Perhaps the non-union Brazilian counterpart? We probably won’t ever get a tidy answer, as defensive matchups will dictate a lot of the important games and playoff games anyway.

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  • Jim Henderson

    From the main post:

    “Tiago Splitter is excellent at running the pick-and-roll, as his performance last night indicates.”

    He is, but just remember, we were playing the 23rd ranked defense, and they simply looked lost on pnr defense last night, especially the 2nd unit, against which Splitter saw most of his action. Even Varejao was clueless in his limited minutes against Splitter. Check out the “D” in the 2nd half of this video (about the 2:10 mark), with Gibson & Varejao defending the pnr against TP & Splitter. Even though the game was essentially out of reach at this point, Byron Scott has a brutal tape session in store for his team:

    http://www.nba.com/games/20101120/CLESAS/gameinfo.html?ls=gt2hp0021000187#nbaGIboxscore

    “Pairing Splitter’s talents on the offensive end with Bonner’s floor-stretching ability creates a dangerous offensive second unit.”

    I do agree that Splitter and Bonner run well together with the second unit, providing that our team rebounding is adequate with that 4/5 combination.

    “One player who you will almost never see Splitter in the game with is DeJuan Blair. Both have similar skillsets that don’t necessarily complement each other. Offensively both are pick-and-roll players with extremely limited shooting ability. You also have to pick and choose when to throw the ball in the post to them.”

    For now you are probably correct on this. However, I do expect this to change in time as each player continues to develop and broaden his offensive game.

    “…..Splitter can eventually be the game-closing big man that many hope to see.”

    Perhaps, but for now we should be content with him becoming a consistent force in the front court rotation, and not be concerned about whether he will be the closer with TD on the front line. With McDyess ultimately hanging up his shoes, Splitter will eventually still have to beat out DB for the closer distinction, which I contend will not be an easy task.

    P.S. The Cavs committed 8 unforced turnovers in just the last 14 minutes of the game, a period in which Splitter had 11 of his 18 points, and 3 of his 5 rebounds.

  • Jim Henderson

    Greyberger
    November 21st, 2010 at 12:56 pm

    Sound post.

  • Regan Rahardja

    Great writeup. What a great thing to have – Duncan, Splitter, McDyess, and DB (sorry Bonner) to guard Pau when we meet the Lakers. Length, savvy veteran defense, strength to put him off his game. We have many different looks with the players we have :)

  • rob

    A proccess in motion no doubt. The ceiling is the limit. And one we won’t fully expect (one way or the other with regards to Tiago) until the season progresses. Remember Ian Mahinmi even had an excellent performance once as a Spur but could never break consistent rotation. And I’m not comparing Splitter to Mahinmi…just saying.

    I am in hopes of Tiago progressing enough to run the high low we once saw run to perfection with Duncan and Robinson. And with any continued consistency with Duncan’s jumper throughout the season…we might be allowed to see a Duncan/Splitter combination during games even if it is against a top opponent.

    The bottomline is the Spurs have the potential of having one of it’s deepest frontcourts that we’ve seen in quite some time.

    The development of Tiago to the nba and Blair becoming a more consistent player is more than this team has had in quite some time as far as depth in that area.

    Duncan looks to be more aggresive this year than in the past several. And though he might be struggling early this season (compared to his normal production)…we all know it is just a matter of time before he becomes the consistent Duncan of years past. Pair him with any combination depending on the situation with Splitter, Blair or McDyess…very formidable indeed.

  • ThatBigGuy

    Between our 5 bigs, we have nearly everything: stretch shooting, post scoring, rebounding, blocks, PnR O and D, energy, and intelligence. It’s really quite interesting how many skill sets Pop can choose from. I think we match up favorably with every team with the only possible exception being the Lakers, but only if Bynum is healthy.

    I think other teams have to be worried about our depth in the frontcourt. They have to game plan for 3 offensive threats (Timmy on the low post, Bonner for 3, and Dice on the 17ft J), some random dude that just scored 18 points and looked masterful on the PnR with Parker (Splitter), and a rebounding machine (Blair). Plus, every single guy is at least an average 1-on-1 defender and all are very capable team defenders.

    Add that to our depth in the frontcourt and you’re looking at a team that can manage minutes while winning games. This is looking very good.

  • zack in the alamo

    im just so happy it feels like those championship years when you go to the game expecting a big W and the more these guys win the more theyre going to learn how to get a W no matter what which is freaking awesome. im just so happy for tim i hope we can get him number 5! can you imagine stopping the threepeat and not letting kobe reach mj status all the while matching his rings in duncan hahaha

  • Hobson13

    ThatBigGuy
    November 21st, 2010 at 2:14 pm

    Good post. We have 5 bigs who are all legit (and very different) NBA talents. Another good thing about this is that two are young and can play extended regular season minutes in an effort to shield two older guys from getting burned out.

    zack in the alamo
    November 21st, 2010 at 3:16 pm

    I don’t want to get too carried away with our start, but I never had this level of confidence in last year’s team. So far, the Spurs are a juggernaught and I’m really starting to believe we may be a super elite team this year. Yes, there are areas in which we can improve, but that is to be expected. At this point, I’d give this team an A+.

    We have a long way to go, but if our young talent can continue to develop, we are going to be scary later this year.

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

    “I am in hopes of Tiago progressing enough to run the high low we once saw run to perfection with Duncan and Robinson.”

    I hear ya Rob. I have been dreaming about “the hi-lo” from the moment that Splitter signed.

    The posts here tend to be pretty optimistic regarding the Spurs front court and I tend to agree. We have an awesome mix of skill sets, veterans and young guys. Here’s to everyone playing well and the team winning one for the thumb.

    On a side note, I can feel the Tiago vs Blair debate starting to heat up. Obviously, there are only so many minutes available and both are competing for them. But, let’s all try to keep calm and remember that in the not to distant future, there’s a good chance that BOTH of those guys will be closing out games for the Spurs.

    Go Spurs Go

  • idahospur

    Important thing to remember right now, the Spurs are winning, so Pop must be doing something right.

    Winning games now means resting right before playoffs. We have 70 games to get Splitter in the line-up and will have a good 9 man rotation (Duncan, Manu, Tony, RJ, Blair, Hill, Bonner, Splitter, Anderson) with Neal and Dice as probably the best 10 and 11 you can ask for.

  • rabis

    spurs usually start slow and get better and better by feb/march. but this year, we are very good at start of the season and have plenty of time to be excellent by feb/mar. even if there are some weakness, pop will figure it out and make the team well oiled by playoff time. i think only setback for this team this year would be the health of key players. if not, we have all the tools to beat the lakers, in WCF.

  • Jim Henderson

    Our front line is competent, with a broad array of skill sets, but it is still lacking in proper balance as it relates to a few important factors when it come to success in a long playoff run.

    (1) We have TWO players that are clearly on the old side of the ledger. As a result, it will be difficult for them stamina-wise to hold up well-enough under the special level of intensity endemic to a long playoff run. At the same time, we have TWO players that are very inexperienced in NBA playoff action, and ONE that does not have the skill-set to be consistently effective in a high-intensity type playoff series.
    (2) We do not have sufficient size (combination height/weight) to match-up well-enough in the low-post at both ends in the half-court against at least three title contenders.
    (3) We do not have a sufficient intimidation factor (altering/blocking shots) on our front line to discourage easy penetration to the rim, and our perimeter “D” is not “top-notched” to mitigate against this weakness.

    It would take an extremely special team to be able to adequately overcome these deficiencies. Let’s just hope that the Spurs can develop into one of those “special” teams come playoff time. Our start is great, and unusual, but we’re still a bit too early in to get a real sense of how unique this team can be. Certainly some nice “early” signals though.

  • andy

    @hobson13
    “At this point, I’d give this team an A+.”

    i don’t think anyone can argue with that, and boy does that make me happy.

    Jim Henderson
    November 21st, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    “At the same time, we have TWO players that are very inexperienced in NBA playoff action, and ONE that does not have the skill-set to be consistently effective in a high-intensity type playoff series.”

    look, we all know our team has shortcomings, but i don’t think this is one of them. blair might have some qualms, but after last year, i think he’ll be alright. as for splitter, when’s the last time you saw batteries being thrown at the players in the nba playoffs? europe is just as, if not more, intense, and i don’t buy that splitter won’t be able to handle it for one millisecond. i won’t argue the bonner point, as i kinda feel the same (although he did a fair job against dirk, so give credit where it’s due).

    2) is debatable, depending on who’s in/out. i think the celtics and lakers prima facie have us at this point. i think our bigs can develop over the season to make it pretty darn close though. i’m guessing the 3rd is orlando? we’ll see about that one next, i guess. i think our bigs will fare well against orlando.

    i think point 3 remains to be seen. duncan has been blocking more shots than the previous 2 years (which might or might not hold up), and it looks to me like splitter can be a better shotblocker than you gave him credit for. we’re not a send-the-ball-to-the-4th-row type of team. we’re better than that.

    my excitement with splitter, blair, bonner, and mcdyess playing so well is that over the 82, we’ll inevitably have some injuries. with this many quality players, i think we’ll weather the bumps immeasurably better than in the past. same goes for guard depth too, which is exciting. hopefully this translates to a 2 seed for the playoffs.

  • LPspursFan

    Jim, just say it…we should have signed Amundsen!! LOL! Our “older” bigs, given the proper monitoring of minutes available to us thanks to our diversity, will be just fine come playoff time. I’m sure both Timmy and McD will be able to hold up under playoff intensity-they’ve both experienced enough of it. And how about the other teams matching up to our height/weight combinations. Just my opinion, but I think you’re really reaching. Just sayin…

  • Jim Henderson

    LPspursFan
    November 21st, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    “Just my opinion, but I think you’re really reaching. Just sayin…”

    Nope, just calling a spade a spade.

  • zeanocril

    I think the Spurs are on a mission this year. They’re out there to grab the top seed this year, so that they’ll have home court advantage throughout the playoffs. They know that right now, with this high level of competition, it’ll be difficult to get out of the West if you’ll have to start each playoff series on the road (remember 2008, when the hornets took them to 7 games, and they were just too banged up to compete with LA in the WCF) If they secure that top seed, they’ll be in a very good position to dethrone the defending champs. And hopefully, when the playoff comes, all our guys will be healthy.

  • Gomezd

    Cant wait to see how we do vs Magic, Dallas and New Orleans, I think this 3 games should give us a fairly decent indication if we really have something special this year.

  • Flavor

    I went to Nba.com and clicked on “Statistics.” Then on to “Team Statistics.” Under the “Category” drop down menu I selected “Defensive” and then clicked on the “update” button. I then clicked on “HME” to get the numbers in descending order. San Antonio is ranked at 8th at 5.58. I guess this is just our blocks per game @ home? Whats our “on the road” record? Isn’t that pretty good? I mean we are ahead of Dallas, LA, Boston. Am I just reading that wrong? I would think I am just because Jim Henderson seems to have issue with our shot blocking.

  • Shawn_b

    Well I won’t compare DB and Tiago and I don’t think they have the exactly the same skill-set…. Tiago has enough offensive package to be in the NBA he just don’t have chance to show that. The reason he is here is because of Pop like his defense and Basketball IQ, not his offensive game.

  • duaneofly

    I thought Splitter showed in the world championship this summer that he knows how to play, and can score.
    Remember, he’s an NBA rookie, but not a professional basketball rookie.

  • ITGuy

    One thing I don’t understand is why do we keep on saying this; can the Spurs keep up with this team or that team?
    When are we going to be good enough that other teams see as a “measuring stick” instead of us having to prove almost every game that we belong?

    Go Spurs Go!!

  • Tim in Surrey

    I’m with ITGuy. I wonder how other teams will be able to keep up with US in the playoffs, unless one of four things happens: 1) Richard Jefferson regresses to his level of last year, 2) Blair and Tiago BOTH fail to improve over the course of the season, 3) we have significant problems with injuries, or 4) one of the other contenders makes a major roster change. All four are possible, of course. But only the last two are very likely.

    Why am I so optimistic? It’s simple. We don’t NEED our frontcourt to outplay the Celtics, Lakers, Heat or Magic in a seven-game series because none of those teams can match our backcourt. Tony Parker is a nightmare for Orlando, Miami, and LA over an extended series (although not necessarily in a one-game matchup). His ability to penetrate and score efficiently over big men doesn’t just create easy shots for himself, it undermines their entire defensive philosophy. And the Manu/Jefferson combination causes similar problems for Boston.

    I’ll use the Lakers as an example: Over a seven-game series, Kobe will have his hands full with Manu and either Artest or Odom will be busy with Jefferson. As a result LA won’t be able to hide Derek Fisher (or Steve Blake) on defense. He’ll get burned by Parker’s penetration every time down the floor, which means a high-percentage shot for Tony, a wide-open 3 for RJ or Manu, or a layup for Tim or Dice. The only alternative is to bring help from Gasol or Bynum, which leaves one big man to cover Dice and Tim. God help them if that happens. I mean, really, think about it: When was the last time a team tried single coverage on an extended basis against Tim Duncan? I’ve actually seen it happen myself, but that was when he was a freshman at Wake Forest (and Vanderbilt got killed when they tried it!). So the Lakers will have to pick their poison: layups for Tony, single coverage for Tim or wide-open shots all game long for somebody else. Now the Lakers could sub in Shannon Brown at PG or go big and move Kobe to the point. But that doesn’t really solve the problem because Tony’s STILL too quick for them. And besides, the Lakers run their offense very poorly without Fisher or Blake at the point.

    Does that example make sense or am I missing something here? I don’t think so, because there isn’t a single player on the Lakers who can keep Tony Parker from penetrating without help. Not one. And they’re actually better off in that respect than Orlando is. Miami could check him with Wade and Boston could check him with Rondo, but I’m happy with that, too. It will make those players work very hard on defense (and possibly get in foul trouble) and it will leave Manu being guarded by Chalmers/Arroyo against Miami and Ray Allen against Boston. Plus our backup perimeter players already equal or outmatch all of those teams right now–without anything from James Anderson!

    However… Our best players are old and have a lot of mileage on them. I think the odds that we’ll be this healthy for the playoffs are a little long. And that’s when we really will need someone like Amundson. But if Pop can keep Tim, Manu, and Tony pretty fresh, the Spurs are going to be very, very tough to stop. And of course the season is long and teams are in a lot of flux. Who knows whether all these teams will look the same in the spring?

    I’m sure you’ll all have a nice laugh when you read this post, but I’m actually quite serious: How are THEY going to match up with US?

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  • SpursfanSteve

    Jim, usually I agree with you, but for now the stats are pointing elsewhere in regards to the Blocks. We’re currently ranked 8th in the NBA in Bpg as a team, and are the only “contender” in the top 10 unless you think Chicago is a contender. Currently, we are a full block ahead of the Lakers, and the supposedly defensively stout Celtics are ranked 28th in that category. Even Orlando, with the block monster Dwight Howard, averages fewer blocks per game than we do.

    Also interesting to note: in the category of blocks against, the lakers have their shots blocked almost as often as we do (half a block per game difference.)

    We’re also ranked 3rd in the league in steals, averaging 9.3 a game. The Lakers average 8.2, and Boston only 7.9.

    To me, the most important defensive statistic is points per shot. I’m OK with giving up more total PPG this season, because we’re playing faster. If you have more possessions, ultimately you’re going to have more points. We’re ranked 5th in the NBA in points per shot, at 1.17. The Lakers are at 1.14 and Dallas is tops in the league at 1.13. The league average is somewhere around 1.24, i think.

    Basically, I think what I’m getting at is team defense will only improve, and we’re already one of the best in the NBA by most statistical measures. If nothing else, we’ve shown we can play our best defense when we need to this season. We held the Thunder to 12 points in the third quarter of that game, and i dont think they made a FG until past the midway point of the quarter. That doesnt happen to a team of shooters like the Thunder very often. The Lakers last year rarely, if ever, played their best on both ends for 48 minutes- they got stops when they needed to. I think for the most part, we’re seeing that same pattern with us this year. While this is not as palatable as “48 minutes of hell” for most of us, i would argue in the NBA today it’s just as good a recipe for winning championships.

  • Bankshot21

    Thank you gentlemen for those last 2 posts. I don’t know if everyone has been watching the games on League Pass but when it’s an away game and the opposing team’s broadcaster’s are the ones calling the game it is amazing how in awe of The Spurs they are. It seems the fans and teams around the league look at us as a measuring stick while many of our own SAS fans are doubting and questioning what unfolding before our eyes. Let’s appreciate that we have 1 of the better team in the league opposed to bracing ourselves for a fall from supremacy which in fact may never happen. We have the neccessary parts to compete with anyone. Stop this #2 seed bull****. We can get the #1 seed just like anybody else. If your going to ordain the Lakers champions why even watch the games? Enough is enough.

  • Bankshot21

    Make that the 3 post before mine. You guys seem to believe the way I do.

  • rob

    Tim in Surrey

    “Does that example make sense or am I missing something here?”

    It makes sense. Well thought out post.

    And I don’t think Blair and Tiago both fail. If anything…the development of Tiago by season end should be better than what the Spurs were able to effectively garnish from Mahinmi and Ratliff. Blair being two years groomed by season end will hopefully allow better consistency as well as dependable minutes.

    So having an improved backcourt and upgraded front court allows the Spurs to better contend in the playoffs this year compared to last.

    Again as you mentioned…”But if Pop can keep Tim, Manu, and Tony pretty fresh, the Spurs are going to be very, very tough to stop.”

    We’re seeing signs of that being the case. When’s the last time McDyess garnished a DNP coaches decision AND Timmy afforded to only having to play less than 20 minutes and the Spurs still win?

    Good signs.

  • ThatBigGuy

    @ Tim in Surrey

    You make a valid point. I think sometimes we worry a little too much about how we match up with another team rather than taking a look at how people will match up against us. We have 11 guys who will play on any given night and we have nearly every skill set represented.

    We’re good. If we can stay healthy, we can give the Lakers a run for the Finals.

  • Jim Henderson

    Flavor
    November 21st, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    You raise a good point. As a team we have improved quite a bit this year in bpg. thus far (through just 12 games 8th this year — last year 22nd). Our ranking this year may be a bit misleading, because LA’s playing without Bynum, Blazers w/o two centers, Rockets w/o Yao, Jazz w/o Okur, Nuggets w/o Martin & Anderson, Celtics w/o Perkins, etc., but still it’s a noticeable improvement. The reason is that TD is doing a bit better so far (perhaps his weight reduction has helped), Blair & Dice have improved some, Splitter has helped some in the early going, and even guys like Anderson & RJ have chipped in.

    That said, I’d be surprised if TD can keep up his pace of 2.5 bpg./36 min. And I just don’t think we have that presence from a young guy that’s going to consistently provide the “intimidation” factor at the rim. And the other aspect of the “big guy” problem I see has to do with overall size (including weight!) and experience that you need in the playoffs when the action gets more intense, and play focuses more in the half court.

    Tim in Surrey
    November 22nd, 2010 at 7:08 am

    “We don’t NEED our frontcourt to outplay the Celtics, Lakers, Heat or Magic in a seven-game series because none of those teams can match our backcourt.”

    No, but we have to hold our own. I think we could have problems in that regard due to size/bulk/experience and the lack of a significant shot altering/blocking presence.

    Valid points, but your Spurs vs. LA/Boston match-ups have an optimistic spin in my view.

    SpursfanSteve
    November 22nd, 2010 at 8:08 am

    “We’re currently ranked 8th in the NBA in Bpg as a team, and are the only “contender” in the top 10 unless you think Chicago is a contender.”

    Yes, Chicago is a contender, and they’re still without Boozer. And remember, the season is still young.

    “Currently, we are a full block ahead of the Lakers, and the supposedly defensively stout Celtics are ranked 28th in that category.”

    They are playing without Bynum and Perkins, both of which are good for about 2 blocks per game.

    “Even Orlando, with the block monster Dwight Howard, averages fewer blocks per game than we do.”

    So far, and that should change. They should be playing Gortat and Bass more minutes, and TD will not be able to keep up his 2.5 bpg./36 pace.

    “We’re also ranked 3rd in the league in steals, averaging 9.3 a game. The Lakers average 8.2, and Boston only 7.9.”

    We also have the ball stolen from us quite a bit: 7.3 per game vs. Boston’s 6.4. The turnover differential for the Lakers is essentially even with ours.

    “Basically, I think what I’m getting at is team defense will only improve, and we’re already one of the best in the NBA by most statistical measures. If nothing else, we’ve shown we can play our best defense when we need to this season.”

    In the last 6-7 games we are playing better defensively. We’re heading in the right direction. Hopefully we can get to where we need to get to in order to truly contend. I’m not yet convinced, but the signs are a bit more positive than I had expected. Pop is doing a very good job, the chemistry seems pretty good this early, and I think we’re feeding off our own success, and this is translating to more consistent effort on the defensive end. Hopefully we’re now building solid habits and expectations in this regard.

  • jwalt

    Getting to the finals involves beating the Lakers, pure and simple. Given that, Splitter should play and Blair shouldn’t. Blair simply doesn’t have the length to play against Odom and Gasol. Against other teams Blair can compete against, but not the team standing in the way.

  • rob

    jwalt

    What do you propose to do with Blair when playing the Lakers?

    Blair is an important cog in this system. And I know this sounds hypocritical coming from me…but I’ve never thought Blair is nonessential for the Spurs. I just think he would be better served for this team coming off the bench as the energy player he is.

    Blair will be an important player going against and beating the Lakers. As long as he is used in the correct manner. Heck in just the two past games he’s started…but quickly replaced only to come back out in the second half… to play excellent (energy style) basketball and be a key factor in helping the Spurs win.

    I see his importance differently than you. I’m sure the coaching staff views his importance even more highly than mine.

  • andy

    @tim

    yeah, i’ve been thinking it too. lakers have always had problems with quick guards, and just because they have shannon brown and steve blake doesn’t change that, in my opinion. fisher will still get the heavy minutes in the playoffs, and if still healthy, parker will torch him.

    @jim

    look, i have a healthy respect for your analysis and the perspective you bring to the comments section, but i need to point out that you are consistently pessimistic on the spurs in the same bailiwicks you are optimistic on other teams. before the season, you were high on portland and houston, which i’ll admit when healthy look like formidable teams. however, their injury history and probability of coming back from those injuries to post a season better than ours was highly dubious, yet you still ranked them ahead of us, when all signs pointed to us having a healthy team, one with youth, more experience in the system, and a new rookie (in name only) big man. even now, with tim duncan’s blocks/36, you feel that he can’t maintain this rate. why? yes he’s older, but he’s playing the fewest minutes of his career, he’s less of the focus and expending less energy on offense, and therefore should be able to focus more on anchoring the paint on defense. i think we have more reason to doubt bynum coming back healthy and maintaining it for the playoffs than duncan not keeping up his blocks.

    one spurs fan to another, while i think we do need more voices of temperance in our expectations as fans, sometimes i feel like you’re illogically and unneccesarily negative on the spurs.

  • Jim Henderson

    jwalt
    November 22nd, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    “Getting to the finals involves beating the Lakers, pure and simple. Given that, Splitter should play and Blair shouldn’t. Blair simply doesn’t have the length to play against Odom and Gasol. Against other teams Blair can compete against, but not the team standing in the way.”

    It’s not that simple. Especially with Bynum, LA is a nightmare match-up on the front line for just about any team in the league, and that includes the Spurs, with or without Splitter. Blair’s length problems are overrated. In fact he has the same wingspan as Splitter. Blair’s issues against tall defenders is more about “inexperience” than it is about length. Splitter should help us this year in the rotation, but he is not long/big enough for Bynum, not talented enough for Gasol, and not quick enough for Odom. We need to do a clever job mixing & matching with ALL of our “bigs” against LA if we want a chance of success.

  • Jim Henderson

    andy
    November 22nd, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    “….before the season, you were high on portland and houston, which i’ll admit when healthy look like formidable teams. however, their injury history and probability of coming back from those injuries to post a season better than ours was highly dubious, yet you still ranked them ahead of us, when all signs pointed to us having a healthy team, one with youth, more experience in the system, and a new rookie (in name only) big man.”

    I made the ranking based on all of the teams involved being relatively healthy.

    I can’t think of any other good team in many years that has had the persistent, serious injuries as have the Portland Trailblazers. Houston is an early-season conundrum, and the injury bug has now bitten again, losing Brooks and Yao for extended time. On the contrary, for our team everything is going the other way. RJ has an amazing turn around, TP is playing probably better all-around than he ever has in his career, Manu doing his thing as he was for the last two months of last season, Anderson being more productive on both ends than many picks drafted in front of him, Neal, an undrafted 26 year old becoming an immediate spark plug off the bench, Bonner shooting 70% from three through 7 games, and the team chemistry already being as strong as it is — these are all things that have gone our way “early”, and it was impossible to realistically predict ALL of this good fortune before the season began. It’s been amazing so far, and hopefully we can build on our strengths, and improve upon our weaknesses as the season progresses. If we do, we could end up having an unbelievable season, with our big three solidifying their legacy as one of the most enduring championship threesomes in NBA history. Now that would be amazing. I still don’t think it is likely, but the team’s early start inject a bit more of rational hope into the equation. If they could somehow pull it off I would be thrilled!

    It’s still VERY early, but certainly losing Oden again for the year, and Roy’s apparent ongoing knee issues reduces Portland’s chances of finishing ahead of us. And the injuries to Brooks & Yao, and a surprisingly funky start, makes it unlikely that Houston finishes ahead of us. The Lakers, Mavs, Jazz, and Thunder still have a decent chance of finishing ahead of us in the West, but our fabulous start will make it more difficult for them. I just hope we keep our good play going, and limit any losing streaks to come.

    “duncan’s blocks/36, you feel that he can’t maintain this rate. why?”

    Because at age 34 with a knee issue he’s in decline, and he hasn’t blocked shots at that rate since 2006-2007, at the age of 30. I hope I’m wrong and he dipped into the fountain of youth over the summer, and who knows, maybe his weight-loss will work like a charm. I just have some reasonable doubts.

    “…one spurs fan to another, while i think we do need more voices of temperance in our expectations as fans, sometimes i feel like you’re illogically and unneccesarily negative on the spurs.”

    I respect your opinion, but I disagree. I don’t think my points are “illogical” in the least. I simply try to keep my biases under control when I assess the team, and its chances this season.

  • andy

    “If they could somehow pull it off I would be thrilled!”

    first, i have no doubt about that, and please don’t feel that i’m calling your fandom into question or some silliness like that. i definitely prize civil discourse on 48.

    “On the contrary, for our team everything is going the other way. RJ has an amazing turn around, TP is playing probably better all-around than he ever has in his career, Manu doing his thing as he was for the last two months of last season, Anderson being more productive on both ends than many picks drafted in front of him, Neal, an undrafted 26 year old becoming an immediate spark plug off the bench, Bonner shooting 70% from three through 7 games, and the team chemistry already being as strong as it is…”

    if we break that down:
    1. wouldn’t you agree it’s not unreasonable to assume rj could perform better in his 2nd year in our system? that is the modus operandi of the spurs system, right?
    2. parker is 28, about the average age when quick point guards hit their peak. he’s shown in the past that he’s put the effort into his game, being molded by pop from a raw bundle of speed into one with mid-range game and court awareness. is it too unreasonable to assume he’d come back this season with a vengeance?
    3. manu is manu
    4. many had high hopes for the former big 12 player of the year. i wasn’t even among those, but have been pleasantly surprised by anderson, and his WS/48, 0.131, is far more than anyone could have anticipated, i’ll give you that.
    5. neal is less of a surprise than i think you (and other non-spurs/europe basketball fans) insist he is. watching clips of him, you could see the potential and canniness. his stroke was pure, his release quick. i’m not saying i thought he was a sure thing, as many here were not, but again, i think it’s reasonable to see a contribution from him.
    6. ok, i’ll concede bonner. he’s gone bananas from downtown, and that’s impossible to keep up.
    7. chemistry from the spurs? is that so hard to see coming? yes, it was less than stellar on the court last year, but our foundation has always been solid. it all starts with tim, tony, and manu, and blair, hill, and mcdyess have bought in and have a year of indoctrination. the rest fall in line, winning certainly helps.

    i’ll even throw in 8. mcdyess’ resurgence. again, year 2 and comfort within our system.

    so saying it’s unrealistic to predict most of this “good fortune” seems negative to me. yes, certain members are older, but was that any different in our championship years? duncan is older, i get your reasoning, and we can’t rely on him to be the force he was, but to dismiss that the rest of our team was on the verge of picking up the slack… do you see why i think your posts are biased, especially when you list portland and houston, two teams whose track record with injuries are abyssmal, and have never shown they have the pieces to contend, as contenders ahead of us?

    illogical was poor word choice. i agree that you have a logic to your statements, but i would argue that it’s incomplete and selective. biased probably would’ve been a better choice of words, as i feel you’ve been biased negatively on our spurs and biased positively on others, rather than balanced.

    perhaps we’ll have to agree to disagree, but regardless, i enjoy the tete-a-tete.

  • Tim in Surrey

    @Andy – I’m with you on this one. Sorry, Jim, but I really do have to call this glass half full. Perhaps the biggest point in Andy’s favor is that things haven’t especially gone our way: Duncan HAS looked much older, Anderson and Splitter both missed all of training and a chunk of the regular season, and Blair has not gotten off to the start that a lot of us expected. And that soft early schedule has turned a lot tougher lately. After Orlando our SOS is now at .500. And yet… 12-1 and #1 in Hollinger’s power rankings, baby!

    (On the glass half-full or half-empty question, I’m sure our friend NYC will be like George Carlin and yell, “Hey! Who drank the othah half a my glass of watah!”)

  • Tim in Surrey

    (Sorry that’s “training CAMP”.)

  • Jim Henderson

    andy
    November 23rd, 2010 at 1:06 am

    “wouldn’t you agree it’s not unreasonable to assume rj could perform better in his 2nd year in our system? that is the modus operandi of the spurs system, right?”

    Actually, that’s a bit of a myth. Most new starter/rotation guys of years past were not much better in the 2nd year with the team. There’s no way to have expected the “big” jump that we’ve seen in RJ’s game (although I was expecting him to be better simply because that’s what his prior career would suggest).

    “parker is 28, about the average age when quick point guards hit their peak……is it too unreasonable to assume he’d come back this season with a vengeance?”

    Actually for someone who’s been in the league since 19, with a ton of long NBA seasons (all the long playoff runs), and many years of intense summers in international play, most reasonable observers would say that Parker’s in the later stages of peak form, particularly coming off an injury-plagued season suggestive of some wear & tear coming into play. Come back with a vengeance? Not “unreasonable”, but certainly with its fair share of doubt that he would be performing better than he EVER has in his stellar nine-year career.

    “manu is manu”

    Manu has also had extended periods when injuries have persistently adversely effected his game. At 33, with his hard-driving style, he’s looking unusually spry out there this season thus far.

    “many had high hopes for the former big 12 player of the year. i wasn’t even among those, but have been pleasantly surprised by anderson, and his WS/48, 0.131, is far more than anyone could have anticipated, i’ll give you that.”

    The fact is, even most lottery picks (Anderson was gotten 7 picks later) do not end up being steady rotation players on playoff caliber teams, particularly in their rookie years. Plus, it was known that we only had possible minutes available for him as a back-up SF that can defend, even though he did not even play SF at the college level, and was not known as a defender.

    “neal is less of a surprise than i think you …… insist he is…… i’m not saying i thought he was a sure thing, as many here were not, but again, i think it’s reasonable to see a contribution from him.”

    Again, it’s “reasonable” to have assumed that he had “a shot” at playing a useful role for the team as a shooter off the bench, and to fill in in case of emergency. What he has done already, thus far, could not have reasonably been predicted as likely.

    “chemistry from the spurs? is that so hard to see coming?”

    To the level it is right now, already? Sure, there’s no way to have predicted that. Achieving good chemistry is part luck, part veteran leadership, and part coaching. And the “luck part” of the equation is substantial. With a bunch of old hands and a number of new young guys from all walks of life thrown together as part of a “new family”? That simply doesn’t always work out that well. Not by a long shot. Beyond potential personality clashes, so many things can happen to throw things askew just a bit, and sometimes that’s all it takes to cause some issues that can effect the team.

    “i’ll even throw in 8. mcdyess’ resurgence. again, year 2 and comfort within our system.”

    I’m not convinced that’s the reason.

    “so saying it’s unrealistic to predict most of this “good fortune” seems negative to me.”

    To question that all of the good fortune would happen at the same time is not being negative; it’s being realistic and pragmatic with an effort to be objective about the team and it’s prospects.

    “do you see why i think your posts are biased, especially when you list portland and houston, two teams whose track record with injuries are abyssmal, and have never shown they have the pieces to contend, as contenders ahead of us?”

    No, I really don’t, and I gave you my reasoning about Portland & Houston in my previous comment. Both of those teams, if they would have finally gotten a break on injuries, clearly have the pieces to contend. And I still wouldn’t count Houston out if Yao can still recover and remain healthy for most of the year & the playoffs.

    “biased probably would’ve been a better choice of words, as i feel you’ve been biased negatively on our spurs and biased positively on others, rather than balanced.”

    Yeah, I disagree. Most commentator’s on here are way more biased in favor of the Spurs than for other teams. I try to find a reasonable balance as I view the strengths & weaknesses of all the teams involved.

    Tim in Surrey
    November 23rd, 2010 at 1:42 am

    Have to agree to disagree. There have been WAY more positives that have happened thus far for the Spurs than negatives. That said, I give the team and coaching staff a lot of credit for “riding the wave” with gusto!

  • Bankshot21

    Loving the dialogue. Jim, they are right on about your take. The most amazing this is you continue to be optimistic about the underachieving DeJuan Blair but pessimistic about all of the over achieving players. Guess that’s balance in a weird kind of way. Lol.

  • Jim Henderson

    Bankshot21
    November 23rd, 2010 at 5:58 am

    “Loving the dialogue. Jim, they are right on about your take.”

    No they’re not. They and others have been overly “optimistic” about the team, and I have tried to strike a more realistic balance about the team’s strengths & weaknesses in relation to the rest of the league. Conversely, on Blair, many have been overly “negative”, and again I’ve tried to inject some realism on the issue.

  • Bankshot21

    Jim,

    Since when does YOUR realism equal MASS REALISM? Andy was actually correct in his usage of the word ILLOGICAL. Both Yao Ming and Greg Oden have had shorter careers than TP and Manu yet they average less games per season than them. This is proof of how fragile they were and as this season is showing, still are. But you had faith in these fragile pieces to be able to with stand a grind it out season and contribute more than our proven stars? Absurd! And truth be told Brandon Roy and Kevin Martin can both be thrown into that brittle category. Along with a host of others.

  • andy

    perhaps what is at issue here is what you consider optimism vs. pessimism.

    i haven’t argued that it wasn’t optimistic to anticipate those things. in fact, i’ve tried to be balanced myself in my expectations, though i acknowledge that things could go heavily one way or the other. you’ve come consistently down on the pessimistic side regarding the spurs (save for blair, and i’m with you on his potential), with very little couching of your statements. perhaps that acknowledgment of variance, along with a consistency across teams is what i find most at issue when i read your posts.

    the point is, people did anticipate many of the things that have transpired. it’s patently false now to say that they couldn’t have foreseen these things, because we’ve talked about it for months now. i’m pretty sure i even said, worst case 6-4, best case 10-0 (and i said that with a heavy caveat), and a likely 7-3. yes, it could have been dismissed as the ramblings of hope-drunk fanatics, but lo and behold, it’s come to pass that we’re pretty good. are we optimistic fans lucky that our predictions have borne fruit? yes, i won’t argue that, but to argue that it’s impossible to forsee our fortune, or to deny that oden, roy, and yao (brooks was a freak incident, i grant) would have more health problems… i see a dichotomy of pessimism and optimism.

    in the end though, as i’m sure you do, i also feel every fan needs a healthy dose of pessimism (probably a life lesson somewhere in that). i respect your analysis, but i’ll just have to read your posts keeping that pessimism contextually in the back of my mind. i’ll feel free to chime in whenever i feel you’re off base, and please do the same when i’m being too fanciful.

  • Jim Henderson

    Bankshot21
    November 23rd, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    I made the predictions based on the possibility that Yao and Oden would see more action than they had over the past few years, and maybe even enough so that their respective teams could be bonafide contenders for a high seed in the West, which at the time, was not an unreasonable proposition. Usually young guys like Oden can recover over a reasonable period of time from knee injuries (for example, Stoudemire). A month ago nobody was saying that Oden was likely to have another season-ending knee injury. It’s a tragic piece of luck for both Oden & the Blazer organization. Yao’s situation is a bit different. His injury is not expected to keep him out that long, and of course the Brooks injury was completely unexpected since he’d missed just two games over the past two years. Both Houston & Portland are still very good teams without Yao & Oden, and could still be tough playoff match-ups (it’s way early to write them off), but because of ongoing poor luck regarding injuries they may now be on the outside looking in as far as a top-four playoff seed.

    “But you had faith in these fragile pieces to be able to with stand a grind it out season and contribute more than our proven stars? Absurd!”

    What’s absurd is you attributing things to me that I never said. I said nothing about Yao & Oden “contributing more than our proven stars”. I said if healthy, Portland & Houston could very well finish ahead of the Spurs in the seedings, but I also all along admitted that it would be close either way (probably no more than 3-4 games separating them). I’m glad the Surs are off to a fabulous start, but the season has a LONG way to go.

    “And truth be told Brandon Roy and Kevin Martin can both be thrown into that brittle category. Along with a host of others.”

    No, not anymore than Manu, and Roy and Martin are still very young, and thus have not really established a persistent pattern of injuries.

  • Bankshot21

    Jim,

    You are aware that Kevin Martin has already missed 137 games in his 6 seasons while Manu has missed 103 in 8? Kevin Martin is the epitome of fragile. Even Brandon Roy averages less games per season than Manu, but I think he should be able to bounce back having not had many extended absences due to injury. His have been more lingering than anything. And my saying that you had faith in fragile players was obviously not a quote. To say if their injury proned players stay healthy can out play (seed) us is basically saying that if our injury proned players stay healthy they are not as viable.

  • Jim Henderson

    Bankshot21
    November 24th, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    “You are aware that Kevin Martin has already missed 137 games in his 6 seasons while Manu has missed 103 in 8?”

    The GREAT majority of the 37 games that Martin missed during his rookie season were from DNP-CD. Martin was not in the regular rotation for much of his rookie season. As a result, his missed-game-rate due to injury is fairly comparable to Manu’s (about 16 games per year for Martin, and 13 games per year for Manu — Roy has also missed about 13 games per year in his early career). Also, Manu has been preserved more because he has played on a much more talented and deep team, allowing his minutes to be monitored more tightly (28 mpg. career). For Martin, not using his first year because it is not representative, he’s averaged 34 mpg. Manu is somewhat “fragile”, and Martin has thus far proved somewhat fragile.

    “To say if their injury proned players stay healthy can out play (seed) us is basically saying that if our injury proned players stay healthy they are not as viable.”

    No, I’m simply saying that if, for example, Portland had Oden, Pryzbilla, and Roy all healthy this season they could have very well in my view finished above us in the seedings, even assuming that our big three also stayed healthy all year.

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