Previewing the season opener with Hornets 247
It’s been a long summer since the Spurs were ousted in frustrating fashion against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals. Tonight begins the latest long, slow march towards another title. We partnered with our amigos at Hornets 247 to preview tonight’s game against New Orleans. 48MoH Editor Emeritus Graydon Gordian hopped on the In the NO podcast to chat about the game and I had a little back-and-forth with Ryan Schwan on a number of topics related to the game. You can find our conversation below.
Ryan Schwan, Hornets 247: This question may be a moot point if Eric Gordon doesn’t start the season in the line-up, but I’ve heard mixed reviews about Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard’s defense. Are they up to par as true defensive wing stoppers that could give Gordon trouble? Or are they still shaping into that roll? Last season, it seemed the Spurs had difficulty defending wing players.
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard are both emerging defenders on the NBA landscape. I don’t think anybody would label them as true stoppers in the All-Defensive Team mold, but they’re going that direction. They both spent time last season marking the opposing team’s best players — Green usually handling point guards and smaller 2-guards, and Kawhi checking shooting guards and small forwards. Because of his physical stature and athleticism, Leonard has a higher ceiling as a defensive pest, but they’re both talented in their own right. They gained a lot of experience last season and should help the Spurs defense improve some. I would expect Danny Green to get the lion’s share of minutes defending Gordon on Wednesday night, but Leonard may get some time as well, if nothing else to give Gordon a different look and Leonard some more experience.
Ryan Schwan: One of the most surprising storylines of last years Spurs team was Boris Diaw returning to the living, and the contributions he made in San Antonio after being dreadful in Charlotte. In the past, he’s struggled mightily with conditioning coming into the season. This off-season, did Diaw or the croissant win? Will the Hornets catch a little break?
Andrew McNeill: Boris Diaw definitely came into camp in decent shape. No one will ever describe Diaw as a “physical specimen,” but he returned from his summer vacation at a decent playing weight. Playing in the Olympics with teammates Tony Parker and Nando De Colo helped, as did the general idea that he’d again be playing basketball for something resembling a contending team.
Ryan Schwan: It looks to me like the biggest key for the Hornets offense against the Spurs is going to be Ryan Anderson. Do the Spurs have a frontcourt player who can chase a true stretch 4? Who do you see chasing Anderson?
Andrew McNeill: The Spurs don’t have a lot of frontcourt players with the chops to do much chasing of any sort, let alone pursuing professional athletes. That said, Boris Diaw and Matt Bonner will probably get the bulk of the duty harassing Ryan Anderson. Tim Duncan’s chasing days are done and Tiago Splitter is better served hanging around the basket.
How much of an impact is Anthony Davis likely to have on Day 1? Will he be limited to around-the-rim-finisher and defensive anchor or is he already more developed than that?
Ryan Schwan: Actually, based on the pre-season it is difficult to get a feel for exactly what sets Davis will actually be involved in because Monty Williams reportedly told him to use pre-season to “play around out there.” So during pre-season he was definitely not just the roll man on pick-and-rolls. He averaged nearly 15 shots a game and took them from all over the floor, including a bunch of shots from the mid-range after facing up on a guy – but you could kind of tell he was just messing around and wasn’t leaving it all out there. In the one game he didn’t seem to be well . . . loafing . . . was against the Heat, and he went determinedly towards the basket all night outside of a pair of face-up jumpers. So the answer to your question? He’ll make his living at the rim – I expect him to use a few possessions facing up a game as he figures out how to use that.
Andrew McNeill: What is the mood surrounding Eric Gordon? Has he been a good boy since showing up to training camp or are the makings of a locker room cancer there?
Ryan Schwan: It may sound harsh, but I don’t think Eric Gordon has the force of personality to be a locker room cancer. If his non-stop injuries don’t clear up, he’ll be a major source of frustration for the fans and Monty Williams, who is trying to mask his irritation, but the mask seems to be strained lately. Monty isn’t one to bite his tongue.