Spurs vs. Pacers Give and Go Preview
Apparently the Spurs have never started a season 4-0 in franchise history. Doesn’t matter if it was Tim Duncan, David Robinson or George Gervin suiting up, it’s never happened. Considering how successful this franchise has been for its entire history, this is baffling to me. Strange but true.
San Antonio goes into Monday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers with as good a shot as they’ve ever had at going undefeated through its first four games. Everyone is healthy and they’re at home with at least one day of rest. The Pacers, meanwhile, come in to the Alamo City missing arguably their top offensive player (Danny Granger).
Andrew McNeill, 48 Minutes of Hell: Considering the Pacers were oh-so-close to taking down the Heat in last year’s playoffs, where are they at to start this season?
Jared Wade, 8 Points, 9 Seconds: Their offseason consisted of retaining their key free agents (Roy Hibbert and George Hill) and retooling the bench. There was no reason to think it was a big upgrade, but with guys like Gerald Green and Ian Mahinmi, there is more potential upside. Still, I don’t think many people would say they made any major improvements, so the consensus agrees that anything more than making it to the Eastern Conference Finals is probably a pipe dream — especially if Danny Granger’s knee issue lingers all season.
AM: What’s the latest on Granger? Are things looking bleak?
JW: As of now, we really don’t know. The doctors are still looking at photos and checking out his sore left knee. He originally hurt it in the Miami series and aggravated it in the preseason. I’m far from a doctor so can’t really offer any prognosis. But I can say this confidently: things look very bleak for Indiana’s offense if Granger misses significant time. They barely edged Toronto in their opener (which took a Herculean effort from David West), lost to Charlotte while showing a complete inability to score, and needed two overtimes to beat the lowly Kings. Yeah, the offense without the captain has not run smoothly.
AM: What about Paul George? I feel like all I’ve been hearing regarding the Pacers in the offseason and preseason is how good George will be. Is this just hype or is he going to be a legitimate star?
JW: “Legitimate star” may be a reach but he definitely could get there. Regardless, he already very solid on both ends of the court and has the potential to be one of the very best two-way players in the NBA. His athleticism and size allow him to guard most wings and he has done a solid job on everyone from Derrick Rose and Dwyane Wade to Kobe Bryant LeBron James at times. The final hurdle he really needs to overcome to make the next leap is offensively consistency and he is trying to do so by being more aggressive. In the Miami series, for instance, he spent a lot of time floating around as an invisible man and the result was a pretty bad series from him on that end of the floor. Thus far this season, however, he seems to be a little too much in his own head and pressing to take on a bigger offensive load, which has him a little out of sorts as he tries to do things that seem to go against his nature. Time will tell if this determined effort to do more with the ball in his hands will pay dividends.
AM: Where is Paul George most effective offensively?
JW: In open space for sure. His length, quickness and agility make it very difficult for tall guys to stay with him and for shorter guys to bother his shot. In the open court, he is crafty and skilled enough to score easily. But he is also a very good catch-and-shoot spot-up guy. It’s the whole face-up/make-a-move-on-someone thing that he is still working to figure out. He can do it well on occasion, but he seems to do it best when it just organically happens as opposed to making a concerted effort to do so.
AM: How is George Hill being received by Pacers fans in Year 2?
JW: Pretty well. For some reason, and I still don’t know why, people didn’t seem to appreciate Darren Collison that much. So Hill, a guy who played his high school and college ball in Indianapolis, has been well received both for his own play and just as an alternative to the status quo. He has also formed his own fan section, the G2 Zone, that gives away 72 tickets to fans for each home game, so that has certainly bought some good will as well.
AM: I’m going to ask you about this every time we talk, but where do you stand on the Hill-Kawhi Leonard trade at this point?
JW: I think it was a very sensible move for a team that was trying to grow up, acquire some playoff vets and rebuild a fanbase. Additionally, I think Larry Bird realized that he already had a near-All Star at small forward who has too much money remaining on his deal to really return much in a trade. Obviously, they underrated Kawhi’s talent (as it appears about 10 other GMs did as well) and given how much it cost to retain Hill on his new deal, it’s looking like a much worse decision now. It’s hard for me to think that Indy’s front office should have foreseen all the new information and circumstances that have develoved since the deal, so I wouldn’t ever categorize the move as a true blunder, and who knows how much of Leonard’s productivity is tied to being a member of the league’s best oranization and playing for its best coach, but given the necessetity of having young talent on cheap contracts under the since-negotiated CBA and just Kawhi’s talent, I don’t think history wil be kind to Bird’s call on this one.
AM: What about the Pacers second unit? From an offensive and defensive efficiency standpoint, the Spurs second group has been bad this season. Even with Manu Ginobili coming back, the second group was something like a -22 net against the Jazz on Saturday night.
JW: With Granger sidelined and Gerald Green stepping into the starting five, the bench is thin at best. Tyler Hansbrough has been solid, adding some scoring and drawing fouls, but DJ Augustin has been a shooting disaster (he has missed 12 of his 15 shots this season) and Ian Mahinmi has added next to nothing. Lance Stephenson has been the one bright spot, proving a potent weapon in the past two games and really starting to display some of the promise that Larry Bird, who is Lance’s biggest fan, saw in him when he drafted him in the second round and gave him a guaranteed two-year deal.
In short, the whole team has been an offensive mess through three games and the bench makes the starters look like the 2004 Suns by comparison. The Spurs should have little to worry about when Indiana’s best players are off the floor.