Spurs practice report: Pay little attention to strength of schedule
The Spurs have cruised out to a 9-1 record to begin the season, but if you’re nitpicking you can point out the fact that just three of their 10 opponents currently have a winning record. These guys aren’t interested in picking nits, however. They’ve done what they were expected to do with the schedule they were given.
“You’ve got to be careful with that, because sometimes, in other seasons, we started with an easier schedule and we don’t play good defense, either,” Manu said. “So, sometimes the mental approach is part of the difference, too — respecting everybody. And even if you’re not playing contenders, just do a good job getting people off the lines, don’t give them easy buckets, no transition points, and I think we’ve been doing that pretty well.”
San Antonio has played the eighth easiest schedule in the league, according to Basketball-Reference. Still, the Spurs are playing defense at an elite level, and they’re winning games by an average margin (9.3 points) you’d expect against inferior teams. So it’s not like they’ve been playing down to the competition on that side of the ball. While the offense has struggled a bit out of the gates (currently 12th in the league with a 102.7 offensive rating), the defense is holding teams to just 91.6 points per 100 possessions, just .2 points behind league-leading Indiana, according to NBA.com stats.
Yes, it’s still early, but seeing consistency like this on the defensive end is bodes well for the future. It’s the greatest constant between the two sides of the ball, as well as the discipline Gregg Popovich preaches first and foremost. And when you run a timing-based offense like the Spurs do, it can certainly take time to find the right rhythm.
So, for now, San Antonio won’t worry about its schedule. And with five days off to prepare for the young Celtics, a 10-1 record to start the season seems likely. But this team sure does drink in the coach-speak — in a good way, of course.
“We feel every NBA team is a good team, and it’s a good chance to get better regardless of who it is. They’re NBA players, they play hard and they’re professionals. They’re really good at what they do,” Danny Green said. “Obviously, it’s different with different matchups, but we can’t worry about that. We can only worry about what we do.”
The Manu contract
It’s going to be different seeing the Celtics in town without Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett or Doc Rivers, but such is the nature of the NBA landscape, where players are always on the move.
Manu Ginobili knows he’s fortunate to be where he’s been all these years.
“We’ve gotten used to playing the Celtics with a different type of personnel,” he said. “But we know that what we have here is a very atypical thing, and that it happens — reconstruction mode goes every few years in the NBA.”
And it begged the question: Was there ever a time Ginobili wanted to move on to bigger and better things? While other players with inferior talent were getting max contracts around the league, Manu has always played on a salary that has allowed the Spurs to be flexible under the luxury-tax threshold. He was oftentimes worth more than he was being paid, but he never viewed it that way. Or if he did, he didn’t tell us.
“I never felt I could get anything better outside here — on the court, off the court. Actually, I was very lucky in my career to never be in a situation where leaving was a real concern or opportunity,” he said. “I didn’t even try. I was satisfied with what I’ve always been offered. I just didn’t need more. I was happy with the respect I was getting here … and that was it.”
An atypical NBA mindset, to be sure.
Matt Bonner was wearing a compression sleeve on his previously injured left calf during practice. It looked pretty hip. Danny Green told us during the media portion of the afternoon that he wanted to wear one, but he’s not allowed. Only players with injuries that required them are allowed to wear sleeves of that variety.
Allen Iverson would’ve never been a Spur. Then again, he was always banged up. Who knows…
Furthermore, this puts a damper on things for those of you who like to accessorize your ‘My Player’ in NBA 2K, right? Since you’re trying to be realistic? No? OK.
Also, Bonner said he never buys anything unless it’s on super sale, essentially. One of the Ralph Lauren suits he wore on the bench while he was injured cost $69, down from about $400.
This has been your Spurs fashion update.