The Big Fundamental meets Boris the Big Easy

by

AT&T CENTER–The possession begins simply enough, with a high screen presented to point guard Tony Parker by longtime friend and new NBA teammate Boris Diaw.

Determined not to allow Parker into the lane with impunity, the Los Angeles Clippers hedge and trap off the screen to force a Parker retreat, all the while playing into the Spurs hands. Occupying two defenders some 25 feet away from the basket, Parker fires a quick pass to Diaw, putting the ball into the hands of one the game’s greatest passing big men with a 4-on-3 numbers advantage.

Diaw recieves the ball on the wing, taking one dribble towards the middle–just enough to draw the rotating defense’s attention–before dumping a pass off to a cutting Tim Duncan for an easy flip shot. It’s a play that seems unassumingly easy, until you see the Los Angeles Clippers miserably fail an attempt between Blake Griffin and Kenyon Martin near the end of the first quarter.

But then, Boris Diaw has always had a knack for making the game look simpler than it really is.

“Basketball came easy to him, he was a natural,” Parker replied when asked of his first impression of Diaw back in their high school days in France. “He sees everything in advance, that’s why he’s such a great passer. I knew he was going to be a great player.”

The San Antonio Spurs are making child’s play of the Western Conference Playoffs. Through the first two rounds it’s as if they, compared to the rest of the NBA, are playing two completely different sports while sharing the same court.

Chess to checkers.

It’s an appropriate analogy because two-time Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich knows how to maneuver his pawns on the board better than anyone else.

These Spurs boast an almost unprecedentedly deep offensive arsenal at their disposal, and it’s become obvious that the Clipper are attempting to stymie it by taking out it’s primary deployment system, Tony Parker. Facing a physical, swarming, and aggressive resistance at the point of attack, Parker has done a masterful job of getting rid of the ball quickly and into the proper spots.

More often than not that has been in the hands of his fellow countryman.

“They tried to take me out of Game 1 so I had to be patient and get my teammates involved. In the first half they did the same thing, staying on the pick and roll and trapping me,” Parker said. “I thought Boris did a great job of being the point guard. When they trap me I give it to Boris and Boris finds the shooters or he finds Timmy.

“If they use the same strategy I have confidence in Boris making the right decision.”

If the Spurs are boring it’s because they have made the game so simple it looks like anyone can do it. No superhuman feats needed, just an extra pass to an open shooter. Over the course of his career, few have been as willing or capable of doing so as Diaw.

“He is unselfish, he understands what we want to do,” Duncan said after the game. “Defensively he is solid. He can pass the ball better than any of the big men I have ever played with. He shoots the ball. You put all those things together and he is just a great addition to our squad.”

It’s that passing and understanding of the game that has eased so much of the burden on Duncan. The Spurs have plugged in a number of big men next to him since David Robinson’s retirement, none with the all-around game of Diaw.

Diaw has only been here for weeks, yet he and Duncan share the front court with a comfort level of a duo that has played together for 10 years, moving in tandem on both sides of the court. If it’s not pulling down a playoff career best 12 rebounds one night, it’s scoring 16 points on 7-7 shooting (with two three-pointers) the next.  All accomplished while frustrating one of the premiere scoring forwards in the league.

“He’s done a very good job for us, fit in pretty seamlessly coming that late into the season,” Popovich said. “But it’s basketball, it’s not complicated.”

And it isn’t, even if similar transitions haven’t gone so smoothly so quickly. The San Antonio Spurs have long been considered to run one of the most complicated systems in the NBA. One that has seen several players struggle in their first year only to make profound leaps and bounds the next.

Diaw does not leap, he just plugs along at his own pace.

“It’s pretty easy with this team,” Diaw responded when asked how he integrated so quickly. “Because the way they play, they play smart basketball. It’s easy to recognize and see what to do, where to feed the ball, I’m just trying to be an addition. It’s a pretty easy role.”

After all, it’s basketball. It’s not complicated. Just ask Boris Diaw.

 

 

  • TheRealDirtyP1

    Still a head scratcher that Buford didn’t win GM of the year. It’s nice what Indiana is doing, don’t get me wrong. The Spurs win 50 games in a shortened season even with a retool of the roster. That’s either luck or knowing and finding the right personnel. Buford got the best out of the Leonard/Hill trade and was able to swap Jefferson for Jackson. Let’s not forget Patty Mills, he is the 13th man right now but allowed Parker a lot of rest at the end of the season.

  • Bob

    Diaw helps to keep the offense from getting stuck because of how simple he makes the game. Plus his defense has been great.

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  • Demetriax

    Go Spurs and go French team :)
    Im’ french and i knew Diaw and he’s a smart player so it’s easy for him to play with a smart team and smart head coach. Thx Pop for Diaw ;)
    I guess if Spurs win OKC, they’ll be champions.
    I don’t talk about about TP because still the best one, he’s not the franchise player but he’s the best player of this team and of the french team. I’m in hurry up to c USA vs France to Olympics games even if i think USA’ll win.
    Anyway, thx TP, thx Tim, thx Diaw and thx Pop… I’ll continue to support u each game.

  • Czernobog

    @TheRealDirtyP1: When was the last time one organization got COY and GMOY in the same year?

    Anyway, I’ve been meaning to ask, since I haven’t been able to watch that many regular season games this side of the pond, What happened to Dejuan Blair? Is he in the dog house?

  • Grego

    @Czernobog – To simplify. He’s not good for the playoffs due to his lack of versatility, boxing out and defense. Splitter and Diaw offer more. And Bonner spreads and has good fundamentals when he’s in albeit a limited amount of time.

  • Titletown99030507d

    I feel bad for Blair but I have been saying it for 2 years know Blair starting in the playoffs wouldn’t get us too far. His confidence has to be shot by now. Two seasons in a row. Pop should have concentrated on him getting his shot down since he got here and now we have a player on the bench that can rebound watching most of the team play. Work on your shot Dejuan.

  • Titletown99030507d

    “NOW”

  • theghostofjh

    @Czernobog

    “What happened to Dejuan Blair? Is he in the dog house?”

    Not really. He’d probably still be starting if we didn’t have the good fortune of picking up Diaw, a versatile, experienced, and proven playoff performer. And the fact is, DJB’s skill-set does not fit well with Bonner’s or Splitter’s, and since Pop prefers Bonner over Blair, Blair drops to the 5th big on the team. Ergo, few minutes for DeJuan on the court.

    Frankly, I think the Spurs still would still do very well with Blair starting with Duncan, and Diaw being first big off the bench, playing part of his minutes with Duncan, and part with Splitter, and still getting the 2nd most minutes out of all our bigs. Of course, in that arrangement, Bonner would get few minutes, which would be my preference.

  • Bob

    @Titletown99030507d

    Hopefully his starting during the regular season increased his trade value. It would be great if the Spurs could get a pick or two for him.

  • Stijl

    @TheRealDirtyP1
    Agreed that Buford deserved the award. But…has there ever been a year that both the coach and GM of a team won? Diplomatic was probably the outcome.

    The article…
    Another fine read. I wonder if the Spurs were ever “serious” in trying to get K-Mart or knew all along via nod and wink Diaw’s situation.

  • NYC

    “The Spurs have plugged in a number of big men next to him since David Robinson’s retirement, none with the all-around game of Diaw.”

    Now wait one gosh darn minute. I seem to remember a man named Robert Horry who had quite the mojo and all-around game.

  • FreshTuna

    Don’t the coaches vote for CoY and the GMs for the EoY? I’m not sure RC missed out because Pop won… Hollinger’s piece for ESPN may be closer to the truth (i.e., the 14 execs who didn’t even have RC marked on their ballots didn’t understand the Spurs’ moves this year).

  • Al

    Diaw is the signing of the year. The man creates shots for Timmy and the shooters and scores and defends. He has been unbelievable. I feel bad for DaJuan Blair who can’t be too happy on that bench. Neither is James Anderson probably. But that’s what you get when you have so many weapons

  • rowen

    Paul Silas, on deactivating Boris Diaw earlier this season:

    “I like a player who is really committed to not only the team but to himself and then doing the best he can as a player,” Silas said. “Some of the things that would go on, like not shooting the ball (and) passing all of the time… I needed hoops and he could put the ball in the hoop. When that wouldn’t happen it was very disturbing.”

    facepalm.

    while he is an above-average shooter, Diaw is simply not a scorer. he just doesn’t have that mindset. but man, having Diaw on the pick-n-roll is simply devastating, especially when the big hedges on TP.

  • grego

    @NYC – exactly. Horry was really good for the Spurs. too bad his career with the Spurs was after his prime.

  • grego

    @theghostofjh
    “He’d probably still be starting if we didn’t have the good fortune of picking up Diaw”

    That’s because Blair/Bonner in the second unit would be death. With Duncan/Blair you can cover up more of what Blair lacks. You can’t play Blair with Splitter so that leaves him either as a starter or not playing at all.

  • theghostofjh

    @grego

    “That’s because Blair/Bonner in the second unit would be death. With Duncan/Blair you can cover up more of what Blair lacks. You can’t play Blair with Splitter so that leaves him either as a starter or not playing at all.”

    If you read my full comment, that’s pretty much what I said.

  • Amar

    @Czernobog

    If I am not mistaken, the Phoenix Suns swept the major awards in 04-05, with Nash (MVP), D’antoni (COTY) and Collangelo (EOTY). So really not that long ago has an organization won both. Crazy to think its an award voted on by GMs and Buford would still get robbed by the amount he did, it wasn’t even really close. Bird did a good job, but he didn’t deserve the award, no doubt about it. I just can’t tell what the agenda was keeping it from RC.

  • Stijl

    @FreshTuna
    Since you posed a viable question which I didn’t know for sure the answer…I looked it up.

    According to Wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NBA_Coach_of_the_Year_Award
    “The National Basketball Association’s Coach of the Year is an annual National Basketball Association (NBA) award given since the 1962–63 NBA season. The winner receives the Red Auerbach Trophy, which is named in honor of the head coach who led the Boston Celtics to nine NBA Championships from 1956 to 1966. The winner is selected at the end of regular season by a panel of sportswriters from the United States and Canada, each of whom casts a vote for first, second and third place selections. Each first-place vote is worth five points; each second-place vote is worth three points; and each third-place vote is worth one point. The person with the highest point total, regardless of the number of first-place votes, wins the award.[1]”

    EoY selection
    “The National Basketball Association’s Executive of the Year Award is an annual award given since the 1972–73 NBA season, to the league’s best general managers. Before 2009, the Executive of the Year is presented annually by Sporting News, although it is officially recognized by the NBA.[1] Since then, the award was awarded by the NBA.[2] Voting is conducted by executives from the league’s 30 teams. The person with the most number of votes wins the award.[3]“

  • Mark H

    The chess analogy is apt, but I’d hate to be the one who has the play the role of the queen.

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