The joys of preseason, enjoying the little things

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Finally, after an unfortunately long summer, tonight begins a first real look at the San Antonio Spurs. Had this been a regular season game I would remark how fitting it is that the season kicked off against such an appropriate team in the Houston Rockets.

I say fitting because both teams face a number of similar questions heading into the season. Will Yao Ming and Tim Duncan hold up through the season? Will the contract status of Tony Parker or Aaron Brooks be a distraction? Can either team matchup with the Lakers?

Fortunately tonight will hold no such answers. A long season lies ahead of us, maybe the last season for a while, and it should be an entertaining journey. But now is not the time. As meaningless as an exhibition game can be I must also confess it is one of my favorite times of year.

One of my favorite moments as a Spurs fan is sneaking down to the floor from the nose bleeds during the fourth quarter of one of these meaningless games, rooting shamelessly for training camp body Todd Lindeman (and subsequently being asked if we were related to him, because why else would two goofy white kids be cheering for such an anonymous player). The payoff being acknowledgement in the form of a fist pump in our direction during a dramatic (for us) and one opportunity.

It might not be Where Amazing Happens, but preseason games are definitely where fun can happen. With the relevance of the game removed, the games offer an opportunity to just sit back and enjoy the little things that will ultimately fail to make headlines during the regular season.

As such, our matchup of the night will not be Duncan and Yao, Parker and Brooks, or even Manu Ginobili and Shane Battier. Tonight the spotlight can shine on the likes of James Andersonand Chase Budinger.

Anderson will not be a featured offensive weapon this season for the San Antonio Spurs, despite his exploits in college. For now he’ll be asked to defend and hit the ocassional open three with some opportunities in transition. But tonight, should James Anderson–the Spurs potential first round steal–find himself matched up against Houston’s second round steal from a year ago, he might be able to answer one small question:

Can opposing teams hide defensive liabilities on Anderson?

As important is it is to see how James Anderson fits in around the trio of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, at some point in the second half Anderson should find himself with some time to play beyond what his role will be. Given the ball and space, will he be able to be more than just a spot up shooter?

The thing about employing one-dimensional spot up shooters, they work in theory provided your defense is still dominant. But when offensive superstars are running wild against the Spurs without fear of guarding anyone on the other end, it can make for a long night as Dirk Nowitzki and Steve Nash pointed out last season.

An exerpt from last season’s playoff loss to the Suns:

And the theory that Hill’s offense would leave Nash with no one to hide his defensive deficiencies? One tiny flaw–just because a player scores 20-plus points in a couple of games does not mean he created all of those shots. As mentioned in the preview, Hill still scores the majority of his points on standstill spot-up jump shots and remains the type of player that can be taken out of a game if you focus your defense on him.

That’s where Anderson vs. Budinger comes in. Budinger can be a helpful offensive role player, especially in spacing the floor for Yao Ming or Luis Scola. But he’s one of many role players on good teams throughout the NBA who can be exploited on the other end of the court if you have the personnel to do so.

Can Anderson lessen the impact of such players on the defensive end? And will he be able to take enough advantage of the matchup on offense to force the opposing coach to go with a more offensively limited, defensive minded player–most second unit players are one or the other, rarely are they both–and play into the Spurs strengths?

In the grand scheme of things, they are small questions. But these meaningless preseason games are the perfect opportunity to ask them. So if you’re fortunate enough to attend one of these games, about midway through the third quarter is the perfect opportunity to upgrade your seats. The fringe rotation players always provide the most entertainment.

And if you happen to be or know Todd Lindeman, send us another fist pump.

  • BankShot21

    How about Blair/Scola match-up?….should be fun.Hopefully I’ll catch the game online some where.

  • BlaseE

    Really nice preseason preview/hype piece. You could also add the similarity that SF depth is an issue for both teams with a ton of young talent gunning for it. I’m curious to see what kind of shape Anderson is in after all of his time off. I expect him to have a rough start to the season with his injury setback and transitioning to the NBA.

    I lucked into lower level tickets when the Spurs played Houston on March 31st when George Hill destroyed them. I had a similar moment to you with Ian Mahinmi. He got to play in the fourth, and my friends and I decided to cheer him on as loud as we could. A guy next to us even taught us how to say “Let’s go, Ian!” in French (at least I hope that is what he taught us). Phonetically, it was something like “alone zee” with a soft “A” in “alone”. Googled it, “Allons-y” is the supposed correct spelling. Everyone around us started asking who he was…..

    No fist bumps sent our way though.

  • DieHardSpur

    I live in Houston.

    All of my co-workers and friends are big time Rockets fans, as well as most of my Family. I cannot wait for this game, I believe we play each other 6 times this year!

    Year after year I hear the same excuses:

    “Timmy is too old, Manu is too fragile, and Tony is too 1-dimensional…”

    I have been listening to those excuses since before we won our last title. Apparently we have found a way to stay relevent. I am very excited about our new roster and believe we have the ability to contend for our 5th title.

  • Pingback: Tweets that mention Preseason: Rockets vs. Spurs | 48 Minutes of Hell -- Topsy.com()

  • rj

    i rememver watching ian get a putback dunk and a late game rebound over blake griffin. fun times….

  • BankShot21

    What’s this I hear about that Gaffney kid being a good wing defender? I haven’t seen him play but could any of you who have see him in the Silver and Black?

  • JustMe

    Cool article, I’ve done the “after half-time” seat upgrade as well.

    Link to the game;
    http://www.firstrow.net/sports/basketball.html

  • Hobson13

    It should be an interesting game tonight. Tonight’s game will give us a look (although just a small glimps) into these situations.

    1. How much has especially Dejuan Blair improved over the summer?
    2. Who will take control of our backup SF role (Anderson, Simmons, Gee, Gist)?
    3. Will RJ and Pop’s coaching sessions bear fruit?
    4. How will Parker look and adjust to this team now that he’s healthy?
    5. Will Hill be a more explosive scorer since he’s added a floater and improved his 3pt shot?

    Preseason games are by and large used to determine who will make the team and who will be cut. Those are the players Pop and the coaching staff will be heavily evaluating, not our top 8 guys. One rather meaningless preseason game won’t entirely answer these questions, but someone could very well surprise us tonight. Finally!! We are going to see some Spurs basketball.

    If I had to guess, here would be my Spurs lineup to start the regular season.

    PG: Parker, Hill, Temple
    SG: Manu, Anderson, Neal, (Hill will play some)
    SF: RJ, Simmons
    PF: Duncan, Blair, Bonner
    C: McDyess (to start the year), Splitter (starting a few months into the season)

  • td4life

    one psuedo-game in and it looks like the same old RJ and the same old Bonner (nope, those to contracts ain’t sitting well just yet.)

    And, get used to it, the same Pop going with the vets (this year named Simmons), and maybe favoring Neal over Anderson.

    But some of the good news is that Neal may deserve the tick, and the better news is heavy minutes for DB.

  • Heavy in the paint

    every party needs a pooper

  • Tim in Surrey

    That’s a cool story, Jesse. I’ll bet it brings back memories for all of us. Every serious fan I know has a pre-season underdog story like yours.

    [Nostalgia alert: If you don’t want to read a long post about Spurs fans in the Pre-Cambrian era, skip this post immediately.]

    I used to upgrade my seats, too–only I did it right at the opening tip, and for regular season games, too. A friend and I went to a lot of Spurs games in the 80s at the old Hemisfair Arena. We used to do the classic Madison Square Garden seat-shopping scam: Look for empty seats right after the tip-off and hope they don’t belong to someone who arrives late. (I lived in NYC in the 70s, so I learned it at the mecca itself.) It’s touch and go, of course, and the real trick is sneaking past the attendants.

    After doing that a few times, though, we noticed that there was one group of seats that was open for every Spurs game (with one exception, which I’ll get to in a minute). It was on the floor, immediately behind the visiting team’s bench. I’m not sure why they were always available, because the other end of the row was full of season-ticket holders, who were paying lots of money. My best guess is that they were reserved for friends and family of the visiting team. Since nobody in the NBA was from San Antonio (aside from Robert Reid) they were never needed. Plus, basketball players being so tall, they almost qualified as “obstructed view” seats. So we worked our way down and sat there and nobody said a thing. They even took drink orders from us and brought us stat sheets at halftime… And we did this for EVERY game.

    So for several years in the late 1980s, I effectively had front-row tickets for $5 a game, plus concessions. The concessions were crucial, however, because they got us past the attendants. Before walking downstairs, we would always fill up our hands with popcorn and beer and then wait for a rush of fans. When the attendant asked for a ticket, we’d pretend to fumble a bit, get frustrated, and then just say the number of the section, row, and seat we were aiming for (for NBA fans, just like for players, coaches and GMs, good scouting always pays off). It never failed. After a while, the staffers knew who we were and they didn’t bother asking for tickets. We were always friendly with the staff and very outgoing cheerleaders for the team, so it might be that some of them knew it was a scam, but didn’t mind.

    There was however one game every year when the seats weren’t open, which is when Michael Jordan came to town. This was before he won all the championships, but he was such a star that it was IMPOSSIBLE to find empty seats for his games. Luckily we were so well known to the guards that we could just roam around the floor anyway. Still one of my favourite NBA moments was a breakaway dunk by Jordan when I was standing under the basket, right next to the photographers. The most amazing thing wasn’t the leaping or the style–it was how fast he got there from the other end of the court. That’s one of those things about the league that you don’t get unless you see it up close–the players aren’t just huge, they’re FAST.

    Other than the Bulls, the only nights to watch out for were when Utah came to town. Why? Mark Eaton and Frank Layden were very, very large men. It’s simply not possible to watch a game when Eaton is sitting in front of you and Layden is roaming up and down the whole time. I couldn’t see a thing…

    Sitting in those seats, I did get to meet a lot of the players, refs, and reporters, especially hanging around after the games. The late 80s wasn’t exactly the Spurs’ heyday but it was still a thrill to meet guys like Johnny Dawkins, Mychal Thompson, or Walter Berry, or ex-Spurs like Ice (who’s a very nice man). Walter in particular used to occasionally look our way and smile after a dunk because he knew he would get a big cheer from us.

    We were best poised to annoy the opposing team, of course. I don’t know if we ever got inside his head, but Barkley in particular used to scowl at us in an amused kind of way. The one guy we NEVER teased, though, was Xavier McDaniel. The X-Man might be the most intimidating person I’ve ever met. (Check out this photo of him and Wes Matthews, Sr. and I think you’ll understand: http://hoopedia.nba.com/index.php?title=Xavier_McDaniel)

    We even had a scam for free parking, too: There was a long wall across the street from the federal courthouse and on the back side of it you could park for free, just five feet away from the pay lots.

    A few years later when I was at North Texas, I had a friend who worked for the Mavs. She used to give me her comps on occasion and they were nearly as good as those Spurs seats. But somehow the fact that we were sneaking in made sitting courtside that much better. I’ll say this, though, to any basketball fan: If you’ve never sat on the floor for an NBA game, you do it at least once in your life, even if it costs a fortune. Because it’s a completely different experience when you can see just how big, strong, and fast the players really are and experience all the chatter, chaos, facial expressions, hand signals, blood, sweat, B.O., and agony up close and in person. And preseason games are a good way to experience it without breaking the bank.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Sorry, the parentheses messed up my link for the photo of Xavier McDaniel and Wes Matthews enjoying a typical day at the office. Here it is:

    http://hoopedia.nba.com/index.php?title=Xavier_McDaniel