The joys of preseason, enjoying the little things
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 shamelesslyÂ 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 Hillâ€™s offense would leave Nash with no one to hide his defensive deficiencies? One tiny flawâ€“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.