The Roots of Defensive Decline

by

If you wrote a book about this season, which story lines would play most prominently in your retelling of the story. The decline of Spurs’ defense? The slight but unmistakable devolution of Manu Ginobili’s game? Tony Parker’s game-weary legs? The promise of DeJuan Blair and George Hill? Tim Duncan’s squandered brilliance? The emergence of small-ball as a nightly fixture within Spurs basketball? And once you decided on your favored story lines, how would you relate them?

I’ve taken up the question of small-ball at different points this season–not unique to me, Spurs fans everywhere have given endless thought to this as well–and framed the discussion this way:

…the Spurs’ forays into small-ballish lineups garner a certain amount of success. But for many fans–those who grew up on a twin towers approach to defending the lane–this doesn’t sit well. Those fans aren’t asking for the return of David Robinson. They’d happily accept a lane clogger after the fashion of Rasho Nesterovic or Nazr Mohammed. Their complaint is not that small-ball doesn’t produce points, or at least that’s not what I hear them saying. Their complaint is that small-ball gives the Spurs a different defensive identity.

Elsewhere I’ve written of the difficulty of funneling opposing guards into the waiting arms of shot-blockers when those shot-blockers are watching from the bench. For all the good one might attribute to small-ball, Michael Finley at power forward does not not provide the team with a defensive post presence. In the end, the Spurs lose more than they gain by consistently featuring small line-ups.

Now that we’re more than half way through, I’m confident that the book on this season should be written with the small-ball dot visibly connected to the defensive demise dot, with a heavy black line bridging the space in between. But don’t take my word for it. George Karl says so too.

Defensively, they are not a dominant defensive team as they once were. They used to be incredible around the basket. You now can score around the basket on them more than ever before. But they’re still solid. They’re still sound, conceptually. (Pop) has tricks, he can mess with you. But they were so good for so many years.

We chart our baskets within five feet of the basket every night. Halftime, I’d go in there against SA and we’d be 2 for 15. They just wouldn’t let you score around the basket. That’s different now.

They used to play two bigs. Now you can take Duncan away from the basket. You can take their bigs away and attack their smalls a little more. You take Duncan in the pick and roll, you’ve got Bonner, or McDyess or Blair covering the basket. That’s just not as good as it was when it was David Robinson, or Nesterovic or Mohammed or someone like that.

Reduce it all down and the Spurs are fundamentally wrestling with two major personnel issues and one tricky dilemma.

The dilemma is Manu Ginobili. He’s still a great player, but not exceptional. It won’t be long before he’s merely a good player, but not great. And so on. Right now he’s an attractive contract; by this time next year Ginobili might represent a missed opportunity or, worse,  an unattractive contract.

I include Ginobili in a conversation about interior team defense because once before the Spurs could tolerate an ill-timed Manu Ginobili shot or misguided turnover when getting those possessions back with late game stops was part of the nightly routine. But now those wasted possessions, or possessions which end on a missed shot that Manu Ginobili used to make, invariably add to the point differential. The Spurs don’t get those possessions back.  The late game stops are fewer and farther between. A marginal slip in team defense has transformed the Spurs from a defensive juggernaut into a team that is, more or less, happy to exchange baskets.

The personnel problems are Richard Jefferson’ s relative lack of production and the absence of more shot-altering bigs.

Recently Rahat Huq opined, “In the modern CBA era, perhaps the most pragmatic approach to personnel oversight entails, rather than the construction of one static team for the long haul, the planning and creation of separate teams in succession, wherein management continuously reloads, retaining flexibility and allowing the franchise to stay competitive in perpetuum.”Apply that quote to the Spurs, and all sorts of insightful stuff shakes loose.

The reload part is crucial. Some players’ unique skill sets are nearly impossible to replace, even those of contract-cheap role players. Misfires happen.

I would argue that Huq’s quote misses the Spurs’ situation by three characters. In San Antonio’s case, “the planning and re-creation of separate teams in succession…” would be a better way of putting things. Over the last decade, the Spurs have proved there is no need to re-invent the wheel. Their system works. You win games playing Popovich basketball. Their continued success hinges on the ability to re-create the same mix of skill sets within that system. The names can change, but the games must remain remarkably similar.

It’s actually the case that the Spurs used to feature three shot-blocking bigmen. There was the twin-tower thing in its multiple incarnations, and there was Robert Horry.

Horry was a smart defender, and especially alert as a weakside shot-blocker. He was also San Antonio’s  stretch-four in residence.  When the Spurs transitioned to Matt Bonner they came away with a half-Horry. Bonner can stretch the floor, but his defensive contribution is nowhere near Robert Horry territory. The Spurs know it. Witness their dalliance with Anthony Tolliver or the draft selection of James Gist. The Spurs’ fascination with Tyrus Thomas is a half-Horry maneuver in the other direction. In Thomas they’d get a weakside shot-blocker who is, unfortunately, a poor shooter.

The most recent attempt at failed re-creation is hoping that Richard Jefferson’s defense would approximate Bruce Bowen’s. Or thinking that Keith Bogans was capable of the task of being Bowen. Neither scenario has worked out.

You know what they say about ideas. Ideas have consequences; ideas have antecedents. Lineups do to. It’s important to recognize that San Antonio’s defense didn’t slip from elite to middling overnight. It’s a project in the making.

I’m not faulting the front office. They’ve made smart moves, perhaps the best available, in an attempt to” stay competitive in perpetuum.” Sometimes it just doesn’t come together.

Ultimately, it’s not really the rising age of their core which has contributed to the team’s decline. The core is still playing well enough to lead a better-fitted supporting cast to a title.  But the current supporting cast does not share in the team’s previous defensive identity: they lack (or don’t play) the additional shot-blocking bigs of past lineups; Robert Horry’ offense was replaced, but not his defense; Bruce Bowen’s defense was invaluable, and better than imagined.

Add those things together and you’ll find a team whose defensive ranking has slipped from top three to top 15. And you’ll find that that math will produce a much happier, I’m-not-scared-of-you George Karl.

So the situation is serious, but not dire. The possibility of correcting the front court is not hard to envision. Tiago Splitter is a capable team defender whose long arms could outstretch the competent but alligator-armed defense of Nazr Mohammed. Or a trade for a player like Tyrus Thomas might smooth some of the wrinkles. And I’m sure there are other workable scenarios beyond those two.

The situation with Richard Jefferson is bad. If a trade is not possible, everyone is placed in the spot of simply hoping he snaps into place. But I seriously doubt his defense will get to the point of pleasing Popovich. The Spurs are in a tough spot.

And, of course, the Manu Ginobili dilemma is strictly for the brave-hearted. On our inaugural podcast, a straw poll of 48MoH staff favored moving Ginobili while he still qualified as a talented expiring contract. But the staying competitive in perpetuum thing could go-along just fine with Ginobili in a Spurs uniform. No one doubts that. If the Spurs corrected their defensive personnel issues, it would more than cover for Manu Ginobili’s decline.

This post is just a way of saying, “Thank you, George Karl. An entire fanbase salutes you.”

And yes, I realize the Spurs just slapped-down the Nuggets by–ahem–playing small. So insert your snarky comments in the thread below.

  • VP of Common Sense

    The discussion concerning Ginobili is a double-edged sword.

    We have defensive problems, RJ’s lack of cajones, no bigs.. etc.

    But if we give up Manu to shore up any of those other weaknesses we will be creating new problems.

    Like, who on the team can penetrate or create a shot besides Parker? Who is going to want it a little more to a loose ball or dive out of bounds to save the game? Who else on the team can shoot 3-10 but have a profound impact on a win?

    Manu Ginobili does things that NOBODY can do in the entire league. Don’t you wonder why Kobe Bryant looks at Manu and says, “that is a bad boy right there”?

    You will never see a Manu Ginobili again. Can you say that about any other Spur not named Duncan?

  • JT

    I also fear that if we lose Manu, Blair will struggle big time, Manu can create passes that are flat out magic. TP doesn’t seem to be able to find Blair that easily, besides how often does Tony pass once he gets in the paint…. very seldom…

  • idahospur

    I still think with Manu’s health he is difficult to move, and it would be bad with a playoff team to lose a significant piece this late in the season. If Manu chooses to sign elsewhere, that is his choice.
    Great insight concerning small ball, especially from George Karl. Someone mentioned playing Blair at the 3, Duncan at 4, and McDyess/Bonner at 5. I think we should work with this and see what results we get. Blair is such a monster that I think he can handle this responsibility of defending quicker players, at least for some time during the game.

  • SpurredOn

    Manu can not be moved. Much like Bowen’s defense was “invaluable and better than imagined,” not having Manu would strip pieces from every area of the team. It’s not his fault that Horry got old and we don’t have a compliment to Duncan.

    The story-lines I would highlight in this season are Tony’s weary legs and PF, plus the unforced turnovers that have cost the team points and fed opponents having an even higher shooting percentage/point total than deserved. Those extra points are more responsible for 4-6 losses this season which, despite these guys no longer being the elite, have kept them from being the 2nd seed in the West.

  • Bryan

    I’m with the VP. Trading away Ginobili trades away our only playmaker. Remember the Spurs teams of the early 2000’s that got destroyed by the Lakers? Just a bunch of shooters standing around waiting for TD or Robinson to kick it out to them. That’s what this team becomes if we trade away Ginobili.

  • Latin_D

    Reading you guys is painful for me lately. Well done as always, Tim, though.

  • New York City

    Wow. This is the most insightful analysis I have read about this year’s team. Really sober and thought out. This answers so many questions…
    Thanks for this fantastic article.

  • DieHardSpur

    Manu Ginobli’s playmaking ability is what keeps this team alive! Whether he is finding his own shot or being an assist assassin, he brings what no one else in the league can. The only other player that matches his intensity and talent is Dwayne Wade. I don’t see that trade happening, so you need to keep him. Is there a reason why we cant re-sign him on a 2-yr contract for 5-6 million? He is what makes us special.

    I think if Manu grows his hair back (’05), then we have a chance to win it all this year!

  • DieHardSpur

    Great read by the way!

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Timothy Varner

    FWIW: I agree with that Manu is great and extremely difficult to replace and all that. But if the Spurs make a move that includes any sort of new money (i.e. Salmons and Thomas) it will be hard to resign Manu Ginobili. Salmons and Thomas are due about 6 million next season, to use the example in the news. The Spurs might still resign Ginobili under that scenario, it just comes at a high price because of taxes.

  • BlaseE

    You do know Ginobili is second on the team to Duncan in points per shot taken at 1.31? That is tied with Wade and J. Crawford for 3rd among shooting guards. Roy and Gordon are the only 2’s higher on the list. He’s right ahead of Ray Allen, Terry, and Kobe.

    It just gives me issues with the line, “I include Ginobili in a conversation about interior team defense because once before the Spurs could tolerate an ill-timed Manu Ginobili shot or misguided turnover when getting those possessions back with late game stops was part of the nightly routine.” Manu’s efficiency and everything else he does that isn’t scoring is what makes the ill-timed shot matter in the first place.

    Percentage of shots assisted:
    Parker: 31%
    Manu and Duncan: 53%
    Blair and Hill: 56%
    Mason: 64%
    RJ: 72%
    Bogans: 76%
    Bonner and Finley: 77%
    Ratliff: 80%
    Mahinmi: 86%
    Dice: 88%

    Manu is creating his own successful shots, and is still up there with Duncan and Parker. I fully expect to see more of the old Manu in the playoffs as well when the rotations tighten and the big 3 see more minutes.

    An aside, Blair and Hill are damn impressive too. What smart drafting. How many teams can claim their last two main draft picks to being in their top 5 guys at creating their own shots?

  • http://www.48minutesofhell.com Timothy Varner

    Eric,

    Actually, I wasn’t aware that his points per shot taken totals were so good. That helps his case. Maybe this guy is good after all.

  • NFGIII

    Great analysis! The Spurs inability to replace Nazr/Rasho with a competent big is the main reason for the Spurs decline. Pop’s defensive scheme is predecated on two bigs protecting the paint/rim and as of ’08 till now that hasn’t happened. Karl was right about this – when Duncan is pulled away from the paint there isn’t a defensove big back there to protect the rim. Splitter should hopefully provide that next year.

    And you are right about Horry – the Spurs can replace part of him but not all with one player. Very few players in the league have that ability – good weakside D and the ability to hit the 3. Same goes with Manu – there aren’t many that can do what he does if any.

    The Spurs have been fortunate to have both players here contributing to championships.

  • BlaseE

    Oh, and how pathetic is RJ’s spot on that list? I thought he was going to be athletic and be able to create offense.

    Also, check out Manu’s RRT numbers compared to his January numbers. He is really stepping it up lately. If he played more than 20 minutes against the Clippers, his per game numbers would be even more impressive.

    http://sports.espn.go.com/nba/players/gamelog?playerId=272

  • doggydogworld

    Can someone tell me how they calculate points per shot taken? If I take six shots, make one and get fouled on the other five my line might look like this:

    FG 1-1, FT 10-10, 12 points

    Do all six of my shot attempts which led to points count or only the one in which I didn’t get fouled? Is my points for shots taken 12.0 or 2.0?

  • Rick Ashford

    I’m agreeing with everybody else here. Trading Manu is not the answer. I think that Parker is the one of the big three that should be moved.

    Manu is showing right now that he can contribute even if his shot isn’t falling, or if he loses a step or two. All this is doing is adjusting how much we offer him when we resign him (I just think that deal gets done, eventually). He’s not going to get as much as he has been, and I think he knows that too.

    Parker on the other hand, has been showing us exactly what he’ll be in a couple of years once his quickness goes. If he’s not blowing by people to get into the paint, every other facet of his game diminishes. He’s never been all-world on defense, and if his offense drops off like it has this year, whether by injury or age, he’s not going to be nearly as useful.

    Do you think Philly does a Brand/Iguodala for Jefferson/Parker/Finley trade?

    That beefs up our post defense, gives us better post scoring, opens up minutes for Hill and Hairston (who I think can contribute far more than he’s been given the opportunity to do) and cuts $2.3 million in salary for us this year (saving Holt almost $5 million with the tax cut).

    Philly gets out of Brand & Iggy’s long-term deals, and I think both would be valuable here. I just think Eddie Jordan has done such a bad job of putting Brand in a position to be successful that he’s nuked any value there. I suspect he’d be much better in a half-court oriented offense like ours.

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=ykx3gop

  • BlaseE

    @ doggydogworld

    I guess it would be 12.0. Manu has 615 points on 471 FGA’s.

    D. Howard is tops in the league at 1.85 points per shot. Lucky for the rest of the league, the magic are idiots and only get him 9 shots a game. It could also be his rough offensive game limiting him. Maggette is second with 1.63. It’s impressive for a SF, and shows his ability to draw contact.

    http://espn.go.com/nba/statistics/player/_/stat/field-goals/sort/scoringEfficiency

  • http://espn.com jacob

    I would be really happy if the Spurs only replaced Bonner, Mahinmi and Finley with another interior defensive presence. I dont think that trading away Parker or Ginobili is this year’s answer, and Mason has proven too valuable to the Spurs’ collective “corporate knowledge” when he’s given the minutes he needs to produce. We can do well with a marcus camby / brendan haywood type for this season and maybe next year’s too. Minimal personel to adapt to the system while in a playoff run, and enough veteran savvy to justify the move. Both teams would get the expiring contracts that they want, we might just have to offer a 2nd rounder.

    Parker – Manu
    Hill – Mason
    Bogans – RJ
    Duncan – Blair
    Camby – McDyess – Ratliff

  • Marcos

    It just doesn’t work without Manu. When he is not with the Spurs any more, and hopefully that will be in at leat 3 more years, we will realize that he was the pulse of the team, what kept it alive and wanting more. Just watch the games, not only the stats sheets, he is a very special player, irreplaceable.

  • New York City

    To throw my two cents in:

    Actually, there was another player who would turn in clutch performances that would save the game. He would come up with a timely steal, a block, an extra possession, a brilliant 4Q/OT performance, and even a hard, nasty foul right when we needed a hard, nasty foul to turn the tide of victory.

    Just like Manu diving out of bounds and saving a key possession, he always did the small, intangible things that won games but don’t show up on stat sheets. And he also sank game winning threes with 0:00 on the shot clock.

    That man’s name was Robert Horry.

    Manu has taken over Horry’s role as miracle worker, the one who answers prayers when all hope seems lost. But as this article points out, Horry was never replaced.

    Manu and Horry are unique in their respective skill sets and in what they brought to the game. While Manu breaks down the opponent’s defense like nobody else in the clutch, Horry broke down their offense and jacked up more game winning shots than any man has business doing in one lifetime.

    So when we lost Big Shot Rob, we found others to shoot clutch threes and stretch the four, but we lost something that was never replaced. And when we lost Bruce, we again lost something irreplaceable, the extent of which we are only fully appreciating now.

    And when we inevitably lose Manu, whether to an ill-advised trade or to age or injury, we will again lose something special and irreplaceable.

    There will never be another Manu Ginobili, just as there will never be another Bruce Bowen, just as there will never be another Robert Horry.

    The only way to move forward and continue a tradition of winning is to adapt the system to the unique collection of players we have, not the other way around. I am now convinced that this is why this team is not “gelling.”

    Richard Jefferson is no Bruce Bowen. Keith Bogans is no Bruce Bowen.

    If we thought we could bring either one of them here and stick him in Bowen’s slot, then it’s our fault that player is performing below expectation. Because these players are not swappable cogs in a machine. Richard Jefferson cannot possibly be successful playing in a system that does not utilize and recognize his unique set of strengths and weaknesses.

    This entire season we have reasoned that because these players are not fitting into “the system,” there must be something wrong with them. Did we ever ask if maybe there’s something wrong with the system?

    Meanwhile, Blair and Hill are doing just fine given the freedom to create their own roles. No one expects Blair to be a smaller David Robinson. We expect Dejuan Blair to be Dejuan Blair. And no one expects George Hill to be Tony Parker; we applaud him for being George Hill. Come to think of it, no one unfairly burdened Tony Parker with expectations of replicating Avery Johnson when he started to emerge. We were thrilled having his unique skill set… and we adapted.

    Maybe what we need is for someone to get through to Pop: stop trying to recreate the past. Stop being so stubborn and rigid in thought.

    Tim Duncan never did it alone. He had David Robinsons and Sean Elliots and Robert Horrys and Bruce Bowens and Emanuel Ginobilis along the way.

    And now he has a Richard Jefferson.

    So let’s adapt already. Let’s evolve. Because those who fail to adapt go extinct, even the mighty T. rex.

  • New York City

    God bless you, Bruce. We never even knew how good we had it.

    And god love the Fresh Prince. Even when he was draining those threes for LA, I could never be mad at one of my favorite players of all time. I sure hope this won’t be the case for Ginobili as well.

  • EO

    Look guys. We can solve our problems with a simple trade. It even checks out on RealGM, Trade ID#5453384.

    Spurs trade Jefferson, Hairston, and the rights to Nando DeColo plus the 2010 2nd round draft pick to Cleveland for Illgauskas.

    Then Spurs trade the rights to Robertas Javtokas and their 2010 1st round pick to LA Clips in exchange for Camby and DeAndre Jordan.

    Then Spurs trade Tony Parker and the rights to Viktor Sanikidze plus their 2011 2nd round pick to SAC Kings in exchange for Kevin Martin and Sergio Rodriguez.

    Spurs win championship with surplus of centers and pay very large luxury tax this year. Oh, well.

    –EO

  • New York City

    Please, nobody dignify the above with a comment.

  • Big50

    NYC –
    You make a good point. I like your point and agree with it. However, Jefferson needs to prove that being Richard Jefferson is good. All the players you mentioned have been good or shown signs of improvement. RJ has not as of yet. He needs to make being RJ valuable.

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  • SA_Ray

    Great article.
    I miss the ‘old’ and ‘boring’ Spurs team that use to lock down teams on D.
    I only have one question.
    Why doesn’t Ratliff play more? He could be that Nazr or Rasho replacement.

  • Greyberger

    “On our inaugural podcast, a straw poll of 48MoH staff favored moving Ginobili while he still qualified as a talented expiring contract.”

    I’m afraid I don’t understand this. To other teams Manu either has value as a basketball player (to a team that’s more interested in this year’s postseason than 2011 and beyond) or as an expiring contract. To a bad team, Manu is a free-agent-to-be who will have a lot of suitors. No trade partner is interested in both values – they either want Manu the player to help them win or care about the contract relief first and his future with the club second or not at all.

    Am I wrong about this? If Manu’s expiring deal gets traded to some crap Eastern conference team for a big and parts, he’s not likely to stay there past the off-season, and has about the same value to them as a package of expiring contracts that totals in the same range.

    Only in a trade with a contender or near-contender would we get back value based on the basketball player we’re giving away. Now you’re talking about a very short list of partners and trade targets – Glen Davis? Gortat? …Dampier? None of these guys replace the play-making ability Manu brings, and so it might be a case of two steps back for one step forward.

    Of the contenders the Spurs probably value Manu the highest as they need a two-way player who creates shots and have the best chance at getting him to sign a new contract and stay. How could we possibly get enough talent back to substantially improve the team in that situation?

  • BayAreaSpursFan

    Before the summer league started I was dead set against trading Tony Parker for a real big man. Just from looking at this first half of the season Tony is just not getting it done. I know he is struggling with injuries but I think George Hill can run the point with Manu coming off the bench. In the clutch it has always been Manu creating a shot or dishing off to an open guy. The Spurs should trade TP along with Bonner, Finley and possiably Mahinmi. Im sure the Spurs could get some guys with defensive skills and that can play around the rim. Offense wins games and Defense wins championships.

  • kalone

    i got a couple more questions for the podcast, if that’s all right.

    i was wondering this first one yesterday, and then Doug Collins went out and said it n the air. the Spurs have made more than a living off stars who don’t act like stars. they’re quiet. they’re respectful. they don’t make loud demands.

    i wonder if that last point holds true all the time, at practice and in the locker room. i wonder if some of the Spurs’ problems can be traced back to Duncan, Ginobili and Parker not demanding enough of their teammates. in years past, they didn’t have to as much, because our other rosters had players with enough institutional knowledge they knew what to do and where to be. there was a lot more yelling from Ginobili and Duncan last night, and i wonder of that was partly responsible for the quick start and good win.

    my other question is this: if Josh Howard is traded to another team for cap relief, and that team releases him into free agency this summer, should the Spurs try to sign him? i’ve always loved his game, and lamented how San Antonio passed over him in the draft, but do we have too much invested in the 3 spot already? at what point does pure talent become too much to pass up? is howard even considered that good a basketball player anymore?

  • New York City

    greyberger: Thank you for asking that. I was also confused but didn’t even know it until I read your questions.

    karl malone: I hope I speak for all Spurs fans: No! Out of principle alone, we do not make deals with the Mavericks. Also, any player they are willing to let go is past his prime. Just look at Michael Finley.

  • New York City

    big50: Of course, you have a point as well.

  • doggydogworld

    Amen, New York City. Amen. “Players are not swappable cogs” says it perfectly. Richard Jefferson is not Bruce Bowen just as Bruce Bowen was not Sean Elliot. The Spurs adapted their system to work with a small forward who couldn’t slash to the rim and get three the hard way if his life depended on it. Now they need to adapt again.

  • New York City

    snoop doggy dog: Thank you! That is precisely my point.

  • doggydogworld

    BlaseE, thanks for the clarification. I hereby pronounce “points per shot taken” to be a completely meaningless and useless stat. It’s actually better by that metric to miss your shot when you get fouled than to score and get the and-1. Idiocy!

  • BigWhit

    VPoCS and NYC are spot-on.

    My 2 cents: Manu=Spurs. Tim=Spurs. Tony=Trade

  • ThatBigGuy

    @ all

    Trading Tony or Manu will NOT help win a title this year. There is no possible way the team could assimilate a new player fast enough for him to increase this team’s chances at a title. It’s just not possible. The only reason we would trade either player is with an eye on future seasons, while effectively giving up on this season. This is why I think neither guy will be traded.

    However, if you put a gun to my head and made me choose, I’d pick Manu to go because his playing trajectory can really only go downhill from here. Tony, at 27, has a good 5 years of prime left in him. Plus, he’s improved every year in every important statistical category up until this season, which leads me to believe that he can continue to improve.

    Look, we traded Bruce Bowen away without fanfare, and he was just as important to this team’s championships as Manu is. It was obvious Bruce was declining and we let him go. He looked wonderful in spurts and flat out old at other times. The same case could be made for Manu this year.

    More than likely we keep everyone, offer Manu an incentive laden contract this summer and let him decide where he wants to finish out his career during the summer. I don’t think we can get the right value back for him in trade right now anyways.

  • BALLHOG

    Jefferson is not playing well. Part of the reason is known only to Jefferson himself, while part of it is Pop’s misuse of the player.
    Some players dont respond to over coaching as well as others do.

    Also, I find it hard to ignore whats going on with Greg Popovich. He will not play Mahimni and Ratliff, He plays Bogans and keeps Mason Jr. on the bench. He continues to play these crappy small ball lineups, he sent our most athletic young player, Malik Hairston back to Austin again, and he continues with his Bonner experiment. Lets not forget the idiotic release of Luis Scola, nor the release of Pops Mensah Bonsu.

    Finally, How could I leave out the release of guys like Marcus Haislip and Marcus Williams.

    Then theres Ginnobli…He is an icon here in San Antonio….Let him go and ticket sales will definately decrease.

    Is this Popovich guy still the right guy here? Or has his Bob Knight style of coaching finally pissed his players off?

  • td4life

    For the record, I never wanted give away Rasho or Nazr, and was forever campaigning that SAS never had a “Big Three” it ALWAYS was a “Big Four” with Bruce Bowen. Too bad S-Jax wasn’t more stable when he was younger, or Hedu more confident… then we could have had the offense we needed and stayed strong with Rahso and Nazr… At least history has proved what I knew all along: two bigs up front and a stopper outside are mandatory unless you have 6 superstars: DEFENSE WINS CHAMPIONSHIPS!

    Tony Parker was nice player and fun to root for, but I hope they trade him while they can get something back and he can go on and be a special part of some other team’s backcourt, so the Spurs can get some better team offense and first class defense!

  • David G

    I’d really like to know what you guys think about this trade.

    Jefferson, Mahinmi, Ratliff, Bogans, Finley, 2010 1st round pick

    to the Warriors

    for

    Maggette, Turiaf, Randolph, Bell

    From what I’ve read the Warriors are desperate to move Maggette.

    For the Spurs I believe Maggette would be a perfect 6th man off the bench for the Spurs. I think Turiaf could be the weakside shot blocker the Spurs desperately need. Bell could come back soon and maybe be a poor man’s Bowen (he certainly has to be better than Bogans) and I don’t think the Spurs will get a more talented player than Randolph with their first round pick this year.

    What do you guys think?

  • Pinoy from Oz

    KEEP Tim, Tony and Manu!!! Please!

    Stop talking about trading any of the Spurs big three. Trade everybody else but NOT any of the big three.

    Pops is the brains, Tim is the body, Tony is the legs and Manu is the heart of the Spurs team. As such, you should never trade them at all. Besides, they’ve contributed so much to the team that they should retire as a Spurs.

  • BALLHOG

    David G, sounds like a decent trade, but will the Popster play even those guys. If he was willing to go as far to prove a point as to make Bogans a starter, anything is possible.

    I feel that we should trade Finley, Bonner, Bogans…We have too many 6’4-6’5 guys taking up roster space and eating up minutes. But, this is about Pop. He is no longer getting it done.

    Rick Adelman in Houston and Rick Carlisle in Dallas are winning with an even lesser roster than we have.

  • BALLHOG

    For some reason though, Nobody wants to point the finger at Popovich. Its time to take a long look at this guy. I, like most of you, am a Spur Fan thru and thru. I hate seeing what is happening right now. Blaming our fate on players, when it is clearly coaching that is lacking.

    Time to call a scrub a scrub!

  • texasgaijin

    as good as he’s been, i think blair presents more questions than answers. he showed against the lakers he can’t play against a top-level 5. he might spell but won’t replace duncan at the 4. looking at some of the SFs in the west, i think he would have a hard time covering players like anthony, battier, and durant–three SFs the spurs could face in the playoffs. even millsap, who is about 15 pounds lighter than blair, burned him a couple times in the last loss to the jazz. i can’t begrudge him for being a rookie and needing to learn how to play NBA-level defense. for the foreseeable future, though, the most he can be is a sub for duncan, hopefully with manu feeding him highlight-reel passes.

  • Hobson13

    Why is everyone blaming Pop? EVERYONE in the league knows he’s one of the top 3 coaches in the league. Besides maybe Phil Jackson, what other current coach has won as many titles in as few years?

    Is it Pops fault that our foreign players are determined to screw themselves up by playing over the summer? Is it Pops fault that Jefferson hasn’t seemed to give a shit? Is it Pops fault the entire team has missed wide open shots? Is it his fault they turn the ball over at critical points? As I watched this team during the Portland game, it was clear to me that Pop was the ONLY one who had the fire in him to win that game. Did you see the play he drew up to get Manu the wide open 3 at the end? That play was SICK NASTY!

    I’ve been amused at several of us for some time who think that the likes of Malik Hairston, *Yawn* Mahimni, and 129 yr old Ratliff have somehow been discriminated against because Pop doesn’t play them. Many act as if Pop would rather lose the game than be forced to give these “amazing talents” minutes. If the answer to this team was as simple as playing these 3, then Pop would do it. To those who have watched this year, it is clear that the big 3 are slipping. Manu and even Tim aren’t the same and Jefferson is nonexistant. We have other smaller problems, but I’ve already ranted enough…

  • Gary

    The book would be named RJ: The Wasted Effort

    and on the front there would be Tim Duncan with an aluminuim baseball bat saying : Where the &*#%@() is my ring ?!?!?!?

  • Hobson13

    @David G,

    I would trade 1 has been and three scrubs for a good SG, a wide bodied C and an amazing young talent ANY day. It would be a great trade for the Spurs. Not sure the Warriors would do that, but it would be a coup for us.

  • Rey

    Wouldn’t it be further messing up the already-bad Spurs chemistry if either Manu or Tony gets traded? Right now, I think the reason they’re faltering is not just about Manu not being the Manu-of-old or Tony being injured, but it’s rather the lack of solid chemistry between the players. RJ has been the recipient of most of the important plays when he was still in New Jersey and Milwaukee, so it must be a different ballgame now for him. Maybe the same is true with McDyess. So, maybe it’s a struggle of who’s-supposed-to-be-where, and not who-should-be-traded-and-for-whom.

    It would seem that giving up Manu (arguably the most attractive player) for another quality player, like maybe Bosh or Al Jefferson – to bring back memories of the old Twin Towers – would be part-suicide for the Spurs, as this would definitely further put a crack on the already-fragile chemistry they have.

  • Jim Henderson

    Can we stick to being rational & analytical here? Please take a moment to visit the following trade proposal:

    http://games.espn.go.com/nba/tradeMachine?tradeId=yzx84o2

    Let’s get a couple of things straight off the top. I think we can all agree that we’re in need of another tall & big guy in the middle to help us contend with the Lakers. That said, we are not going to be able to get an ALL-STAR CENTER from another team. They are far and few between, and are simply NOT AVAILABLE. With this in mind, please review the following points that support the trade proposal, and then if you’re up to it, make some fact-based replies (i.e., using reason, logic, & stats, if necessary). Thanks.

    I hate to pull the trigger on Manu, I love the guy’s game. But let’s deal with some very important facts:

    (1) We ain’t going nowhere with our current small, short, and/or aging frontline. You saw how the Lakers destroyed us recently without the Bryant threat, and without Bynum. And we beat Denver while they had their bags packed, and without their best interior defender.
    (2) We need size, height, rebounding, shot blocking, and an additional scoring presence in the post, and we need to continue to balance the team with a bit more youth on the roster.
    (3) EXPIRING CONTRACTS is the name of the game as we approach this years trading deadline. A lot of teams like the Wizard’s are desperately trying to free up some cap space to make a run at some fee agents this summer.
    (4) This what we get from the trade proposal at the link above: SIZE – Haywood is 7′, 263 pds.; SCORING IN THE PAINT, REBOUNDING, INTERIOR DEFENSE & REBOUNDING – Haywood is averaging a double-double in rebounding & points, and blocks 2.1 shots a game; YOUTH – Haywood is 30 yrs. old, Foye is 26 yrs. old.
    (5) Sure we would miss Ginobli – he’s a fun player! But consider the following: Ginobli is 6 years older than Foye – that’s a BIG difference – and compare their career stats; pts., assists, rebounds, 3 pt. %: Foye – 12.4, 3.5, 2.7, 37% – Ginobli – 14.6, 3.7, 4.0, 37%. Nobody’s saying that Ginobli’s not a better player, but Foye is NO slouch, and has more upside at this point in his career.
    (6) Overall assessment/comments: Remember, Foye is a hybrid point/two-spot, like Hill, only taller. Thus, Foye, Hill, & Parker because of their solid mix of ball-handling, scoring, & passing, would form a very solid 3-guard rotation, with Mace giving us some more 3-point punch. Our frontline would now consist of Duncan, Haywood, Jefferson, McDyess, Blair, & Bonner, giving us a much better balance of inside/outside scoring, defense, and rebounding. Both new additions would make us younger, in a good way!
    (7) Finally, I agree with some of the previous comments defending Parker. He’s not perfect, but when healthy he is unequivocally one of the better all-around point guards in the league, and we’ve won 3 titles with his style of play. Also, his trade value is not strong right now because of his recent injury issues, and plus he has a 15 mil. not expiring contract. Also, while I appreciate Manu’s creativity and passing ability at the two-spot, I don’t agree with those that see Ginobli as a quasi point guard. His tendency to go for the “difficult” pass, while entertaining, is too turnover-prone to be relied upon for point duties on any kind of a consistent basis.

    Sorry to say, but trading Manu is probably our best hope of challenging for a title this year, and in the coming few years. Haywood is the key; we simply MUST have a guy like him to assist an aging Duncan & McDyess in the front court. Otherwise, believe me, we’re toast!

    P.S. I’m afraid we’re stuck with Jefferson. But look on the bright side: There’s a very good chance he will improve some in the coming weeks & months!

  • JT

    Wow guys, give Blair a brake, hes only a Rookie and already playing better than 2nd year players. With time, he will develop more moves and fakes under the basket to confuse those big.

    I’m sure Blair will do fine, besides wait until he develops a short shot or even a bank shot, he will be great…

  • JT

    break* doh!!!