Clipper Cure All

Did San Antonio learn so this from Golden State and decide to turn it on in the third quarter?

Aldridge is steady with his 20+ ppg, and is vaguely looking like Timmy on the score sheet. Pay tossed in some threes but Rudy Gay and Dejounte Murray are battling for the Most Fun Spur to watch.

Rudy Gay can score and that is great fun to watch. He showed some extra range was fun but the he followed that with a heat check. For we playoff-minded folks, the Rudy Gay they gets into pass lanes and uses length to bother teams is the one that will change a series.

LMA and Pau were not the most highly rated defensive players coming into San Antonio yet have held their own (in spots, in Pau’s case).

As Captain Jack once said, “The Spurs staff helps you be a great defender” and all that is needed is mental and physical effort.

So far, everyone looks about where they need to be. Now that the IG rumormongering is that the Klaw will be returning next week, things are looking up.

Brace yourselves, Kawhi is coming.

Spurs up 19, lose by 20

Stop me if you have heard this before: The Spurs jumped all over the Warriors, couldn’t sustain that, get blown out.

Well, the only new thing is possibly the complete blow out but it is only a variation on the Warriors-win-going-away theme.

Yay for variety.

The Spurs started well in the Aldridge-centered offense without Tony and Kawhi and we all got ready to recite our Spurs-praise book.

Then came three straight — now four straight — losses in which the team looks like it is clearly second-tier. Maybe third.

The Magic are on something strange, the Pacers are battling, and the Celtics in Boston are always tough. Those are not necessarily bad losses considering everything but the performances were clearly sub-par.

Losing to the Warriors — even a version trying to find motivation — is understandable also.

While I enjoy watching LaMarcus dominate inside, as this new 2017 one is, but it is not enough without Leonard and that is clear.

Patty Mills is not having a good season and right now the Spurs do not have much else to boost them.

Dejounte Murray: Leader?

Last night Murray pushed Pop away and took it upon himself to calm down Face Of The Franchise (?) LaMarcus Aldridge after the altercation with Ibaka.

Also? He contributed 15 rebounds and 16 points. Murray has long been a believer in himself and so this little show of bold leadership is unsurprising even if it is early in his career.

He wants the starting gig, and the Spurs would be poorer if he did not. For some guys — ahem FoTF LMA — the concern is that the moment is too big for them. Murray has never struck me as that kind of player.

No the question with him is if his work ethic and skill set can match his self-confidence. His work this summer and his early mentor-ship under Jamal Crawford means that he knows what is required and has honed that skillset.

He did get owned by Patrick Beverly in the playoffs but held his own against the Rockets’ guard in the next game. This minor thing with LMA is exactly what Pop was looking for last year. Kahwi is not going to do this kind of thing, because he is busy doing everything else. Dave had Avery. TD had Manu. Kawhi and LaMarcus can have . . Murray?

Spurs are 3-0 and took care of the Raptors last night.

Spurs’ Anthem Message

Ball Don’t Lie has a good comparison of just how good the Spurs’ method of addressing social issues has been, at least compared to the Mavericks’.

Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest was a way bring attention to an issue in a league that does not want you to have slightly different shoes.

The NBA, to Cuban’s credit, is different and allows for much more expression. A silent protest would be less effective than simply standing up and stating the issue on camera.

These are very different times and special message about equality was warranted. That the Spurs are the team that did it best is unsurprising.

Spurs Start 1-0

Expectations for this Spurs team have varied wildly from Title Contender to Also-Ran. This team is not as obviously good as the Warriors and the poor performance of LaMarcus Aldridge has colored the view of even the most fanatic Spurs follower.

Still, this team has managed to produce ever year that it is a cliché. LaMarcus Aldridge apparently had a heart-to-heart and earned more touches early. He did not, apparently, spend time at Toast Masters. On the broadcast he mentioned ‘getting touches and getting into rhythm’ 8 times or so.

The questions about this team are and were approximately these:

  1. Who carries the offense without Kawhi?
  2. Can Dejounte Murray be the starting PG for this team?
  3. Which LMA do we get?
  4. Rudy Gay? What does he have?

Given the relatively successful integration of Pau Gasol — he was a net liability defensively for much of the year but he was a reliable contributor and a good defensive player situationally — we could reasonably expect a decent integration of Rudy Gay.

And so it went — he came in with the second unit and promptly dunked on a fast break. He played solid defense on Jamal Crawford. He was good.

Gay’s line: 14 pos on .651% true-shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists. Good.

Meanwhile Dejounte was a little frantic early, but he was good and active. He provides a level of energy that young TP provided, even if it gets a little wild. Pop circa 2004 would have not played DM, but this one is older and wiser and has coached through the Manu years.

I mean our starting PG produced 16 points, a couple of assists, a couple of steals, five rebounds, on 7/8 shooting. That’s good in 2017.

(Manu was good by the way he will never retire, apparently).

LaMarcus Aldridge got his touches. He had 30% usage rate, which is Kawhi level (31% last year) but not amazingly higher than LMA’s 2016’s rate of 24.5%. The important thing is that LMA feels more involved and that goes a long way toward making the team better.

Danny Green was Good Danny, meaning he made his jumper. He pulled up in transition which means he is Really Good Danny.

Like the Warriors, Cavs, and Rockets, this team is going to be defined by the playoff production and so this regular season experimentation is only so interesting.

The Spurs have integrated LMA, lost Duncan, added Dejounte, played fast, played slow, all while maintaining competitiveness in the league. It is silly to think they will not be able to handle a couple of injuries at the start of the year. The Wolves are a good talented team and that win was uglier than it probably would have been had Leonard been out there.

Right now this is going to be the Aldridge show, and we know that can be successful in the regular season. Take your time and get healthy, Kawhi.

LMA Is A Spur For Even Longer

If we were wrong about it seemingly like the Spurs wanted LMA to feel more wanted in this town, today’s news does not support that.

LMA reportedly singed a big extension that will keep him in silver-and-black for a while.

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That is good? I guess?

If nothing else the getting paid like he is super-important may help LaMarcus play like he is super-important. Honestly, after the offseason in which the Spurs considered dealing him and trading for maybe Kyrie and making a run at CP3, the Spurs went and cemented their commitment to last season’s plan.

Meanwhile the division competition is making excuses, maybe.

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Spurs Season Is Nigh

I am an old basketball soul and my biorhythms are accutely attuned to the NBA cycle. That is to say that it does not quite feel like basketball season just yet.

And yet, we are a mere six days away from the opener against the Timberwolves.

What madness is this? Well, it is the the NBA’s way of addressing the resting epidemic popularized by San Antonio’s own Gregg Popovich.

As a rule, I do not pay much attention to preseason. Still, I have noticed Rudy Gay looking good in silver-and-black even if the uniforms do not. I am nervously awaiting the announcement of a jersey-sponsor that I find gross.

The new Spurs jersey looks . . . off. I don’t know. Maybe I have truly become the Scrooge I was meant to become. So it goes.

Meanwhile, the Spurs have a billboard with Aldridge peaking over his shoulder with his nameplate prominently displayed. Somehow I feel like the marketing arm of the Spurs is doing their best to make him feel wanted.

I mean gaze upon this:

We all consider Kawhi the face of the franchise but it seems like these billboards and advertising campaigns are here to make you feel better about LMA. The thing is, I would feel great about him if he played up to his talent level.

No amount of advertising will make me less frustrated with his performance in the second half of game one against GSW.

If he plays like 1st Qtr LMA? Well, then yeah.

Finger: Kyrie Talk, Aldridge Burn

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As a counter to this, some will point to the Spurs’ acquisition of LaMarcus Aldridge, and how that has not quite met expectations. But if there have been any issues in that arrangement, it is not because Leonard hasn’t given Aldridge a chance to be assertive. It’s because Aldridge hasn’t taken him up on it.

That about sums up everything I have written about LMA. Emphasis mine.

I’ve heard that some players think Kawhi is a “system” guy whose success is dependent on the scheme, that a handful of other guys would be doing the same were they in his situation. This is a version of something even guys that are big fans of the organization have said, including Stephen Jackson.

Bob Horry even went so far to say that established players need to dumb down their game to play in San Antonio.

The thing to take from all this is that 1. This system isn’t for everyone. 2. Everyone isn’t for this system. The players that want to do the things to win value organizations that do so consistently. While Kyrie Irving looks like he is fleeing the greatest player of this generation for some substandard situation, he actually is taking control of his fate: LeBron is not long for Cleveland (because Dan Gilbert is a clown) and Irving wants some place where he can do his thing without uncertainty. San Antonio may not be ideal for his ego, but it is a model of consistency.