David Lee Signs With Spurs

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David Lee singed a deal with the Spurs for two years with the second being an option. It is a typical move for a title-contending team and I suppose this Spurs squad is just that, despite what Kevin Durant and Golden State have on their roster.

Lee rounded into shape for the first part of the season and managed to do some nice things with the Mavericks. He should fill into the role briefy held by David West nicely. He can rebound and score and managed to help turn the tide in Game 4 against the Cavs two seasons ago.

He’s been working on his game with Drew Hanlen in the offseason. You can watch him work on his catch and spin in the post in the above video. There are one or two others in Drew’s timeline that feature Lee working on various aspects of his game. That’s good. We can expect a relatively sharp David Lee instead of the out-of-shape one that the Celtics got last year.

Ooof — Spurs get smoked in GS

Kevin Martin was put in a blender. While this loss wasn’t nearly as awful as the previous, it was another beatdown. While it only means the Spurs can’t win the first seed in real terms, it also means they have somewhat of a psychological hindrance until the late May meeting (presumed) in the WCF. Sure, a home win on Sunday will soothe the collective pride of the fan base, but the Spurs are will now have to win in Oakland if they want to go through the mighty Warriors. And they played poorly both times. 

Last night they had the benefit of a slightly unfocused Warriors team that had some doubts and the turnover yips. Sure, that Minnesota loss likely encouraged them some, but it was evident in the first quarter that whatever focus and resolve it instilled didn’t stop the turnover flood. 

TNT showed a graphic highlighting the Warriors’ defense against the Spurs. Beating the W’s isn’t only about defending them, although that is everyone’s chief concern. It is scoring against them. Unlike all the free-scoring teams we’ve seen (ever), these guys defend. Last year Chuck Barkley dismissed GS as merely a ‘jump-shooting team’, thinking they were the Sieve Suns reincarnated. They have played nearly league-leading defense for two years now. And yes, they can score. 

Tough shooting nights happen but this wasn’t just that. Danny Green was hitting buckets. When the Spurs have off nights those kinds of open shots don’t go in. This was about guys not getting clean looks. Kawhi was out of the offense early, and struggled to get to his spots. Not for not trying, but because he was being defended well early. 

For all the Spurs’ offensive struggles early, they were down only 12. But to these guys, who make blistering runs, that was too much.

I hate to make so much of a regular season game but we all know that this was basically a play-in game for the number 1 seed, however unlikely. All that is left to play for is a perfect home record, which is meaningful

The Thing About New Guys

We won’t know what LaMarcus Aldridge’s impact will have on this team until it is too late. We won’t know if this team would have been better sticking with Splitter and the Super Bench and giving the Warriors a go with the Pounding The Rock Team.

I am not filled with regret about it, either. When I get concerned, I try to remember when the Spurs seemingly blew it all up and traded George Hill for a talented but raw kid from San Diego State. Then I remember when they benched Stephen Jackson – cutting him – for starting Kawhi Leonard. I thought that was a bit crazy. Jackson did too. It turns out that both decisions were more right than wrong.

I have been guilty of this too. Even though Kawhi is obviously the new cornerstone of the franchise, I let myself think that signing LaMarcus Aldridge somehow changes that. No. It doesn’t. Tim Duncan has been the cornerstone of this franchise for years but has needed every bit of help he has gotten from Tony and Manu and the role guys.
So it will be with LMA and KL.

It was sure nice to see him take more resposibility against both Boston and New York this week. While the Warriors are playing like they will win 70, the Spurs’ quotes in the paper are filled with guys saying they are still finding their way around things.

Tim is still figuring out when to roll and when pop, LaMarcus still dones’t feel like himself. Everyone is trying to figure out where they fit in. Everyone except Kawhi, who is just dominating.

So with all that uncertainty, it is nice to know that we have the cornerstone.

OKC 112-Spurs 106: Spurs 0-1

It’s cool y’all. We’ll go 81-1!

I was just as hyped as you were to find out we got LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency. The Spurs were declared obvious winners, and obvious favorites in the season to come. As the summer wore on, I became a little skeptical and so did the NBA writership.

Tony Parker looked to have lost a step in Euro Basket. This would be a non-issue if it weren’t part of a larger negative trend in his performance. The former Future of the Franchise has clearly been surpassed by Kawhi Leonard. That KL has deserved every bit of his promotion to number one option from 3-and-D guy says as much about his ability as it does about the Tony’s.

Tony’s decline wouldn’t be such an issue if his particular set of skills weren’t such a big part of LaMarcus Aldridge’s game. He thrived on pick and pops, and on isolations. With Tony and Manu more limited, who is going to run the PNR with LMA? 1

So we are left with isolations. He had a few last night but he came up short late, when the Spurs desperately needed a score. After a miss and an OKC three, Pop went to Kawhi and he managed a three point play.

When the Spurs lose, everything will be questioned. When they win, everyone will be happy. This isn’t new, nor is it unexpected. LMA got only 12 shots last night … but he only made four of those. He wasn’t just missing shots, but just off. For an example, witness that last terrible shot from Danny Green 2. The ball fell right to LMA and he … dropped it? The only excuse I can muster for him is that he thought the ball was going to hit the rim?

Meanwhile, Kawhi was cooking. He easily had his best regular season scoring game. He is cleary the number one option because he’s the most comfortable and most effective. I expect LMA to challenge that as he gets more comfortable in the offense.

There is a line of thinking around NBA bloggers LMA made the wrong decision, that the Spurs will not be able to overcome the new changes, and that the loss of depth will be concerning. While these are all possibilities or even likelihoods, they aren’t yet evident. It really has only been one game.

Teams degrade over a season as much or more than they “gel.” Really bad sign if a team comes out the gate looking off in month 1
— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) October 29, 2015

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Now the question is, did the Spurs look off to you? Me either.

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1. I mean _effective_ pick and rolls. [↩](#fnref:p132157676517-2)

2. Wow. That was a glaring example of my earlier point. That was an awful use of the pick and roll. [↩](#fnref:p132157676517-1)

G6: Missed Opportunity

I don’t like wasting great nights from role players. Marco Belinelli had an incredible game last night (23 points on 7-11 from three) much like Doc’s kid had in game four. The Clippers didn’t waste his out-of-nowhere performance, but the Spurs wasted the Italian Bomber’s.

This was partly because in Game 4 LA big guns went off. Chris Paul had 34. The Spurs’ big three didn’t perform. Kawhi and Tim had 12 each. Tony had eight. Manu had only three points on 1 of 6 shooting.

Popovich called the team ‘soft’ and while I’ll defer to him, it was mostly about effort. The Spurs didn’t play like they cared as much as LA. To be fair, no one plays as hard as a team that is going to be eliminated. The Clippers pulled out all the stops. The Spurs played like they were shocked (shocked!) to be going against such a committed team.

I don’t belive in jinxes. That isn’t to say that there might not be something we can’t put our scientific fingers on that makes us feel like we jinxed things. I don’t know. You don’t know. I never had the feeling like SA was going to completly shut down the Clippers last night. This Spurs team is good, but it isn’t the same one from the last two years. Manu is a shell of himself. Sure, Kawhi has taken a leap in ability and consistency, but he isn’t getting Chuck Barkley to shout his name. Danny Green, for one, isn’t playing at the same level that made San Antonio embrace him. That thing that SAS had the last couple of years has been gone all season. They didn’t get right until late in the season, and while we all figured it was just a bit delayed, the things that made them lose early on are the same things that are making them lose now. Timmy is consistently ballin’ like he was early, but he’s being left out to dry by an inconsistent supporting cast. Which makes this whole thing feel like 2002 in more ways than one.

I say these things because I know the Spurs better than I do the Clips. LA has been fantastic in spots, and certainly look like they have a Hall of Fame point guard passing to a dynamic, athletic inside combination, all coached by a championship-winning guy. This series could easily have been over were it not for a fortunate bounce the Spurs way in a couple of games. Games One and Three were one-sided, Two and Five were toss-ups. Four and Six were solid wins by good teams on the road. Surprise: Those wins were by LA in SA. That is scary, as I’m realizing slowly the fact that this means the Spurs have been outplayed this series.

Right now the Spurs will be the desperate team staving off elimination on the road against a Chris Paul-led team in which he likes to throw lobs to athletic big men. Lets hope we get a flashback to 2008.

Game 4: Paul’d

We all know it is a little strange being a San Antonio Spurs fan. They haven’t won titles the conventional way. No back-to-backs, no media darlings, no pretty basketball (for the first three titles).

The Spurs have been counted out a few times in the course of the Duncan reign. Hell, they were done after getting dumped by the Mavericks in the first round in 2009, and swept by the suns in 2010. They were too old to hang with teams like the Grizz in 2011. Then not ready for the new breed OKC in 2012. Then missed their window in game 6 in 2013.

The Spurs have won one title in the last seven years. So has Boston. The two franchises are in vastly different spots. The Heat won two titles, same with the Lakers. Where are they now? Garbage squads.

The above is a long way around of saying that I still believe the Spurs have enough to oust the Clippers. Their athleticism was always going to give the Spurs trouble, because it is in the right spots. The Heat had athleticism, but it was on the outside where we could mitigate that. One reason SA struggled so much with OKC the last three years was Serge Ibaka dominating inside. The Spurs offense creates shots at the rim and from three. But when teams have a guy like Deandre Jordan and Blake Griffin that can recover from mistakes with such ferocity, that creates a problem.

On the other end, Chris Paul is playing like he did in 2009 when he destroyed the Spurs in three games. Yeah, he’s been on bad teams for his nine years, but he’s still very good.

It would be nice if Tony Parker was keeping pace with him but instead he was missing clutch free throws in game 4. The hope was that the game three blowout would have given Tony and Manu (and Tim, to a lesser extent) the rest they needed to essentially close this thing out in Game 4.

Instead, Tony was still laboring to score1, and Manu was giving away the ball and three-point plays. 2 While I don’t see that changing dramatically in the next few games I don’t see Austin Rivers balling out nor Danny Green continuing to struggle.

Manu called Austin Rivers’ big game a “surprise” but owned up to the mistakes. I still believe. Doc Rivers said he loves the ebb and flow of a playoff series. I don’t. I hate it. It really does feel like your team will never win again after a playoff loss. And losing two games in a row is the difference between a 3-2 advantage going home and a 2-3 deficit must-win.

The biggest concern wasn’t necessarily the defense allowing 34 points from Chris Paul. Nor was it the surprise from Austin Rivers, as he got some good looks against Patty Mills, who despite his contributions, isn’t going to win that 1v1 battle.

No, the biggest concern was the 24% from three. Danny Green 0-fered. He wasn’t really doing much defensively, either. With Kawhi shouldering the scoring, the Spurs will need Danny to defend better, and be the guy that tore up the Finals two years ago. Else, what is he doing that Marco can’t?

Speaking of Kawhi Leonard, he is awesome. He was torched tonight by the combination of Chris Paul and JJ Redick but he was also 10-19 for 26 points. Again, he can’t be expected to pick up the offensive slack while still locking down the other team’s perimeter guys. Danny Green and company need to hit shots.

If we want KL to be LBJ, he can’t be guarding the best player the entire night. Simple as that.

See you again on Tues night.

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1. Sure, he had 18. He was better but still not where the Spurs need him to be. [↩](#fnref:p117475548557-1)

2. We are getting all the bad Manu with nearly none of the good. [↩](#fnref:p117475548557-2)

Game 1: The Blake-ening

Aron Baynes was immortalized yesterday. He took three(!) Blake Griffin Specials to the face that summed the Spurs performance in game one: Right place, bad execution.

The thing about getting yammed on is that it can really destroy your YouTube legacy. Jaren Jackson, he of the legendary ‘99 Spurs, is most prominently remembered for getting dunked on by Kobe on Christmas Day 1999. There’s also a high-ranking video of Spreewell doing the same.

Now, JJ wasn’t the best Spur ever, but he was one of the first 3-and-D guys we had out there. He played his role well and helped close out the Great Western Forum in the Lakers series.

Such will be Aron Baynes’ fate, which is sad because he played a good basketball game. He defended all three Griffin dunks with the same verve, and that’s to be commended. He’s not Tiago Splitter, whose absence1 was notable. The biggest problem on the front line was Bobo’s poor play. He tossed up that ugly airball from a wide-ass open three that really encapsualted the shooting woes. Those are the shots you want, right?

Well, sort of. The ones we want are in rhythm, off three or four passes and we weren’t getting those. One of the major tributaries of assists is the drive and kick. In theory, the defense collapses on the driver (TP, Manu, usually) and then the ball pings around the perimeter before finding an open shooter. This is by no means the only way the Spurs play, but it is a major one. Without Tony Parker playng at 29-year-old TP levels, there really is no one who can attack the formidable Clipper front line with any success. Boris Diaw did a great job last year against the Thunder, who have a similarly over-talented defender.

Yes, Deandre Jordan is defending the basket like Serge Ibaka 2. The Spurs looked uncomfortable inside, breaking off drives that they would normally (attempt to) finish at the rim and instead opting to dribble out or pass. That kind of thing messes with your rhythm and contributes to 37% shooting nights.

I don’t buy the thinking that the Spurs will magically shoot better on Wednesday. It won’t happen without a little aggressiveness, and aggressive success in getting buckets inside.

Speaking of attacking basketball, much has been made of Chris Paul’s “masterful” performance. He was great but particularly so in mixing attacks at the rim with passes to shooters, and pull up jumpers. He’s fun to watch when he’s not attacking your team. Or punching them in the balls.

Here’s hoping:

  • Boris can stretch the floor enough to get Deandre Jordan outside of Block Shit Into Stands territory.
  • Matt Bonner time? Nah. The Spurs are at a disadvantage athletically, so putting yet another guy who will get jumped over is risky. He has shooting skills, however, and right now no one else can buy a basket.
  • We might need to use our once-per-series Manu game on Wednesday. Something like 26 points, 3/7 from three, 5 assists type of game.

* * *

1. I know he played, but did he really? [↩](#fnref:p116922206952-1)

2. Blake, too [↩](#fnref:p116922206952-2)

Who Scares The Spurs Fan?

I am scared of scoring point guards. I have nightmares of Monta Ellis scampering into the lane, flipping up impossible layups beyond the outstratched arms of Timothy and Tiago. As my friend commented to me today: “The Mavericks can suck all season but they’ll always play better against us.” This is true. The only thing that taints last season’s beutiful sojourn through the NBA playoffs was the seven-game scare agains the Dallases.

I’m scared of Dame Lillard doing a Monta impression and playing much better than he did in last year’s Spurs-Blazers matchup and making the difference.

I’m scared of Kyrie Irivng replicating his ridiculous shooting night in March.

I’m not so scared of Steph Curry. Not in the same way. Sure he was ridiculous against everyone all season, and was equally amazing agains the Spurs a couple of years ago, but I think Kawhi can handle him, and I think the rest of the Spurs can handle the Dubs’ length.

Sure, Golden State is the best we’ve seen in years (since Jordan’s Bulls in ‘96, by all accounts) but this isn’t the 90s, Curry isn’t Jordan, and Kerr isn’t Phil Jackson.

I can certainly imagine a WCF matchup in which the Warriors flex their muscles and entertain the league. Were the Spurs not my favoritest team evar, I’d certainly be rooting for that scenario.

Maybe the Spurs really are like the Patriots, and will win yet again, spoiling the fairy tale of yet another fan favorite team. (Looking at you 2004-2005 Phoenix Suns.) I’d certainly like that.

Still maybe I should be scared of James Harden but I’m not.

Can’t wait for the Playoffs.

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I’ve been watching a lot of soccer in the last five years so I have had some appreciation of mid-table drama. Were the NBA so inclined to go single-table, 58-game season this would be a battle for mediocre-ness. It isn’t, so we won’t fuss over that. Nonetheless it is good to climb above another mid-table dweller. The Spurs could have put some extra space between themselves and the Mavericks of Dallas tonight. The quick 29-point explosion of the first quarter comprised of Thiago finger rolls and Kahwi all-around dominance helped guide the festivities. Then the hot shooting ceased and the turnovers commenced.

That was an ugly loss. Ugly turnovers and the Spurs got Monta’d. Last year’s playoffs he was ridiculous against our guys and god knows I thought Damian Lillard was going to continue the streak of scoring point guards going bananas.

It didn’t happen. I was glad.

This year we’ve seen Kyrie Irving scorch the Spurs for 57 and tonight saw Monta Ellis rack up 38.

I’d still chalk this one up to randomness. The shooting was uncharacteristically poor (8 percentage points below average) and there were turnovers. Beating the league-leading Hawks on Sunday was nice, but that was more awful play by Atlanta than anything else.

Now we get to see Russ Westbrook, he of the Triple Double, on Wednesday.

Go Spurs.

Random

  • Chandler Parsons, by virtue of having played for both Houston and Dallas, is forever among the Disliked
  • I wouldn’t want Monta on my team but I hate when he goes against the Spurs.
  • At one point the Mavs rolled out Dirk, Amar’e, Richard Jefferson, and Devin Harris in their lineup. It was a formidable lineup … for 2006. The Mavericks are so very QPR sometimes, you guys.
  • Remember Devin Harris: Spurs Killer?
  • How long until Kawhi loses the braids?

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Well the Spurs aren’t dead yet. They also aren’t stopping a guy like Kyrie Irving last night. He dropped 57, including 7/7 from Three Land. Of all his shots, the most ridiculous was the falling-away triple as part of his personal 9-0 run to close out the game.

Here, for posterity, is more of that ridiculousness.

I am wary of this new Shaq-spouted idea that Kawhi isn’t clutch or some such. Sure, his two missed free throws leading to the Kyrie game-tying shot were big. So was Tony Parker’s missed jumper. Leonard got the rebound and was fouled. Where’s Tony’s tsk tsk?

I understand the desire to put everything onto our best player, but basketball remains a team game.“LeBron” got a win over “Timmy” because Kyrie dropped a ridiculous 57-point bomb on the Spurs. See how ridiculous that sounds?

Tonight the Spurs all but won that game. In the regular season that is okay, in the playoffs it will be a different monster. Kyrie was good preperation for the equally riculous, fellow-three-point champ Steph Curry.

Last night we saw some great basketball players go all-out against each other. The rules say someone has to lose. It was the Spurs.

I’m not even mad about last night. I’m impressed, actually.

Here’s to more great basketball.