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“One More Run”, Pt. 17: San Antonio Spurs Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Tony Parker, SG Danny Green, SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Tim Duncan, C Thiago Splitter
 
Key Bench Players: SG Manu Ginobili, PG Cory Joseph, SG Marco Belinelli, PF Boris Diaw, PF Matt Bonner
 
Offseason Additions: Marco Belinelli
 
Offseason Subtractions: G Gary Neal
 
FACT OR FICTION: The Spurs have enough in them for their fifth consecutive “one more run”?

 
FACT. But that’s not the real question.
 
FACT OR FICTION: The 2013-2014 Spurs can’t win a title unless Kawhi Leonard takes a leap.
 
FACT. We saw a little what the Spurs look like with Kawhi Leonard as a borderline All-Star-caliber player in the NBA Finals last season. He dropped 15 points, snatched 11 boards and 2 steals on a .513/.248/.702 slash line in the most pressure packed moments of the season. Leonard did all of this while serving up premium defense, maximum concentration and an eerie robotic calm that belied the fact that he hadn’t even turned 22. He wasn’t the best Spur in the series–that honor goes to the extraordinary Tim Duncan–but he wasn’t that far behind.… Read more...

NBA Finals Wrap-Up: Some legacies defined, others left alone

I’m sweating blood, crying stomach acid and secreting brain fluid through my pores. A completely normal reaction considering the seven game gladiatorial brawl we just witnessed over the past two weeks.
 
Game 7 concluded Thursday night with an emphatic finish, a 48 minute slugfest living up the symphonic excellence the previous six games had composed before it. With less than a minute on the board, we had a two point ball game with both teams trading blows like the Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin applying finisher after finisher to no avail. It seemed that in a series where the Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs countered each other game to game to game to game, that still no team had an edge over the other.
 
Still, at the concluding bell, I wonder: did the best team truly win? Or was the dramatic, heart-rendering finish of Game 6 so emotionally resonant that we’ve all tricked ourselves into believing that Miami’s had the slightly upper hand? Was it all an illusion born of adrenaline and the singular greatness of LeBron James and Dwyane Wade?… Read more...

NBA Finals: Game 6–A Survivor’s Tale

“I’m going to the gym. I’m all jacked up.”–MAMBINO Contributor El Mariachi, 12:17 am Eastern Time
 
We didn’t watch Game 6 everyone–we survived it.
 
It’s been echoed over and over again all night and all morning. It’s not hyperbole: this was one of the greatest Finals games ever. Off the top of my head, only a handful of games are in it’s company over the last 30 years: Mavericks-Heat Game 5 in 2006, Bulls-Jazz Game 6 in 1998, Pistons-Lakers Game 6 in 1988 and Lakers-Celtics Game 4 in 1987. There are others, of course, but there’s no doubt about it: last night’s epic Game 6 already ranks in the Top 10 of greatest Finals games ever, perhaps even penetrating the sacred sphere of greatest contests in American sports history. It was that good.
 
It’s not just the dramatic finish and the toe-curling proximity to which San Antonio was to a championship, but rather the ebbs and flows of such an excellently played contest that really makes this game stand out. Even the last two Game 7s (Boston/LA in 2010 and SA/Detroit in 2005) lacked the 48 minutes–make that 53 minutes–of artistry that last night’s bout had. Celtics-Lakers was a sloppy affair, with both teams shooting poorly, Kobe Bryant chucking away a 6-24 night and the final combined score ticking in at just over 160 combined points. Spurs/Pistons had the same feeling of inertia, slogging towards a 4th quarter that was largely out of reach for Detroit. Game 6 was dynamic from beginning to end, with each team playing crisply, trading blows and fighting to a standstill up until Bosh emphatically landed the controversial finishing blow. This game was so finely played, with so many featured players, that it’s hard to remember one seminal moment in a myriad of them. That’s what sets last night’s game apart–painting a masterpiece without muddling the colors. … Read more...

NBA Finals: One game away from…Danny Green, Finals MVP?

Danny Green wasn’t ever a blue chip NBA prospect. Unlike many of his North Carolina ilk, Green was highly recruited, yet not the type of college player whose talent would propel him towards an early entrance into the NBA Draft. He spent all four years at UNC, capping off his collegiate career as a key role player on the 2009 NCAA Champion Tarheels. Embedded as deep into his amateur career as would be in his professional career, Green was overshadowed by the better players on the floor. Surrounded by Ty Lawson, Tyler Hanbrough, Ed Davis and Wayne Ellington, Danny played his part while his teammates grabbed national headlines and lottery pick status. Green finished the year nearly getting skunked in regular season accolades, barely making an All-ACC team (Third Team, no less), let alone anything as lofty as an All-American selection
 
He found a place in the NBA, but just barely. The Cleveland Cavaliers took Green with the 46th pick in the 2009 Draft, giving the swingman the opportunity to make the team out of training camp without any guaranteed money. With a sweet long range shot and the requisite defensive chops to make Roy Williams’ tough rotation, he certainly had enough skills to make it as a NBA player, but only with a ton of hard work and the right system to take advantage of his very specific talents.
 
But, as Adam Morrison, Joe Alexander and Shelden Williams will tell you, all the potential in the world might not save your NBA career. Green languished in the Cavs system for his rookie year, playing in only 20 games with the big league club, whilst being sent down to the D-League throughout the year. He was cut as soon as the 2010 season started, a dubious distinction considering how rancid the post-LeBron James Cavaliers were. Green was then picked up by the San Antonio Spurs, but he was far from the steady professional he is now–in his first year with the Spurs, he was waived within six days of his first signing, then spent months in the D-League on a non-NBA contract, and the signed again in March 2011 for the stretch run. He only played 8 games that year for San Antonio, but obviously someone on the coaching staff or the front office saw something significant in the young guard’s game.
 
Last season, Green broke out into a full fledged contributor, starting in 38 games and playing 66 regular season contests for the Spurs in 23 minutes a night. His defensive acumen wasn’t just reputation–it was fully formed in it’s execution. Moreover, Green was every bit of the shooter he looked in college. At the close of the 2011-2012 campaign, he threw down an unreal .436 3P% from the 3-point line, forging himself a permanent role on the reborn run-and-gun San Antonio offense. Green was the perfect component for what coach Gregg Popovich wanted to run: a young, long athlete who was willing to run the floor, play defense on every possession and could knock down a jumper anytime the ball was in his hands. He averaged 9.5 ppg and 3.4 rpg, career-high marks only topped by this year’s numbers: 27 mpg with 10.1 ppg, while starting all 80 of his appearances.
 
Even still, Green never seemed to forget his place in the San Antonio system–he was a role player, plain and simple. He has succeeded despite a career of disappointments and well wishes on future endeavors. There’s very few times where he tries to overextend himself and try to penetrate the lane like Tony Parker, or launch off-balance jumpers like Manu Ginobili. For better or worse, Danny Green is Danny Green, and he’ll c… Read more...

NBA Finals Game 3 Thoughts and Game 4 Notes

Three games gone in the NBA Finals, the “Fo, Fo, Fo, Fo” calls for a spotless Miami Heat playoffs seem like a faraway fairytale, prancing on a cloud with unicorns and mermaids. The reigning champs look to be at a significant disadvantage against the San Antonio Spurs, though they’re down just 2 games to 1. The 4-time champs have owned Miami despite a narrow margin of victory in Game 1–after all, it’s not outrageous to say that San Antonio has controlled the series for 10 of the 12 quarters played thus far.
 
Game 3 was an absolute thrashing on the part of the Spurs. In a completely lopsided 113-77 blowout, San Antone hit a NBA record 16 three-pointers, including and outrageous 13-19 clip from Danny Green and Gary Neal. Now, if you’re a casual NBA fan and you don’t know who those two guys are, their games on the court make them seem as unglamorous as the 9th grade chemistry teachers they’re seemingly named after. However, in a complex series of screens and cuts, the two wingmen were able to shake free time after time, getting uninhibited looks from long. They combined for a backbreaking 51 points, accounting for twice the output of Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili (25 points). Though this was the primary narrative of the game, a few other factors stood out:… Read more...

NBA Finals Game 1 Thoughts: It’s a Spurs world, and Miami just lives in it

In the aftermath of an epic Game 1 win last night, a few thoughts stemming from the NBA Finals:
 
It’s San Antonio’s world, and Miami’s just living in it
 
92-88 game, with a 2-point differential in the last 29 seconds? Sounds like a close game.
 
But it wasn’t. Not nearly as much as the final score would have you believe.
 
The Spurs completely dictated the pace of the game, and Miami should be so fortunate that they even kept it that close. The most telling numbers:… Read more...

NBA Finals Preview: LeBron’s revenge denied?

2) San Antonio Spurs vs. 1) Miami Heat
 
How are the Spurs taking this in 7 games?
 
A 27-game win streak, the league’s MVP and the 10th best record ever in an 82 game season at 66-16. Nigh indomitable, no?
 
No. Not for these San Antonio Spurs.
 
The MAMBINO crew got together via e-mail this week and took our prediction poll, as per usual every round. However, unlike all the other rounds, the Heat weren’t a unanimous pick to win the series. They weren’t even the pick to win the series. MAMBINO had taken the Spurs in 7 games.
 
Perhaps the reasons are as simple as they’re the hottest team playing right now. The Spurs annihilated two of their three playoff opponents in two distinguished sweeps, with the war-torn Lakers going down in the first round and the stunningly over matched Grizzlies in the Western Conference Finals. There almost hasn’t been any area in which San Antonio has faltered in the past to months; they’ve rebounded extremely well, forced turnovers, scored efficiently and played shut down D (the Spurs haven’t allowed 100 points since Game 2 against the Golden State Warriors). They are executing their offense and defense to the letter, throwing screens upon screens for their cutting wings and using a revitalized Tim Duncan as a deadly force in the high post. It doesn’t seem to matter who the San Antonio is playing either: the uptempo Warriors tried to run the Spurs into the ground with Harrison Barnes acting as a small-ball power forward, while the Grizzlies tried to use Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol to bully their way inside. Both times San Antonio adjusted and re-adjusted, using their versatile roster to combat any offensive strategy their opponents tried.
 
No team has played as consistently well as the Spurs have since mid-April, Right now, they look like the best team in the league. It’s not a coincidence then that they have arguably the second best (or best) player in the playoffs. That’s Tony Parker.… Read more...

MAMBINO’s Western Conference Finals Preview

2) San Antonio Spurs vs. 5) Memphis Grizzlies
 
Why do the Memphis Grizzlies take the series in 6 games?
 
KOBEsh: Like a phantom deep out of the nightmares of children all over Southwestern Texas, the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies have come back to haunt the San Antonio Spurs. Again. And everyone knows it.
 
In a strange turn of events, the blogosphere has pejoratively completely ruled out the 58-win Spurs from having any chance of winning this series. In an informal poll of all the hoophead nerds at MAMBINO, only one writer even suggested San Antonio could win this series … and that it would take 7 games to do so.
 
How can the Grizz be favored like this?
 
1) In a tightly contested Western Conference, the Grizz won 56 games—just two back of the 58-win Spurs
 
Their first round opponents, the fourth-seeded Clippers, finished the season with the exact same win total, but won home court advantage on a conference record tie-breaker. The third-seeded team, the Denver Nuggets, won 57 games—just one game ahead. The Spurs meanwhile, took home a 58-24 record. Though this is a 2-5 matchup, the difference between the two teams isn’t nearly as lopsided as the deceiving seeding positions would suggest.… Read more...

Same Old Spurs (emphasis on "Old") — San Antonio Spurs Season Preview


Starting Five: PG Tony Parker, SG Manu Ginobili, SF Stephen Jackson, PF Boris Diaw, C Tim Duncan 

Key Bench Players: SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Tiago Splitter, SG Danny Green, F Matt Bonner, G Nando de Colo, SG Gary Neal, PG Patty Mills, G Cory Joseph

Key Additions: G Nando de Colo 

Key Departures: SG James Anderson

New NBA season on the horizon, same ol’ Spurs.  Gregg Popovich still patrols the sideline, Tony Parker still runs the offense, Manu Ginobili still provides unlimited #SWAG in the 4th quarter, and Tim Duncan still mans the paint, quarterbacks the D, and goes glass at least once a game.  This is essentially the same Spurs team as last season’s team, only one year older.  

This is not to say that being the same team as last year is a bad thing.  Last year’s team won a league-high 50 games, was the #1 seed in the West, steamrolled through the first two rounds in the playoffs, and gave Pop some nasty in taking the first two games in the Conference Semi’s, until the Thunder simply found another gear and the Spurs could not keep up.




So what can we expect if the Spurs in 2012 are going to be a lot like the Spurs in 2011.  Well, we can assume they will monitor the minutes of Duncan (36 years old) and Ginobili (35 years old) even more so than last year.  They’ll shoot a lot of 3’s and score a lot of points, and a crew of unheralded bench reserves (Danny Green, Matt Bonner, Gary Neal, de Colo, et al.) will alternate as the hot hand from distance.  Tony Parker will have more freedom to attack, while  Kawhi Leonard will continue to develop into one of the better two-way players in the NBA.  Steven Jackson and Boris Diaw will become more comfortable in the Spurs system.  The Spurs will win a lot of regular season games.

“Key additions” is a misnomer for this preview, as the only “new” player on the roster is 25 year-old Frenchman Nando de Colo, a 6’5″ shooting guard who played for Valencia in the Spanish ACB League last season.  De Colo was underwhelming in the Olympics, looking like a competent guard who is above-average in most facets of the game but may not have one “NBA skill” that defines him. In the small Olympic sample, de Colo looked like just a decent athlete, a good but not superb ballhandler, a good shooter but not a sniper by any means.  The lack of an NBA skill may mute de Colo’s overall effectiveness in year one.  Regardless, the Spurs could use some fresh legs, and de Colo should receive some backcourt minutes behind fellow Frenchman Tony Parker, Ginobili, Gary Neal, and Danny Green.

With the Lakers and Clippers both adding reinforcements and the Thunder improving from within, the lack of more “Key additions” could be a telling theme for the Spurs as they are passed in the Conference hierarchy.  The most important players on the roster — guys like Ginobili and Duncan and Parker, and even Jackson and Diaw — these are players who are what they are, players in or past their prime who will not play beyond the level they have been at for the past few years.  Given that, the Spurs desperately need their young guns to improve.  

Kawhi Leonard is a 6’7, 225 lb. wing who will be 21 this season.  8 points and 5 rebounds was a nice line as a rookie, but Leonard needs to come into camp with a more consistent jumper and a more refined offensive game in order to progress into something more.  6’11” big Tiago Splitter will be 27 this season; is he anything more than the 9 point/5 rebound guy he was last yeRead more...

MAMBINO’s Western Conference Finals Preview

Can Kawahi contain KD?

Charles Barkley has boldly proclaimed that these two teams left are the best two teams in the NBA. It’s hard to disagree.

The San Antonio Spurs and the Oklahoma City Thunder will begin the Western Conference Finals on Sunday, with a trip to the NBA Finals on the line. The two teams have gone 16-1 combined so far in the playoffs, with the Spurs on a 18 game winning streak and the Thunder only losing one postseason contest to a squeaker last Friday with the Lakers. No other teams are playing as well as these two squads right now, so the consesus should be, like Chuck says, that whoever wins this matchup is the presumptive NBA champion. Maybe.

We’re of two minds on this at MAMBINO HQ, but we’ve got not only our consensus decision here, but also spicy little alternative for you out there. Check it!


SPURS in 7 games

San Antonio 2.0
The CDP: OKC is the model for rebuilding at the moment, but we should take a long look at the Spurs as well. While it’s hard to call it classical rebuilding when you retain Ginobili, Parker, and Duncan, there’s no doubt the Spurs have reinvented themselves over the last few seasons. After a title in 2007, they made it to the Conference Finals in 2008, but were manhandled by the Lakers. The Spurs had a top 3 defense, but a middling 15th rankeddefense. They filled out the roster with Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen, Ime Udoka, Oberto, Matt Bonner, Brent Barry, Kurt Thomas, and Jacque Vaughn. 2/3 next seasons, the Spurs lost in the first round and it was clear they needed a fresh infusion of talent to remain competitive.
Fast forward to 2012 and Matt Bonner is the only role player holdover. The Spurs have added talent like DeJuan Blair, Kawhi Leonard, and Tiago Splitter through the draft while picking up Boris Diaw, Stephen Jackson, Patrick Mills, and Danny Green through shrewd pickups and trades. The Spurs arenow the 10th best defense, but the top-ranked offense. They haven’t lost yet in the playoffs or at home since April 11. Can you imagine the coverage that this would receive if it were the Heat? The media would even throw Tebow aside for that scoop.
The Spurs may not have had to beat the Mavericks/Lakers like OKC, but I’m not worried about a team with Popovich and Duncan being ready. In many ways, OKC is a mirror image of the Spurs, a top-heavy small market team built on three superstars and the right supporting cast. OKC has the 2nd ranked defense and #11 offense,both right behind the Spurs. They are an extremely talented young group that is growing quickly and capable of overwhelming teams with their athleticism. I just think that the Spurs still have their number this year and are playing too well. Here’s why I’ll take the Spurs in 7:
  1. All-Star Match-ups: With Danny Green, Stephen Jackson, and Kawahi Leonard in tow, the Spurs actually have the kind of long, athletic defenders that could potentially bother KD. Tony Parker is a much bigger defensive challenge than Russell Westbrook has faced thus far and has the foot speed to stay with him. Duncan looks better than he has in years. At his best, Ginobili is one of the league’s only playmakers explosive enough to counter James Harden. The Spurs are one of the only units in the league capable of keeping up with OKC’s Three Musketeers.
  2. Thunder D: The Thunder lack the kind of punishing big man that has been able to hurt the Spurs in the past (think Grizzlies), which creates defensive problems for OKC. As a result, the Spurs don’t have to play as much Tiago Splitter and can play Bonner, Diaw, and Blair – who all help the offense hum. With their
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