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San Antonio Spurs, Page 2

Los Angeles Lakers fans must root for LeBron James and the Miami Heat

No playbooks, no advanced metrics, no salary cap. Just pure, unadulterated, Lakers fandom.
And the fan in me knows that for the sake of the Lakers and Kobe Bryant, I cannot, under any circumstances, root for the San Antonio Spurs.
Even if that means pulling for LeBron James and his Miami Heat.
Lakers fans everywhere have been without a horse in the playoff picture since the first round. The Show met its end with a quiet, anonymous sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, but even the team’s foremost nemese have been vanquished for weeks. Their STAPLES Center hallmate Clippers were manhandled by the Memphis Grizzlies in the last four games of a six game series. Their eternal foes from Boston had a prideful 4-2 exit against the New York Knicks. Even recent Lakers killers like Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder had their championship hopes effectively killed in the first round, with Russ going down with a torn meniscus. With the exception of everyone’s most despised enemy in the Miami Heat, Lakers fans haven’t had much to cheer for–or against–lately.
However, as painful and disgusting as it may sound, Lakers Nation has to be rooting for LeBron in Game 7 tonight.
The primary reason? Legacy.
In the NBA, it’s all about heritage and rings, career achievements and leadership. Every player is responsible for defense and offense, staying healthy and trying to contribute on the court whenever possible. Unlike the NFL, where it’s extremely difficult to compare offensive and defensive players, or MLB in regards to pitchers versus hitters, comparing centers to guards isn’t as much of a stretch. Every NBA player has the same responsibility, no matter who we’re talking about: score points and prevent your opponents from doing the same.

(Read on at Silver Screen & Roll!)

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...

NBA Playoffs: Conference Semifinals Predictions

1) Miami Heat vs. 5) Chicago Bulls
How do the champs make this a clean sweep?
El Mariachi: LeBron James.
Can the beat-up Bulls push this to 5 or 6 games?
KOBEsh: There really isn’t any logical reasoning to this prediction. Everyone on the Bulls is either physically injured or seriously ill. Derrick Rose’s brother continues his rope-a-dope with the NBA fan base at large, a sentence which leaves me wondering “Why the fuck are we listening to Derrick Rose’s brother anyway?”
But the most salient point in defense of Joakim Noah and company? The Chicago Bulls have all the ingredients to beat the Heat–extremely physical defenders, capable shot-blocking bigs that can avoid foul trouble and enough three-point shooting to disrupt a usually sterling Heat perimeter defense. To push this to a 6 game series, Da Bulls must outrebound the Heat by double-digits every single game; after all, this sometimes offensively challenged Chicago unit simply doesn’t have the playmaker to outwit superior defenders like James, Wade and Mario Chalmers on game-to-game basis. More importantly, Jimmy Butler, Marco Bellinelli and Nate Robinson have to continue to shoot in the upper-30% on threes in order to open up the middle for Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah. The Heat’s perimeter defense is completely predicated on their athletes moving inside-out so quickly, not on size alone. In order to counter-act that, those three perimeter players must hit shots.
Most importantly, the Bulls know they can beat Miami. Being the team that ended the 27-game streak in a raucous United Center, Chicago has that intangible confidence to combat a Heat squad that quite frankly, most oppositions are afraid of. … Read more...

NBA Playoffs: Western Conference First Round Predictions

On Friday, we took a look at our Eastern Conference predictions. Even though one game is in the books, better late than never. Let’s get right to the other side of the bracket, the Western Conference:
1) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. 8) Houston Rockets
Why OKC takes it in 5 games
KOBEsh: It’s a 1-seed versus an 8-seed. That’s reason enough right there. 
But going further? You’ve got the league’s best and most efficient offense playing a squad with a middling 16th ranked defense, though they’ve certainly improved over the second half of the season. You’ve got two of the NBA’s deadliest scorers in Westbrook and Durant, and no one on the opposition that is at all suited to slow them down. You’ve got an experienced OKC front line that knows how to work advantages against a bunch of first-time playoff virgins, including Serge Ibaka whose mobility and shooting touch should tear up whatever platoon coach Kevin McHale chooses.
This shouldn’t be a contest. No further explanation necessary. … 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...

Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant? Who has had the better career?

It’s no secret that THE GREAT MAMBINO features a number of Simmons disciples here. We drink the Kool-Aid, heavily so, and listen to the musings of a man who spends an impossible amount of time thinking about basketball as a mere hobby.

Of course, with a false prophet, you’ve got to have the good book. And of course, in this sacriligious perversion of an analogy, the bible is The Book of Basketball. For the uninitiated, Simmons wrote a mammoth 700 page dissertation, the premise of which was that the Basketball Hall of Fame should be organized into a pyramid. In this concept, Simmons sets 96 players into five groupings, moving numerically upwards from several-time All-Stars, to the immortals of the NBA. In other words, Bill found a neat, clean (and profitable) way to rank the greatest ballers of all-time from bottom to top, with justifications, disguised as chapters, for each man.

It shouldn’t surprise any loyal reader of MAMBINO that we’d naturally gravitate towards the particular ranking of one Kobe Bean Bryant. Simmons begrudgingly respects Kobe, though every part of his green and white being is dead set against ever truly liking the Black Mamba. Thus, when I read the updated paperback rankings in 2010 after the Lakers’ 16th championship, I was surprised to see that Kobe had been elevated from the 16th spot, all the way to number 8. Just behind Tim Duncan.

And thus the debate started. While I have the utmost respect for Tim Duncan, who rightly wears the Barkley-ian badge of “Best Power Forward Ever” proudly upon his lean shoulder, I simply don’t believe that he could ever outrank Kobe on the pyramid. The King, an infrequent contributor to MAMBINO and Boston-area scumbag, heartily disagrees.

This debate raged throughout the playoffs, and as both men were unceremoniously dumped from contention (is there any other way?), the stage was set for a late-August post where we scrap for any reason at all to talk about basketball. So here it is: Kobe or Duncan? Who has had the better career?
The King: To answer this question, I think you have to define what makes a player great. To me there are four factors that make a great player:

1)     He is a winner who is essential to his team’s success

2)     He played well during the most important moments
3)     He individual performance was strong
4)     He made his teammates better
Let’s look at how Kobe and Timmy compare to each other on the four characteristic listed above:

He is winner who is essential to their team’s success

If we were talking about beating rape charges, Kobe would be the clear winner here (Editor’s Note: First of all, alleged rape charges. Second of all, low blow, man). However, since we’re talking about basketball, Duncan gets the edge.

Yes, Kobe’s five championships are one greater than Timmy’s four, but when we are talking about all-time greats, the role on the championship team matters. There is no questioning that Kobe Bryant was the alpha dog on the2009 and the 2010 championship teams. The 2000 – 2002 championship teams on the other hand?   Any non-biased fan has to admit that Shaq was Batman and Kobe was Robin. On all those championship teams there were at least three other players in the league you could replace Bryant with and still win the championship. There was only one player in the league you could replace Shaq with and still win the championship. That player is none other than Tim Duncan.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise. Not only was Timmy the alpha of all four Read more...

Manu Ginobili – Greatness Wasted or Greatness Fulfilled?

Against some of the best players the United States had to offer, Manu Ginobili, then a mere one-time NBA champion, far from the man thrice coronated with crowns of locker room champagne, looks coldly across the floor in Athens, Greece. The Argentinian national team had stood toe to toe with the number one ranked team in the world, taking a double digit lead early in the semifinal matchup. The US team had looked shaky during the entire tournament, falling twice in pool play, doubling the losses that the United States basketball program had ever endured in Olympic play. Ginobili, then 27 years old, only added to their misery. Over and over again, he killed the US with back breaking jump shots and momentum stopping lay-ins. Manu ended the semifinal with a game-high 29 points, as Argentina took down the highly-vaunted United States men’s basketball team. Two days later, he would score 16 points, with 6 assists and 6 rebounds, to lead Argentina to its first Olympic basketball medal, Gold. Ginobili wasn’t just the best player on his team – for two weeks, he was the best basketball player in the world. The question is: could have been the best player in the NBA as well?

Of course one two week stretch of hot games doesn’t officially anoint you the best ball player on the planet. But Manu certainly has the resume to be named amongst the greats of his generation. Coming into the NBA in 2002 at the age of 25, Ginobili had an immediate impact on the San Antoio Spurs. They won the title behind the Finals MVP play of Tim Duncan, but also on the backs of retiring Hall of Fame center David Robinson, second-year point guard Tony Parker and on 27 minutes, 9 points, 4 boards and 3 assists per game from Manu Ginobili. He went on to two All-Star games, two All-NBA Third Team spots and of course, two more titles in a career that’s still ongoing. He owns a lifetime NBA slash line of 15/4/4 on 45/37/83 shooting percentages, which is great, but certainly not jaw-dropping. However, keep in mind that he’s done this starting only 346 out of 667 possible games in an average of only 28 minutes.

Manu’s playoff slash line is largely the same as his regular season performance, but looking at his prime – 2004 to 2010 – he averaged 18 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the postseason, including an unbelievable 21/6/4 in the 2005 playoffs, which ended in his second NBA title.

Ginobili, regardless of the slightly less than elite statistical line, has remained one of the toughest and most competitive wing players of his era. He’s gone through a decade of duels with Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash and Chris Paul, and has emerged from these battles with the reputation of being one of the most cut-throat, stone cold fourth quarter killers in the entire league. In the words of Kobe Bean in the documentary Kobe Doin’ Work, “that’s a bad man.”

However, watching Manu in these London games, and knowing his skillset and pedigree, I’m left wondering how truly good he could have been if not for the restrictions of his role on the San Antonio Spurs. Going back to his career stat line, Ginobili has been limited to only 28 minutes per game, coming off the bench for nearly half of his games. He’s played in a system predicated on ball-sharing, a bevy of long-range shooters and a dominant big man in Duncan. Combining everything we know about Manu, his reputation around the league and his propensity to step up in big moments, could he have been a top five player? Not just in a year, or in a pRead more...

Spurs/Thunder Mid-Series Check-Up

With two dramatic victories this weekend by the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder, both the Eastern and Western Conference Finals series have essentially been reduced to 3 game series. The final four teams all held home-court serve, so it’s down to three games apiece every other day this week to decide who heads towards the championship round. For NBA fans in Miami, Boston, Oklahoma and San Antonio, the next 6 days are going to be sheer agony – none of these cities are going to be sated by a mere conference crown. They’re all title contenders whose goals start and end with an NBA championship. Win or lose, nothing’s been accomplished except for taking years off the lives of these four fan bases.

The one silver lining to BockerKnocker’s Knicks and my Lakers getting bounced weeks ago is that our hearts have been rapidly calcified in the wake of our collective playoff disappointment. No longer feel the palpitations associated with a ball clanging hard off the back iron or careless pass floating to the other team. I happily and calmly watched this weekend’s action with wavering attachment depending on whoever had the lead. The Lakers fan in me wanted the games to end up in a tie, just so that everyone would be miserable. However, the basketball fan in me felt the slightest tickle in my cold, black heart watching Rondo pick apart the Miami defense and Kevin Durant continue his ascendancy to another level of stardom.

However, we need to check-in with people that still have a pulse, feel feelings and of course, care about the game’s outcome past pathetic Lakers apologist biases. Two MAMBINO correspondents, have graciously agreed to help us out and take the temperature of these series with the score tied at 2-2.

First up, ThunderStolt on his Oklahoma City Thunder:

KOBEsh: In the first two games, San Antonio looked like an unstoppable offensive juggernaut, shooting a combined 50% from the field and averaging 110 points a game. They were on a freakin’ 20-game win streak. In so many ways, they looked completely unbelievable – getting open shots whenever they wanted, and completely effortlessly at that. The OKC defense was reduced to rubble, and the only thing that Scott Brooks could do to slow down the Spurs attack was to play the much maligned “Hack-a-Splitter’ (which, to Brooks’ credit worked). In your words, the Spurs just flat-out looked like the better team.

So what’s changed the last two games? In Game 3, it seemed like San Antonio came back to Earth a bit, only scoring 82 points, shooting 39% and not looking like the Harlem Globetrotters. However, in a Game 4 loss, they still racked up 103 points, shot 47% from three and 50% from the field. How are the Thunder winning these games? What would you say is the main component that’s changed? 

Thunderstolt: The key word here is effort. the Thunder are winning games with effort.  In games three and four the Thunder have put together games chalked full of effort to a man.  Scott Brooks said it best: to beat this Spurs team, you cannot have only one effort on a single defensive possession but two, three, and even four times in a 24-second shot clock – you must account for those five guys because when you don’t, you give up a layup or wide open three.  
Granted, in game four the Spurs topped 100 points and were efficient from the field. However, the Thunder were hounding them all night long and the quality of the shots the Spurs were taking were far below that of game one and two, when they were getting … Read 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

Western Conference 2nd Round Preview

The never-ending first round of the NBA playoffs has finally concluded, with both LA teams winning some unbelievably close Game 7’s, the Lakers at home and the Clips on the road in Memphis. The matchups are set and to So Cal’s chagrin, pretty lopsided in regards to pre-game prognostication. Bummer.

But that’s why we’re here Mambinites. The MAMBINO roundtable is here once more to give our official prediction, but also why a curveball could be thrown into the works. Read on, friends.

(1) San Antonio Spurs vs. (5) Los Angeles Clippers: SPURS IN 6

Mr. Fundamentals will teach Blake a lesson.
BockerKnocker: I was actually trying to find reasons to pick the Clippers because it takes a true NBA nerd to appreciate the beauty of watching San Antonio play. The farther the Spurs advance, the more a casual fan turns to a flavor of the month sport like hockey. But the smart money is on Popovich and Duncan to advance to their 7th conference finals together.
When is the smart money NOT on that duo to win? Well actually, while everyone remembers their surprising defeat at the hands of Memphis last year, San Antonio hasn’t reached the WCF in four years. And while the upstart Clipshow is entering nearly uncharted territory by getting to the 2nd round, this type of finish doesn’t cut it for an organization that currently features one of the best players to ever play the game.
The Spurs demonstrated a killer instinct by brooming Utah last week, and by Tuesday’s tip-off, the veterans will have had 8 days of solid rest. On the other hand, Darrell’s favorite team is coming off of a knockdown, drag-out slugfest (always wanted to use that cliche), punctuated with a solid win in The Grindhouse. And as if San Antone didn’t need any more of an advantage, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are playing hurt. With only 1 day off before Round 2, they can’t possibly be at 100%. Paul was able to rest a little bit on defense by guarding Tony Allen, but if SA plays the Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili backcourt, I expect Paul to be attacked constantly.
I never did find that reason to pick the Clippers, and that’s probably a good thing, because we can’t stand FLOP City.
Why the Clips might only win 1 game

Because this Clippers team was extremely lucky to beat a Grizzlies team doing it’s best Walking Dead impression. Two of Memphis’ key players, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph, were operating at 70% or lower, which is only bad if you consider the fact that Allen is the team’s best defender and Z-Bo is the team’s best scorer. Oh, wait.

More importantly, in a slowed-down, epic 7-gamer, the Clips showed their true colors all over the court. With the game on the line, Vinny’s squad largely relied on momentum threes from a super streaky Nick Young, Eric Bledsoe doing an unimaginably dominant Tony Parker impression and Chris Paul being the best player in this year’s playoffs so far. Yes, I said it.

However, a hobbled Blake Griffin didn’t play the fourth quarter yesterday. Newly re-signed $45 million dollar man DeAndre Jordan was outplayed by Reggie Evans. Caron Butler is playing with a broken hand, and while it’s not affecting his shot, it’s certainly affecting his defense and ball handling. Mo Williams forgot how to play basketball. As a team, their ball-handling skills were sloppy, with 15 turnovers a game (up from 13 in the regular season) and 25 fouls per contest (up from 21). Gregg Popovich is going to dissect them with surgeon-like accuracy, making the Clips e… Read more...