Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Shaq Sized Regret

***I'm now writing for Project Spurs. I still plan on writing NBA centric posts on this site, but also may add some boxing and sports notes on here as well. Please continue to follow me on both***

The Big Aristotle, Shaq Diesel, Shaqtus, Superman has left the NBA for good. Yesterday, Shaquille O'Neal announced via Twitter that he was out. Retiring after an injury-riddled season with the Boston Celtics. I'm going to miss Shaq, though I suspect TNT is already trying to get him in the fold for next season. After all, Orlando to Atlanta is not a long flight.

Part of me wishes Shaq would've walked away from the league after LeBron James decided to destroy all teams in his path for the next decade. But a larger part of me wishes Shaq would've finished his career with the San Antonio Spurs, even if it was on San Antonio's injured list.

I saw Shaq play once in my career. It was at the Alamodome, my seats were under the basket closest to the Laker bench. The Spurs crushed the Lakers and everyone was thinking the Spurs could upset the Lakers in the playoffs. Then Shaq went in to playoff Shaq mode and led L.A. to one of their three titles.

When Shaq announced last summer that San Antonio was at the top of his list of preferred teams, I got more than excited about it, despite thinking the he was washed up. Sure, he and Tim Duncan would have become the slowest frontcourt since Shaq and Zydrunas Ilgauskas or really anytime Miami trotted out a front line that didn't involve Chris Bosh or LeBron. Though, Big Z and Juwan Howard was fun to watch in slow motion. Wait, that was in real time? But I digress.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sizing Up Spurs Draft Prospects

We've still got two rounds of playoffs to go and two weeks to go in May, but I can't wait for the month of June. Between the end of the conference finals, the finals and the NBA Draft, the month of June is great. It all started last night with the NBA Draft Lottery. The Cavs struck gold with the first pick (with the Clippers' pick no less) and also have the fourth pick in the draft. The Timberwolves got the second pick in the draft then David Kahn said some unflattering things about widows and sick kids. They'll probably take Derrick Williams, but some reports are Kahn  wants to trade the pick. And yes, I think the Spurs should call and say can we interest you in Tony Parker.

What is for sure is that the Spurs have the second to last pick in the 1st round. The name of the game is defense. This year is more critical than ever to get the pick right because it's a weak draft. There's a few guys at the back end of Ford's 1st round that could help the Spurs.

-Lucas Norgueira, Brazil: He's listed at 6'11" but this photo floating around the internet shows him at least and inch or two taller than Dwight Howard. He's only 18 and probably needs another year or two in Europe to bulk up and develop offensively. But defensively he's a rebounder and shot blocker, so really there's not much else to say about the Spurs needs. Also, he has awesome Sideshow Bob like fellow Brazilian Anderson Varejao, so that's a plus. And Brazilian big men have a pretty good track record in the league so far.

-Tyler Honeycutt, UCLA: You see this guy and you think Tayshaun Prince. 6'8", rail thin and very sharp defensively. I think ideally the Spurs would like a big man they can develop, but if they can find a guy to slice in to Richard Jefferson's minutes that isn't 6'3" (I'm looking at you Gary Neal) that'd also be a big help defensively. Ford's lists Honeycutt's strengths as a super smart small forward, excellent passer, high basketball IQ, good size for his position and a great shot blocker. So basically everything the Spurs need right now. ESPN projects him to go to the Thunder at #24, Hoops Hype has him going #17 to New York. Sports Illustrated just released their mock draft and they have Honeycutt going #20 to Minnesota (a small forward is just what the T'Wolves need since they have Wesley Johnson and Martell Webster... Kaaaaaahhhhhnnnn!).

-Malcolm Lee, UCLA: Here's a guy who could be a really great pick if he falls in to the right system. He's a 6'5" point guard who is an elite defender and can guard both guard spots. His jumper is inconsistent but sounds like it's workable. Chad Ford made a terrific point in his latest blog post. UCLA players under Ben Howland have over performed once they got in to the league. Jrue Holiday and Aaron Afflalo are two great examples of mid to late first round picks who have turned in to starters quickly for their perspective teams. Basically Lee reminds me of George Hill, except he played in the Pac-10 and not the IUPUI select conference. If the Spurs were to actually trade Tony Parker (doubtful), Lee could be the new project and given the recent UCLA track record could be an excellent pick.

I love all three of these options for a team that has the second to last pick of the first round. I don't know if they'll pan out, but the Spurs have seemed more focused in the last few years of developing their draft picks instead of either trading the pick or stashing a guy in Europe... forever.

A couple of other notes: I did a mock draft with Dale Blasigame over at the Normal Guy Guide. We loathe this draft from about pick 5-20. 20-30 is good for value, but I would have picking in the teens in this draft.

There are a couple guys I love in this draft. One is Williams. Another is Jan Vessly. He plays at an elite league in Spain and attacks the basket. Think a young Tracy McGrady. If the Wizards can draft him at #6, then they instantly become a must see when they come to Sacramento next year. 

Friday, May 13, 2011

Altering A 60 Win Team... This Guy Isn't The Answer, Is He?

I didn't think I'd be writing something like this in early May, but here we are, the 2nd round has begun and for the 2nd time in 3 seasons the Spurs aren't a part of it. If you listen to some, like long time Spurs doubter Ric Bucher, it's time to blow the team up. I don't want to go that far, but some changes have to be made.

Getting bigger is a simple fix in theory. The next problem isn't. The Spurs lived by the 3 in the regular season and died by it in the playoffs. They way the lost felt eerily similar to the way the Spurs and Mavs knocked out the Suns for those 4 years in the middle of the decade. Too many shooters who didn't show up in the playoffs and not enough defensive minded swing men.

Here's one idea: Gary Neal to Memphis for Darrell Arthur (you'll recognize him as the guy that owned Matt Bonner anytime Coach B had to play defense of any sort). Arthur showed he's a tough defender who is athletic and can space the floor by hitting a 15-foot jumper. That versatility means he could play next to any big the Spurs have on their roster. As for Neal, he was probably the only Spurs shooter who showed up with any consistency in the 1st round of the playoffs, but he's undersized and the Spurs already have plenty of undersized guys. The Spurs also have James Anderson who, before his injury, was giving the Spurs some good minutes. I think he could be the backup 2/3 that Neal is now. Memphis doesn't have a consistent shooter, so a guy like Neal would fill a need for them.

The Spurs could also go after some bigger named centers like Marc Gasol, who just did an amazing job in the Spurs series. A lot of people talked about Duncan's decline and I agree he looked a step slow, but to say he's fallen off the cliff does a huge disservice to the job Gasol did. I think he'd be perfect next to Duncan for the next couple of years and then next to Splitter or whoever comes after Duncan. But he's a restricted free agent who will probably make at least 10 million dollars a year on his next contract. The Spurs don't have the cap room or the assets to get Pau's larger, tougher brother. They'd have to swing a 3 team trade that probably involves Tony Parker (which I'm fine with) or Richard Jefferson's contract (good luck unloading that this summer). The same goes for Nene by the way.

One guy I'm sure they will make an effort to get is Shane Battier. He's a free agent, he fits the Spurs system perfectly and having him and Jefferson split time at the 3 and Hill and Anderson as the back up guards would make the Spurs much tougher on the perimeter.

I think the only other option is trading Tony Parker. I don't know what his value is right now, but would you trade Tony Parker, Matt Bonner and Antonio McDyess' partially guaranteed contract for maybe Josh Smith, Jeff Teague & Zaza Pachulia? This would give the Spurs two young pieces to try to build around. Atlanta gets another All-Star to put in the backcourt with Joe Johnson and switches up the dynamic of a Hawks team that wasn't ever going to be better than 4th or 5th best in the East.

What about Tony Parker and DeJuan Blair for Nicolas Batum and Marcus Camby? Would Portland even do this? Point is you're not going to get another superstar for Parker (unless Deron Williams wants out of New Jersey/Brooklyn) and wants to come play in Texas (where he's from) and for Coach Pop (who he's always said he's admired). That's probably your best case scenario actually. And yes, I know Deron Williams doesn't have the pedigree Parker has, but he also hasn't played next to Tim Duncan his entire career, so I don't want any comments about how you wouldn't trade Williams for Parker.

Here's the last and possibly most intriguing. Tony Parker and Matt Bonner for Pau Gasol and Steve Blake. Does this trade make too much sense for both teams? Gasol would become the Spurs best offensive big and allow Duncan to become a defensive minded big like Robinson did once Duncan arrived. Also, the idea of the two smartest big men in basketball playing for a couple of seasons is pretty exciting to think about. Not to mention that he and Splitter would be perfect when ever Duncan needed some rest. And Blair could slide over to the 4 assuming he continues to develop and lay off the Whataburger. It's a no-brainer really. It would, however, give me two less hashtags on Twitter since #benchbonner and #TradeTP are two of my favorites.

John Hollinger said it best the other day when he said the Lakers couldn't keep up with Dallas' "Midget Brigade". Hilarious and true. Wouldn't getting a speedy guard like Tony Parker who would be a perfect secondary scorer behind Kobe be ideal for the Lakers? Also, they still have Bynum and Odom to offer to Orlando for Dwight Howard. On second thought, let's forget the last two paragraphs were ever written.
So the Spurs have options and it's not as awful a free agent class as people might think, but this has to be the summer where the Spurs think defense and size. Easier to think about then act on.

Monday, April 4, 2011


It's a hashtag I've been floating around Twitter for some time now and it's finally time to flesh out some thoughts. It's time to bench Matt Bonner. This isn't the best time to bring this topic up because, well, Bonner was probably the second best player on the court during the Spurs 114-97 win over the Suns, Sunday afternoon (I feel comfortable saying George Hill's 29 point performance made him the game's best player). Bonner had 16 points and even more surprisingly 11 rebounds and made 3 out 4 three pointers.

That's the good news and that's the problem at the same time. Counting Sunday's game, in which Bonner shot 75% from 3, he's shooting 28% from the field. In the month of March he shot 36% from the 3. Over the last month, he's been an average 3 point shooter at best. That would be fine if Bonner was good at anything else except shooting the 3 ball. He doesn't rebound well, only 3.5 boards per game. When he dribbles, all I can think is he shouldn't and then comes the not Tony Parker floater.

So you might be able to tell I'm not Matt Bonner's biggest fan. I think he does have value, but on this team his liabilities outweigh his value. This Spurs team is not the strong defensive team of year's past. It is small (Gary Neal is the back up small forward for crying out loud) and there isn't a real shot blocker on the team (though Tim Duncan's 2 blocks a game in 28 minutes is fairly impressive). So the last thing the second tallest guy on the floor needs to be is a jump shooter who can't guard the post.

So it was especially discouraging during Sunday's game against Phoenix where Tiago Splitter took DeJuan Blair's spot in the rotation and not Bonner's. I am fully aware of DeJuan's limitations, namely a jump shot and the fact that he's about 3 inches too short for his position. But he can rebound, he hustles and he's a smart defender despite his natural limitations. Splitter is similar to Blair except with 5 extra inches in height and 5 less inches in vertical (not to mention those alligator arms).

Between Gary Neal, George Hill, Manu & even Richard Jefferson, the Spurs have plenty of shooters. I know Coach Pop likes to stretch the floor with as many shooters as possible, but given the small lineup they've been routinely throwing out, it just seems to make more sense to play the bigs that can protect the paint. Moving Matt Bonner out of the rotation isn't likely to happen this season, but at some point the Spurs rotation needs a little less Matt Bonner and more Tiago Splitter and DeJuan Blair.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Defending The Defenseless: Comparing Chris Bosh to Richard Jefferson

Defending Chris Bosh is about the least popular thing an NBA fan can write about right now, but I'm going to do it anyway. I feel bad for Chris Bosh. Not too bad, he's making $14 million this year, lives in South Beach and plays for a team that despite it's faults will probably make it to the Eastern Conference Finals and has an outside shot of winning the NBA title (or if you listen to John Hollinger at, the Heatles have a the second best chance in the league behind the Spurs of winning the title). Still, the guy is the butt of a lot of jokes and has been incredibly inconsistent this season (though I suspect the jokes would continue even if he were doing 20 and 10 every night). But we shouldn't act like it's all his fault. He's been asked to do different things in a completely different system then in year's past. Side note: This is the exact opposite of what Amar'e Stoudamire is doing. He's playing in the exact same system as he was in Phoenix, doing the exact same things and with the exception of having a jump shot hasn't developed as a player since he's been in the league.

Admittedly I've always liked Bosh and thought he had a little David Robinson in him because he's a lefty and can hit an 18 foot jumper as well as any big man not named Dirk. I wrote in November that I thought Bosh's situation was similar to Richard Jefferson's 2009-2010 season. Here's a guy coming from a situation where he was the number one guy on a mediocre team for several years. Now he's being asked to do things that don't sound like a big deal (go after rebounds, loose balls and be a primary low post defender) the only problem he was never asked to do any of those.  Offensively, not only has he had to go from being the number 1 guy to the number 3 guy (by the way, I think even his staunchest supporters can all agree he severely miscast as a number 1 guy) but Erik Spoelstra has also changed Bosh's offensive game on the fly. ESPN's Tom Habersoth wrote a fantastic piece on how advanced stats convinced to move Bosh to a different spot on the court from what he was comfortable to in Toronto.

Jefferson similarly was in situations at the end of his run with the Nyets and then the Bucks where defense and rebounding were less of a priority and he was asked to become the team's primary scoring option. I think we can all agree year 1 of the Richard Jefferson experiment wasn't great but year 2 got off to a great start and even though he's struggled recently, I think Jefferson's role is so much better defined and nothing feels forced. I feel like no matter what happens with the Heat this year, Bosh's role will be so much better defined and a year in Coach Spo's system will do wonders for a guy who is
clearly incredibly talented and when used properly is the most dangerous 3rd option in the league right now.

The "Like a Bosh" jokes are funny, some really funny actually, and let's face it, these guys chose to team up in Miami, so Bosh brought this spotlight on himself to a certain extent, but let's top acting like he isn't good. He's still a top 5 power forward (Pau, Duncan, Blake Mamba, Dirk, Bosh?) and if he were your favorite team's 3rd scoring option you probably wouldn't do too much complaining. Remember we had this chat next when the Heat when their first of 3 or 4 titles in a row with Bosh consistently averaging between 18 and 20 points per game and getting 10 boards a game again. It's just a matter of how much he's willing to be coached. That last part sound familiar Spurs fans?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Spurs-Bulls As It Happened

*Note: I am completely ripping off Bill Simmons with this idea, but a game diary sounded like fun.

5:03 PST - NBA on TNT live on top of the London in W. Hollywood. We've got Ernie Johnson, Jet Smith,
Charles Barkley, Chris Webber and special guest Lenny Kravitz. As my friend Ross put it, Kravitz hasn't had a hit since the Clinton Administration (he has the NBA on TNT theme song of this year, so that's why he's here).

5:06- C-Webb proving his versatility and his appreciation for Lenny's music by reeling off a ton of Lenny's music and albums. When Charles Barkley or Kenny Smith decide to leave the Inside the NBA crew (and I hope they don't leave anytime soon), C-Webb is going to be a worthy replacement.

5:08- E.J. just admitted he's old enough to have seen the Beatles as his first concert. "Ernie... I was 2!" Charles exclaims. This isn't even a basketball pre-game show right now.

5:10- Lenny's segment is over now. I'm happy to report he was fully clothed the entire time and he did not have any sort of high heel boot on (you can't discount these things from Lenny).

5:15- Awkward wide shot of the P.A. asking the crowd to cheer as they go to commercial. You mean those cheers aren't natural?! Scandal.

5:19- Here we go! Gametime! For the record I'm not drinking the Bulls Kool-Aid. They play in the weakest division in the East and have only Kyle Korver who can shoot outside of 18 feet.

5:21- Carlos Boozer already complaining about calls. That's going to happen every time he takes a shot inside 10 feet.

5:23- Oh good, 2 turnovers for Tony Parker already.

5:25- Rose makes a sharp cut to the basket for a lay-up (12-9), Manu comes back for a 3 (12-12), Rose comes back and hits a jumper (14-12). This could be a fun night.

5:27- Keith Bogans hits a 3. Glad he got that out of the way early. 17-12 Bulls, Pop calls a timeout.

5:29- I'm not sure what's worse... the Taco Bell 4 Kinds of Steak commercial or the Taco Bell 4 Kinds of Steak meal. The commercial makes me want to jump out of a window.

5:33- DeJuan Blair having just a dreadful 1st quarter against a great Bulls defense. Boozer is completely owning him too. Oh and he missed 2 free throws. So there's all of that.

5:41- Spurs go zone and force a Bulls 3 (which is what should be done) but then let Rose get an offensive rebound (which is what shouldn't be done).

5:43- Spurs down only 5 after the 1st quarter. This is eerily similar to the first game the teams played in San Antonio in November. So that's encouraging considering the Spurs won that one. 

5:47- Pop short and to the point on the between quarter interview... but he wasn't a jerk. I hope he's feeling OK. Whoa a half court trap right off the bat. Chicago calls a quick timeout.

5:50- Mike Fratello is currently talking about how deep the Bulls are. They're not. This second unit is great on defense but what I'd call offensively inept.

5:51- First time I've EVER said this: Savvy move by Bonner to let Gibson run into him after that awful 3 point attempt.
5:53- NEAL BEFORE ZOD (stolen from Matt Moore at Hardwood Paroxysm). And Duncan hits a jumper and just like that Spurs only down one in a game that if you didn't see the score you'd think Chicago was up by about 7 or 8.

6:00- So much for great defense, seems like both teams are just trading baskets right now... until DeJuan Blair puts up what I think was a jump hook.

6:03- A real DeJuan Blair jump hook put the Spurs up 43-42. Their first lead since 2-0. By the way, Kurt Thomas makes Tim Duncan look Derrick Rose fast.

6:07- Joakim Noah in HD is a personal foul.

6:08- Kyle Korver and Gary Neal guarding one another. I'm not sure who has the advantage here. I'll go with the offense.

6:09- Derrick Rose has been for about 1 minute and the Bulls go on a 5-1 run. So yes, he is the a top contender to win the MVPNNLBJ (MVP Not Named LeBron James).

6:16- Derrick Rose takes a lot of jumpers. I need to watch him more to figure out if he's forcing them or just taking what the defense is giving him. Probably A.

6:18- And on cue, Rose hits a super sweet floater right over Duncan.

6:20- Another offensive rebound for Chicago. This game is a good example of why I hope the Spurs go after Troy Murphy is he's bought out. Murphy at least can grab boards.

6:22- Rose gets to the basket, gets fouled and makes 2 free throws with 1 second left in the half. That's
annoying. Bulls up 58-51 at the half.

6:41- And we're back. Just so we're clear, the Bulls are outrebounding the Spurs by 11... without Joakim Noah.

6:41- I don't care if he makes every jumper, I say lay 5 feet off Derrick Rose and force him to shoot jumpers.

6:45- Both teams going back and forth here... and Dick Stockton just called Derrick Rose a throwback player. Has he ever seen Rose play before?? Bogans hits his 2nd 3 and the Bulls up 8.

6:51- Duncan keeping the Spurs in this game right now. This is encouraging since he'll need to do this in the playoffs.

6:53- Luol Deng dribbling is like a carnival ride!

6:54- Boozer just screamed for a foul 3 separate times on 1 play. That's been the extent of his contribution during the 3rd quarter.

6:58- Offensive rebounds killing the Spurs again.

6:59- This is one of those games where everything is going right for the Bulls. I mean, Keith Bogans has made over 50% of his shots!

7:06- Well that has to be the most frustrating end to a quarter for the Spurs all season long. Everything going right for the Bulls right now.

7:13- This game is a good example of why in the long run James Anderson will be more valuable then Gary Neal. Neal may be a cold blooded shooter, but he'll never be more than an average defender. Anderson has a much better chance of being a better all around player.

7:18- 92-78 Bulls, Bulls doing whatever they want right now. Oh God, Ronnie Brewer hit a pull up jumper. This game is a lost cause.

7:22- There aren't too many teams big enough to hang with the Lakers, but I'm pretty sure the Bulls can. Interior defense is stout to say the least.

7:26- I normally like both Dick Stockton and Mike Fratello, but man they are just off tonight.

7:28- I believe what Derrick Rose is doing tonight is called going HAM. Also the Spurs are doing a great job at settling for jumpers when the Bulls are trying to let them back in the game.

7:30- I'm not saying Nico Batum was right about Rose's defensive abilities... but he's been pretty terrible at staying with Parker tonight.

7:36- Woah, Manu just went Hot Tub Time Machine and threw it down HARD. Turnover Bulls with a 1:41 left. It's probably over, but you never know.

7:36- Manu bricks a 3... Rose hits a jumper. Now it's over.

7:36- Down 11 with 2 minutes left and now the Spurs decide to start taking the ball to the rack again. Oh well.

7:40- Rose adds a couple more jumpers for good measure. Bulls win 109-99. He's got my MVPNNLBJ vote. Not a good way to go in to the All-Star Break. Heading in to LA for All-Star Weekend. Should be a lot of fun. (For the record, I'm not doing one of these ever again, I'm a jinx and also not that entertaining)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Duncan & The Spurs Up Close

I had the privilege of watching the Spurs up close in someone else's gym last week. I was the enemy for one night. The only problem is the Spurs are pretty well respected especially in cities not named Phoenix, Dallas and LA. Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all got lots of applause from Kings fans (and the healthy amount of silver and black fans in the crowd).

Once the game got going the Spurs went up pretty quickly and didn't look back. So the starters, especially Duncan, got plenty of rest (He was still effective, 12 points and 5 boards in only 13 minutes of work). This allowed guys like Tiago Splitter to get plenty of run and he played great. He had 16 points and 9 rebounds and most importantly, completely frustrated DeMarcus Cousins who had been playing great in the previous few weeks.

One thing I noticed, especially in the 2nd half, was how active Tim Duncan is on the bench. We were sitting really close to the bench so it was pretty cool to see Pop and everyone else up close (unfortunately we only got to see Pop blow up two times). Back to Duncan, he's like the Spurs' extra assistant coach. There was one point where Duncan noticed something while the Spurs were on offense and he immediately tapped Pop on the shoulder and they started talking about it like Pop does with all of his assistants. It was compelling to watch because you just don't see too many players and coaches act that way towards one another. I suppose it's what comes with having a player and coach together for 13 years.

We also got to see a lot of Duncan chatting up his fellow teammates and the referees. I'm not talking the bug eyed expression when he gets called for a foul. The point is he is the conscience of the team. You could tell his teammates look up to him but also know that they can treat him as one of the guys. The rare part about Duncan is the assistant coaches and even his wine loving coach who majored in Soviet Studies look at him as a peer. I can't wait for the playoffs so I can see Duncan playing 35-40 minutes a game but just for one night I was perfectly content watching a player who's mind was more active then his bank shot.