Friday, November 19, 2010

A Randomly Busy Night In Basketball

Thanks to Groupon I bought some Bulls-Spurs tickets for Wednesday night a couple of weeks ago for relatively cheap. I bought them mainly because I hadn't had a chance to see the Spurs live yet and Derrick Rose is one of the 10 most exciting players in the league.  Little did I know that it'd be one of the busiest nights in the NBA so far this season.  Let's get to the day's events.

- Tony Parker and Eva Longoria are getting divorced.  I know, you probably don't care.  I know I don't.  I know you're also probably not surprised either. After all what are the odds that multi-millionaire, French basketball player in his 20's would cheat on his wife who doesn't live in the same city as him for 6 months out of the year because she's busy acting in Hollywood and hanging out with a notorious cheater (in this case A.C. Slater, who cheated on the Doritos Girl, Ali Landry)?  I'm not defending Tony Parker's actions here, especially if he was texting back and forth with Brent Barry's wife as is rumored.  He's a scum bag, but he's a French, so it's expected.  Point is I don't care and really didn't want much to do with it except I work at a TV station and was pretty much told I had to care about it.  Basically, with most athletes and celebs in general, I don't care what happens in their personal lives as long as they don't kill or rape anyone or commit some other sort of terrible crime.  I enjoy a good story as much as the next person and this one was certainly entertaining, but overall I don't really care.  So after washing the stench of Tony Parker's over active wiener and/or text happy thumbs of off me, I was looking forward to just being able to enjoy what I hoped would be a very entertaining game.  One thing I was interested in was to see if TP would get booed by any faction of Pro-Eva San Antonians.

- Did I mention Wednesday night's game was nationally televised on ESPN? It was... good timing Mr. and Mrs. Longoria.  So we got to our seats in time to hear the National Anthem sung by a group of Haitian boys. Good job by them, especially considering they were singing a National Anthem that isn't even their own.  By the way, Tony Parker got his normal very loud reaction.  And it really felt like he may have gotten a loud ovation then Manu and Duncan. I could be wrong though.

-The Spurs looked good for the first 5 minutes of the game, then terrible for the rest of the first half.  Derrick Rose is awesome.  I think I could set a pick for him and he'd get to the basket. He turned Duncan around several times on the switch on the pick and roll. Duncan may not be quick enough to guard point guards anymore, but I've never seen him get flat out turned around like he did.  Also, Rose has a cross over so ridiculous that he has officially ripped the "killer crossover" crown from Tim Hardaway (Note: This may be the first written Tim Hardaway reference since he gay bashed on live radio 4 years ago. The lesson? Don't gay bash, especially when you're on live radio).  The Bulls bench comes in in the 2nd quarter and stretches the lead to 18 before the Spurs make it a 10 point game at the half (47-37).  At this point the t-shirt Bulls fans, most of whom were wearing their Jordan and Pippen stuff were a 10 on the obnoxious scale. Glad to have them back after a 13 year hiatus.

- The Spurs scored 37 points in the first half then scored 37 points in the third quarter.  This Spurs team continues to be the most balanced Spurs team I have ever seen on offense.  Manu and Tony looked especially good in the third and Duncan snapped out of the mini funk he was in.  He was all over the place on the glass too, especially in the second half.  He also did an excellent of keeping Joakim Noah (the NBA's ugliest player and one of my least favorite) off the offensive glass, limiting any Chicago second chance oppurtunities.  San Antonio out scored Chicago 37-12 in the 3rd quarter and the only reason the Bulls stayed in the game was because Derrick Rose has now figured out how to make jump shots.  Rose finished with 33 points, but only 4 assists, so he still some work to do. The Spurs defense has looked so much better the last few games then it did even two weeks ago.  A very encouraging sign moving forward.

- My Player of the Game title goes to Tim Duncan. 16 points, 18 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 blocks.  With how good Manu, Parker and Richard Jefferson are playing, I wouldn't be surprised to see more lines like this when Timmy plays more then 30 minutes in a game.

- Couple of other notes, Tiago Splitter got a DNP-Coaches Decision, which I thought was curious because the Bulls are one team that likes to play a center and a power forward, so you would think he'd get a little bit of run.  Hopefully he does against Utah, who also uses multiple bigs as much as they can.

- Randomly, Albert Pujols was courtside at the game. Lived in St. Louis for five years so this was more exciting for me than for most. Albert Pujols is to St. Louis what Tim Duncan is to San Antonio.  I wasn't sure what he was doing in town. Maybe he was on his way to Houston to continue to look for that Game 5 home run he hit off of Brad Lidge back in '05.

- When my brother and I arrived at the AT&T Center we noticed Miami was pulverizing Phoenix behind 35 points from Chris Bosh. I like this Miami team and aside from the Spurs, am rooting for them the most this year.  I think Bosh's struggles stem from the fact that he has probably never even been the number 2 option, let alone the number 3 option on any team he has ever played for. I liken his circumstances to Richard Jefferson's last year, though I think he's much more talented and will adjust his game by the time Spring rolls around.

- My phone reception was in and mostly out through out the game, but I did manage to hop on twitter and find out that Greg Oden was having season ending microfracture knee surgery.  Just terrible news.  Everything I've read about Oden suggest he is a guy who wants very badly to be a great center in the league and feels like he's letting the Trailblazers down by not being able to play.  I'm pulling for him.  Some encouraging news for him is he hasn't any problems with his right knee since microfracture surgery before his rookie year, so it's possible the same will be the case with the left knee.  Also, young guys like Amar'e Stoudamire have bounced back from microfracture in the past with minimal problems to their knees.  I know this being very optomistic given Greg Oden's history, but Chris Webber missed a ton of games his first 4 years in the league and went on to obviously have a very successful career.  I'm hoping for the Amar'e/C-Webb scenario for Oden and not the Jonathan Bender scenario.  I'm also hoping that if Oden isn't back with the Blazers next year that he signs with the Heat, because he would be EXACTLY what they need next to Bosh if he can stay healthy.

- It was quite the day from start to finish.  Some of it I hated, but most of it I loved and really I'm just happy to have the NBA back in full swing.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Spurs So Far

It's still really early, but I felt like a little over two weeks in to the season was a good time to give some initial thoughts on this year's Spurs.  The team just wrapped up a 95-91 win in Charlotte.  Considering this Bobcats team absolutely destroyed the Spurs in Charlotte last year, I'm actually quite encouraged by this win.  The Spurs are 3-0 on the road so far against middle of the road teams which is where you want to be this early in the season.  The offense really seems to be clicking already.  The Spurs are 4th in the league in scoring and more importantly second in assists. They have four players averaging 17 points a game or higher and two averaging 20 points or higher.  Richard Jefferson has been out of this world averaging 20 points a game and shooting over 60% from the field.  Even tonight when it looked like his shot was off he found other ways to stay involved, most notably the seven rebounds and four assists.  The Spurs couldn't have asked for a better start from him.

Unfortunately the defense, like my writing and statistical breakdowns, is still a work in progress.  The Spurs rank 20th in rebounds, though I would argue that number gets better the more minutes Tiago Splitter gets and the more comfortable he becomes with the pace of an NBA game.  What is more of a worry is the fact that the Spurs are allowing teams to shoot 48 percent against them and 42% from behind the 3-Point line.  Luckily the offense has been there so far, but hopefully they get to Spurs basketball on defense, which is closing out on 3-Point shooters, pushing everyone baseline in to the bigs.  I think the personnel is there to fix these problems, especially if Splitter can be an effective pick and roll defender once he gets more minutes. (Quick tangent on Splitter, I'm not sure which I'm hoping for first, for him to become a regular rotation guy who plays D and rebounds or for him to get those awful highlights out of his hair. I hope happen soon)

For me the bright spot has been how well the bench has played so far.  Last year the Spurs got pulverized by the Suns bench in the 2nd round of the playoffs (I just said the Spurs stole an idea from the Suns. My life is a lie).  Tonight against Charlotte, as well as the Clipper game last week, there were stretches where the Spurs had four or five bench guys on the floor at the same time and they held or extended leads.  This is incredibly encouraging especially considering how young the Spurs bench is.  George Hill needs to get his scoring going a bit more, but I don't think that's giant concern.  James Anderson and Gary Neal have looked great in spots.  Does anyone else see Michael Finley potential in James Anderson?  I'm not talking about Spurs Michael Finley, I'm talking Dallas Mavs borderline All-Star Michael Finley.  Athletic, a fearless shooter and he looks like he wants to be good on defense, he just hasn't figured out how to be yet. The tools seem to be there and I think he's in the right system to harness them.

In short, I think the Spurs are off to a great start.  The only team they've lost to is still undefeated and they're 3-0 on the road.  They have the Clippers and Sixers at home coming up, then travel to Oklahoma City next Sunday, which isn't as daunting as it may have looked before the season started because OKC has struggled a little bit early in the season. If they can just buckle down on defense the Spurs just may have something here.  No bold predictions yet, but let's just say I'm as optimistic about this team now as I was a few weeks ago.

League Notes:

-I hate to say it, but the Lakers look fantastic, even if it has been against a Charmin soft schedule.  Pau Gasol looks better then he ever has.  My only question with this team is can a team of 30 something year olds can make a deep playoff run 4 years in a row.  The core of this team has played in over 100 games (not counting international play) each of the last three seasons. Do they have enough gas to finish?

-Chris Paul wants you all to know he's the best point guard in the league.  It's not even close. Don't come at me with Rondo or Rose.  Chris Paul is back!

-I'm not worried about the Heat, they're 5-2 and are playing at about 70% of what they're capable of playing at.  They do need to figure out how to get Chris Bosh involved more and I suspect LeBron will do that once he gets more adjusted to his Point Forward role.

-NBA League Pass Broadband is awesome. That is all.