Cashmere. It's like wearing a cloud. Such were the words of a long lost friend. Cashmere is fantastic stuff. It's pillowy. It's light. It's caressing. It's amiable. It's magnificently soft. I think I saw it this year in a black and white uniform.
The Downy Softness of Cashmere
I haven't watched a single second of the NBA playoffs since the Spurs were eliminated. I have, however, followed some of the games online and I have stayed abreast of the goings ons. Fines, flagrants given, flagrants rescinded, technicals rescinded, etc. During the Nuggets-Mavs series it finally dawned on me. The 2008-2009 Spurs were a decidedly soft team. I went to two of the games against the Mavs and we got out-physicalled by them. The Mavs beat us on our defensive glass because they pushed us around. How could we have handled the Nuggets? Or even the Lakers?
I had seen all the evidence during the season, but I was not drawing the correct conclusion. I thought we needed another big man to help Tim defend. I thought we needed another rebounder. I thought we needed Manu healthy. All these were true, but they weren't our malady. We were soft. I'm not going to go "there" and say we were mentally soft. Physically soft? Definitely. Mentally soft? Sort of, kind of. I think we were focused and teams couldn't take us out of our game, but I also think we learned to quit.
Let's NOT Get Physical
Yeah, we were a poor (poor for the Spurs, average for the league) rebounding team this year. We were very good on the defensive glass, but piss-poor on the offensive glass. We didn't get to the line much. We didn't send the other team to the line much. We didn't block shots. We didn't get technicals. We didn't get flagrant fouls. We didn't turn the ball over much. We didn't create turnovers. All in all, we just played a soft pleasant game all year. We didn't make people uncomfortable. We didn't attack them. Everything the Spurs did all year was passive. We didn't keep teams from reversing the ball. We didn't pressure passes. We didn't pressure catches. If a team wanted to swing the ball side to side, we let them.
You can win games playing like that. You do it by out-executing the other team and hitting clutch shots late. That's what the Spurs did this season. We hit big shots. We played close games. We barely beat bad teams. We occassionally beat good teams, but we never whipped their ass. We couldn't make the good teams uncomfortable.
Let's NOT Compete
Yeah, I said I think we learned to quit. We gave up on a lot of games this year very early. Bounces weren't going our way. Calls weren't going our way. Those are the breaks. Rest Tim and Tony and regroup for the next one. From a coaching perspective, I always thought this made a lot of sense. Why tire out your players to try to win a game you don't have a good chance of winning if it is going to possibly cost you the next game? Especially during a long 82 game season. Well, the reason is because your players learn to give up. They learn to NOT fight through the calls. To NOT be physically tough and mentally pissed and enforce their will on the game. They just kick back with the coach and say, "Not our game. Oh well. It's a long season."
But that game turns into the next game. And the next game. Then their aren't that many games left in the season and you are still where you started. The Spurs team talks all the time about the regular season being for getting better and working on "our game". Yeah, I know they have to do that from an x's and o's perspective. But you also have to do it from a competing perspective. You get better as a player and as a team by pushing each other all the time. Not by coasting. By rising to challenges. Not by walking away from them.
I hope our 2009-2010 Spurs aren't as soft.