I was in Albuquerque, New Mexico this past week for business and after work I went to Sandia's Casino for some Texas Hold'em. The guy to my right lost with pocket jacks. In frustration, he asked the table, "How are you supposed to play pocket jacks?" An elderly gentleman to my right calmly responded, "I have a good friend who always says, 'There are three ways to play pocket jacks and they all end with you losing.'" It got me thinking; were the Spurs dealt pocket jacks?
I mean, at first glance our roster looks fantastic. Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Antonio McDyess, and Richard Jefferson. How sexy is that lineup? In 2007, if I told you this would be our lineup in three years, you would have responded, 'Champs.' You would have been giddy. But here we are. For the first time since Tim arrived, I find myself doubting that the Spurs are contenders.
The problem with pocket jacks is there are many ways to play them. But regardless of whether you slow play them or push, when an over-card lands on the flop you always feel like an idiot. I get the feeling that Pop is over-thinking his hand. Just play it at face value and accept the results.
Thanks to Pop, I now feel confident that the Spurs will not win if they play an unorthodox lineup. If Richard is our four, things will not go well. It would appear that as soon as RJ is moved to the four position, his hands turn into thumbs and his feet stop communicating with his brain. It is damn unbelievable.
But here is why I still hold onto the hope that my pocket jacks have a chance. Since Pop refuses to play a lineup consistently, I still have no idea how good this team can be. If Pop would just give the common sense lineup consistent minutes, maybe they would gel. Here is what we need. Start Tony, Hill, Manu, McDyess and Duncan. At this point, that's the common sense lineup, right?
I feel that Jefferson has proven to be the epitome of suckitude. He cannot function without the ball in his hands. He is a liability on the defensive end and unless you run a play for the guy, he is not going to contribute offensively. Now, given that information, wouldn't the sixth man position be best for him? We could run everything through him with the second unit, and he wouldn't have to guard the starting forward of our opposition.
Mason was very much in the right when he asked to be traded and it all comes down to Pop's schizophrenic substitution patterns. As a player, there is nothing more frustrating than feeling as if you have no control over your minutes. Here is the best case scenario: you play well, you get minutes. You suck, you sit on the bench. That is what players want from a coach. This season, Pop's rotation has not reflected the performance of his players. If it did, RJ would be riding the pine and Blair and Hill would start every game; no questions asked.
Put yourself in Mason's shoes. You worked harder than ever during the off-season and feel that you are the best you have ever been. But your minutes are spotty and playing well has not resulted in more time on the floor. Even worse, you have to watch the spoiled child, RJ, suck it up out there. Now a guy that by all accounts should have retired two years ago, FInley, is going to take the few minutes you have? Come on. I would have asked to be traded too. In fact, are there any Oklahoma City Thunder fans out there willing to make a fan trade? I am on the block. Your team is fun and exciting. My team is old and depressing. If anyone is wondering why the Spurs did not make a trade, read my last two sentences again. That's why. No one wants our guys. I know, ouch.
This season is best described as pocket jacks. We went all in, were called, and an ace came on the flop. Our pocket jacks were just not as good as we thought. (If ever there were a reverse jinx article, this would be it.)