RJ, The Return of the Hill and other rays of light

Yay! We are alive and kicking. And by kicking I mean kicking some serious Ash. I put up a fanpost after the last "game" so wanted to put up another one after the win - don't want you to only associate me with bad games. I know you are dying to know some of my thoughts about Mr Longoria off the bench, Hilldog playing well, and "Doggy Dog" Jefferson stepping up big time. Trust me - there is a strong correlation between the three.

As usual these are random thoughts not backed up by any research whatsoever, not even a quick fact-check using the boxscore. I really should come up with a cool chop starring our Big Dogs, but am really too lazy, uh, I mean tired.

Absolutely no doubt that RJ made a huge difference today. He got his confidence going early on and ran with it for the first three quarters. He was very aggressive on offense and was really scrappy in every other part of the game. Pop calling out the dogs obviously had an impact, but Pop has called RJ out before without triggering this reaction, so I think there is more to it than just that.

Here is what I think, just in case anyone besides my mother cares. Manu and Hill starting provide the kind of movement and sharing that RJ needs for his style of playing. That enabled him to get jumpstarted early instead of getting cold and discouraged.

Does that mean I am on the anti-Tony bandwagon as well? Absolutely not. I love his little french butt and think he is an awesome player. In fact, I still think he is a huge step above HillDog and it would be a dumb mistake to trade him for some unknown. However, he is best off the bench for this team as it is currently constructed. Why? His style. We all know he is not a pass first or even pass second point guard, though he has been trying lately, sometimes to the detriment of his game. He tends to hold on to the ball for a long time playing fancy dribbling games in and around the paint, going along the baseline behind players seemingly just to show how amazing he is at going through tight spots without losing the ball.

But why is he this way? Tony has been groomed to be the player he is by Gregg Popovich himself. Remember when Jason Kidd realized the Spurs are not capable of championships and went to eternal powerhouse New Jersey instead? From that point on Pops rode Tony pretty damn hard and shaped him into the player he is now - someone who can control the ball, penetrate at will, and run an offense centered around Tim Duncan and several spot up shooters. The last part is critical - think of the number of times Tony has distracted teams with his shiny flashing dribbling while some player stands around all alone at the corner ready to shoot a 3 on demand.

Then comes this year and our expensive new toy. Yes, the much maligned princess peanut. RJ is not a stand around spot up shooter. He needs a flowing offense where everyone is moving and passing and where gaps open up such that he can catch the ball while slashing through the newly minted gap. The problem when playing with Tony? First, he controls the ball most of the time instead of everyone sharing it. Second, defenses respect McWonderbutt's penetration and will close off the gaps.Third, if there is a gap Tony is there filling it himself. To make things worse Jefferson is mentally fragile and if he does not get success early he pretty much shuts down, so even when opportunities present themselves later on he does not have the aggressiveness to take advantage of them.

That does not make TP a bad player, nor does it make RJ a bad player ((except for the mentally fragile part) - we are just trying to play tetris with one round object and one square object.

Manu thrives off the same kind of offense as RJ - he is much better moving and shooting in rhythm than just standing around waiting for a pass. However His Greatness is the opposite of mentally fragile - he will make things happen if they are not happening for him, so it is not a big deal if the offense is not geared around him. But if given free rein and the players to run his type of offense - watch out.

Solution: Start His Manuness along with Hill and hopefully get RJ involved early, then good things happen. We get points, we get stops, rainbows pop up throughout the sky and little kittens are saved from untimely deaths. We tried that last game, but Hill was not ready yet and we were forced to bring in Tony and/or Mason to totally destroy RJ's will to live.

This has another great side effect: We get a tremendous spark off the bench. Not just in the form of a great player, but a totally different style of offense comes in. Just when defenses start to get used to a freeflowing moving sharing offense you suddenly switch to Tony Parker and the Supremes. This was also a big part of the advantage of having Manu come off the bench, obviously. You don't just get a fresh new player, you get a fresh new great player with a totally different style from the one you were seeing minutes ago. That has to get old really fast for the D.

That said, I am willing to bet that Tony really works on his passing skills over the break. The team and the offense has changed and he realizes he needs to upgrade. Hopefully there is not a repeat of earlier games where he stopped being aggressive and tried passing a bunch instead. That was a disaster - he needs to play his game for now and worry about changing later.

I am curious to see if any of you agree or if you realize I am making this crap up while typing and don't have a clue about basketball.

Anyhoo, there was something I wanted to write about. Oh yeah, there was a game on earlier - not sure if any of you caught it. Short story - we won. Here are some bad and good things from my so not humble point of view.

The bad:

- Bench play (other than Tony of course, but I really don't think of him as bench). His Blairness had some rebounds of course but a disappointing game otherwise, including some missed opportunities for layups. BonBon had a couple of nice threes and spots of decent D but was still generally tentative. It is almost like he is trying too hard to stay within his game instead of pushing his limits like he was doing last month. Not sure if he is scared of the playoffs or if he is afraid that if he makes a mistake Fred will come after him with a large blunt object.

- No Ian. We should have put him in during the last few seconds just so he can say he played in the playoffs. But there is still time. You know it was a great game when we resort to nitpicking about this sort of stuff.

- Players took their foot off the gas pedal in the third and that gave Dallas some momentum, but a couple of timeouts coupled with solid timely shots from Timmeh and Manu took care of that.

- Mason still sucks. I feel bad for him, his confidence is shot and he was not even trying to get involved offensively any more. He was actually trying to hustle a little more but once your confidence is shot nothing good is going to happen. Mercifully for both him and us he was yanked after a dumb foul.

- Mark Cuban.

The good:

Everything else :-).

- We did not let Herr Novitzki go off again. Better defense, better keepaway. Yes, he got early fouls but so did Tim.

- The refs called it tightly both ways and we were aggressive enough to take advantage of that.

- Tim Duncan rolled back the clock a few years - I cannot believe this is the same guy that was dragging his knee behind him all season long. I especially loved the way he took control when the game started to have any doubt whatsoever. He was typical Timmeh - solid fundamental play that he makes look easy.

- His Manuness. Not too much highlight reel material this time, just super solid play throughout the game with key shots when we need them. Kinda like Timmeh :-).

- George Hotness. Yes, I know he got very few points but he was stellar otherwise - great hustle on D and all around smart play. I suspect more points would have come if we had needed them.

- Richard "where the hell did you come from" Jefferson. Aggressive RJ is good RJ - he looked like a real superstar today.

- Diceman continues stepping it up for the playoffs. He also got a big younger after the playoffs started - a couple of nice hustle plays.

- Mr. Longoria. He continues to be great off the bench with great penetration and better passing than usual.

- Pop of course. He had his intimidating face on today throughout the game. He drew up some interesting mixed up defenses for Dirk and some great "make it look easy" designed plays out of timeouts.

- My workout. When the games are on national TV I watch them at the gym (sadly missing the game threads in the process). I noticed today that my cardio goes a lot better when we are winning than when we are losing. Unfortunately I still move and feel like a decrepit 90 year old afterwards.

Guess I should go skim the game thread to see what pearls of wisdom I missed out on.

This is fan-created content on The opinion here is not necessarily shared by the editorial staff at Pounding the Rock.

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