This edition of "State of the Spurs" was originally the second half of the last one, but I decided it deserved a post of it's own. Unlike the previous editions, this one is actually more closely related to my studies in political philosophy (and one of my favorite memes.)
While it has already been written about a couple of different times, and seems a bit like ancient news already, I thought I'd weigh in on Pop's reliance on the bench, specifically in the Dallas game. This is a trend that, from what I can remember, started after Phoenix swept us out of the playoffs a couple years ago - in large part because their bench outplayed ours. During that offseason, it's been reported that Pop went to RC Buford and said that he needed a bench. Last season, there were several times our bench kept us in games that in previous years we would have had to rely on our starters more.
I recognize a striking similarity between Pop's actions towards his bench and a line of thinking made popular by one of the most brilliant political philosophers of all time. And, considering his background, I'm sure he's read some of Niccolo Machiavelli's work. For those who haven't read The Prince, I recommend it- if you're into philosophy. Without spoiling everything, one of the "morals" that everyone takes from the work is that "the ends justify the means." When it comes to basketball, I think Pop would agree. It is better to think long term than short term. This is not a team in danger of missing the playoffs, even without Manu. At this point in the season, win/loss records are irrelevant. The Spurs are not stupid enough to allow themselves to be dug in a hole so deep record-wise that they can't get out of it. We are going to lose a few (more) games we should win, and that's OK as long as our young guys are getting experience in pressure situations. It's also OK if we lose a couple because Pop wants to try out some wacky lineups that don't make any sense to us at all. Don't panic. Even without Manu, this is one of the 10 best teams in the league. When Manu returns, if he plays like he did before the injury, we'll win our division by at least 5 games.
If the bench outplays the starters...
Should they start starting?
Maybe I'm looking through Sean Elliott's Spurs colored glasses. But we've played one of the toughest schedules in the league so far. We've done most of it without our best player. And we're doing well. The defense is improving. I see no reason to be anything but optimistic at the moment. We've played 8 of the top 10 most efficient offenses and John Hollinger has our strength of schedule overall rated in the top 5. By all advanced overall (counting both offense and defense) metrics, we are at worst a top 10 team- and we have accomplished this without Manu Ginobili and without a back up point guard. When Manu returns, if he plays well (and by well I mean career average and not the level of play he'd attained right before his injury) we should be the top offensive team and will likely finish in the top 10 defensively. Statistics back up this kind of optimism. Of course, statistics are famous for being flexible in regards to interpretation, so feel free to take this analysis with a grain (or five) of salt.
I'll leave you with one final quote from Machiavelli. Read it and then evaluate the organization from the front office to the players: "The first method for estimating the intelligence of a ruler is to look at the men he has around him." If you look at the players and the assistants Pop has chosen to surround himself with, it's pretty obvious he's one of the smartest men in basketball.