A Conversation with Fred Silva: Spurs, Heat and Thunder

It's been a bit of a break from the site for Fred Silva. He's recently moved from an apartment into a house, and hasn't had much time to write. But now his re-location is complete, and he's going to be recapping the game tonight. I caught up with him to get his take on the recent play of the Spurs, as well as the other contenders for this year's title.

J.R. Wilco:

I've been missing FARS! Also, I'd love to see a followup on your Strength of Schedule stat, mid-season, to see how your predictions are holding up.

Fred Silva:

Tonight's game is an early start time so I will do it if the game lends itself to it. And I'll go back and take a look at my predictions. Can't even remember what I said back then.

JRW: Which makes revisiting it interesting. Doesn't it?

Fred: Yes. My girlfriend was reading some of my older posts and thought they were pretty funny. I was hoping to go .500 the second time Manu was injured. They did much better than that. And was hoping for a .500 record during the rodeo road trip too. This team is so good now.

JRW: This team is so good now.

This team is so good now. (I just like saying it.)

Fred: And I love how Miami looks mortal all of the sudden, Along with everyone else.

JRW: I wondered whether Mr. James' concussed brain would be very good at basketball. I got the feeling he should have taken a game or two off to be sure he was fully healthy. Also, there are only so many minutes you can play all out every game all the time -- something tells me that Pop knew about this factor. But maybe he's just lucky.

Fred: Their coach stinks. I watched the Celtics game where Rondo went for a triple double. That's inexcusable. They only have one player, and he can't shoot!

JRW: I'm torn between whether Erik Spoelstra is at fault for how Miami plays when they play badly, or whether he's at fault for not keeping the players in line to execute their system, or whether it's an impossible task because any coach would be unable to control that particular set of players in that exact environment.

But I'm pretty sure that it comes down to one of those three options.

Fred: I think all three are his responsibility. They need a Phil Jackson, or Sloan, or Pop. They need a strong coach. You can't just let them play pickup the entire season.

JRW: Well, I'd argue that they haven't been playing pickup the WHOLE season, and that their committment to their system (defensively) has fallen off fairly recently. ALSO, there's only so much a coach can do. He HAS to have the committment of the front office and I'm thinking that in the nicest of the Heat's offices, Spoelstra isn't viewed as being quite as important as Dwyane Wade, Mr. James and Chris Bosh. Which means that his "ability to coach" is judged by their "ability to be coached" less than it is his actual coaching ability.

Fred: And Bosh is essentially Lamar Odom. He's just insecure. Like RJ was with us. I think they're going to have to trade him. I think the two together are what makes a good coach. You have to master both ends. If not, you won't accomplish anything. But I understand the situation makes it close to impossible to control the egos of the Miami players.

JRW: If Erik Spoelstra isn't backed up by the front office, then he can throw a tantrum every timeout, and it won't make a bit of difference.

Fred: Maybe Pat Riley comes back next year. If they don't win it this year, something is going to change.

The Cetlics are a horrible matchup for them. Boston's entire team is irrationally confident. Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are all pretty sure that they are better than Wade, Lebron and Bosh. I hope Boston knocks them out so we have an easier finals, if we make it.

JRW: I love the way you cover your statement! And I'm thinking it'll be a tough postseason regardless of who makes it out of the East.

Fred: In previous seasons I was hoping something fluky would happen so that we could make the finals. This year I hope nothing weird takes place because I think we're better than everyone in the west. Good place to be.

JRW: It's THE place to be.Hoping nothing weird takes place is what I've been doing. And it's why I wrote that piece on Manu changing his game. Some of it, I'll admit, was a bit of wish fulfillment.

JRW: I'd prefer that he change his game to be more of a triple double threat and not carry the weight of scoring quite so much. He puts himself in harm's way less often when he's setting up teammates, and it preserves him for the long haul better.

Pop did a great job of getting Tim to buy in to the change of offensive philosophy at the beginning of the '10-11 season, and I hope (there's that word again) that he does the same with Manu about this subject.

Fred: OKC and Miami are good matchups for this version of the Spurs. Kawhi / Jackson to guard Lebron/Durant and Green/Manu to defend Wade/Westbrook. This year's Spurs team has defensive versatility that we have lacked for many seasons.

JRW: When you say "good machups" I'm assuming you mean "good for the Spurs." Right? So, what do you think about the Thunder and their tendecy to turn the ball over so much? Is that a regular season thing, or is it part of that team's fingerprint?

Fred: I read that they are ranked last in assists. They don't have a point guard. They don't have a bench. They have three scorers in Durant, Westbrook and Harden. I think that the turnovers result because of the lack of a point guard, and also because they have a lot of one on one playmakers. Manu drives to kick. Tony drives to score, but is passing as well as he ever has. Jackson and Diaw are unselfish.

In contrast, Durant, Westbrook, and Harden all seem to take turns. Like, Durant's turn the next two possessions. Now Westbrook's turn. Back to Durant. It doesn't result in good, clean basketball and when you go one on one all the time, it becomes defensively predictable.

I also think that since the rest of OKC struggles to score, they overcompensate by trying to find easy buckets, which results in a lot of forced plays and rushed offense.

JRW: But they're so efficient that it's still effective. Well, not Westbrook as much, but still

Fred: Yes, their three players are all great one on one guys. It's like having three Carmelos.

JRW: Now THERE is a nightmare for Mike D'Antoni!

Fred: I think the best thing they did was find Ibaka. Without defense, that team would be very beatable. Like Dallas without Chandler.

JRW: And now Dallas IS without Chandler! As far as the Spurs recent run against OKC, do you think there's anything that the Thunder can do to counteract it, should the teams meet in the playoffs?

Fred: They have to get to the line. The game slows down in the playoffs. Their fast break points will disappear and they will become a team with three perimeter guys and no inside presence. They'll have to manufacture high percentage scoring opportunities. If they can convince their guys to attack the rim relentlessly, they'll be a difficult team to beat.

JRW: How well will Scotty Brooks be able to do that? OKC really struggled to score in crunch time last season.

Fred: This Spurs team can react like our championship teams of old. The team was a chameleon. We could slow it down in the halfcourt and beat you. We could beat you on the block. We could out run and gun you if that's the game you wanted to play. We have that flexibility again. So even if OKC changed their game plan for us, I think Pop's counter move would be potentially devastating.

JRW: That's a chess match that I'm definitely not afraid of!

Fred: It's just difficult to score at the end of games if you aren't getting into the paint. The officials let a lot of fouls go uncalled. Screens are more difficult for the offense to set. It's difficult for all perimeter guys at the end of games. The answer is what it's always been for OKC. They need Durant to post up. It would add the high percentage scoring opportunities that they are lacking. Put a little guy on him and he posts him up. Put a PF on him and he takes him outside and beats him to the rim. But he hasn't developed that part of his game, so unless OKC gets hot, they will struggle to close games.

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