Good Saturday to you all of you fine folks. Hopefully last night's loss to the Grizzlies doesn't have you too hungover today. If you are in a good place and are ready to subject yourself to more San Antonio - Memphis talk, or if you just like to hurt yourself, then check out my visit with Matt Moore of CBS Sports' Eye on Basketball blog, every Spurs fan's favorite senior blogger.
We talk about why the Grizzlies fans WANT to face the Spurs again in the postseason, why Moore doesn't like Danny Green or Tony Parker (neither of these things are true, like, at all), and why he doesn't think the Spurs can get title No. 5. Or does he?
OK, here we go:
Matthew Tynan: Last time these two teams met, SA managed to come from behind to beat a tired Grizz team that was on the SEGABABA. 1) You're allowed to play all your starters on the second night of a back-to-back? :-) and 2) why exactly do most Grizzlies fans want a rematch against the Spurs in the playoffs? It's not 2011 ya know!
1. Amazingly, yes, if you think the purpose of a professional basketball league is for professional players to play basketball.
2. There's no change. There's Stephen Jackson, who doesn't make enough of a difference and can be Bombs Over Baghdad (google "Chris Ballard Art of a Beautiful Game Michael Redd Bombs Over Baghdad."). There's Kawhi's improvement which is substantial but outweighed by the whole growth of the Grizzlies and there's Tim Duncan having a great regular season. The only way this isn't a matchup advantage for Memphis is if Tiago Splitter is ready to be the thing that stops Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol. You want to put your life on that kind of hypothetical? I wouldn't.
Tynan: I would hypothetically love to put my life in the hands of Tiago Splitter (or at least some day I wish I would love to), but he'd probably just stumble and drop it on the way to a way-too-far-away reverse layup when the front of the rim is staring directly at him. Speaking of hypotheticals, though: let's say Rudy Gay IS traded. That 2011 playoff team was so ruthlessly and efficiently inside-out oriented that it would make me nervous as a Spurs fan if that inconsistent wild card (Gay) was no longer part of the equation ... if there was more of a constant instead. Clearly Rudy is REALLY good at basketball, and I know it depends on the return haul, but under the right circumstances, is it crazy to think this team is better without him?
Moore: It's a far more complicated question than any fan from any side wants to admit. I'll say this. No team is afraid of Rudy Gay. They're afraid of Zach Randolph. They're afraid of Marc Gasol. But that 2011 run was keyed by better perimeter shooting, in part from Shane Battier. If they got a shooter back, then that would help.
Just because bludgeoning the Spurs' clunky, spazztastic interior defense with the bigs worked in '11 doesn't mean it'll work on everyone. If Memphis has Rudy Gay vs. Oklahoma City, I firmly believe they win that series. And I have a ton of respect and awe for OKC. But having a perimeter pentrator is big in this league. Don't believe me? Ask Pop about the transition from going through TD every time to going through TP every time. Or don't, since he'll just give you a snotty answer. But still.
So yes, it could make them better, but they have to get SOMEONE with athleticism and speed back in the deal or they're going to become two-dimensional, even if two of their three dimensions right now are a little fuzzy.
Tynan: Oh I'm with ya. The main reason the Spurs were beaten so badly against the Grizz in that playoff series was because Parker and a beat-up Ginobili struggled to penetrate and either score or kick. That and the Gasol/Randolph tag-team. But speaking of Parker, I've had a few conversations with Spurs fans recently who are inexplicably (at least in my mind) on this "Tony is a choker" kick. I know he can be turnover-prone at times, but this guy was 11th in the league in points per 48 minutes of clutch time last season, ahead of the likes of LeBron, Wade, Dirk and Duncan. Am I crazy or are Spurs fans being Spurs fan-sy?
Moore: That system isn't conducive to hero-ball. It's conducive to 'Make the right f***ing play so Pop doesn't rip your eyeball out' ball. So his mistakes will be amplified because he's rarely being asked to go out there and drop that J in someone's eyeball. Parker's fine. I'm actually much higher on him this season than last, and think his mastery of that offense is crucial, more crucial than even TD's resurgence or Manu's Manuity to their success.
Tynan: Oh yeah, that's right. You announced your Tony Parker support recently, didn't you? What changed?
Moore: I watched a lot of video. I watched two Spurs games in slow-motion (yes I do that, because I am sad -- my kid was up at 3AM, I had to watch something), and I watched a lot of stuff for a feature on CBS. Parker's just amazing at doing what he's asked to do and he's asked to do more than any player on the team offensively.
Tynan: OK back to the Grizzlies. One thing I remember about that playoff matchup was the Memphis bench. I mean, Darrell Arthur had me basically crapping myself from game to game. But there's no more Greivis Vasquez, OJ Mayo, Sam Young (though I think he started) or Battier, and Arthur doesn't seem to be back to his 2011 form. What do you make of the current Memphis bench?
Moore: The bench is actually much better. Bayless provides at least a backup point with a pulse, Wayne Ellington can hit or miss but when he hits it's pure rainfall, Arthur's still there and playing pretty well, and Speights is pretty much Arthur 2.0 with less basketball IQ. The bench is legitimately good, but much better when Quincy Pondexter is available. Problem is when they no-show, they no-show completely.
Tynan: Last season you predicted Danny Green would flame out when the lights got too bright. Spurs fans got mad. He did, and then they hated you. Green has definitely improved this season and just looks more comfortable all-around after a year-plus in the system. Does he put the 4-for-31 shooting performance and relegation to the bench in the Western Conference Finals behind him, or do you have a similar prediction to last year's?
Moore: Woah woah woah, let's be clear. It wasn't about the "lights getting too bright." It was that when I looked at the series splits, I saw a guy who was shooting so hot he couldn't possibly sustain it against anyone, much less OKC. He was going to fall back down. And I've seen in a lot of years a guy will blister for two rounds and then someone else has to step up. No one could.
I LOVE Danny Green's game. LOVE. I wanted to interview him when he came through Denver and couldn't because I got sick. He's been a much better defender this year and a stronger playmaker. What happened was Spurs fans went all "Well, I don't see any reason he can't continue to shoot 50% from three for 12 games." I got lucky, but Green's a great player.
Tynan: Ah, my mistake. That's certainly fair. One question before you go. I'm assuming you're not of the belief San Antonio will win the title this season, so when will they bow out and what will be their downfall?
Moore: Whenever they run up against a team that can play actual good defense and has enough weapons to get by their defense. I'm starting to think they can make a run at it. Check back in March.
Tynan: So you're sayin' there's a chance...
Thanks for dropping by, Matt.