"Neither seen, nor heard."
First of all, my official position on the backup point guard debate is: Manu Ginobili, because, really, c'mon, that's what he's been for like the past four years. When Tony isn't on the floor, then Ginobili has the ball, unless he's hurt, which almost never rarely sometimes usually dammit not again happens. Anyway, for the purposes of this exercise, Wilco told me that my options were limited to Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo or Patty Mills, under the false premise that they're going to be the backup point guard the way anybody playing with Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant or LeBron James plays "point guard."
Whatever, it's not in my nature to challenge authority. I, like Joseph, am a Milford man all the way.*
"What is a Milford man?" you ask, giving me a telltale heads up that we can never be friends, because surely this means you've never partaken in the eternal pleasure that is Arrested Development.
The matriarch on the show, Lucille Bluth, sent her youngest son, Buster (seen above, sort of), to the Milford School, where their motto for students is "neither seen, nor heard," and later, when he grows up to be a milquetoast, live-at-home momma's-boy who's afraid of the outside world, Lucille dismissively observes, "You can always tell a Milford man."
And that's kind of how I view the backup point guard spot, where Jacque Vaughn in 2007 took over for good after noted breakfast-burrito-aficionado Beno Udrih wore out Gregg Popovich's patience forever. Was Vaughn anywhere near the player that Udrih was? No, nowhere close. He was excellent, however, at blending into the scenery and making you forget he ever played in the game, which is exactly what Pop wanted from his backup point guard ever since it clicked in for him early in the 2007 season that he was going to hitch his wagon to Tony Parker for the long haul. Udrih was capable of lighting it up from outside on occasion, but he was woefully inconsistent, lazy, easy to intimidate, and apathetic in his own end. In contrast, Vaughn could provide serviceable defense and was mostly good for dribbling the ball up the floor and handing it off to Ginobili (usually a sound strategy to score points with me and an effective one for the team until, oh ... last May).
As the overall roster eroded between 2008-2010, it became necessary for the backup point guard to actually, you know, be able to play, since there was so little talent on the wings and nothing at all from the bigs outside of a declining Tim Duncan. And that's how you find yourself with a small-ball lineup where Richard Jefferson plays the four and Ginobili plays the three. We're so spoiled as Spurs fans that those years represent the nadir of the Duncan Era.
Once the roster was replenished with the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter, the Spurs became a tour de force again, especially on the offensive end. With a fully stacked roster and Parker healthy and playing at First-Team All-NBA level, it doesn't make sense to roll with a boom-or-bust backup point guard. You just want a nice-and-steady caretaker, someone who will give you a quiet 12 minutes a night and never be the reason the Spurs win or lose.
Admittedly, the other options are far more thrilling.
Mills can get red-hot on occasion, he has crazy range, and he's really fun to watch when he's on. Really, now that Gary Neal is no longer around, he can be the designated "Oh, what the hell?" (OWTH) guy for Pop to bring in when the whole team is flat and they need someone to rouse them from their collective stupors. Mills seems like a genuinely cool dude, and the only annoying thing about him is that he decided to take his career seriously in the off-season, got in fabulous shape and shaved his head, so now it's really difficult to tell him apart from Parker, right down to their jersey numbers (though this may prove to be less of a problem for those of you who aren't blind).
What I don't like about him is, aside from his full-court pressure, Mills' defense is every bit as reprehensible as Neal's was. He loses track of his man far too easily on rotations, always goes under or gets picked off too easily on the pick-and-roll, and is too slight of frame to make any kind of difference in one-on-one situations. It's almost impossible to hide him on defense. Also, he's not exactly shy about shooting it, which can, on occasion be a good thing but is usually not. I'd rather most of the shots go to Ginobili, Belinelli or whoever the backup center is that night.
De Colo, meanwhile, gives us the possibility of a new pale triangle, which certainly is enticing, and he has the requisite size and aptitude to guard not just points but opposing twos as well. He's also shown that he can hit threes on the catch, which is important, and he's the best passer of the bunch. Unfortunately, he's just too mistake prone on both ends, he can't dribble well or finish at the rim and the Spurs have enough high-variance players as it is on the bench.
Give me Joseph over them any day. He's steady, he plays defense, he can rebound, he knows his place on offense, he can drive-and-kick, he can make lay-ups and he's getting better at spot-up jumpers. He's not flashy or thrilling by any means, but he's our best bet for a quiet 12 minutes.
You can always tell a Milford man.
* [I can assure you that Stampler is, sadly, a far cry from a Milford man -JRW]
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