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Manu Ginobili Will Beat Your Ass

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PtR is still waiting for the commission check for the ring design. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Game 1: Spurs 106, Blazers 97

And we're off and running gang. Not a masterpiece, by any stretch, but how many are when you really think about it? The outside shooting was off, the focus and intensity obviously wasn't where it needs to be, and the defensive rotations were... well frankly they were terrible.

But who cares? We won the damn game on ring night, nobody got a booboo, and if anybody in the national media referred to us as boring or dirty in the past three hours, I'm blissfully unaware of it. I'd have to be one major asshole to nitpick every little flaw after just the first game of the season, coming off an NBA Championship no less, and bitching about things in a game we won to boot. Really, I'd have to be an ungrateful, dour, miserable prick.

So let me spend the next 1,200 words explaining why Bruce Bowen is utterly worthless.

Well first of all he - calm the fuck down I'm just kidding.


Wait, where was this picture taken again? Dallas? Phoenix? A little help? (NBAE/Getty Images/D. Clarke Evans)

No, in truth I've missed the Spurs much too much these past months to be upset about anything. I missed their camaraderie, I missed their execution, I missed their reliability, I missed their sense of the moment, I missed their scent, I missed their musk...

::Relax. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out::

Sorry, I got light in the head a bit there. I think I've fallen in love with this team. It's probably a platonic man-crush, but to be honest, I just don't know anymore. I like sports - A LOT - and there is simply nothing like them anywhere. The Red Sox are too hyped, too high-priced, their fans are obnoxious and arrogant and their roster is always in flux except for three or four guys. They got Manny being Manny for being too lackadaisical in the field and on the bases and I suppose we've got Manu being Manu being too reckless and aggressive, but nah, it's not a good fit. Everyone in America isn't pretending to be a lifelong Spurs fan now just because we're good. Really, we're as unpopular as ever.

We get the Patriots comparison a lot because they're supposed to be about TEAM and they are wise with the salary cap and all that, except their coach is a cheating prick and now he's embarrassed he got caught so he's running up the score every game, winning by 40 points, going for it on 4th downs, etc. Obviously, we don't do that shit. The next time you see Duncan in the game when we're up 30 in the 4th will be approximately never and I still remember how Pop chewed out Nazr Mohammad for shooting a three late in a blowout win vs. the Kings in the playoffs in `06. He detests the idea of humiliating the opponent, as well he should.

I suppose the best fit is the Colts. They've been flying under the radar all year, winning games soundly but not spectacularly, playing physical defense and cramming the ball down their opponents throats with their vastly underrated running attack. However, I do think the team's identity is too dominated by a single player in Peyton Manning, and the guy is in practically every other commercial you see on Sunday afternoons. I like how the team is more steak than sizzle and how they're winning the right way with their classy coach and no-nonsense players, but they're a bit too drab, even for me. No one has the flair or dynamic playmaking ability of a Parker or Ginobili. Really, the Colts could use a Brian Westbrook.

Where was I? Oh, right, the Spurs. I'm enamored with them. One in particular at the moment, and it might surprise you. Or it might not.

Tim Duncan is the shit. Really, they should build statues and monuments of him around the world. He's like the greatest athlete ever. He's the best player in the league, (nobody with a brain could dispute this) his coach loves him, his teammates love him, he's genuinely a nice guy, and he never says or does anything wrong. As you've no doubt heard, Duncan re-upped with the Spurs through 2012, and he left $11 million on the table for the team to use on free agents in 2010.

That's 11 with six zeros behind it. More money than any of us will make in our lifetimes. Duncan just blew it off and didn't think twice about it, just so his team might have a better chance of winning one last ring in the twilight of his career. Unreal.

Too bad Pop never saw "Superbad." Remember that part near the end of the movie, when Evan and Seth were drunk and about to fall asleep? I can totally picture Pop telling Timmy, "I love you. I don't see why there's anything wrong with saying I love you. I want to shout it from the roof top, I love my best friend Tim Duncan." And then he would playfully touch Duncan's nose with his finger and say, "Boop."


"No way I'm going to let you guys repeat, Pop." "I'll be too drunk to care, Dave." (Getty Images/Ronald Martinez)

I can't believe how lucky we are, I just can't. The phrase "winning the lottery" at least as far as the NBA is concerned, should be eliminated from the lexicon permanently. Whoever won it since 1997 just won the 1st draft pick, that's it. We won the real lottery. I swear, if you ever catch me writing a negative word about Tim, just fly over to my neck of the woods and slap me across the face - hard.

As far as the game goes, like I said, it wasn't perfect, but it was about what you'd expect for a dreamy season opener. The Blazers are young and frisky and they have a bunch of athletic guys who can shoot the crap out of the ball. Brandon Roy, last year's Rookie of the Year, had an off night thanks to Bruce and Manu, but it seemed like neither Martell Webster nor Travis Outlaw ever missed an open shot. Their star of the night was unquestionably LaMarcus Aldridge though, and this guy as smooth a stroke for a big man as I've ever seen. I mean, he just has a gorgeous shot. We got a good look at him late in the season last year in Portland where he made a bunch of jumpers early to put us in a hole and only a late miracle rally led by Manu and Finley bailed us out of that one, (incidentally, that game was also the last time The Bean Burrito ever hit a big shot in a Spurs uniform) and it seems like he's only gotten better during the summer.


Perhaps we should rethink this match-up, coach. (NBAE/Getty Images/D. Clarke Evans)

Sure, three rebounds in 36 minutes is pretty weak for a big guy, but I think Aldridge is legit and it's pretty frightening to imagine him and Oden as a 4-5 tandem in years to come. Throw in Roy, Webster, and the boatload of 1st round foreigners they've got stashed away (thanks a lot, Phoenix) and it's easy to imagine this franchise becoming the next great dynasty after the Duncan Era passes.

For us, it was one of those funky nights where practically everyone put up one of those "simulation game" type of stats in almost every category. Really, nothing stands out. Tony had five rebounds, a bit better than the norm, but only two assists. Manu had eight dimes, several of the spectacular behind-the-back variety, and five steals as well. And Bruce went a clean 0-5 from the field. Aside from that, I dare anyone to find something outside the norm. Defensively we were quite poor, allowing them to shoot 50% from the floor, but it's not like they were getting a lot of lay-ups and dunks. Dudes just knocked down open jumpers from all over the floor. As sad as it is to say, many NBA teams can't do that.

Offensively, Tim looks in mid-season form, as smooth around the basket as ever. He's lost nothing. Tony is rounding himself into shape but still has no problem accelerating into the lane and finishing off the glass. The much ballyhooed three point barrage has yet to surface. Oberto, Finley, and Barry looked much the same and Bruce was his usually superb self at one end and his even more customary inept self at the other. Same as it ever was...

The two guys I'm excited about for year two are Francisco Elson and Matt Bonner. I expect both to be miles improved in year two under our system, much like Oberto made the transition from scrub to asset last year. Bonner may not have Horry's length and defensive instincts, but he'll provide things Robert is unwilling or unable to give all season long like hustle, offensive rebounds, inside scoring, enthusiasm, and a look on his face like he wants to be on the floor.

Elson meanwhile will probably always drive us mad with his lapses of concentration - I can't believe he blew that dunk in the 3rd quarter - but one would think he'd have a better idea of where to be on both ends of the floor in year two and his speed up and down the court is a weapon that Tony and Manu will know how to exploit all season long. Again, he's a guy who'll look better on offense than defense, but generally I think the coaches have a pretty good understanding of what he can and can't do now and will use him properly. Really, I'd be shocked if we relied on Tinyball this year as much as the past two.


Francisco's dunks are like Sex Panther cologne, 60% of the time, they work every time. (NBAE/Getty Images/Garrett Ellwood)

Finally, it wouldn't be a proper Stampler post if I didn't write about Manu. I mean, I'm not crazy, right? Opus seems like he's jumping better this year than the past two, right? I think taking the whole summer off has done wonders for him and he's good and pissed that despite a career season and the usual postseason heroics, all anyone in the states writes about him is the flopping and the bald spot. Did anyone catch that training camp special on NBA TV where they showed him whaling away with those boxing gloves? Marv Albert said on the telecast that him and Duncan were the naturally most coordinated boxers on the team and had "great punching power."

In short, don't fuck with this guy.

I'm gonna go out on a limb and predict at least 50 flushes from Gino this year (he had one today) and he's going to take back from Bostjan Nachbar his rightful title as the Best White Foreign Dunker. The Sickness' shot selection left a lot to be desired, but defensively he was troublemaking as ever and as a playmaker he was downright filthy. He could have easily had eleven assists, but Bones missed two wide open threes, Mr. Longoria missed one, and the Flying Dutchman took his eyes off the rim on an easy slam. I can't state emphatically enough how much I'm excited about having The Hustlemaker back in my life for the next eight months.


Don't get your braces caught on the rim, Flying Man. (NBAE/Getty Images/D. Clarke Evans)

That's right, I said eight. Count `em.

Your 3 Stars

3. Darius Washington - Nice debut for the youngster out of Memphis. Nothing too noteworthy or spectacular out there with three points and two assists in 12 minutes of run. But he didn't look scared or out of place out there, and that's important. He had a nice feed to Elson for a lay-up when he could have just as easily scored himself, so that's a point in his favor. Also, he finished a +9, tied with three other Spurs for game high. Interestingly he shared all of his court time with Ginobili, yet Manu finished -2 overall, meaning he was -11 when he was playing with... um... the point guard who is not Darius Washington. Just sayin'.

2. Matt Bonner - Eight and five in 19 minutes and he was also one of those +9s (Barry and FabO were the others). I have a feeling that I will thoroughly enjoy the Red Rocket experience this season, if for no other reason than because he isn't Robert Horry. Have I given enough of a hint how I feel about Mr. Horry's presence on the roster? No? Don't worry, I'm sure I'll mention it another once or twice or 10,000 times between now and the playoffs.

1. Tim Duncan - 24-13-3, a gaudy 10-15 from the field, and one slightly uncomfortable pre-game address to the "best fans in the league." Uh-huh, whatever you say, Timmy. What does he know anyway, like I'm going to listen to some loser who shoots 57% from the line.


The best FT shooter in the league salutes the best fans in the league. (Getty Images/Ronald Martinez)

Record: 1-0
Up Next: @ Memphis Grizzlies

And just like that, as Matthew pointed out, we've got our first segababa of the year. A loss here wouldn't surprise me in the slightest as conditioning will probably be an issue for Tony, who's still trying to work himself into shape, and who knows how Finley and Barry will respond? If we play defense like we did tonight, we're gonna be 1-1. Fortunately, nobody on Memphis' roster is all that defensively imposing and I think we'll be able to take advantage of some of their youngsters. I predict a double-double from the Red Rocket, 25+ points from Opus, and a narrow Spurs win, let's say 99-95.