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For Once Beno Lets His Play Do The Talking

Game 15: Kings 112, Spurs 99

Here's your first grumpy bench shot this season for the good guys. Not nearly as enjoyable as opponents' gloomy bench shots, but it remains my favorite type of basketball photograph nonetheless.

Wow. Betcha didn't see that coming. The Bean Burrito: Franchise Savior.

I'm just going to pause and let that sink in for everybody.


Go figure.

As always, there is the sane, boring, rational explanation, and then there is the sinister, crazy Stampler Conspiracy Theory explanation. Let's do the boring one first: It was our fifth game in seven nights. We're an old team. We were tired. We were due to lose one to a mediocre team. It was a segababa. The lackadaisical defense was gonna catch up with us sooner or later. Yadda yadda yadda.

There, that's your rational objective analysis. You could stop reading the blog at this point if you want. Here, I'll even throw in a picture with a witty caption on it to wrap things up for you.

If we ever happen to meet, and it's unlikely that we will, please don't kill me.
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

There. Now, for everyone still with me, here's my crazy theory. Our stars let Beno shine in this one to send a message to Pop that he blew it by A) Panic signing Nick Van Excrement after Beno had a bad Finals against the Pistons and B) Sticking with Van Exel over Beno in the postseason, even though Udrih outplayed him badly during the '05-06 regular season, game 82 @ Houston notwithstanding.

I know, I know, it sounds nuts. But just hear me out. Look at who played hard in this game. Darius Washington. Ime Udoka. Matt Bonner. Jacque Vaughn. That's pretty much the list. What do all of these guys have in common? They have no history with Beno. They weren't around two years ago.

Ask yourself this much. If Manu subconsciously picked one game in his life to not go hard to the rim, wouldn't it be this game? The whole 05-06 season has been placed on his shoulders for life, thanks to Pop, and wouldn't a big game from Beno at least lead to maybe a couple of NBA talking heads or even a blogger or two to revisit the Spurs-Mavs series and conclude, "Hey, maybe Udrih over Van Exel might have made a difference in a couple of those close games?"

(The answer is, no, of course it won't. Nobody cares about the Spurs except to whine about the Nash thing.)

This shot attempt, like eight others, did not end well for El Gimpo.
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

"What about Tony?" you're asking. What incentive did he have to not destroy Beno? Well why would he want to? Parker probably felt threatened as hell by Beno in '04-05 when the guy looked like a promising rookie and even the coaches were privately mumbling to each other that the "game made more sense" when Udrih was out there. But ever since that year's finals, Udrih's game hit a wall where Tony just kept getting better and better. Udrih never challenged him for the job and if anything Tony felt more secure to make mistakes with the Slovenian on board. "Who cares what I do, Pop hates my backup."

Tony probably threw Beno a bone in this game, as a thank you for laying down so feebly and not blocking his path to stardom, worldwide fame, and of course, one Eva Longoria (no way that relationship would've lasted had Parker turned into some bench scrub). You really think it's a coincidence that he never pressured Udrih at all but the backups (Washington in particular) were all trying their best Lindsey Hunter impersonations?

He drags my ass to Cowtown for THIS? Tony will be punished for this. Oh yes, he will be punished.
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

Tim? Hell, Tim just cares about winning. He knows that playing with Van Exel cost him a ring in '06, just like he knows that an idiot scoreboard operator cost him in '04. The big guy isn't going to go all out until February anyway, and this was as perfect a game to relax as any. The Kings have some crazy mofos on their team, best not to rile them up. Ron-Ron is inarguably a psychopath. Brad Miller looks like a hick but experiments with corn rows, and has more going on upstairs than one might expect, kinda like Kevin Federline. The coach Reggie Theus, looks like the bad guy from every 80's cop movie, except he's black, and he wears suits like Michael Scott's in The Office. Mikki Moore might be your starting center on the John Amaechi All-Star Team - not that I care, I'd rather have him on the Spurs than Frankie Elson. Heck, even rookie Spencer Hawes unnerves me, if only for the fact that he might be the last remaining person in America who thinks that Bush's presidency has been a runaway success. I haven't even gotten into Powell's infamous Kevin Martin v. The Sickness debacle; my favorite running joke on PtR, by far.

The Kings lot of oddballs is the perfect team for Beno, definitely. The guy was a renowned partier in San Antonio and the owners are close personal friends with every stripper between Sacramento and Las Vegas. Hell, one of them even dated Britney Spears for a spell. I can already picture her taking on the Bean Burrito, then loudly farting literally seconds afterward.

The fashionably high socks, the impeccably groomed goatee, the floppy Flo-Jo like hair, the hyper-emotional reactions to every play... just sayin'.
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

I know many people at Spurstalk thought Beno was a bust as a player and wanted him to fail spectacularly wherever he went, but personally, I don't hold any animosity toward him. He just wasn't wired to be a San Antonio Spur. He can't play the defense we demand of him, he's not really any better of a pure passing point guard than Tony, (actually Parker has overtaken him considerably in that regard) he's just another classic tweener combo guard stuck in a point guard's body. I think there is an important line of demarcation we have to make with Beno. Nothing is an absolute here. It's not all his fault and it's not all Pop's fault. But generally speaking, I blame Pop for '05-06 and I blame Beno for everything after. He could not have handled himself any less professionally the last year and a half and his excuse about Pop lying to him when he promised he'd be the backup last season no matter what is weak. Beno was killing us last year when he played. It got to the point where even I, one of his staunchest supporters, could no longer defend his play. The team just responded better to Vaughn. Udrih still had a role as a guy who could maybe come in and bury a few jumpers when no one else had it going (he helped us win two games at Houston and one at Portland last year because of this) but overall he brought nothing else to the table.

That being said, it should be patently obvious to EVERYONE that Beno is much more talented than Vaughn or Washington. Hell, outside of NFL quarterbacks, the least talented position in all of sports is still NBA point guards. Beno is 25, and when properly motivated and confident is easily one of the best 30 point guards on the planet. This is why he was drafted in the 1st round, after all. No, he's not good enough to start for a contender. At least, I don't think so, but the Kings were definitely one of the ten clubs where he was better than the incumbent. Already I've seen NBA chat rooms where Cavaliers and Celtics fans - the Celtics for crying out loud! - were outraged that their GMs didn't make a play for Udrih's services.

I love this shot. It's Beno, in his new colors, with the three gentlemen most responsible for him not being a Spur anymore.
Outside of Beno himself, of course.
(Photo by Melissa Majchrzak/NBAE via Getty Images)

The thing is, Beno's always known he was good. In fact, he thinks he's better than he is. That's the problem. He doesn't have the drive to improve and he's blind to his weaknesses. I'll argue `til the day I die that his domination of Tony Parker in some European tournament when both were teenagers always clouded Udrih's perception of the Spurs' situation. No matter how much better Parker was than him, no matter how much Tony kept bettering his game, I think some dark part of Udrih's brain could never let go of the thought, "How can he be starting over me? I kicked this guy's ass."

No, I don't think Beno was ever going to give it his all as a backup, and definitely not as Tony Parker's backup. I think reality hit home for him during the playoffs two seasons ago when he was banished in favor of a decrepit Van Exel, He finally figured out in what esteem the coach held him and that he was never going to start for the Spurs, so he mailed in the next season out of spite.

Like I said, Pop is responsible for a lot of this, maybe most of all for drafting Udrih with Parker already on board even after knowing their history, but I don't blame him for anything that happened last season. The move had to be made to Vaughn and Beno had to be dealt. Sure, in a perfect world we could have showcased him a little to increase his trade value, but that's a Catch-22 as Udrih was never going to play well enough here to have any. It was just a bad fit all around.

I don't know if anyone else noticed it, but very late in the game Udrih got an offensive rebound and put a shot up and on the way back down the floor he sneered at Vaughn, as if to say, "I am so much fucking better than you."

And he is. Just not on this team.

Don't get too down on yourself, Pop. It was never going to work out with the Beno.
(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)

As for the Spurs atrocious defense in this game, don't worry about it. It's only Game 15, and we are 12-3. Whether you think Mr. Schedule Maker has helped us or hurt us depends on a matter of perspective. In one aspect you can say the sked has been way too easy; throwing the Hawks-Magic-Grizzlies-Sonics-Kings-Wizards-TPups at us in succession, every one of them woefully tilted to the offensive end of the floor, one can understand how our guys unconsciously started to mimic their bad habits. After all, we're a team of chameleons. We play whatever style our opponents play and do it better. We outscore the offensive teams and outslug the grinders.

On the other hand, you can say that we've been fortunate to be blessed with such a cream puff schedule and that we'd be playing soft right now in our fat and happy state regardless of who our opponents were and that against real competition we'd be 8-6 instead of 12-2. The good news is that the team is at least aware of the problem. "We have had games where we score 128, 115 and 110," San Antonio's Manu Ginobili said. "It's always fun in the game, but that's not who we are. We've really got to find our defense and hold teams under 90 points." (Associated Press).

Right now I'd settle for under a hundred.

Your 3 Stars... such as they were

3. Bruce Bowen - Played good defense on Kevin Martin - for a half.
2. Fabricio Oberto - A season high 13, all in the first half.
1. Darius Washington - Brought good energy and briefly inspired thoughts of a comeback with a long buzzer beating three pointer to end the third. Also, he punked Beno with a half court steal and lay-in, no doubt causing Mr. Kori Ellis to chest bump his full length mirror.

Record: 12-3
Up Next: Vs. Washington Bullets Wizards
I don't care if these guys beat the Mavs on the road yesterday. They have no chance tonight with us coming off a bad loss. The Mavs keep finding new ways to piss me off. They're 5-0 against teams I like (us, Houston, Golden State and Toronto) and 5-5 against teams I don't care about.