Merry God-On-A-Stick Day, everybody. Your second favorite Spurs blogger is back after a frustrating, internet-less week spent doing anything and everything except what I truly love, reading, writing, and bitching about Spurs basketball.
You have no idea how difficult this has been on Stampizzle. Having no internet doesn't just mean I can't write. It means I can't read, I can't learn, I can't laugh, I can't argue with total strangers , and I can't masturbate. Okay, that's a lie. I could suffer Manu's injury to both hands and that still wouldn't stop me from loving me some me, but the internet makes each shameful journey into self-gratification new and mysterious, whereas the porn I've got stashed away in the shoebox (like the rest of you) below the bed is old and familiar.
Speaking of shameful journeys in self-gratification, I've missed the blog. I wasn't surprised at all about the criticism that my absence has caused, nor by the support of the majority who came to my defense. I will address this further down, I promise you. After having finally receiving my new modem in the mail on Monday, and setting the thing up last night at 2 a.m., I've spent the better part of Christmas, in between flagging attention of the Lakers-Suns game, catching up on Spurs news, reading the dreaded message boards that I can't quit for the life of me, and of course, reading, with much amusement, the goings on at PtR.
I wish I could explain to you all why our modem broke. I certainly did not wish it so. If I wanted to lose 50 bucks that badly I could have done so betting on football. Which by the way I did, and I did. All I know is I spent extra money so the thing would be delivered quickly, and it wasn't, so I've been very pissy about it for a week and a half. Setting it up last night was even more frustrating, because I had to speak to some Indian guy on the phone who refused to tell me what the ID was of the account Manolis set up two years ago. He said he would get fired for telling me, but he could give hints and answer "yes" or "no" to my guesses. Except his answers weren't very helpful because he couldn't count or read. First he said it had 13 characters.
"Is Manolis a part of it?"
"What about his last name?"
"But his last name has 10 letters."
"I know sir."
"So it's a part of his last name?"
Dead silence. "The first part? The second part?"
Dead silence. It went this way for like ten minutes before he told me he had miscounted and the ID had 14 characters, not 13. Then we went through the same charade with the last name. Then after an infuriating back and forth, he explained that I misunderstood and none of Manolis' last name was in the ID.
"So it's Manolis and then seven other characters that aren't his last name?"
"None of them are numbers?"
"Yes, none of the other characters are numbers, or yes there are numbers?"
Pause. "Sir...I could get in big trouble here..."
"I'm begging you pal, help me out here."
"Uh...the first choice."
"So there are no numbers?"
Manolis and then seven other characters. Manolis and then seven other characters...
"Holy shit is the ID `ManolisManolis?'"
Of course it is.
Okay, I wrote all that before family came over. It's Wednesday afternoon now, before the Spurs-Bulls game which I'll be watching on tape later on because I'll actually be playing ball this evening. Christmas was okay. My sister made a kickass risotto and bruschetta and her cheesecake was pretty good as well, but the sauce was too thick. The lamb was a bit too dry and the less said about her sautéed spinach, the better. I lost $10 bucks on poker. We had a tournament where my mom, her "expert poker player" boyfriend, and my sister got knocked out and it was just me and Manolis. I had a 3-to-2 chip advantage and went all-in with my ace high against his queen-jack suited. A jack came on the turn and he sucked out on me and he knocked me out soon after. I'm just happy mom's stupid boyfriend didn't win. He bought my sister a present and bupkis for me. Assface.
Here are some thoughts regarding stuff that have come up on PtR...
The Simmons Trade Value Column
Ironically, I had no problem with it. I was expecting something heavily slanted toward the Celtics, but apparently basketball is the one sport Simmons prides himself in being taken seriously, so he didn't even put Rayneesha in the Top 50, and only had PP at 19th. I've got no issues with where Tony or Manu are ranked, because really it's impossible to know for sure how good they'd be individually without each other and especially without Tim. We saw glimpses of such a scenario in the past two weeks, and the results were up and down. Regular season wise all three of our stars have somewhat less value than most of the other name players for the simple reason that they play less minutes and can lean on each other for support. When factoring in the postseason though, one could easily argue that all three of our guys belong in the top 12, based on their experience and the reputations they have established of not being afraid of the moment.
In the regular season you can argue that Manu is less valuable of a two guard than McGrady, Redd, Allen, Hamilton, and even youngsters like Gay or Martin. But when May and June enter the equation, all of a sudden the only guys you take in front of him are Kobe and Wade, and the latter is a turnover machine.
Similarly for Tony, in the regular season you take Nash, Davis, Williams, Paul, Kidd, Iverson and Arenas over him. Throw the playoff experience in though, and I'm not sure I prefer any of those guys over Tony, who has the ability to play good defense when the mood suits him. Maybe Davis, but he takes a lot of bad shots. Maybe Kidd, but his best days are behind him. I don't really get the logic of putting either Williams or Paul that far higher than Tony because it's not like Parker is some graybeard veteran. He's only 25 years old in his own right. By putting Parker 17th, Simmons is flatly saying that he still doesn't think Tony is much of a playmaking point guard and never will be, and I flatly disagree. I have yet to see any proof that either of them could be more effective players than Parker when it counts and Tony will always have the experience edge on them.
As for Timmy, it shouldn't even have to be said. We all know there are a slew of power forwards/centers out there that post better numbers, but there is nobody in the league who is more valuable once the real season starts up.
Concerning Matthew's mini Simmons rant on Nash, I think some of you are being too hard on him. Even Bill had a disclaimer in there with Nash's ranking (and KG's) explaining that it was all but impossible to really gauge those two because of how their games define the personalities of their entire franchises. Still, I disagree that Nash is a product of a spectacular surrounding case. I think that severely shortchanges his abilities. Stoudemire is a phenomenal, singular talent to be sure, but I don't think Marion for example does much of anything to enhance Nash's game and that the little hoser could thrive just as well with enumerable small forwards around the league, most of whom can create their shots and finish much better than Marion can. Also, I don't think Nash has been given much to work with at two guard or on the bench in his second tour with the Suns. He had Joe Johnson that one year, but he bailed. Since then he's had to make do with Raja Bell and Leandro Barbosa, both of whom could be game planned for in a short series.
I believe that Nash, in his prime and fully cognizant of his abilities, could put up 16 and 12 on any number of teams and lead just about anyone to at least a playoff birth, were he to switch roles with the other team's incumbent point. He doesn't need incredible personnel around him to be effective as much as he needs a coach who lets him control the show and play at a fast pace, both of which D'Antoni does in Phoenix. With Nash's world class skill level (at least on offense) the rest really doesn't matter that much. NBA players wouldn't be NBA players if they couldn't do basic things like hit half of their open shots and run the floor and finish off fast breaks and like any other professional sport, 90% of the guys are completely interchangeable.
Personally I would slide in Nash at 14, one slot above Carmelo. I have yet to be convinced that Anthony is an elite player and I'm not sure that he helps his team win games all that much. If Denver wouldn't take him for Nash, they'd be very foolish indeed.
Matthew's A.J. Rant
This was very entertaining. Before I get into the Johnson/Vaughn comparisons though, I must say that comparing either to David Eckstein is a tremendous insult to Eckstein. That little blond fucker is a good, winning, gritty ballplayer and he'd be an asset to just about any team in the MLB. You wanna call his '02 postseason, when with the Angels he played a big part in breaking my Giants fan heart a fluke, go ahead. But he worked his magic again in '06 and was the World Series MVP helping the Cardinals upset the Tigers in five games.
Usually I'm very much a statistical analysis guy, worshipping at the altar of Hollinger in hoops and Bill James/Rob Neyer in baseball. Still, I'm a bit old school when it comes to things like leadership, chemistry, and intangibles, and I believe very much that they do make a difference on the diamond. If the best team on paper won every year, the Yankees or Red Sox would do just that, but postseason baseball is more complicated than that. A's GM Billy Beane likes to argue that the postseason is a "crapshoot" but that's just loser talk because his teams have never won a chip. Teams need guys that don't shrink in October and Eckstein doesn't. Even when that bastard makes outs, he works the pitcher to death and those pitches add up. He's a far superior player in his sport than A.J. was in his, and I won't even bother comparing him to Vaughn.
When we do compare oranges to oranges though, I still think Matthew was being too unfair to Johnson. No, he wasn't very good, but he was a starting-level point guard in the NBA for damn near a decade. I think he deserves that much credit. No, he was never All-Star caliber, and most certainly he was at a physical disadvantage against most guys he faced off against, but he fit the Spurs system and was a leader and an asshole when the team was short on leaders and assholes. Vaughn on the other hand is just a backup who doesn't do anything flashy and has a defensive demeanor about him, even if he isn't particularly good at it, he gives effort, and Pop appreciates that. I think mainly what Pop likes about Vaughn is that Jacque suffers from no delusions on who he is and what he's capable of. Beno always thought he was better than he was, too good to play defense, too good to play hard every night, and it drove the coach bananas.
All that being said, I still boycotted the Clippers game, refused to watch it altogether, precisely because I thought - and continue to think - that it was an outrage for A.J. to have his number retired. His contributions on the court are debatable. He was a serviceable, average starter, period. My problem with the L'il General is that I think he's had more negative off-the-court incidents with the Spurs than positive ones. The way he admonished Robinson for being soft and telling him that the Jesus didn't love him because The Admiral happened to have a poor game, that doesn't sit well with me. His callow behavior when Porter came along, that wasn't cool. And don't even get me started on his repeated slights to both Tony and Manu. Near the end of Johnson's tenure with the Spurs, he did everything he could to make the locker room a poisonous, bitter environment and I know I wasn't the only Spurs fan who didn't miss him a lick when he was gone.
The way Avery has conducted himself since those days, primarily his behavior on the sidelines with the Mavs, has been nothing short of an embarrassment. The analogy that fits best with him is that of Darth Vader. Spurs fans like to romanticize Johnson's time with the club and blame Mark Cuban (the Emperor) for turning Avery into this evil, frothing-at-the-mouth lunatic on the sidelines who blames the refs for his team's shortcomings, but the truth is that Anakin Skywalker was a spoiled, conceited, hateful little prick way before the emperor came into his life and all Cuban did for Avery was give him a forum to be his true self in a way the Spurs culture never fully allowed.
Why have Robinson and Popovich overlooked all of Avery's faults and chosen to remember only the good times? Well for the former, I believe the answer is simple - David Robinson is a saint among men, a better person than any of us could possibly ever hope to be. As for Pop, I think he'll always feel a little indebted to Avery for the toughness and attitude he had during that first title run. I truly think that until Tony came along Pop had no idea what a talented point guard looked like. He really thought Johnson was a great player because he simply didn't know any better. The whole thing is reminiscent of Andy Reid's history with the Eagles. For years he made do with crappy wide receivers for Donovan McNabb like Todd Pinkston and James Thrash. The Eagles kept making the NFC title game every year with them (due mainly to the defense and McNabb's improvisational skills) so Reid didn't think there was a problem there. Finally after losing that third consecutive title game, and by a flaccid 14-3 score, the media and fan pressure became too great and Reid finally relented, signing the infamous Terrell Owens. Wouldn't you know that just like that McNabb looked like an elite quarterback instead of just a playmaker and the team went 13-1 through the meaningful part of the regular season and was putting most of their games to bed by half time.
It took a superstar receiver for Reid to realize how hard Reid was making life for himself and his quarterback this whole time. Until you have one, you just don't know.
Anyway, the moral of the story is that Pop would have never had an opportunity to coach a real star point guard like Tony if he didn't win a ring with Avery, and because of that he's sentimental to that asshole. And no, I didn't mean to compare Tony with a cancer like Owens. As far as I know Parker has never been a bad teammate to anyone. My frame of reference is just limited. My point is that while I can understand why Pop feels the way he does about Johnson, I owe the guy nothing and I choose to remember the body of his career instead of just 1999.
These things will happen when you're the oldest team in the league. Fortunately, none of them have been serious thus far and I think we can survive two or three weeks without Brent. I don't know about the rest of you, but I didn't even notice when Elson was out, he's been that much of a disappointment this year. His offensive game looks completely inept and all he can do these days is dunk, and that's only when he manages to catch the ball. It's a credit to the seven or eight guys who do contribute that the Spurs continue to be title favorites even with the dead weight of Elson and Horry on the roster.
Obviously I'm most concerned by Ginobili's injury and it didn't take a rocket scientist to see he was severely limited even before the Clippers game. He had five games in a row (of which the Spurs lost four) where his shooting ranged from subpar to terrible. That's not Manu, not for that long. Of course hindsight says that Pop should've sat him once Tony was cleared to play, but there's no way Gino would've agreed to such a thing. I'm not sure how long he'll be out, but I for one hope he takes his time and doesn't come back until he's fully healthy. Our record is almost meaningless and the only Western squad where I'd prefer we have home court when we face them are the Mavericks. As long as we finish with a better record than them, our regular season will be a success.
How Pop handled Brent's situation was flat out stupid though. The guy was hobbled and limping the whole time he was out there and it was pretty evident he never should've suited up. I have no idea what Pop was thinking running him out there. If Brent suffered a serious career-threatening injury, he'd be within his rights to sue the Spurs for gross negligence. It's as if Pop is trying to manufacture adversity for the team, creating as many obstacles as possible.
The Austin Toros Merry-Go-Round
Out of nowhere Marcus Williams is on the club. Darius Washington is waived. Keith Langford come on down. The SpursTalk community is abuzz about transactions involving bottom of the roster fodder. Me? I don't care. I. Don't. Care. Do not. This is me, not caring. I'm just not interested.
Does that seem irresponsible for a Spurs blogger? Perhaps. But none of these guys will play an important minute in the playoffs and I very seriously doubt any of them has any kind of future with the Spurs. Injuries and the luxury tax are playing havoc with the team's roster and consequently we are in a period of constant flux with the 13th through 15th members of the team. Wake me up when Mahinmi or Splitter are involved in a move.
Let's face it, the Spurs track record with young players under Pop has been nothing short of abysmal. He doesn't like them, he doesn't trust them, and he has no patience with them. It's safe to say he doesn't "get" the mentality of this younger generation and he won't be bothered to try. I can see where he's coming from. He's the successful Hall Of Fame coach. The youngsters should do their darnedest to conform to him, not the other way around. But it's bothersome as heck to see the Mavs unearth the Brendan Basses of the world while we make do with old man Horry.
How much the problem stems from the luxury cap burden, it's hard to say. It's very possible the team would've had more patience with some of these youngsters if money wasn't the issue. It's also very possible that Luis Scola could be our 7th man right now if that was the case. The team has to make do with the financial restraints placed upon it and that means - at least for this year - we won't be grooming anyone for anything.
What concerns me though is that I'm starting to see a disturbing pattern emerge with how we shuttle guys in and out the Austin Toros. I noticed it first with James White during the summer league. See the Spurs get these youngsters, and while they're with the big club, they're humble, they're solid, they do everything that's expected of them as rooks. But then we send them to the minors for playing time and all of a sudden their mentality changes. They start acting like they're stars instead of role players. They think that the only way to get called up will be to have huge numbers. They forget to do the things - l ike playing defense and taking care of the ball - that they'd have to do to get playing time with the big club. Instead they try to do their best highlight real impressions of Tony or Manu.
Look at Darius Washington. In his first stint with the Spurs, he was a willing passer, careful with the ball, a guy who hit his open shots and he tried on defense. Then he got sent down and became the leading scorer of the D-League. That's great, right? No, not really. When he came back he was an unrepentant chucker, indiscriminant with his shot selection, a reluctant passer, a turnover machine and a defensive liability. Pop quickly grew disgusted with him, resorted to playing Manu or Brent at backup PG even when Parker was injured. Washington's confidence was so shattered that he played like crap upon his return to Austin and he was recently waived.
James White looked to have a bright future with us last year. He was a great rookie those last few games he played. In summer league though he thought he was some star and tried to act like it, demanding the ball on offensive sets, not really moving or passing, and being a non-entity on the other end of the floor. He got cut and wasn't even invited to training camp. Now he's in the Turkish league, wondering what happened.
Both Marcus Williams and Keith Langford have been putting up numbers with the Toros. Look for the Washington/White cycle to repeat itself with them.
Will Pop ever be able to make room for a young guy on his roster to develop and contribute to a contending team? All the evidence points to "no," doesn't it? He botched the Udrih situation badly, partly because he sat him in '06 in favor of Nick Van Excrement. The White thing didn't work out and now it appears Washington has been discarded as well. When will the streak be broken? I have no idea, but if I had to guess, I'd wager it'll happen with a big sooner than a small just because they handle the ball less and Pop seems to have more patience with bigs. Still, don't forget, Pop has said, repeatedly, that when Duncan retires that he's following him out the door. I think at this point coaching a bunch of 22 year olds through a rebuilding project would be Pop's 7th circle of hell.
Don't forget that the only reason Parker survived in San Antonio is due to miraculous luck. Actually two people are mainly responsible for it, and neither are Pop or R.C. Buford. In fact, we owe championships three and four (and counting) to Speedy Claxton and Jason Kidd. Claxton rescued the struggling Parker in Games 5 and 6 of the '03 Finals and he played a big part in us winning a title that year when Tony, then 20, was a bit overwhelmed facing off against Kidd in his prime. If the Spurs lost that Finals, there's no telling how it would have affected the way Pop and the fans saw Tony and how it would've scarred him. Secondly, it was Kidd who rejected the Spurs that offseason, not the other way around, and if he happened to accept their offer the Spurs would've been built around him and Duncan with Parker and Manu both plying their trades elsewhere. Basically Pop was extraordinarily lucky. Kidd saved him from himself, not trusting his young backcourt. The next year '03-04 both Tony and Manu turned the corner and the rest is history.
Our flaming, dissenting PtR rebel
First of all, let me just say that I'm happy to see that L.J. Ellis reads our humble little blog. Good to have you on board and give my best to the missus. Massage her feet or shoulders once in a while since she must be exhausted from carrying you and being the breadwinner of the household.
Now, as to the argument about Tony being superior to Manu on account of his higher salary, I can't possibly dispute such sound logic. In fact, I hear that Stephon Marbury is on the outs with the Knicks and I think Pop and R.C. should get Isiah on the phone and work out a trade where we send Tony and Manu to New York in exchange for the misunderstood yet fabulously talented Starbury. It would be a steal for our franchise since he makes more money than both of our guys combined. Yes, we would take a small luxury cap hit if we were to make the deal, but let's face it, when a guy like Marbury becomes available, you break all of your organizational rules and do whatever you gotta do to make the fucking deal.
As for his criticism that I'm ducking the blog because Manu was playing badly, I think Adam8065 already pointed out the fallacy of that, citing the Lakers recap. Gino hasn't had a worse game than that and in fact played well down the stretch in the narrow losses to Phoenix and Memphis. Neither game worked out, for various reasons, but Manu didn't "lose" those games like he lost the Lakers game.
Why haven't I blogged in forever (it's like Friday now)? I didn't have a computer until 2 a.m. Monday night, Tuesday was Christmas, Wednesday I worked all day and spent the only two free hours I had late at night watching the Spurs and these past two days I've been sick as hell. I'm like the Peter North of snot these days and I feel miserable. I used to never get sick but I think my age is starting to catch up to me and Half Moon Bay is a hell of a lot colder than San Diego was. I think my job might have something to do with it as well. I've gone from being basically a shut in to Mr. Sociable Bartender and that means I get to touch hundreds of glasses over the course of a week infested with the germs of strangers, most of whom do a terrible job of taking care of themselves, seeing as they're alcoholics and all. My time living here since July seems like one big long cold and it's starting to affect my usually sunny disposition.
I don't understand the point of the rant, I really don't. Accusing me of being deferential to Manu is like accusing water of being wet. No shit, Sherlock, I like Manu. And no, Tony isn't my favorite player on the team. He isn't even my third favorite. Everyone else on the site understands this and accepts it and I make no apologies for it. You like who you like and that's that. The very first time I saw Manu play he had "it" whatever it is, and I've been drawn to him ever since.
The best way I can describe him is that he plays the way we all say we would play if we were famous basketball players. He hustles. He's not afraid of the big shot. He doesn't care about the status level of other players on his team or the other teams. He's equally comfortable posterizing some scrub or an All-Star. He plays his best when the games matter most yet he never forgets that fans pay good money to be entertained, something that Pop or Timmy don't seem to quite understand. He constantly embarrasses guys bigger, stronger and faster than him but does so in a non-abrasive way. You can't figure out how a guy with his foot speed and his frame can get to the basket, but he does, repeatedly, and no matter how much he gets clobbered, he doesn't stop. He's like one part Pete Maravich, one part Sarunas Marciulionis, and one part Larry Bird, but with Michael Jordan's maniacal desire to win and a FIBA pedigree. He's got a cult following in the NBA because there has never been a player like him. Charles Barkley picked up on it right away and those who follow the league who aren't racists or xenophobes have followed suit. Manu Ginobili makes it fun to watch basketball in a way Gretzky made hockey fun or Zidane made soccer fun. There's this charisma about them, or to go back to the Star Wars comparisons, he's got "the force."
Or, as Manolis put it, "Watching the Spurs without Manu is like petting a hairless cat."
You either get it and feel it or you don't. Most of the people at PtR do. You don't. If you don't like it, start your own blog and good luck building a readership. I would suggest going entirely with pictures and captions since apparently those are the most interesting parts of a game recap.
Anyway, the part about me having some Manu bias, well guilty as charged, your honor. Despite that, I still think I understand the game fairly well and am honest with what I see and what I write. If you disagree with that notion, than by all means, we'll refund your PtR membership fee right away. Just fill out the forms and be sure to include your ID, password, and account number.
I will endeavor to write about the games in due time, although I have no idea when that's going to be. The next week is going to be real busy for me. Another Reno trip for New Years and an article to write tonight about hangover cures, of all things. Right now I'm kind of in a funk, with the team constantly shuttling line-ups because of injuries and mired in the soft part of their schedule, it's hard to form opinions or draw conclusions about anything. I don't see the point really in analyzing emergency line-ups or wasting column space on the pros and cons of Ime Udoka's game. We know what this team is, we know who's going to play when it matters and who will sit, and these days, the only games that seem to get me excited are when we play the Suns or Mavs. Maybe T-Dot will snap me out of my malaise. I like them a lot. Who knows?
When I do take time to write another extended recap though, I'll be sure to make it extra Manu-riffic, just for you. Customer satisfaction is my number one priority.