God I'm bored. Much like the Spurs themselves (and all of you, I imagine) I'm more than ready for the real season to begin. The dream of catching the Suns is all but dead. We've done our part, really, having lost only thrice since the break. Obviously they were all winnable games, and while they angered me immediately afterward, taken on the whole it'd be quite rude and spoiled of me to bitch about winning "only" 23 of the past 26. The Suns just haven't cooperated, that's all. To put it into perspective, since our hot streak started Phoenix has lost seven games. Our deficit was just too large to make up apparently.
The world of sports has been taken hostage by the Don Imus story. I won't rehash it here, you all know the details. The whole thing is beyond stupid on so many levels. I was offended by his joke, but only in the sense that it wasn't funny. If you're gonna cross the PC line, whether it's about race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, whatever, you have to be undeniably funny. Me and Manolis probably say 20 things to each other over the phone on the average day that would get me fired from a real job, but funny is funny.
Two things about the controversy immediately jumped into my mind, and you'll have to play along with me, because the second one is kinda goofy and was totally unpremeditated.
Okay, first, in light of all this uproar, isn't it a bit amusing how strangely silent Bill Simmons has been? Surely I can't be the only one to have noticed this. Here we have Mr. Sports Guy, by far THE most influential guy at ESPN.com, and he has, over the course of the past decade, made more cracks about the unattractiveness of the average female basketball player than anyone. He has written, at length, about how he finds women's basketball unwatchable, he's constantly ripped the WNBA, and has snuck in an ugly joke here and there about certain African-American players.
No one has ever called him on any of it. Why? Was it because he's been a bit more subtle than Imus? Or is it because one comment was said over the air whereas Simmons' are just words on a screen?
You know how I feel about BSG. I think he's been allowed to slide with an awful lot over the years. Maybe individually no one sentence he's written can be deemed THAT racist or THAT sexist, but if you've read every column the guy has written since coming over to the worldwide leader, as I have, then perhaps you've started to become uncomfortable with his body of work, as I have. Employers have a habit of looking the other way when you're making them a lot of money.
Either way, just to be safe, I'm guessing the guy won't be making any comments on female athletes for a while.
Secondly, something like this has recently affected my own little corner of cyberspace. I won't get into the specifics, but if you're smart and have paid attention, you'll know what's going on. After the Suns game last week, I got in a bit of a flame war over at a popular Spurs message board over the usual Tony-Manu bullshit. I made one comment during the game, in the middle of the 2nd quarter of a half where the team only had 37 points and Tony had 10 on 8 shots. After the game ended with Tony exploding for 35 on 22 shots, a bunch of people ganged up on me, totally ignoring the timing of what I said.
The proprietor of the message board, who's supposed to be neutral about such things, accused me of "not being a Spurs fan" which really pissed me off, as I imagine it would piss any of you off to have some stranger define your fandom to you. I told this person that if she bothered to Google me for five seconds -- an obvious reference to PtR - she'd see the extent of my dedication to the Spurs. I've probably written more about them this season than anyone in the world, don't you think?
She said, "I don't care enough about you to Google you," and the bashing went on.
The next day, when I wrote my Suns recap I included a little joke in there at this person's expense. It was probably a little too mean and personal. But like I said, I was pretty upset about not being called a Spurs fan. When I wrote it I figured that maybe 100 people would see it and of those maybe 20 would even recognize the name of my target. I mean, if she's a huge Spurs fan and doesn't know about PtR, who does, right?
Well, apparently quite a few people do. The next morning, Saturday, she IMed me. I guess it turns out that quite a few people who go on this message board also frequent this site, and the word got around to her. She was hurt and a bit upset, which is perfectly understandable.
But here's the odd part.
During the course of our chat, she started acting very nice and complimentary toward me. She said she liked PtR, she liked my writing and that she's been recommending me to several Spurs journalists. She even gave me a bit of career advice and offered me a job writing once a week for this website that she works for. Nonpaying, but still it's something.
Obviously all of this is good news, but it got me thinking.
If she liked me so much, then why did she wait until I said something rude about her to contact me? If she liked the site, then why dismiss it completely on the message board and treat me like some schmoe? Either way, it's a bit fishy, no?
Here's my guess as to what happened. Enough people contacted her about my comment that she figured that's it's better to be allies with me than enemies. I really have no idea how many people read this drivel, that's Matthew's department to fret about such things, but I guess it's more than I can count to nekkid.
In the end, I edited the recap and took the comment out. I haven't written my first column for her yet, but I think it's going to be about Mark Cuban. It's in the brainstorming stage and I think I'll do it tomorrow. But no matter what my professional relationship with this person winds up being, whether it ever leads me to moving down there or she fires me after one column, I'm always going to remember one critical thing:
It all started because I said something mean about her in a blog.
To tie this back to the Imus thing, honest to God neither Manolis or I even knew the guy was still on the air when this story broke. That was our immediate reaction. Now the dude will be suspended for two weeks, he'll sit down with the Rutgers women's basketball team, and he'll no doubt do a few interviews in print, radio, on-line, etc.
When he's back from exile, you don't think he'll have more than a few new listeners tuned in, just to see what this creep will say next?
I don't mean to compare myself to Don Fucking Imus, I really don't. Hopefully I'll be smart enough to go my whole career without calling somebody "a nappy haired ho" in public (unless it's my sister, she'd deserve it). I'm just saying there is no such thing as bad publicity. It's just a sick thing about human nature.
And if you don't believe me, look no further than Cuban. I can't name more than three NBA owners off the top of my head, but I sure know who owns the Mavs. I suspect that that's just how he wants it.
Anyway, as for the actual games, I don't have a lot to say beyond the obvious. The Spurs are lurching toward the end with precious little enthusiasm, and if they can't be bothered to fake it, neither will I. So basically, I'm going to try something different and totally slag off on these recaps - or as I call it, "Go into Powell Mode."
Game 76 Vs. Golden State: Spurs 112, Warriors 99
That wacky Nellie decided to throw a change up at us and start Al Harrington at the five spot instead of The Lively Latvian, Andris Biedrins. Consequently Pop resorted, in maddening Pop fashion, to 23 minutes of tinyball. Here's a sentence I never thought I'd type - James White was our backup power forward. The bottom line was that, in a shocking coincidence, our defense suffered a bit and we gave up a relatively high point total, for us. We even allowed 32 3 point attempts, and one would think with four smalls out there the whole point would be to discourage such a thing.
The good news, well...
Yup, Timmy dominated. It was unfair, how easily he scored over and over and over again, but the Warriors bring this on themselves. The Golden God could've gone for 50 easily if he wanted to, but Golden State's defense is so awful that eventually other people wanted to get in on the act. How do the Mavs lose to these guys? It's so embarrassing.
As near as I can figure, and this might sound a bit simplistic, is that the main reason we blew them out last time and had a rougher time of it here is that in Oakland Richardson and Harrington combined for 1 point and here they had 45. How's that for some hard core analysis? Thankfully S-Jax and the high flyin' Monta Ellis shot just badly enough for us to pull it out.
It was refreshing, in lieu of my hassle with the message board mafia to see Tony start the game with a pass first mentality. Dude had fifty cents before Manu even checked in. Yeah so he only finished with seven helpers. The point is he got the offense off to a great start, everyone was feeling involved, we scored a season-high 40 in the first quarter and he managed to chip in a very impressive 18 points on just 10 shots, thanks to a renewed emphasis on going to the basket and drawing fouls.
The cutest moment of the game was when Bob Fitzgerald, the Warriors dopey homer announcer exclaimed late in the 4th quarter that Warriors fans shouldn't be too upset about the loss because "the Spurs brought their absolute `A game.'"
I actually giggled out loud, alone in my empty closet of an apartment. "A" game? Dude, not even close. "B-"at best. Crappy team's announcers are the most pathetic creatures on planet Earth. I actually feel sorry you people who live in San Antonio and only get the home broadcast team every night. Y'all would be shocked and horrified if you heard what other teams' announcers say about your silver & black clad heroes night after night. (Hint: they're not overly fond of the guy with the big nose, and also they feel that Mr. Duncan, on occasion, complains too much about the officiating.)
It's lonely at the top folks.
Your 3 Stars
3. Tony Parker - I'm just going to put this out there, and I don't care who gets offended. In my opinion, Tony was definitely the best French player on the court.
2. Manu Ginobili - Yup, a smooth 25-7-7. Or as I like to think of it, a regular day at the office for Scnozzo once the playoffs begin.
1. Tim Duncan - 28-15-3-4 and rounded it all off with some crappy free throw shooting, just to prove he's human. A really tall, boring human.
Game 77 Vs. Portland: Spurs 112-96
Wash, rinse, repeat.
I'll admit it; this performance was a bit more discouraging. Portland is the second lowest scoring team in the Association, at 93.9 per and we let them shoot 52% against us. Once again tinyball had a part in it, about 17 minutes worth, but still it's a pretty inexcusable showing considering that both Zach Randolph and LaMarcus Aldridge were out. That the former didn't have the opportunity to murder any of our players was only a small comfort.
I don't get why Pop was so pissed with Frankie this time. Dude was a +12 in the first quarter and then barely played again. He didn't even start the second half.Bonner went on a personal 9-0 run to end the 1st quarter and didn't check in again until midway through the 4th. Meanwhile in the second and third quarters Jammal Magloire was killing poor Oberto. I've watched damn near every Spurs game for the past two years and I still have no idea what Pop is thinking watching the big men play. He's like a perfectionist with that position. He didn't even play Robinson enough the last few years, it's sick.
The standout performer of the game, of course, was Tony. Dude scored 18 points in the 3rd quarter and had 30 through three, on 12-16 shooting. Not only did the Blazers not have an answer for him, but apparently they thought that eventually he would get bored enough that he'd start passing up easy four foot floaters or that his teammates would start screaming at him to pass the ball.
Have you met the San Antonio Spurs? Tony will shoot all day if you let him and nobody else on the team is impolite enough to say anything. Pretty much the only way to stop it, outside of playing actual defense on him, is for Pop to chain him to the bench.
Here's the thing though, it's not that bad of a strategy against the Spurs. Yeah Tony scored 18 in the 3rd, but guess what, we won the quarter by one point, 29-28. Stagnant offense begets stagnant defense. If people on the defensive end of the floor don't feel like they'll touch it on the other end, after a while they kind of lose the joy and spirit of playing defense, unless they have some peculiar mental disorder like Rodman or Bowen.
It's one thing if you pass the ball around a bunch of times and then the hot guy takes the shot. It's another deal when the point guard literally dribbles the ball up the floor and then puts it up time and again. We had two assists as a team the whole quarter on nine field goals. Not exactly the prettiest team basketball to watch. Manu checked in for the last 6:49 and never took a shot. The team didn't do any worse when it was just Tony shooting, but it didn't do any better either. It wasn't until they gave Vaughn the ball in the 4th that everyone got involved again and they quickly stretched out the lead into the 20 point range.
Say what you will about Tony's game, he had a magnificent scoring night, but he expended almost no energy on defense (Jarrett Jack had 19 on 8-11 shooting) and there's just more to the game as a point guard then how many points you score. You have to be a coach on the floor and get the best out of your teammates, at both ends. Was it that much of a shocker that he finished with the worst +/- (- 1) of anyone on the team except the two garbage time guys?
What was the other big news, outside of both White and Butler playing well? Oh right. They broke out these snazzy new uniforms honoring all the Latin countries. One would think on such an occasion that the team would perhaps think about featuring the Latin players more in the game. Just a crazy idea I'm spitballing out there. We bustin' out these puppies again this year or was it one and done?
Your 3 Stars
3. Jacque Vaughn - His defensive energy and his decision making in the 4th helped to ice the game by the six minute mark. Finally we started putting some stops together again.
2. Matt Bonner - Like Vaughn, he brought the energy and got the crowd going, but in the 1st quarter. Even had two dunks.
1. Tony Parker - Just to make it clear I'm not dumping on the guy. He was great. Unfortunately it's hard to get the rest of his teammates to play hard when he dominates the ball.
Record: 56-21 Streak: W-4
Up Next: Vs. Sacramento Kings
Great, we gotta face Kevin Martin again. Why Buford turned down that Manu deal, I'll never understand. We could've been a dynasty dammit!