A humble rebuttal to my friend's hyperbolic post, and some draft thoughts after the jump.
1. It's not like they traded up to steal Blair. He fell to them. Plummeted, like a dinosaur-smashing crash-landing alien spaceship that ran out of it's power source: LIQUID AWESOME. The same way that Tony fell at 28 and Manu fell at 57 and the lottery balls fell for Tim and David. Sometimes you just get lucky. If the team with the 36th pick landed Blair, we'd all be bitching out Pop and RC out right now.
Well, at least I would.
Unless I have some real proof that these guys whispered in other people's ears and spread false rumors ("Oh, what's that fellow GM, you like that Blair guy? That's mighty brave of you, to take a guy who told us in his interview he has been battling an addiction to crystal meth and child pornography. I guess you guys really have faith in your veteran leadership to be a good influence on him") to deliberately make Blair's stock drop, all they did was make a common sense pick. Good for us, but certainly nothing to give them standing ovations about. It's like, "Congratulations for being less stupid than the other GMs."
2. I hate to say I told you so gang, but I TOLD YOU SO.
The best thing that can happen to the Spurs, long term, would be for them to get bounced, emphatically, out of the playoffs in four or five games in the first round. Only then will we have a mandate for change. The team has a glaring need at small forward. It needs to embrace the concepts of youth and athleticism, and contrary to popular belief, there is already some of that on the roster (Hill, Hairston, Mahinmi, Gist) but for one reason or another, it hasn't gotten on the floor. I don't know if they can usher Fin or Bruce or even Fab out the door, but it would certainly be nice if they tried. Gooden is a free agent and I doubt he'll be back. The team needs a big who can defend and rebound on one end of the floor and space the court for Duncan on the other end. They need viable backups for Tony and Manu. They need a coach who isn't blind to those needs. Pop has more talent in Austin than he does on his bench, and it's about time he realizes it. - April 8, 2009
As I made quite clear in both my Manu injury eulogy column and in my postseason prediction, the second that it was announced Manu was gone for the year, the absolute best thing that could happen for the franchise would be a quick, humiliating, embarrassing first round loss in the playoffs. No gutty efforts into Round 3, no nail-biting seven game loss in Round 2, just a flat out first round ass whooping. A beating so total and definitive in scope, that only the most ignorant and homerish Spurs fan could think "Well if they had Manu they'd have gone all the way, so let's not change anything."
The Spurs went with the status quo the last two years, under the silly premise fueled by Pop that, "The Defending Champions deserve a chance to be the Defending Champions."
As if the '07 team was perfect. As if they didn't catch some massive breaks in not having to play Detroit or Dallas. I'm not saying they wouldn't have beaten those teams, but it would've been a heckuva lot tougher than Utah and Cleveland.
Disgusted and disillusioned Spurs fans responded to the joke of a roster that management/ownership put on the floor last year the only way they could - with their wallets. Season tickets weren't being re-newed. Finally Holt got the message and we had a mandate for change: Pay over the luxury tax and hopefully make up the money back with home playoff gates, vs. a whole season of Miami Heat/Memphis Grizzlies like attendance and major money loss.
Finally the Spurs woke up and realized that they couldn't win a title with two below-average starters, a crappy bench and zero youth and athleticism on the roster. They realized they couldn't go the cheapo route and hope to contend, unless they got ridiculously lucky with injuries. Finally they spent what it takes to have a legit starting forward and a legit wing athlete on the team (though I'm not a big fan of his). Finally they realized (or perhaps remembered) that the draft is a tool for teams to replenish their rosters with cheap young talent and not an annoying nuisance best dealt with by trading away your picks or picking foreigners you never have any intention of actually signing/playing/paying.
It's almost like somebody whispered in Pop's ear that they got Manu and Tony by drafting smartly (albeit luckily) in the draft. I could've sworn he had completely forgotten, thinking that those two were just magically beamed aboard to the roster one day.
I feel like the burden of Jefferson's ridiculous contract is karmic payback to Holt for the way he clusterfucked the Scola thing with his frugality. Finally, we can exorcise that demon and admit the truth: It wasn't Scola's fault, it wasn't Tau's fault, it was Holt's fault. He was the reason why Scola wasn't on the team. If he wanted Luis bad enough (and judging by Scola's play in the '04 Olympics, how can you not?) he would've made it happen, some how, some way.
You think if the Lakers owned Scola's rights they wouldn't have found a way to bring him over? Please. And all that bullshit afterward about how Scola and Duncan's styles wouldn't mesh. How insulting.
Anyway, all is forgiven now. Holt's paid for his mistake. Water under the bridge.
As for the DeJuan Blair drafting, that's just perfect. For so long I've cast envious glares at Brandon Bass, Paul Millsap, Carl Landry, Leon Powe, Glenn Davis, etc. All of them are stocky, undersized power forwards drafted in the second round because of doubts about their size and athleticism, and they've all carved roles for themselves in the league just by playing hard, rebounding, and taking only high percentage shots.
Finally, we've got one of those guys on our team. Our Millsap. Our Big Baby.
Like Rikkido said (through L.J. Ellis of SpursTalk), Blair had the highest PER, the best rebound rate, and the best offensive rebound rate of anybody drafted this year. Call me crazy, but I think that makes him more than your average second round prospect. Forget just the ceremonial act of faith of having him on the roster. If Pop doesn't have this guy in the rotation from Day 1, then it's all the proof you'll need that not only does he not get it, but that he will never get it.
3. My vision for the Spurs is quite simple. I think we can be like a better version of the Celtics. Allow me to explain.
Duncan would be like our KG, only he can score in the fourth quarter and isn't a psychopath. Advantage Spurs.
Mahinmi would be like our Kendrick Perkins. Admittedly, it would take A LOT of faith by Pop for him to get there, and Ian would have to prove he can stay healthy for ten minutes, but he could be the shot blocker/rebounder we need out there with the starters. Advantage Celtics.
Jefferson would be like Pierce, our perimeter stopper, and a guy who can score inside and out. Advantage Celtics.
Manu would be like Ray-Ray, only with balls. Advantage Spurs.
Tony would be like Rondo, but with a jump shot, and his coach doesn't openly despise him. Advantage Spurs.
I see Blair as our big baby and (wait for it) TIAGO SPLITTER as our Powe. If we're gonna go for it, we might as well go balls out and spend what it takes to buy out Splitter and get him playing here with the big boys. Screw signing some has been pampered 35 year old veteran with the MLE. Use that money to get younger and more talented. Let's have a young, athletic bench with a couple of dobermans to get after people. It would freak out the establishment. Advantage Spurs.
Bonner, of course, would be our Scalabrine. Advantage Spurs
Jack McClinton (whom I know nothing about, because college basketball is for dorks) could be our Eddie House. Because R.C. Buford told me so. Advantage Celtics
Finally, the piece-de-resistance: Tony Allen and Starbury vs. George Hill and Roger Mason Jr. Huge Advantage Spurs.
That is my dream. Make it happen Spurs. If you want to show me you truly are committed to youth and athleticism and winning, you'll find a way to get Splitter here this year instead of somebody like Marcin Gortat or Zaza Pachulia who I know we'll wind up with. At the very least, the absolute minimum, you'll find a place for Gist on the roster and Blair in the rotation.
Pop is the key to it all. I'm not at all convinced he's learned anything. The moves we've made, getting rid of the vets, bringing in Jefferson and drafting Blair are all positive signs. But until he actually plays the young guys and sticks with them in difficult, adverse times, we won't know. Pop has to prove to me he's ready to coach again and that he's hungry. Last year was too much like the Phil Jackson special - roll the ball out to the veterans, sit back and do nothing.
A sign that Pop has learned will come in July. If he doesn't bring back the graybeards we shipped to the Bucks, then he just might get it. If he does bring them back, well Blair could be an Austin Toro for all we know.
Come on Pop. Bring Splitter. You can do it.