Welcome to installment number three of The State of the Spurs. This week, I've got a few different things I want to talk about, and brevity will be my friend.
I've been mostly silent, lurking more since the Dallas game, because I wanted to see if anyone else would say what I wanted to say. Unfortunately, nobody wants to talk about Blair's otstanding defense on Dirk Nowitzki? Complete denial of the ball? Frustrating him to the point of nearly getting a tech? And doing it all while only getting one PF for the game?
Dirk shot over him once...and Dejuan played the shot well- close enough to contest, not too close to get a foul called on him.
Pop used Blair almost exclusively on Dirk. They subbed in and out at the same time. I was shocked and thought it would be a horrible idea- I was proven wrong. Blair followed this up with a better than usual defensive performance against Marreese Speights, giving up only three long jumpers in 15 minutes of action. Admittedly, I only caught the second half of the Houston game, but he played excellent ball denial defense on Luis Scola throughout his time in the third quarter. He finished the game with as many steals as Scola had points. I'm not going to say "he's turned a corner" or even predict that he will, but I am going to give him credit (which is due) for stepping up his game against two really good scorers that both usually kill the Spurs.Another Spur that deserves credit? Kawhi Leonard. During the Dallas game, I noticed on several of his offensive rebounds that the reason he was open was because Dallas was basically double teaming Blair when he tried to crash the offensive glass. While I was impressed with Kawhi's ability to take advantage of this situation, I thought Blair was going to deserve a little bit more credit. Then the Memphis game happened, and Kawhi showed that he's got a nose for the ball and the athletic ability to get it. While Kawhi and the other guards who occasionally go for putbacks do prosper from having Blair in the game, Kawhi is just as effective when he's going for the board by himself. I am very, very impressed with our rookie. So impressed, that I came up with an analogy for him (although the same applies to Danny Green). Their motors are like those "smart" motors in hybrids, that switch from battery power to gas power so you rarely have to fill the tank up or recharge the battery. They just play hard until they look like they are going to pass out. Except those hybrid motors aren't powerful enough for the analogy. If you had a V12 with a HEMI that was a hybrid, that was how I would describe Kawhi's play during the Memphis game. That was absolutely outstanding.
Next theme: value. I'll be very brief with this. Kevin Martin consistently dominates the Spurs. He's an excellent shooter and might be the best in the league at running off screens. Know who else is pretty good at that? Gary Neal. They are basically the same type of players, although obviously Martin is more talented. Gary Neal makes approximately 800,000 a year. Kevin Martin makes 12 million. Is he that much more talented than Neal? I'd argue not at all. So, factoring in cost, which would you rather have on the Spurs? I'll take Gary every time. In all likelihood, Gary will make significantly more in his next contract- probably somewhere in the ball park of the four million a year Matt Bonner makes now. But even then, we get a lot more bang for our buck with him over a "star" like Kevin Martin.
Speaking of the Red Rocket, he has officially begun playing this season. We are a much, much better team when he is making his shots. And yes, we are a much, much worse team when he's not. But he's going to make at least 40%, so as long as he is shooting he needs to be on the floor, making or missing- because eventually they are going to start going in.