When the team you cover plays the Charlotte Bobcats, you hope for someone like Aron Baynes to play a prominent role in the basketball competition of the evening.
And the Aussie was big in this one. Literally, he was seven feet tall. He grabbed nine rebounds in nearly 18 minutes on the court and set some super serious screens on Charlotte defenders in the 102-78 Spurs win. He looked pretty good at rebounding and setting picks because, again, he's really big. And also because the Bobcats are the worst team in the NBA. The Charlotte Observer didn't even send a beat writer. He dunked really hard once and ALMOST dunked an alley-oop home from Patty Mills.
Move over, Nando De Colo. Baynes-y is the new favorite baby in the Spurs family. Also, Baynesy is apparently his nickname. (The baby joke is attributed to Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News.)
So, to recap, he rebounded, pushed people around, had several moving screens, had one block and he dunked, all basically because he's huge and he played the Bobcats. And his nickname is Baynesy. Or also, as Patty said, Bangers. I think I like Bangers best.
In all seriousness, it was an impressive showing for a young player in his first real NBA minutes. His introductory media session featured talk of bringing a lot of energy to the floor, being physical, hitting the glass hard and being a force in the paint. He was all of these things in by far his most extensive run with the team since he signed on last week.
"He did a good job. He got a little winded. He's a very strong and a very hard-playing young man," Gregg Popovich happily told us. "It was good to give him some minutes and to get a look at him. i thought he did a fine job."
In total, Baynes finished with seven points, a team-high nine rebounds, a blocked shot and four fouls. He has plenty of adjustments to make as he experiences NBA play for the first time, but he'll have time to work on the different aspects of his game under the guidance of San Antonio's veteran presence. Throughout the game, Tim Duncan and Boris Diaw were constantly in his ear, coaching him from the sidelines and on the court. Not many young bigs have the luxury of playing alongside one of the greatest players to ever live.
"There's no one better to learn from. He's been through it all, done it all, and there's nothing he hasn't seen," Baynes said in a very Austrailian-ish way. "As much as I can learn from him, I'm going to try and use him as a resource. Like I said, there's no one better to learn from."
As for the game itself, the Spurs took care of business when they needed to. No more, no less. You could tell there was a 'meh' kind of spirit to the game, which is what happens when the team with the NBA's worst record comes to town. San Antonio was careless with the ball, but then again, both teams were. Forty-seven combined turnovers is not indicative of a pretty game. The Spurs shot 55 percent from the floor, including 56 percent from three and 81 percent from the line while holding the Bobcats to 41 percent shooting and 21 percent from the arc.
I might as well copy/paste this into my game recaps, but Tony Parker once again led the way for San Antonio with 22 points and seven assists. Those 22 points came on 9-for-10 shooting, and several of those assists went Kawhi Leonard's way. The second-year swingman had 18 points on 7-for-10 shooting, including 4-for-5 from deep. Danny Green had one of his hot-shooting nights as well, something that seems to come with the territory when the Spurs play the Bobcats. So it was a good night shooting for San Antonio, despite the 23 turnovers. They still won by 24 anyway.
But with Duncan, Blair and Bonner all dealing with knee issues, Baynes was the story of the night. Against the Bobcats, at least there was something new to talk about.
The Spurs are a league-best 37-11, are on a nine-game winning streak and just won at home for the 17th consecutive time. Things are currently going swimmingly, and Duncan is nearing his return.
-- Manu Ginobili felt a little tightness in his previously strained hamstring, but Pop said after the game it was nothing more than that. It doesn't appear to be anything serious going forward.
-- The brightest spot for the Bobcats has to be Kemba Walker. Ramon Sessions ended up with 20 points, and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist snatched away four steals, but there's a definite electricity around Walker on the offensive end. He, alongside MKG, should be fun to watch as Charlotte improves its roster in coming years.