So, as I was sitting through twelve minutes of fourth quarter basketball in which the most interesting storyline was whether Anthony Bennett was going to surpass his career high of 5 points (he did - a whole 9!), I pondered this question; what if the Spurs held a 'Players Only Meeting'?
First off, this conceit assumes that, upon entering the locker room after a game, Pop would in any way allow a player to tell him to leave said locker room so the players could "have it out." But let's assume he wouldn't immediately go apoplectic and allow the Spurs to settle their differences man to man. Who would speak first? What problems would have to be dealt with? Who would throw a chair at whom first? Who would be the scapegoat?
Which is obviously where this conceit falls apart. Teams like the Spurs don't have Players Only Meetings, but I don't think that's because they're winning. The Players Only Meeting, it's true, is a province of the flailing, underachieving team, but in truth a number of teams could probably benefit from hashing things out amongst themselves. But the Spurs, slight offensive mediocrity aside, won't ever need a Players Only Meeting because POMs are indicative of a certain problem: a fundamental disbelief in The System and the players operating in it. As if we needed any more confirmation, tonight's unqualified drubbing of the woeful Cavaliers illustrated that these Spurs have full confidence in the way The System works.
And why shouldn't they? The Spurs have played opponents with an average .466 winning percentage over this preternaturally early ten-game win streak, yes. But when looking at the individual games, anyone can plainly see the Spurs are excising the mediocre minutiae of their System with each passing win. Sluggish start to games? How's a ten point lead ten minutes into the game sound? Ball not zipping around the perimeter quite quick enough? 30 assists and 16-24 from deep probably counts as appropriately zippy. Tim suddenly looking like he's throwing the ball at the basket, devoid of touch? He may not have totally steered out of the skid yet (got rejected by Andrew Bynum on a quick spin along the left sideline), but he did drain a midrange shot and his trademark bank shot from the deep left block on his way to a 4-6 night.
Games like this run the risk of sending fans into ultra-positive tizzies, where the world is sunshine and Tony is going to pull down a nightly +29 in 15 minutes of play. Lets set one thing straight - the Cleveland Cavaliers are a complete mess. Kyrie Irving looks entirely disinterested in performing when not being guarded by scrubs, the Cavs wing rotation of Matthew Dellavedova/Alonzo Gee/Dion Waiters/Earl Clark seem incapable of staying inside offensive sets or following their man through picks and Andrew Bynum, though he may seem resurgent with 16 points and 6 rebounds tonight, effectively stalled any small amount of ball movement the Cavs could generate by slowly making two post moves before jacking up a shot. Without totally speaking ill of a Popovich acolyte, Mike Brown has now mismanaged the opening games of two very talented teams in two straight seasons. Perhaps we're overstating his coaching credentials slightly? Wrangling a team full of mid-twenty year-olds has got to be tough, but Brown should have some idea how to handle this group.
So let's temper the excitement. The Spurs have done exactly what they should have against the cake schedule: fine tune the machine and pummel teams that deserve to be pummeled. But next week comes an increase in the level of difficulty -- the Pelicans, the Thunder, the Magic and Rockets all loom large and pesky in the Spurs' way to the best start in franchise history (13-1 in 2010-11). This game against a comically inept Cavaliers squad served to illustrate that the Spurs are on early season cruise control, content enough to keep worrisome trends from effecting their demeanor, yet still maintaining a firm grip on the task at hand; in this case, taking the Cavaliers to the woodshed.
Another game goes by without a Spurs Players Only Meeting. And while I think it's fun to ponder the idea of Boris Diaw spouting off at Tiago Splitter because he's "being selfish" or "consistently missing rotations," I think the reality of a Spurs Players Only Meeting would be quite boring. Perhaps something like this.
[Tim Duncan shuts door on enraged Popovich]
Tim: Ok, Players Only Meeting Time. Let's Hear it.
Tim: Good. We're all cool? We can go home? Good.
[Team dutifully nods and goes about their business being the best team in the Western Conference]
[Popovich enters empty locker room. Calls Coaching Staff Only Meeting in fit of rage.]
Yeah, that seems about right.
In honor of "Bring Your Family To Work Day" in the Spurs offices, the Coyote brought out the ultra-rare Coyote Jr. and somewhat less rare Mrs. Coyote for a little bit in the first quarter. The small child behind me squealed seeing Coyote Jr., so I guess that's a win?
Standard Pop Quote
They're not as bad as it seemed tonight, and we're not as good as it seems.
Tim Duncan - 9 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 blocks on 4-6 shooting in 16 minutes.
Duncan is still clearly having problems getting into his game. He was one of the only players to come out in the hours before the game, ostensibly to work with Chip Engelland and Sean Marks on his outside shot. In warmups, he's allowed to get the ball in momentum and swing through his shooting motion with ease, resulting in a lot of makes that can be a bit deceiving. During the game Duncan has a nasty habit of stopping his momentum when he gets the ball at the top of the key. It's clear he's surveying the play before taking his shot. But what it does is rob his stroke of that little extra momentum that's causing his shot to go a little flat and short. I've also noticed, particularly in the Memphis game last night, Tim is getting much more demonstrably frustrated with himself and his failing touch.
However, his activity level during the game and freedom moving within the system led to a different looking Tim for sixteen minutes of playing time. Playing against a wholly disinterested looking Andrew Bynum and a far overmatched Tristan Thompson did wonders for Tim's body language, and he found himself in much more advantageous positions for boards and shot opportunities. If he continues working his shot like he did this pregame, the touch will out. What made Tim the game MVP tonight was that he didn't allow himself to get visually frustrated when things that he would normally do failed to go his way. A shift in body language often indicates an substantial improvement. Perhaps this is the beginning of Tim's progression to the mean.
Kyrie Irving - 15 points, 0 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal on 7-17 shooting in 27 minutes.
This line is deceptive in a number of ways. Most of Kyrie's points came in a non-crucial portion of the third quarter when Pop had already yanked Tony Parker and was giving defense-of-Kyrie duties to Cory Joseph. Before said third quarter spurt, Kyrie had been an abysmal 2-10 with four points, alongside his trademark pathetic defensive effort and minuscule command of the Cavaliers offense. Kyrie was famously the guy who called the Players Only Meeting a few weeks back, and while that overtly shows that he's trying to turn himself into a leader, on the court he appears no more mature than Cavaliers scapegoat Dion Waiters. When you allow your offense to be run for almost an entire half through the plodding Andrew Bynum, who legitimately has the body language of a man who hates playing basketball, you're asking to have your on court leadership called into question.
Kyrie is young. Perhaps he should not be saddled with this kind of pressure to lead a team that many expected to challenge for a lower-end playoff spot. But the fact remains he is doing a piss poor job of it, as well as being a pretty poor excuse for a starting point guard. One of the main reasons the Cavaliers look so listless was because their offensive sets carry no momentum or energy. You need only look to the Spurs' bench mob, The Foreign Legion, and the way Manu commands the phrenetic pace of that team, to see that offensive energy should come from the primary ballhandler. That falls on Kyrie, and for that being young should not be an excuse.
The Cavs have a myriad of seemingly unsolvable problems (Anderson Varejao looks like he hates his team, Andrew Bynum looks like he hates basketball, Cavs wings look like they've eaten too many wings, Anthony Bennett achieved a career milestone of nine points tonight), but the genesis of their offensive woes is coming from Kyrie Irving's unwillingness to buy into his team's system.
By The Numbers
- 6 - The number of field goals made by Danny Green, the Spurs' leading scorer. This was also the most shots made by any Spur player. The Spurs won by 30 points and nobody made more than six shots. Let that soak in.
- 2 - Number of Tiago hook shots that went in.
- 2 - Number of Tiago hook shots attempted. We may need to start reevaluating whether this is an undesirable shot.
- 250 - Tim Duncan's listed weight, which I don't believe for a second. Earl Clark is listed at 234, and there's no way Tim is a pound heavier than Earl, let alone sixteen.
- 30 - Assists for the Spurs
- 39 - Made Baskets for the Cavaliers. Oof.
- 3 - Number of Australians on the court at the end of the game (Aron Baynes, Patty Mills and rookie Cav guard Matthew Dellavedova). Couldn't see Mills, but Baynes and Dellavedova shared a hearty hug as the fourth quarter clock ran out. Aussies are taking over the NBA you guys. Someone alert Leigh Ellis.
- 10 - Game winning streak for the Spurs
- 15 - Days holding the NBA Championship Belt. COME AND TAKE IT.
Sequence of the Game
NOTHING ELSE JUST THIS.
Bird is the Word
Tiago just yelled "sub!" as he approached the scorers table. That's adorable.
— Matthew R Tynan (@Matthew_Tynan) November 24, 2013
Tiago leads the NBA in "points on shots that should never, ever go in" according to SportVU.— Project Spurs (@projectspurs) November 24, 2013
Boris looking absolutely resplendent in his custom made gray suit and lavender dress shirt.— Dan McCarney (@danmccarneysaen) November 24, 2013
I'm Googling fart jokes. RT @Matthew_Tynan believe this is first time this lineup has been on the floor. Looking through lineup data...— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) November 24, 2013
I wonder if an NBA team has ever scored 126 points w/out a single player making at least 7 FG's? The Spurs are the true definition of TEAM.— Steve Kerr (@SteveKerrTNT) November 24, 2013
Here's a little image I made: The two best teams in the NBA, and where in draft their ten starters were drafted. pic.twitter.com/Z8pijAQW2k
— Alex D. (@DewNO) November 24, 2013
The Spurs Machine has no pity.— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) November 24, 2013
Odds and Ends
AGAIN, NOTHING BUT THIS
Vs. The New Orleans Pelicans (6-6), Monday, November 25: Not gonna lie, freakishly excited about this one. Although it doesn't necessarily bode well that Tim, just when he's starting to get some of his mojo back, has to face a twenty year-old defensive phenomenon like Anthony Davis. I am very excited to see how the Spurs offense handles a team that theoretically should do fairly well defending it. Jrue Holiday has shown flashes of being an above average defender, and Davis obviously makes the four men around him seem infinitely more talented than they actually are. This is the Spurs' first non-Memphis divisional matchup, and we'll be looking to keep the Belt, the Winning Streak, and the Undefeated Home Record intact. Should be a fun one.
MORE FROM Pounding the Rock
- Spurs demolish Cavs for 10th straight, 126-96 - Bonner hilarity ensues
- Reviewing the Spurs' first 10 games of the season
- Spurs survive vicious Grizzly attack, Davy Crockett their way to nine straight
- What the Spurs should do as long as Tim Duncan shoots poorly
- Why you'll never appreciate Tiago Splitter if you just go by the box score
- Only small adjustments needed to get Duncan's offense going