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Popovich Starting Cory Joseph was sneaky brilliant

Tony Parker is out for at least a month. Spurs fans across the galaxy were wondering what moves Pop would use to help the team through the next four weeks without his poing guard offense's initiator. Well, the fact that he did something unexpected that worked perfectly shouldn't be that much of a surprise, should it?

Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

This recap was created by people like you. Every time there's a Spurs game, there is a Game Thread happening here on Pounding the Rock. You are invited to log in and participate in the fun. And, if you are lucky enough, I just might quote you in my recap. That's my thing. I take your Game Thread comments and use them to create my Game Recap. Cool? Cool. I'll see you there. As always, your comments are in bold, mine are not.

I just heard Bill Simmons say that OKC was going to be the top seed in the West because of Parker's injury. I used to like that guy. I hope Pop extends the lead and rubs it in Simmons' face at the end of the season. by Badpierre
I felt that Bill Simmons' comment was accurate. If you had to bet your life on the Spurs keeping the one-seed or getting passed by OKC, you'd take OKC. Tony is hurt and our schedule, while being home-heavy, is ridiculously challenging down the stretch. If Tony only takes three weeks to heal, which would be the best case scenario, we'll get him back for the March 27th game. Now, here's the Spurs' close to the season beginning with Tony's hopeful return on the 27th. Nuggets, Clippers, Heat, @ Grizzlies, Magic, @ OKC, Hawks, @ Nuggets, Kings, @ Lakers, @ Warriors, and finally, the Wolves. Given that ridiculously difficult schedule, even if we had Tony for the next 4 weeks, I wouldn't be upset at anyone for picking OKC to pass the Spurs. That being said, who cares? Did you watch the Spurs last night? WOW.

Who's going to start a PG? by spursfan87
CoJo ... by kenshinsama

Cory Joseph with the big start in front of Patty Mills, Nando de Colo and an apparently healthy enough to play in a blowout, Gary Neal. This is Popovich and his coaching staff being sneaky brilliant. Pop elected to bring Cory Joseph up from the D-League and give him the start because he didn't want both the second unit and the starters to have to adapt to Tony's absence.

The Spurs bench has been arguably the best bench in the league all season. Along with Tony, the bench has been peaking recently. In how many games this season has the bench extended the Spurss lead or fought their way back into the game? How many times have they simply sustained the lead that the Spurs' starters earned? Now, how many times did they under-perform? You paused after that last one because they've been that good. Pop avoided altering the chemistry of his second unit by starting Cory Joseph over all of them. Sneaky brilliant, right?

So, starting Cory Joseph was a way to minimize the loss of Tony Parker, while complimenting all those involved. With this single move, Pop demonstrated the confidence he has in Danny, Kawhi, Tiago and Duncan by giving them Cory Joseph. It also validated his trust in Cory to lead the starting unit. At the same time, he gave the ultimate compliment to his bench by implying that he needs that group to continue to produce at the highest level and not even an injury to MVP Tony Parker would be cause enough to break up the bench's chemistry. So, can we have a slow clap evolving into a standing ovation for Pop? I don't compliment Popovich all that often, but the impact of this tweak to the starting lineup was brilliant and cannot be overlooked.

So Pounders, what's the environment like at the AT&T center? I'm gonna go see a game for my 21 birthday. by Noah J
Happy early 21st birthday! My advice to you would be to take it slow, early and fast, late. As far as the AT&T Center goes, arenas are only as good as you make them. They are kind of like an empty glass. If you add some Jack and Coke, good glass. Some spoiled milk, Minneota's glass.

We do have a fantastic glass, though; it's 21.13 times better than Houston's arena. (I like it when people do that. Someone tried to unfairly bill me the other day and added .13 to the end of the bill, just so it looked like they did some math and weren't creating the numbers out of nothing. Jerks.)

I think you should pre-fill the glass with good stuff so that the game is the cherry on top. So, have an early dinner at Chris Madrid's. They have the best burgers in San Antonio. If someone claims there's a better burger in San Antonio, that's how you know they suck like spoiled milk in Minnesota. Eat your burger early enough so you have time to swing by Bombay's Bicycle Club for some pre-gaming. It's about as close to the AT&T Center as you will want to get. Anything closer, aside from the tourist hangouts downtown, should be avoided. Shoot some pool, listen to some music and enjoy the ambiance. If you do those two things before you hit the AT&T Center, you'll be set to have a terrific time, regardless.

I'm a newish pounder, and just wanted to recommend to any other newbies to read The Lexicon. I did earlier today and understood SOOO much more of the conversations. It's like watching Bugs Bunny as a kid and then seeing it as an adult, there's a lot the kids just don't get! by chajamamama
It's something that does not get said enough. ALL NEW PEOPLE, be sure to hit the Lexicon and study it carefully. It'll make PtR much more enjoyable for you. A lot of mistakes that are made aren't really mistakes; instead, they are the continuing of a tradition. For example, 'As always, Tony must dominate Fisher.' We understand that Fisher is not available for domination 82 games out of the year, but it was repeated back in the day and it stuck. Thankfully, at the conclusion to every preview, we are reminded of Tony and his domination of Fisher. It is my hope that two decades from now, Tony will still be dominating Fisher in every preview, leading noobs to ask, "Who is this Tony guy and why does he need to dominate this Fisher guy?" Then we can all laugh and say, "Noobs." Good times ahead.

Also, I don't know if I thought of this on my own or if it's something I read on PtR and stole, but what do you think of a PtR shirt that has a collage of PtR Lexicon words and acronyms? Something like this, but with Amazine, Brillian, Otstanding, Triple Lindy, FARS (self-call), SegaBaba, CIA Pop, stay off the subject line, etc. with
Come Join the Fun

underneath. I'd buy that shirt, would you?

Manu doing it all. Meh at the doubters. by LatinD
4 point play by Manu! Nice! by anirontag

Manu Ginobili is pulling a fantastic Horry on all of us, isn't he? Tim Duncan said the following after a game, "I'll tell you the deal with Manu. Manu just hangs out the entire game, he does it all season long. He doesn't do anything. He doesn't feel like playing. He shows up sometimes. Then you put him in the fourth quarter in a big game, whether it be in the regular season or playoffs, and he's like, "OK, it's time to play now. I've been hanging out the whole season and it's time to play now." And as funny as it seems, that's how it is."

Yes, I replaced 'Rob' with 'Manu,' but aren't we almost to this point with Manu? I think Manu probably would have played great all season had he not been injured, but maybe he's to the point where his body will not allow him to be Manu, consistently. He now has to pick the games and quarters where he shows up. I'll take this version of "Turn it on, Turn it off" Manu over the, "Maybe Manu's just lost it" version we were trying to not come to grips with all season long. That sure looked like a fastball last night. If he still has that pitch, the Spurs are even more dangerous than their record indicates.

So, what exactly happened with Ibaka today? Was it blatant? by Noah J
The Thunder somehow out-dirtied the Clippers the other night. It wasn't just this punch, the Thunder were throwing cheap shots the entire game. The low-blow by Ibaka was just the most obvious. Both those teams are 25% crazy. Wouldn't it be nice if they faced each other in the playoffs? There's a good chance ejections and suspensions would be handed out if they played each other, not to mention the punishment the winner would have to endure to emerge victorious. That series would greatly benefit the team waiting to play them, hopefully that'd be our Spurs.

I'm amazed at how solid the system is, regardless of the players. by LatinD
Everyone is talking about the Spurs' system like it's something that was invented in 2013. I don't like it. Every team in the NBA has a motion offense and all motion offenses are essentially the same. I think every team has the Spurs' system, they just do not have the culture to run it as efficiently as the Spurs. Maybe this is just semantics, but I think the analysts and commentators (and cool kids that write extremely well) need to replace "system" with "culture."

The culture began with Gregg Popovich and has been continuously reinforced first by David Robinson, and now by Tim Duncan. The Spurs' culture is responsible for the success of the team. It's not the offensive system that makes players interchangeable, it's each player's willingness to sacrifice for the team. This Spurs organization would be successful running Phil Jackson's triangle or Mike D'Antoni's 7 Seconds or Less. The Spurs' culture destroyed ego, which has allowed beautiful, selfless basketball to bloom. Great basketball teams that play efficiently do so because they all believe in the team first. Now, if you have the two best basketball players on the planet, you can get around the team requirement. But the Spurs do not, yet still win games every year and are perennial contenders.

The culture dictates that every player is given a role, and it is that player's ultimate responsibility to succeed in that role to help the team win. The culture allows for the outrageous assist numbers we've been enjoying. The culture is selflessness. Without the Spurs' culture, their offensive system would never work, (see 99% of the teams in the league).

The unfortunate thing about the Spurs' culture is that every component of the team is somehow dependent on the rest, and the Spurs no longer have a great one-on-one player to carry the team when things are failing. It's essentially a house of cards. It's incredible to watch when things are going well, but if a few cards begin to wobble, it's all coming down.

Because the Spurs do not have those elite one-on-one players, the Spurs' offensive game relies heavily on timing and finesse. Tony, in my opinion, is not an elite one-on-one player. He needs driving lanes to create his own shot and those are dependent on the rest of the components working. So, Tony is as good as the team allows, just like everyone else on the roster. Manu used to be one-on-one capable, but is no longer (maybe). Tim definitely was one-on-one capable, but not anymore. Today, Lebron, Wade, Durant and Melo are the breed. Regardless of how their team is performing, they can create four high percentage shots for themselves in a row. We have no one like that. That's how I would define an elite one-on-one player. A player that has the ability to create four consecutive high percentage shots without the help of his team.

The Spurs' reliance on timing and finesse is why they can be fouled into playing a poor game so easily. It's also why, when a few things go wrong, a lot of the time it all goes wrong and the Spurs can play entire games without seeming like themselves. Everyone of our 10 or so playing cards leans on each other for better or worse. At this point in the Spurs' evolution, they've learned to avoid those 'for worse' situations, but they still occur.

Personally, I love this about the Spurs. In my biased mind, they play the game the way basketball should be played. We above I. Team above star. Pop's NBA above Stern's NBA. It may be a fragile house of cards, but when things are clicking, no one plays basketball as beautifully as the Spurs' culture allows the system to execute.

(All comments came from the Game Thread. Next game, join the fun!)

Here is Matthew Tynan's Game Recap.

Here is the Game Rehash.

And here is LatinD's Odds and Ends.