The Spurs put their heartbreaking loss to the Heat during the 2013 Finals behind them when the season started, and what a start it was. On Halloween night the Spurs beat the Grizzlies 101-94 and J. Gomez showed up why the rumors of Ginobili's demise were greatly exaggereated, and Travis Hale, back when he was SARR, gave us his first rehash of a regular season game.
With the season underway the quality stories started to pour in. Danny Green started the season cold, but Aaronstampler told us how Danny got off the schneid against the Phoenix Suns.
Boris Diaw started to play with more aggressiveness this season, looking to create for himself more than we had seen from him in the previous two seasons in San Antonio. That didn't stop him from continuing to make great passes like this one against the hapless Knicks.
Tony Parker also found success against those Knicks in early November. He makes it look so easy.
On November 13th J. Gomez wondered if starting lineups needed to be permanent, and while the Spurs settled into the Tiago Splitter, Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tony Parker lineup by the end of the season, Pop tried out 30 different lineups over the season.
"San Antonio runs offense perfectly. It was like listening to Mozart. It's just ridiculous how they play."
Before that excellent video celebrating the Spurs as a team used that quote, Caleb Saenz used it as a springboard to give us this great rehash comparing Pop's coaching to the art of conducting after the Spurs beat the Wizards in mid-November.
I mean, we go into every game with the understanding that Tony needs to dominate Fisher, and that's a lot of pressure, but almost every time he comes through, especially in the fourth quarter. I'll tell you what, defesivily he hasn't been half bad, either. Sometimes the dude just abuses people so badly that he makes me GOL, and that's not easy for a grump like me. It may sound agreegious of me, but I really do think, like most of you do, that he's the best point guard in the league. I just hope he stays healthy this year and doesn't develop Plantar Fassyboyah.
Some Spurs fans weren't happy when San Antonio resigned Tiago Splitter to his 4-year deal worth $36 million. Here's why you'll never appreciate Tiago Splitter if you just go by the box score. Shortly after that the Brazilian big man knocked down his first 16+ foot shot of his NBA career. He ended up 5-for-8 from 16-24 feet for the season, but this first one was probably the most fun.
During the next game against the Cavaliers we got out first glimpse of the "cup game" that Manu, Tim and Tony play.
Not only that, but we also got the greatest Matt Bonner GIF of all-time. First he fights Tony Parker for the ball and when Tony let's the Red Mamba have the ball, Bonner wastes no time calling an iso for himself. He might not be back next year, which in terms of a 15th man seems kind of like a bummer. He's a specialist no doubt, but he's funny and he seems to be a great presence in the locker room.
Also, notice Matt almost thought the first pass was meant for him, and had the presence of mind to quickly look around for Marco's pass. This is just such pretty basketball -- everybody on the same page, working together. Sigh.
I highly encourage you to read J. Gomez' piece on how the Spurs generate their easy shots. There is a wonderful action-by-action breakdown of just how the Spurs got such a good look on this play. Again, check out that piece. It is worth your time.
It was fitting that it was Manu Ginobili that fed Tim Duncan in a game against the Rockets on November 30th . Just the night before, Manu remarked that completing an alley-oop to Tim was a low percentage proposition due to the limited time that Big Fun is able to spend in the air. The two veterans connect on this beauty, and Tim even hangs on the rim briefly before a subtle strut in front of the Houston bench.
On December 2nd, the 37-year-old Tim Duncan put up 23 points, 21 rebounds, two blocks and two assists versus the Atlanta Hawks. If that wasn't enough he also delivered this amazing outlet pass to Tiago Splitter and then The Big Fundamental hit the game-winner.
A couple days later J. Gomez provided us with another of his fantastic articles, this one explaining that Gregg Popovich keeps experimenting with matchup-dependent starting lineups because he was looking to improve the Spurs' versatility with the playoffs in mind. Gomez peered into the future and said,
I would have loved for Bonner to start and play the first five minutes of each half. I think everyone agrees by now that Bonner is just a specialty big that should only play under certain specific circumstances. This is one of those circumstances.
The Spurs were scheduled to take on the Minnesota Timberwolves in Mexico City, but this happened.
I strongly encourage you to read Caleb Saenz' excellent oral history of the Mexico City Arena Fire. There were several great tweets about the fire, but since the arena fire came just a little over a week after Jason Kidd had one of his players intentionally bump into him, which spilled his drink and resulted in what was effectively a timeout when the Nets had none, I found this one particularly good.
Your move Jason Kidd.— Gregory Popovich (@FakeCoachPop) December 5, 2013
This one from Caleb is high quality as well.
The source of the Mexico City arena fire has been identified: pic.twitter.com/XvKmFVrjii— Caleb Saenz (@calebjsaenz) December 5, 2013
Aron Baynes had a career night against the Raptors which featured this big time jam.
On December 19th the Spurs traveled to Oakland to take on the Golden State Warriors, and they pulled out a great win on the road without their Big Three. This was the second game of a back to back, or a SEGABABA if you will, fifth game in seven nights (FIGASENI) and seventh game in ten nights (The dreaded SENITENI.) For me, it was one of the most fun games of the season and it was the game that really gave me a sense that the Spurs really were a team whose whole is greater than the sum of their parts, to use that cliche. From Boris' clutch block in transition to the way the team never gave up and just kept pounding the rock, the good guys rallied together and beat a good Warriors squad. The win pushed the Spurs' record to an otstanding 21-5.
While Tim Duncan has unquestionably had a remarkably successful career, it's sometimes painfully clear that Gregg Popovich has held Big Fun back just a little bit. Here he embarrasses Amir Johnson as he's bringing the ball up in transition. #FreeTimmy
The Spurs lost their Christmas Day game against James Harden, Dwight Howard and the Rockets. The Spurs were 22-7, but they had yet to beat an elite team and that was beginning to worry some fans. In fact, all seven of their losses to this point came from the eventual top-5 seeds in the Western Conference and the eventually first-seeded Pacers. The idea that the Spurs were a great regular season team, but couldn't hang with elite teams was seeping deeper into Spurs fans heads. Aaronstampler wondered if it was time to get pessimistic about the Spurs and J.R. Wilco tried to talk him out of getting onto a ledge.
I haven't written much about Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard so far, but he started to find his groove as the season wore on after starting the season unable to connect from downtown and generally not playing up to the inflated expectations that he had after his 2013 Finals performance. So here's some Whi; this GIF is from a game against the Mavericks. Leonard grabs a rebound and takes it all the way down the court and throws it down with ease. We have Kawhi Leonard on our team! Yes we do!
Shortly after that J. Gomez explained why Tiago's defense is unquestionably elite. You're probably good with that now, but there was certainly a contingent of Spurs fans that thought he was overpaid and overrated.
Gomez then gave us a piece where he tried to figure out what had happened to Tiago's offense. The Brazilian big man was in the middle of a pretty bad slump over the past 10 games in late December. I encourage you to check it out to see just how the offensive system the Spurs run affects Tiago's play.
Caleb Saenz, who just happens to be one of my favorite writers on Pounding the Rock, penned this wonderful piece on whether nature or nurture was more important in the NBA. I highly recommend reading the whole thing if you missed it the first time, and just a paragraph doesn't do the piece justice, but here's a sample:
Few NBA talents are fortunate enough to land in the environment that Duncan did. But his development wasn't exactly spoonfed to him, either. Duncan's work ethic is the stuff of legend, the most obvious example being how he's slimmed down his body to save his knees so late in his career. Nobody "taught" him that. Perhaps the organization encouraged it. Maybe he witnessed an example of it in the final stages of David Robinson's career. But nobody walked him through that kind of work. He sought it out himself. He put in the time. The most crucial part of his development, at least, was intrinsic to Tim Duncan, basketball player.
As 2013 came to a close a picture of Tony Parker using the quenelle gesture surfaced. While this was quite the story for about a day, just as with every other minor controversy the Spurs have seen over the years, it blew over quickly after an apology from Tony. and what sold it for me, a Popovich statement supporting his guy. Via Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express News:
"I talked with Tony," Popovich said about 90 minutes before Tuesday's game with Brooklyn. "I felt bad for him. Tony doesn't have an anti-Semitic or anti-Muslim or anti-Christian bone in his body. That gesture was made three years ago and at that time he thought it meant something totally different.
"Which it did, to him. It's morphed into something else over time. But it's a tribute to his leadership to understand it has morphed, as he found out, into something pretty hateful. He realized he needed to say something, that it's not appropriate.
"There's enough bigotry and racism and hatred in the world already. That thing has been taken too far. When he was informed of that and understood it, he was very quick to denounce it and understand what he had to do. So I was proud of him."
Shortly after the New Year, Caleb Saenz again provided us with an exquisite rehash that compared Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. The basis for the rehash was Cormac McCarthy's The Road and the question that embodies the soul of the book, "Are you still carrying the fire?" While I give my highest recommendation to read or revisit this post, it'll only take a couple of minutes and is well worth it, I'll give you guys a couple excerpts:
Throughout his career, Kevin Garnett was an unquestioned carrier of "the fire." The headbutts to the stanchion, the often terribly inappropriate trash talk, the fantastic production - the spectacle provided by Kevin Garnett was a symbol of true passion in the NBA
Tuesday night, these subtle but profound changes [to their respective careers] were magnified by the brilliance of Tim Duncan. Both men are 37, established NBA veterans with stellar, championship-certified careers. But in the Spurs' 113-92 pasting of the Nets, it was clear that only one of them was carrying the fire.
One might think seeing Garnett this way would be a treat for his detractors, but it really isn't. Fans of Tim Duncan always entertained the thought that he'd outlast his greatest rivals, but few, if any, of us imagined that Duncan's durability would be assisted so much by Father Time.
Maybe it's because we know how fortunate we are to have what we do in Tim Duncan and the Spurs. At 37, he's done his part to stave off irrelevancy, and the team has done its part to support him with a balanced, cohesive roster. In a season like this one, where Duncan's games against his former rivals seem more like visits to retirement homes, it's easy to see how this thing could have gone.
Just a game after the Spurs beat the Nets the Cup Game was back. This time with a hilarious attempt at getting Manu Ginobili back from Timmy. It's so easy to root for these guys when you know they are great friends. It just makes it better. It does. It wouldn't hurt you to read the article that J.R. Wilco wrote about the event, but if you're pressed for time here's the GIF of Timmy trying to prank the wiliest of all of the Spurs while Manu looks on from between his legs.
Man, I love this team! They're a goofy bunch, but the love and friendship is palpable, which helps make this team so easy to root for.
Gomez then gave us a persuasive article about why Spurs fans shouldn't panic about the regular season to the extreme that they were:
The Spurs have been so good for so long that there is nothing they can do in the regular season that would satisfy us. If they dominate, we'll worry about complacency or how it will translate to the playoffs. If they don't, we think of it as an omen that they just aren't good enough.
Then J.R. Wilco gave us one more reason not to sweat the season at this point. While not pointing out anything we didn't know, this Manu Ginobili GIF had to give even the pessimistic fan a reason to have hope.
On January 4th I published a piece about the basketball and jazz, playing the changes, where I said that:
Jazz and basketball have been compared many times because they share many similarities. From fast-breaks to original takes, these American inventions capture the imagination and ignite a passion for life and art. But the heart of the kinship between them is something rarely discussed, or understood, about either: improvisation.
I intend to publish the second part to this this summer, so be sure to check back. Originally I planned to compare Paul Chambers and Timmy, but the relative briefness of Chambers' career and the sustained excellence that Tim has had over his much longer-than-normal career have caused me to rethink that. Come back soon to see which jazz musician I'll compare to the great Duncan.
Tim Duncan, who you've probably noticed is quite the outlet passer, unleashed this beauty against the Clippers in early January.
Since the Spurs played 105 games during the season and postseason it makes it an easy 35 games to get through the first third of the season. The good guys finished 27-8 over their first 35 games, which translates to a 77% winning percentage over their games after an overtime win over the Memphis Grizzlies. This is a good place to end the first part of the Total Season Review.
Check back soon, Pounders. We'll have the rest of the Spurs' Championship season up soon.