Greetings once again from the AT&T media center, my fellow Pounders. There's been a lot of renovation going on in the arena as you've no doubt heard, but they haven't put all the finishing touches on it just yet. The televisions here don't work, the room where Gregg Popovich gets interviewed is overflowing with doodads yet to be installed, so now he's being asked questions in this claustrophobic scrum the size of a New York City studio apartment and there's this general feeling of haphazardness and cramming is in the air.
It's like a major theater production on Broadway is about to open and all the stage crew knows they're totally understaffed and behind deadline, the actors have a notion disaster is imminent but don't want to sound like drama queens by complaining this early and the director is gulping Xanax like they're M&Ms because it's all about to come crashing down on his head.
Oh, and the basketball team looks kinda crummy.
It's preseason, of course, so none of this matters, but for those of you grumbling beforehand that the broadcast wasn't available to you anywhere on the dial, even on League Pass, thank your maker for small mercies. The second half of this game was one of the worst 24 minute stretches of basketball I've ever witnessed, and I attended games on purpose at San Diego State before Kawhi Leonard was on the squad.
Pop spoke before the game about his biggest concern with the regular season soon approaching being transition defense, and I don't think he feels any better about it now, after the Suns won the fast break battle 24 to 6. Transition defense was hardly the only problem, however. The Spurs committed 19 turnovers, many of the unforced variety. Leonard led the way there with six, while newcomers LaMarcus Aldridge and David West had three apiece.
San Antonio was terrible on offense throughout. In the first half they looked like they were playing to the crowd a bit, too unselfish to a fault and everyone trying behind-the-back passes to no one in particular. There were a few spells of fine ball movement, such as a nice sequence in the second quarter where the ball moved from one side of the floor to the other, with Tony Parker and Leonard working a nice side pick-and-roll and Leonard then dumping it off to Duncan for a layup. Plays like that were few and far between though, and the Suns defense was surprisingly sharp, physical and well communicative on their rotations. The Spurs just couldn't create many good looks inside, outside or anywhere and were generally forcing up contested bricks most of the game.
It's not like the regulars didn't play a ton, which is alarming. Every starter but Danny Green played at least 22:35, with Parker getting 30:55 (Patty Mills was being rested) and Aldridge 28:40. They never created separation like you'd expect against their good-not-great Suns counterparts.
Once the subs entered the fray it got decidedly worse. Manu Ginobili has been fantastic so far in the preseason, but his activity level was decidedly diminished in this one, and he was mostly a spectator on the floor, content to watch the rest of his teammates do nothing productive. Of the subs Ray McCallum was probably the lone bright spot. He was engaged defensively and gave Eric Bledsoe some problems with his tenaciousness and hustle.
Really, that was about it. Summer League sensations Kyle Anderson and Jonathon Simmons got 45 minutes between them and combined to make 4-of-12 shots, pulled down four rebounds, dished but two assists and turned it over thrice.
Anderson had a fine game the other night in Detroit, partly because he never tried to score, but the warts in his game resurfaced against Phoenix. He tried to back defenders down a number of times in isolation but all of his shots were heavily contested and most had no chance. It's just hard to see it happening for him because his release is so glacial.
Simmons, meanwhile has been an ever bigger disappointment in these exhibition games. He looks lost and tentative and goes long stretches without ever seeing the ball. He's not running pick-and-rolls and is extremely hesitant to shoot. He's clearly thinking too much out there instead of just playing. And for a guy who had a fine defensive reputation --granted in D-League-- he's been awful on that side of the floor, getting lost on screens or losing his man on back cuts. He's got decent guaranteed money and a two-year deal, but honestly at this point I wouldn't be shocked if the Spurs cut the cord with him or at least send him back to Austin for more seasoning. At one point Pop was so fed up with Simmons' play in the third quarter that he subbed him out for Reggie Williams.
They literally ran the offense through Williams for like a five minute stretch in the third quarter. Popovich spent almost the entire second half playing small-ball lineups and almost all of it was ghastly. It was a very bad basketball game and they should all feel bad. The Spurs might have lost to a Euro-League team tonight.
For what it's worth, Rasual Butler, Jimmer Fredette, Deshaun Thomas, Boban Marjanovic and Matt Bonner were all DNP:CDs.
Aldridge is shooting jumpers 75 minutes after the game as I type this. By now you'd think one or two would go in.
Say something nice about the Spurs, Michael.
New big honkin scoreboard pic.twitter.com/fCr0jq9x0v— Michael Erler (@MichaelErlerSBN) October 21, 2015
The new Jumbotron looks nice.