Throughout their ebb and flow, celestial bodies are experienced through the context of our own earthbound perspective. NBA players are a different type of star, but when it comes to narratives they're prone to the same kind of subjectivity.
At 18 games long, the Warriors' comet tail continues to blaze across the 2015-16 dawn sky and, relative to that, a five-game streak doesn't turn quite as many heads. But the Spurs, with the second-best record and point differential in the league, are gaining steam and rounding into form as they prepare for a tougher stretch, upping their offensive efficiency while their sinewy defense continues to resemble something fashioned by far more advanced life forms.
Here's one fun fact from ESPN's Marc Stein, after noting the defense's historic pace:
If San Antonio maintains current defensive efficiency -- 93.1 points allowed per 100 possessions -- it'd rank in top four of last 30 seasons— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) November 30, 2015
Tim Duncan continues to silence the great Valkyries' cry. His latest act of defiance was an impressive double-double against the Hawks, anchored by a season-best 18 rebounds.
Timmy's play doesn't grab headlines in the best of times, but on a week where another 90s star announces he's hanging it up, OId Man Riverwalk's profile remained as low-key as ever. Kobe's announcement has obviously incited reams of web content, both commemorative and condemning Bryant. There's a size-36 number-8 Lakers jersey still hanging in my childhood bedroom, which means you won't see any snark here. It hasn't been a graceful swan song for the future HoFer, but his career arc coincided with some of my formative basketball-watching years (as well as the rise of the Big Three), and I'm still appreciative of all he brought to the game.
I'm not sure if Kawhi Leonard is the anti-Kobe (his offensive game is actually starting to resemble Peak Kobe's), but his place among the league's top wings can no longer be denied. He's not only been prolific on both ends of the floor but extremely consistent, and his shooting chart is straight cash, homie. I know where most Spurs fans would side, but the debate of him or Paul George is, in the least, a decent ice breaker at dinner parties. Either way, while Leonard is healthy, the Spurs are an elite team, albeit one many will doubt until a late-January showdown against you-know-who.
In the meantime, the cosmic ballet goes on.
Marc Stein, from ESPN (Spurs rank: 2. Last week's rank: 2)
Life, in general, is going swimmingly for the Spurs, who are right where they like it as they continue to win a bunch while blending in LaMarcus Aldridge -- completely under the radar -- while Golden State soaks up all the spotlight. Not sure, though, that we can continue to call them the NBA's Ball Movement Kings, as these recent tweets will explain.
USA Today (Spurs rank: 2. Last week's rank: 3)
Quietly the second best team in the league
John Schuhmann, NBA.com (Spurs rank: 2. Last week's rank: 3)
The Spurs have won 11 of their last 12 games, are 9-0 at home, and have held each of their last five opponents under 90 points per 100 possessions, even though they've been without a starter in three of those five games. They've always been good at keeping their opponents off the line, but this season's opponent free throw rate (FTA/FGA) of just 0.199 would be the lowest in the last 43 years.
Matt Moore, CBS Sports (Spurs rank: 2. Last week's rank: 2)
The Spurs are playing a slow, ball-movement-heavy style that focuses on mid-range jumpshots. It's a crazy kind of departure from where the league has gone, but with Popovich it's working brilliantly. Oh hey, by the way, Tony Parker is good again. The Spurs never falter.
Jeremy Woo, Sports Illustrated (Spurs rank: 2 Last week's rank: 2)
Who thought adding LaMarcus Aldridge would improve the defense? The Spurs' offensive output is only incrementally down from where it was a month into last season, and they're allowing just under three fewer points per game. The incredible progress of Kawhi Leonard, the league's most stifling defender, may have something to do with it.