Since I am a Spurs fan in Los Angeles, I have the advantage of Southern California weather (71 and sunny today!), but the disadvantage of having to watch the Spurs on NBA League Pass. While that is a huge plus over the old days when you couldn't find NBA games on television, it means I occasionally wind up watching Spurs games announced by "foreign" announcers. In Wednesday night’s game against the Kings, this meant I watched the game with the feed with the Sacramento Kings announcers
Talk about a tough job. Game after game, week after week, season after season, the Sacramento guys need to try to stay enthusiastic about a franchise that, to put it mildly, has struggled. In many ways, the Kings have been the anti-Spurs. Sacramento has had multiple changes in ownership, administration and coaches. They have high draft choices in the draft every season, and those high draft choices have rarely become good NBA players. Their franchise guy is somewhat unlikable. The Spurs make the playoffs yearly, the Kings never do.
And the Kings announcers seem to realize what they are up against. They make a good effort, and come across as knowledgeable about the game – and compliment the Spurs organization – but there are only so many ways to say "the Kings throw the ball away again." Spurs fans, be very thankful you have announcers who are able to enjoy announcing the games. While not everyone can, or wants to, live in LA, it is better than living in Sacramento listening to the Kings announcers gallantly try to make the Kings sound interesting, as the team heads towards yet another lottery pick.
1. Some guy named Koufos out-jumped Pau Gasol on the opening tip. I miss having Duncan win virtually every tip over his last seasons. Even when he couldn't jump any more.
2. Matt Barnes checked into the game late in the first quarter. If you had asked me before the game if Barnes was still in the league, I would have said no. If you had told me Barnes was in the league, and asked me what team he played for, I would have sounded like the Kings announcer describing a Kings’ possession. A lot of silence. That being said, Barnes played (for the Kings), and played well. He would have been a good Spur -- underrated and undrafted out of college, turned into a pretty good NBA player with a long career. Don't know if Pop would like the tattoos, of course.
3. Kawhi is the best defender on the planet. So the Spurs put him on the other team's best wing player -- in this game, Rudy Gay of the Kings. But the Spurs then switch almost every screen -- so Kawhi winds up not covering the other team's best wing much of the time. I don't often question the wisdom of Pop. But if I was the other team's best wing, I sure would be happy when Kawhi switched off of me to cover someone else.
4. Spurs starting bigs might be the best ever combination of 7 footers who consistently knock down 17 foot jumpers. While that doesn't lead to 3 point plays, or dunks, it certainly spreads the floor. It is also contrary to the new conventional wisdom of maximizing 3 pointers and lay-ups, and minimizing long 2s. Gasol and Aldridge draining long 2s works very well. When the shots go in. Yet another example of Pop adjusting the system to fit his players, and not the other way around.
5. I was surprised to see Danny Green play at all, and thought he was not moving well. Of course, I was wrong -- or at least wrong about how he would shoot the ball. Before tiring late, he swished 3 of his first 4 threes. Not a Tony Allen clone this night.
6. I will absolutely be in Staples Center tonight to see the Spurs take on the Lakers. Like the Spurs with Pop, the Lakers are proving that coaching matters. With their young coach Luke Walton, the Lakers are outperforming expectations by a lot. Yes, coaching matters.
7. Speaking of coaching, Pop is about to pass Larry Brown on the all-time coaching wins list. Pop's long journey to the Spurs began when he took a sabbatical from coaching Division 3 ball at Pomona Pitzer College outside of Los Angeles. He spent much of his sabbatical year coaching with Larry Brown at Kansas, which then led to Brown asking Pop to join him as an assistant when Brown coached San Antonio all those years ago. Put another way, if not for Larry Brown, Pop might still be coaching basketball at Pomona Pitzer, probably teaching a few history classes on the side. And loving it.