Coaches and scouts are always looking for "3 and D" players. These are the guys who are premier wing defenders with the additional ability of being able to knock down the open three-pointers, thereby stretching the other team's defense. The first great "3 and D" player was probably ex-Laker Michael Cooper, who Larry Bird always said was the best in the league at covering him. As his career progressed, Coop became an excellent three point shooter, once knocking down 6 in a playoff game.
The Spurs also had an early "3 and D" player in Bruce Bowen, who started as just a "D" guy, and became much more of a complete player when he added the open corner 3 to his repertoire. Later, of course, he added a bow tie.
The Spurs' starters at the wings, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, began as classic "3 and D" players - though Kawhi has become much much more than that. Unfortunately, DG has been much much less than that this season. When the Spurs acquired Kevin Martin, I believed one reason was that the Spurs hoped (incorrectly, it seems thus far) that Martin could replace DG's lost offense.
Indeed, while watching Monday's Spurs - Memphis game, it seemed to me that DG has become Tony Allen, the notorious non-shooting defensive whiz who Kobe Bryant recently announced was the best defender Kobe has ever faced (other than Father Time). Tony Allen's offense is so notoriously bad that teams often ignore him on offense. For instance, in last year's playoffs, the Warriors assigned Andrew Bogut to "cover" Allen, and Bogut then spent most of the game in or around the key, ignoring Allen and thereby clogging up the entire Grizzlies' offense. This eventually forced Memphis to remove Allen from the game, even though they desperately needed him out there to try to check one or the other Splash Brother.
I am not saying that teams will start to leave DG wide open, as they have the same memories of him the rest of us do. However, looking at this year's stats, Allen has surpassed DG on the offensive end. In about the same number of minutes per game, Allen is averaging 8.1 points per game, compared to DG's 7.3. Allen is shooting 45% overall, compared to DG's 37%. Most amazing of all to those of us who fondly remember DG raining threes down on the Heat in two different NBA Finals, Allen is out-shooting him from the three-point line, 37.5% to 33%. While DG has been his typical wondrous self on the defensive end, for this season at least he has not been the "3 and D" guys Spurs fans and coaches have enjoyed so much in years past.
All of which makes the Spurs' accomplishments this regular season that much more remarkable. What other team approaching a franchise record 70 wins could do so with their "shooting guard" not shooting well, and averaging barely 7 points a game?
*Several weeks ago, JR Wilco and I decided that the Spurs wanted to play the Thunder in the second round (to avoid the Clippers), while the Warriors wanted the opposite. Now, I am not so sure. During the Memphis game, they announced that OKC was crushing a very good Toronto team - in Toronto. They eventually won by 119 - 100, after leading by 23 through the first three quarters. The Spurs' reward for their amazing regular season will likely be the Westwood - Durant juggernaut. I just hope the Spurs excellent defensive wings, including of course Danny Green, can control them.
*The Warriors will face a similarly tough challenge with the Clippers, who just announced that Blake Griffin will be returning, after going 28-14 without him. Interestingly, the Clippers announced Griffin was "ready" after only one full practice, his first in several months. Who does that? I assume the announcement took into account that Griffin wouldn't actually play (and thus need to be actually "ready") until after his 4-game suspension for punching out the Clippers equipment guy. No doubt about it, Griffin's return gives the Clippers a "puncher's chance" to beat the Warriors.
*Speaking of bad puns, in the recent Spurs - Timberwolves game, the Minnesota announcer described Kyle Anderson as a "poor man's Boris Diaw". I immediately thought a better description would be that Anderson is a "thin man's Boris Diaw".
*Last but not least, during the Memphis game, JR announced that Anderson was on his way to a "triple nickel" - 5 points, rebounds and assists. I responded that ex-Spur and Laker Robert Horry once had 8 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists, which I called a "triple snowman". JR asked what one would call 9 points, 9 rebound and 9 assists. We settled on "an odometer". Yep, that should about do it for today.