Welcome to In the Bonus, our weekly staff roundable focused on the Spurs and the NBA at large. This week Marilyn Dubinski, Jesus Gomez, Mark Barrington, Bruno Passos, and editor-in-chief, J. R. Wilco take on even more facets of Jugo Abuelo and its expanse on the rest of the aging Spurs members, the “hack-a” strategy, Bryn Forbes’ final days under contract, and Kawhi Leonard’s continued recovery.
The following questions were submitted to the writers over the weekend and reflect the games against the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Phoenix Suns. For discussion about the recent road trip to Portland, Sacramento, and Los Angeles, be sure to check back next Tuesday.
Bryn Forbes’ contract becomes guaranteed this week. What will the Spurs do?
Marilyn Dubinski: I think he’ll become guaranteed, and he deserves it. He has improved dramatically in every facet of the game (except free throw shooting), and with guards/wings struggling to stay healthy or get past Pop’s “injury management” program, I think he’s still an important part of the team and don’t see another position in more need that might cause him to be waived out of desperation.
Jesus Gomez: He’s staying and might have a few suitors in restricted free agency next off-season. I have to say, I didn’t see it coming. He was great in Summer League, but that’s the perfect setting for gunners, so I didn’t take it seriously. I thought he was going to be waived as soon as everyone was healthy so that the Spurs could add a big. Instead, he’s likely going to remain a rotation player, at least until the playoffs start. Good on you, Bryn.
Mark Barrington: I think it’s a no-brainer to pick up his option for the rest of the year. But I’ve been surprised before by several of Buford’s roster moves in the past, so maybe he’ll get cut to sign Andrew Bogut. Who knows?
Bruno Passos: Keep him. He knows the system, is still improving, and has proven capable of accepting basically any role.
J. R. Wilco: I don’t know anyone who was less excited than I was about Forbes’ prospects coming into this year. Gomez says he didn’t see this coming. I was in full show me don’t tell me mode. I’d heard so much about what a great shooter he was, and yet every NBA game I watched him play, he’d just brick three after three. After the Summer League, I was convinced of nothing besides his ability to be a G-League star because (outside of that one NBA game) he’d shown an utter inability to hit 3’s while wearing a San Antonio Spurs uniform no matter how wide open he was. Well, he’s gotten over that. And he hits twos as well. And he show’s consistent effort on defense. What more could you ask for? He’ll stick in SA.
Manu made a 3-point “shot” in New York and NO ONE knew it. How does that happen with 3 referees? And should they have rolled back the clock and made the Knicks take it from the back court?
Dubinski: I’ll be brutally honest and admit that I didn’t initially realize it was a basket until everyone on the Spurs side went crazy. Frankly, I believe Michael Beasley when he says didn’t see it go in either considering the way the ball awkwardly bounced out of the basket to him near the free throw line. That being said, I was watching on a medium-sized TV that was several feet away. The refs were right there, and the fact that not one of them saw it go in is beyond me. They deserved their appearance on Shaqtin’ a Fool. As for how they enforced it, nothing about how that went down seemed by the book, but in the end we got the basket so that’s all that matters to me.
Gomez: I also didn’t see it going in. I though it had grazed the front of the rim. It was a strange play. It is weird that none of the refs saw it, though. But I think the combination of how unusual the play was and Beasley so confidently dribbling up court as if it had been a miss contributed to the confusion. Ultimately they gave the Spurs the bucket, so I can’t be too upset about the officiating.
Barrington: To be honest, I was confused about whether it was a basket or not when I watched it live on TV. I’m glad that sanity prevailed and the referees reviewed the play and gave the points to Manu. A strict interpretation of the rules would have required rolling back the clock to the time of the basket and redoing the in-bounds play, but I’m glad they bent the rules and kept the game going. It may not have been by the book, but it was good officiating.
Passos: As with most things in life, I blame Michael Beasley, who seemed to be the only one on the floor to confidently play on as if nothing had happened. Technically, they should’ve brought the play back, but I’m OK with leaning into the human error of it all, giving SA the points, and playing on.
Wilco: I also didn’t notice that it was a basket. And I think that although the refs took a while to get the basket scored, I was kind of amazed that they stopped the play at all. I mean, it’s not like all ten players turned to them and agreed that they missed something. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a play where the refs halted action based on a couple of players insisting that the officials had missed something. I love seeing stuff that I’ve never seen before.
Pop went with a hack-a-Ben-Simmons in the final minutes of the 4th quarter. What is your take on this strategy?
Dubinski: You all know my take: I’m not part of the anti-hack wagon, but I don’t believe it should be used when the Spurs are up and the other team is struggling to make shots. That was the case when Pop went to it in that game, and my opinion is it backfired since it stopped the Spurs offensive rhythm and rebooted the 76ers’.
Gomez: It’s a complex topic. I get the reasoning behind it. I think we all do. When it works, it looks genius. When it doesn’t, it’s hard to defend it. At this point, however, I’m tired of the discussion. Maybe the NBA should make it illegal and be done with it.
Barrington: I’m not generally opposed to the strategy, but I thought it wasn’t a good call at that particular time, especially since Simmons was hitting roughly 143% of his free throws in the game up to that point. I know he’s not a good free throw shooter in general, but he was looking good in the game. Hot streaks are a real thing.
Passos: Tactically, I’m pretty neutral on it. I’ve seen games where it seemed to work, and I’ve seen some where the free-throw shooter has managed to buck his statistical expectations and make the opposing team pay. As a viewer, I don’t think it takes away from games, since I appreciate the internal drama and pressure put on one player, as well as the decisions coaches have to make on whether to keep those guys in.
Wilco: I’ve never had a problem with the strategy since free throws are something you can get better at, and we have Andre Drummond to thank for being the latest example of that. Don’t like being fouled intentionally? Improve, make them pay, and they’ll quit. That said, I’m with Marilyn on the way the strategy should be implemented.
Manu Ginobili scored 21 points off the bench against Phoenix last Friday. Parker scored 10 in the first quarter recently and Pau Gasol had a triple-double just over a week ago. Who else above 35 is playing this well in the NBA?
Dubinski: If you asked me to name every player older than 35 I’m pretty confident I’d miss a lot of them, but Dwyane Wade has really boosted the Cavaliers up since accepting a 6th man role. Dirk Nowitizki still has his vintage moments, and while Vince Carter has only played in 23 games for one of the worst teams in the league, he did just beat Manu to the “first 40-year-old to score 20 points off the bench” by a week (while outscoring LeBron James, no less).
Gomez: There are old guys on other teams that are performing well. Dirk is still good. Z-Bo is doing well in Sacramento. Tyson Chandler is still a good two-way center. Wade is a really good bench guy now. The fact that Manu and Parker are still doing well is a credit to the way the Spurs manage minutes, though. Both were supposed to age horribly, yet there they are, still useful past their presumed expiration date.
Barrington: Due to a lot of issues beyond my control, I haven’t been watching as much NBA basketball this season as I’d like to. So I really haven’t seen anyone who hasn’t played against the Spurs. But Vinsanity is still great, as is Dwyane Wade.
Passos: There’s a list of old dudes who can still produce in meaningful ways -- Dirk, David West, Z-Bo, Dwyane Wade -- but the Spurs of a Certain Age are the cream of the crop. Parker is having one of his most efficient shooting seasons, Manu has been one of the NBA’s best clutch performers, and Gasol has been an all-around force on both ends.
Wilco: San Antonio: where elderly NBA vets go to thrive. Maybe the city of commerce can build a marketing strategy around that motto.
Kawhi Leonard (before his shoulder thing) was finally playing normal minutes although still not in every game. Talk about his progression since the calendar changed.
Dubinski: He tends to start games slow, but lately he has been finding his rhythm everywhere on offense except beyond the arc while also keeping his teammates involved. Hopefully this shoulder strain is nothing serious because he can’t afford any setbacks, and the Spurs need him to start rounding into form and playing in every game so they can find a rhythm of their own.
Gomez: I was happy with his progression. I still felt he had a long way to go before regaining his explosiveness, but that was to be expected. Hopefully he’ll continue to improve in that area. Once he does, he should find it easier to pick his spots on offense. This new injury might complicate things, but I’m not giving up hope of seeing the MVP-level version of Kawhi this year just yet.
Barrington: I’m concerned about the shoulder strain. That’s new, and I’m beginning to wonder if the Spurs roster is like Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie. “How beautiful it is, and how easily it can be broken.”
Passos: It’s been incremental, but you can see his comfort level grow with each game. He’s starting to play within the offense a bit more and get other guys involved. And he’s already a monster on the defensive end, where the team allows just 95 points a game when he’s on the floor. I’m not too concerned about the shoulder if he’s still traveling with the team for this road trip, but I’d rather there be no more setbacks to his re-integration.
Wilco: Is anyone willing to put it past the Spurs to use a minor tweak as a fresh reason to hold a player out of a game? We know that the league has different rules for rank and file players and stars when it comes to not playing guys in road games. For all we know, the commissioner's office has told PAFTO how many games they can hold Kawhi out for return from injury managment (what a phrase that is, eh? I love it.) Maybe they’re just being cagey. I guess we’ll see how bad his shoulder was actually hurt by how long he’s out. Anyway, to actually answer the question — I think he’s playing great, all things considered, and I expect him to hit his stride in no longer than two to three weeks once he starts playing every game.
Thanks for joining In The Bonus. If you have a question you would like posed to the panel, please add it to the comments section or email Jeph Duarte.