It’s been a rough week for the San Antonio Spurs. They lost all three games on their road trip and have dropped five of the last six. Injuries have definitely played a role in the Spurs woes, but adjustments will need to be made to get the Silver & Black back to playing like contenders.
The Spurs are not the only team facing adversity. The Houston Rockets announced that they were parting ways with Carmelo Anthony, leaving the ten-time All-Star on the market just over a month into the season. Meanwhile, the Golden State Warriors seems to be trending down while they two-time MVP is sidelined.
This week, PtR contributors Marilyn Dubinski, Bruno Passos, Jesus Gomes, Mark Barrington, and editor-in-chief J. R. Wilco chime in on the losing streak, Derrick White’s return, Carmelo’s exit, the Warrior’s first visit to the Alamo City, and what Spurs fans can truly be thankful for this Thursday.
The Spurs went 1-4 since Derrick White returned from injury and was inserted into the starting lineup. Is White to blame for the poor play?
Marilyn Dubinski: I don’t believe he’s directly to blame; it just turned out that the Spurs offense has played its best with DeMar DeRozan being the main ball-handler and facilitator. White taking over those duties ended up taking the ball away from DeRozan and changed something that was working well and didn’t need fixing. That’s not a knock on White; it’s more credit to DeRozan being a better passer than advertised. In that same ilk, I mentioned in the Suns Final Score that it may not hurt to go back to the starting line-up that got the Spurs out to a 6-2 start because they had something going, and with Gregg Popovich making that exact move in their win against the Warriors, they seemed to regain some of that groove on offense. (It also helped having Rudy Gay back.)
Bruno Passos: It’s not his performance that’s really to blame so much as his function on the floor, and the redundancy it creates. Asking White to make plays in the starting lineup takes away touches from DeRozan, who’s a far better scorer and creator than the young guard right now. The Spurs’ offense requires near-perfect timing and execution in the half-court — White hasn’t operated with the type of urgency you need to feed Aldridge or DeRozan right when they need the ball. He’s still learning and looking to build confidence on the fly which, while important for any developing player, don’t always lead to winning possessions.
Jesus Gomez: I’d say Pop is to blame, for slotting White in the starting lineup at shooting guard. It just proved to be a bad fit. It made the team smaller on the perimeter and introduced another player who needed the ball to be effective to a unit that already had two high usage offensive fulcrums. As an experiment, it was probably worthwhile. Had it worked, it would have allowed the Spurs to bring Gay off the bench. Alas, it just didn’t work. Fortunately Pop realized that early and made an adjustment.
Mark Barrington: He’s not totally blameless, because the team defense has been discombobulated since he returned, granting wide open looks after just one or two screens. It’s mostly due to the lack of teamwork instead of poor effort on his part. He’s also played a lot in a lineup featuring him, Patty Mills, Bryn Forbes, DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. LaMarcus isn’t quick, and everyone else in that lineup is undersized. On the first switch, there’s going to be a huge mismatch, either LaMarcus will be on a much quicker player that can blow right past him to the basket, or one of the guards will be on someone who can just shoot right over them. I don’t think Patty and Bryn should ever play together, but Pop seems to love to play them with Derrick.
J.R. Wilco: I don’t know that it matters whether it’s his fault. I love White (and started the season with a major distaste for Forbes) but I think it’s evident that the best thing for the team is to start the guard who most successfully complements DeMar and LaMarcus. Right now, that’s not D-Dub.
On Halloween, the Spurs crushed Phoenix by 30 points. Last Wednesday, the Suns returned the favor by besting the Silver & Black by 20. What changed between the games?
Dubinski: Maybe the fact that Halloween was my birthday, and Nov. 14 was not? In all seriousness, the Spurs were healthier in the first game, in a better groove offensively, and everyone played like a cohesive unit. Again, not blaming White, but the change in the starting line-up had the Spurs out of rhythm and readjusting to each other. It’s still no excuse for losing to the one West team that probably has no chance at the playoffs already — although credit to the Suns, they played like an entirely different team the second time around — but losing that game showed how out of whack the Spurs have been.
Passos: Mars and Jupiter fell out of alignment, creating a restless and inhospitable air for sun-Jupiter types like the Spurs who, at this stage of the season, remain prone to the same ebbs and flows as the celestial bodies above.
Gomez: The Suns actually played well in that second matchup. We should start there. Their guys made shots and their defense was sharp, taking advantage of the fact Dante Cunningham is not a threat on offense to double off him. The Spurs also really missed Rudy Gay that game and turnovers killed them. It was a disaster of a game for them, basically.
Barrington: I said I wasn’t going to blame Derrick White, but it’s Derrick White. The team just hasn’t played together and has never found their intensity since his return. They need to play better on defense, or just about everyone is going to be able to score on them. Phoenix played an outstanding game and their players were hitting clutch shots, and LaMarcus has been in a slump, but even with those factors, the Spurs playing at normal efficiency should be able to beat Phoenix. They’re just not good.
Wilco: Let me leave this one to noted Suns fan (and ex-Bright Side of the Sun editor), Seth Pollack, who said the following when I bemoaned San Antonio’s loss to Phoenix, “Blind squirrel. Broken clock.” So, maybe we shouldn’t worry too much about it. Bottom line: it was an ugly game that for now I choose to treat as a one-off defeat at the hands of the worst team in the West.
After 10 games, the Houston Rockets have split with Carmelo Anthony. Any thoughts on Melo leaving Houston?
Dubinski: I’m not surprised it didn’t work out. I know they thought the presence of banana boat pal Chris Paul would help, but I thought it was a bad signing from the get-go. His iso/mid-range game doesn’t fit Mike D’Antoni’s three-point oriented, pass-first offense, and it worked no better for those two in Houston than it did in New York. Kudos to Melo for at least accepting a bench role this time around, however begrudgingly, but he looks all but done at the NBA level. He just doesn’t fit today’s game. (And before you ask: no, the Spurs should not pursue him.)
Passos: Something has to give between the rigid-but-effective offensive system and a rigid-but-still-occasionally-effective player. Melo’s age, waning talent and lack of adaptability sealed his fate.
Gomez: There are a lot of takeaways, and they are all kind of sad. Melo is washed and should probably retire. Olympic Melo was a lie. A guy who defiantly refused to change in the past finally relented and tried to fit in, and he still couldn’t make things work. What a weird career that guy had. I was never a huge fan of his game but even I think he underachieved. At least he secured the bad, I guess.
Barrington: There’s only one basketball. James Harden and Chris Paul have learned how to share it, but there really isn’t any room in their scheme for another ball-dominant player. Threesomes never turn out to be as fun and exciting in real life as they are in fantasy, somebody always gets left out, and this time it’s Carmelo.
Wilco: Never been much of a fan of guys like Anthony who hadveall the talent in the world, but only shined when (like Carmelo was in the Olympics) surrounded with the best guys in the game. I’ve always preferred players who were able to raise the level of the people they played with. Now that he’s leaving his third team in as many seasons I can’t say I’d miss him if he left the league. I wouldn’t be surprised if he took a Marbury-type contract to lead a team in China’s league.
What was the biggest factor in the Spurs win over the Golden State Warriors on Sunday night?
Dubinski: Referring back to my first answer, I think going back to that original starting line-up helped tremendously. The starters looked more like they did to start the season, and White fits in better with a bench unit that is ripe with gunners but lacks a facilitator (especially with Pau Gasol out). It also didn’t hurt that Aldridge finally broke out of his shooting slump, while the Warriors’ two remaining All-Stars combined to shoot 19-51 from the field.
Passos: The Spurs could’ve made all the adjustments in the world, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered if the Warriors were at full strength. If we have to isolate one thing, it’s them regressing to a beatable team without Curry perpetually subverting the defense’s best intentions.
Gomez: Pop coached it like a playoff game. He shortened the rotation and staggered minutes so that one of DeRozan, Aldridge or Gay was on the court at all times. The execution was sharp, which shows the players also took the game seriously. None of that would have mattered had the Warriors been at full strength in all likelihood, but they weren’t, so the Spurs got the win.
Barrington: Well, obviously, it was due to the Spurs signing a second player to a two-way contract. The Spurs are undefeated since Ben Moore has been on the team. Also, the fact that Golden State was missing several of their best players might have been a contributing factor—they didn’t have the one guy who makes the offense work or the other guy who makes the defense work. And the Spurs were at home. It was still a good win, but it probably wasn’t indicative of what would happen if the teams were meeting at full strength.
Wilco: The biggest factor was certainly GSW’s injuries. San Antonio’s hurting too, but their best two guys were on the floor. Apart from that, I’d have to go with the fact that (for that game, at least) Aldridge remembered how to score. I hope he goes on to remember many times more in the future.
With Thanksgiving this week, take a moment and tell us what you are most thankful for thus far this season, from a Spurs fan’s perspective.
Dubinski: I mentioned a few weeks ago what the Spurs mean to me and why I’m so grateful for them. As for something to be thankful for in regards to this season, I was just happy when the new season started. We were finally able to put all the horrors of this past season and summer behind us and start fresh. The results haven’t always been pretty, but DeRozan has been an amazing addition to this team both on the floor and in the locker room, and its nice to see a team that loves each other and wants to play together with no drama out there again.
Passos: Marco Belinelli, with all his off-balance trickery, is still an absolute delight to watch.
Gomez: I’m thankful for this weird, flawed team PATFO put together. It might not be great, but at least it’s interesting.
Barrington: I’m thankful for the many years of enjoyable basketball that I’ve gotten from the team. I’m grateful for all of the wonderful players and human beings who have been a part of the team and taught me about basketball and life. I’m grateful for Tim Duncan, George Gervin, Sean Elliot, Manu Ginobili (among players, most of all) and a bunch of others, some of who weren’t even that successful. I’m glad that we have LaMarcus Aldridge and Patty Mills, even though they didn’t start their careers with the team. Most of all, I’m grateful for Coach Pop who has created a wonderful organization where everyone from the ballboys to the star players and assistant coaches can learn and grow and become better on and off the court. And, oh yeah, five championships, although those were just byproducts of the other good things that the team put together. But specific to this season, I’m grateful for DeMar DeRozan, who is making the game beautiful again.
Wilco: I’m thankful for the talented crew of writers and editors that I’m blessed to work with at PtR. There’s no way I’d be able to do all this on my own, and there’s no way we’d do it all if not for the readers who enjoy our labors and contribute themselves in the FanPosts and comments. Thank everyone for all you do to make this site all that it is.
Do you have a question for the roundtable? Join in the conversation by answering this weeks discussion in the comments.