After a nice homecoming win against the reigning NBA champions, the Spurs dropped three of their next five — all of which were winnable games. The Spurs ran out of steam on two SEGABABAs and dropped their last home game to Memphis on what the NBA admitted was a bad call.
But it is not all bad for the Silver & Black as standout performances have been showcased by the Spurs leader DeMar DeRozan, the always impressive Rudy Gay, and the dark horse-turned-star point guard Bryn Forbes.
This week PtR contributors Bruno Passos, Jesus Gomez, Mark Barrington, Marilyn Dubinski, and yours truly discuss the now famed “no call” and it’s ramifications on a stacked and competitive Western Conference. In addition, the round table take on the Spurs first trips below .500 in years, LaMarcus Aldridge’s slump, and the Spurs’ surprising excellence from beyond the arc.
The NBA reviewed the end of regulation against the Memphis Grizzlies last Wednesday and determined that LaMarcus Aldridge was fouled on his attempted game-winner. Alas, nothing changed. Should the NBA have the last two minute reports when the calls can’t be reversed?
Bruno Passos: It’s possible that fans can only handle a finite amount of information when it comes to processing a game and its outcomes, but I think the L2M reports are good measures, if ultimately unfulfilling.
Jesus Gomez: It’s a tricky subject. Refs don’t like that the reports exist. Some coaches want reports for entire games. I think in general it’s a good thing that we get the league’s final say in controversial situations, if for no other reason than to get some closure. I guess ultimately I like the last two minute reports but I don’t think I’d be too heartbroken if they were to disappear.
Mark Barrington: While it feels like salt in an open wound when a missed call costs a game, it does add to transparency and accountability. Hopefully, those refs will try to call fouls both ways next time. I kind of wish there were some way to protest the outcome of a game and replay the last few seconds like they can do in baseball for extreme situations. Just schedule it when the two teams next meet, to be played before the scheduled game starts. But realistically, that could never happen, and would be a nightmare to administer.
Marilyn Dubinski: I’m all for transparency and the NBA admitting when there was a mistake, which was very hard to come by under David Stern’s watch, and that’s exactly what the Last Two Minute report does. It’s what fans want and exactly why it was created. It doesn’t change the outcome, so there’s only finite amount of satisfaction that comes with it, but I don’t mind knowing that the NBA recognizes its mistakes. It’s also a reminder that the refs are in fact human, which can sometimes get lost.
Jeph Duarte: I thought they should have reviewed the play, which isn’t on the menu. They can review calls in the last two minutes. The problem was that there was no call. They should be allowed review and reverse if it serves to award the win to the correct team. I know I’d hate for the Spurs to be on the receiving end of an overturned call that changed the outcome of a game, but I would appreciate the transparency and getting it right. Or else, do away with the reviews altogether and let the referees call the games completely. One or the other, but not the current halfway version.
The Spurs fell below .500 with no clear path for climbing out of mediocrity. Is it too early to start thinking about a shakeup, either in the rotation or through trades?
Passos: They should be kicking the tires on deals this season more than ever, I’d think, especially come December 15th when their offseason acquisitions become movable. In the past, there was a cost to doing business midseason which meant less continuity and which threatened their end-season goal of a deep playoff run. That’s not exactly the same concern this year. The defensive ceiling on this roster is real, and there may be enough teams focusing on free agency this summer that the Spurs could find a market inefficiency in a multi-year contract that fits into their long-term plans.
Gomez: They probably shouldn’t make any trades this year, period. There’s simply no player out there that they can realistically get that turns them into a contender and to get an upgrade they will have to lose either a young player or an asset. Unless someone wants Pau’s contract or an extra shooter and is willing to offer a pick, there’s no reason to deal. I’m more open to some tweaks to the rotation, like Bertans getting more minutes.
Barrington: Nah. This team is just learning how to play together, they’ve been competitive against good teams, and they’re about to add Lonnie Walker IV to the rotation. Also, they’ve been without Dejounte Murray, and a lot of the weaknesses that now bother the team (bad guard defense, poor rebounding) will be fixed when he returns. If they can pick up a player cheaply who can improve the team, sure, but not at the cost of losing any of the current key pieces.
Dubinski: The main thing that makes it too early is the lack of players available to be traded. Aside from Patty Mills, none of their moderately-paid players are available until at least Dec. 15, and some (like Davis Bertans) are not available until Jan. 15. Even then they shouldn’t be looking to trade any main pieces or players they hope will be part of the future. Like Pop always says, if a trade comes about that makes the Spurs better, they’ll do it, but he also might want to see what he has once everyone is available (besides Dejounte Murray), which will hopefully be soon, before making any big decisions. As of now the Spurs have yet to play a game with less than three players in the injured list.
Duarte: Absolutely not. Without 100% health, we aren’t seeing the full potential of the Spurs. It’s a travesty to be without the best defensive player on the team for the second year in a row, but it speaks volumes to the Spurs mettle to persevere the way they have. Realizing that a healthy Golden State Warriors still appears unbeatable in a seven game series, the Spurs should play the long game and build a team that will break the hearts of Oaktown in a couple of years.
The Spurs are 0-9 when LaMarcus scores less than 20 points. What can be done to set the big man up?
Passos: I think they’re doing plenty in looking to set him up early in games and seek out mismatches. The shots just aren’t falling from literally all over the floor (as of Monday afternoon, he has the most number of 3 point attempts — 9 — without a make in all the NBA). This feels like a question of giving it time, or some underlying physiological issue, but either way, there doesn’t seem to be much else the Spurs can do as a team.
Gomez: Pop could try to surround him with shooters for a few minutes a game and let him work from the post. He used to excel on that role in Portland. The more spacing he gets, the easier it should be for him to get going. That would mean he’d have to spend less time with the starters, however, so it might be hard to coordinate.
Barrington: Pau Gasol getting back into the lineup would help a lot, because he gets the ball to LaMarcus in his favorite spots. But it’s not all on his teammates. LaMarcus has to work himself out of his slump. Mostly, he should take Bruno’s advice, and dunk more.
Dubinski: He just has to make his shots. He’s adjusting to life as a permanent center, but considering he was elite around the rim last season it doesn’t explain why he’s missing so many bunnies now. It could be that he’s facing a different type of defender than he’s used, but the best thing he can do is keep shooting until the shots fall.
Duarte: When Aldridge is great, he is great. Against guys like Anthony Davis and Karl-Anthony Towns who “should” be making him look old, LMA stands tall and owns his real estate on the hardwood. But right now, he seems to be his own worst enemy. It reminds me of when he had an off game during his first Spurs season and stayed out on the floor and shot free throws after the game. Maybe he just needs to stay on the court until the fans have left, the lights are out, and the bus is ready to pull out of the arena. If last season taught us anything it’s when Aldridge is in his zone, he can take over.
Pick your MVP for this week- DeMar DeRozan, Bryn Forbes, or Rudy Gay?
Passos: DeRozan. That’s more by default this week, but he led the team in points and assists per game once again and very nearly had the game-winner against Memphis.
Gomez: DeRozan. The team is built around him, so it would be hard for anyone else to get MVP over him.
Barrington: DeRozan, for sure. Those other players owe most of their success to DeMar setting them up. The team revolves around him now.
Dubinski: I was on vacation in Rockets country last week and missed the Grizzles, Pacers and Bucks games, so I’ll roll with DeRozan just from looking at the box scores and because he’s been their MVP throughout the season so far.
Duarte: I’m going with Forbes. DeRozan has set the bar so high in the first few weeks, that he’s actually looking a little less productive. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still clutch, and he’s the best player on the team, but Bryn has reached deep and found something special this season. His last week has solidified, in my opinion, that this is no fluke.
The Spurs are currently the most efficient three-point shooting team in the league. Can they remain an elite shooting team for the rest of the season?
Passos: Sure, why not. At some point, they may need to look themselves in the mirror and decide whether a higher volume of threes (they’re currently 2nd to last in attempts) is necessary, and that may come at the cost of shooting percentage. Still, the talent on the perimeter is there, and DeRozan and Aldridge should continue to create open looks for them.
Gomez: I doubt it. Cunningham and Gay are posting numbers that are huge outliers compared to their career three-point field goal percentage. Bertans and Forbes are at 45 percent, which feels high considering the degree of difficulty of some of the shots they take. The only player in the roster who could realistically improve his outside shooting percentage significantly appears to be Marco Belinelli. I think some regression is coming, unfortunately.
Barrington: I think so. They’re bound to revert to the mean somewhat, but they have a lot of good three point shooters, and a system that gives them wide open looks. I don’t expect Dante Cunningham to go 5 of 5 from beyond the arc again as he did against the Pelicans, but he’ll be solid and Davis Bertans has the ability to become elite.
Dubinski: I don’t see why not. They have many respectable-to-elite shooters on the team, they’re good about taking them only when open, and they don’t chuck them up at an absurd rate that is going invite inevitable inefficiency, Rockets-style. I can see them staying in the top five, maybe even top three, throughout the season, which is a crazy thought after last season’s shooting woes.
Duarte: So Spurs. Best percentage, but shooting them at a low volume. It’s about efficiency as opposed to just chucking up circus shots. The good news is, they get the most out of their shots, the bad news is they won’t make a difference against high volume 3-point shooting teams. They will need a heck of a lot more two pointers made when teams like the Rockets and Warriors are lighting it up.
Do you have a question for the panel? Join in the discussion in the comments below.