NBA AM: Spurs Making Early Statement
Senior NBA & College Basketball Editor
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Spurs Making Early Statement: It’s hard not to look ahead in the 2013 NBA Playoffs and think that the Miami HEAT and Oklahoma City Thunder are on a collision course for a rematch in the NBA Finals. Both teams are the top seeds in their respective conferences and currently hold 2-0 advantages in their first round series.
However, if there is one team that could prevent that rematch from occurring it is the San Antonio Spurs, who have regained their early-season form in their first round match up against the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Spurs backed into the postseason, losing their last three games while Boris Diaw, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili dealt with various injuries. They also had a rare case of inner turmoil as they were forced to part ways with veteran swingman Stephen Jackson, who was not content with his role and made the mistake of bumping heads with head coach Gregg Popovich.. Diaw is still out and Parker has only looked like himself for about two quarters so far, but a rested and rejuvenated Ginobili has provided a major boost as the Spurs have made a statement through two games that they are still contenders.
There’s no denying that this Lakers team is hobbled. They don’t have the necessary firepower or chemistry to give this Spurs team much trouble, but they’re still a team with two of the best big men in the league in Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard. They were one of the teams that beat the Spurs in the final three games of the regular season, doing so without Steve Nash and Kobe Bryant. Bryant has been out since tearing his Achilles late in the season and while Nash played in Game 1 or 2, his impact has been minimal; he’s a fraction of his former self right now due to hip and hamstring problems.
To make matters even worse for the Lakers Steve Blake, who has been their best player in the backcourt since Bryant went down, is now out indefinitely as well with a moderate hamstring pull. Combine Blake’s injury with Jodie Meeks’ sprained ankle, Nash’s bum hip and hamstring and Bryant’s status, the Lakers are likely going to finish this series out with second-round picks Andrew Goudelock, who was just named NBA D-League’s 2013 Most Valuable Player, and Darius Morris playing the bulk of the minutes in the backcourt.
Still, as beat up as the Lakers have been, the Spurs have to be taken seriously now as a threat to win the West. Their defense has been superb, especially on the interior, and with Parker playing through pain well enough to draw “MVP” chants during a big third quarter in Game 2, the Spurs don’t look like a team that backed its way into the postseason anymore. They’re getting solid contributions from their bench and just seem to be playing with a lot of confidence right now. Outside of Danny Green, who is having his struggles, the Spurs have virtually been clicking on all cylinders.
They have a chance to take a 3-0 series tonight against the Lakers and put themselves in a position to close the series out on Sunday.
Making quick work of the Lakers is important for the Spurs because any rest they could get right now would be of great aide. They’re going to see a major step up in competition moving forward and need to be healthy when they potentially face off against the winner of the Golden State Warriors-Denver Nuggets series that is currently tied at one game apiece.
If they can get Parker a couple of days off to rest his injuries and get Diaw back into the fold before the Western Conference Semifinals begin, they’ll be at full strength at the right time and a certifiable threat for the Thunder’s Western Conference crown and the HEAT’s NBA title.
Vipers Go Up 1-0 In D-League Finals: As the NBA playoffs are still in the early stages, the D-League is close to wrapping things up as their Finals got underway last night. The Rio Grande Valley Vipers were able to take a commanding 1-0 series advantage over the Santa Cruz Warriors on the road, topping them 112-102 behind 33 points from the draft-eligible Glen Rice and a triple-double of 17 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists from Toure Murry.
The D-League Finals is a best of three series, so the Warriors will be playing to keep their championship hopes alive on Saturday night at Hidalgo Arena. The Warriors have the necessary firepower to keep up with the Vipers, but their play inside the paint is what really hurt them in game one. They were outrebounded by 13 by the Vipers big frontline that features Houston Rockets center Tim Ohlbrecht and Chris Daniels, a recent signing from China.
If Hilton Armstrong, Taylor Griffin, Jeremy Tyler and Lance Goulbourne don’t do a better job in the interior in Game 2, the Warriors will likely be watching the Vipers celebrate a championship.
HOOPSWORLD will be in Hildago, Texas for Game 2 of the D-League Finals on Saturday night, so make sure to keep an eye out for coverage from there.
McMillan Hoping For Seattle Return: The Detroit Pistons are in the midst of a coaching search after firing Lawrence Frank last week and according to multiple outlets former Portland Trail Blazers head coach Nate McMillan is at the top of their list. Phoenix Suns interim head coach Lindsey Hunter is also someone who has been linked to the opening, but the belief is that the Suns are eventually going to remove the tag and make him their head coach moving forward. He didn’t do great from a wins-loss perspective after taking over for Alvin Gentry, but he showed enough promise for the Suns to give him another year. Many believe the interest in the Pistons job is mainly posturing to help get a better deal in Phoenix.
Unfortunately for the Pistons, McMillan may not be obtainable either. According to Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press the former player and proven head coach wants to see how things play out with the Sacramento Kings before deciding on his next move.
The Kings are currently coached by Keith Smart, but he’s not looked at as having much security, especially with a possible move and a definite change in ownership pending. Whoever ends up with the Kings will likely want to make wholesale changes upon taking over and whether right or wrong, Smart will probably be one of the first to go when that happens.
If the Seattle-based Hansen group wins the bid for the Kings, McMillan could be at the top of their head coaching search as well. McMillan coached the Seattle Supersonics from 2000-2005. He left after the 2004-05 season when he helped lead the team to a 50-32 record and a first-round playoff victory.
If the Pistons are looking to get a coach hired in short order, they may have to turn their attention away from McMillan, who is in a position where he can wait. Even if he doesn’t take the Pistons opening and things don’t work out as they were laid out above, McMillan will have other offers and opportunities that come along in the future.