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NBA@2: San Antonio Spurs Serving Notice
Posted By Bill Ingram On May 3, 2012 @ 2:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The San Antonio Spurs don’t want you to talk about them. They don’t want to be the subject of human interest stories and they don’t want you to know much of anything about franchise player Tim Duncan beyond his stats. They don’t want individual honors (Gregg Popovich looked like he wanted to be invisible as he accepted the Coach Of The Year award last night) and they don’t care about such mundane things as division titles. The only thing the Spurs want anyone to talk about is their play on the basketball court, and there is certainly plenty to say about that after the first two games of their playoff series against the Utah Jazz.
As impressive as their regular-season run was, finishing with the best record in the Western Conference after winning their last ten games, most people wanted to discredit the Spurs’ chances of winning a title to do the age of two of their stars – Duncan and Manu Ginobili. After all, the Spurs also had the best record in the West last season, but got banged up right before the playoffs and fell victim to a first-round upset at the hands of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Since then, however, the Spurs have taken steps to make sure the same fate doesn’t befall them this time around. Duncan played a career-low 28.2 minutes per game, thanks in no small part to the emergence of Tiago Splitter and the continued solid play of DeJuan Blair. The Spurs also added Boris Diaw late in the season, giving Duncan additional help and also reuniting old friends from France in Diaw and Parker.
Injuries were again a factor for Ginobili, so once he got healthy Popovich limited him to just 23.3 minutes per game, his lowest tally since his rookie campaign. Depth was again a factor, as Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, Gary Neal and Stephen Jackson all played well enough to assure Ginobili wasn’t taxed too terribly in San Antonio’s push for the playoffs.
Meanwhile, the Spurs continued to truly be Parker’s team in 2011-12, with the ten-year veteran leading the team in scoring at 18.3 points per game and assists with 7.7, yet even Parker played just 32.0 minutes per game, the fewest since his rookie year.
Simply put, the Spurs came into the postseason rested, determined and remarkably deep, and so far they have shown no mercy in their series against the Utah Jazz.
If the first two games of the first round are any indication, the Spurs are ready to challenge anyone who thinks they’re too old to win another championship with their current core group. Game 1 saw the Spurs start strong and, slowly but surely, wear the Jazz down, holding Utah to 42 percent shooting while Parker scored 28 points and Duncan added 17 in a 106-91 win. That was enough to shake off the memory of losing Game 1 to the Grizzlies last season, but Game 2 sent a much clearer message right from the start. The Spurs jumped all over the Jazz after watching Popovich garner another award, leading 28-17 after one quarter, 53-28 at the half, and going on to hand the Jazz a 31-point defeat, 114-83. The Jazz shot just 34 percent from the field to San Antonio’s 57 percent and no one in white and black had to log more than 28 minutes in the laugher.
Can the Spurs get back to the NBA Finals and get Tim Duncan that fifth championship ring? Perhaps. So far all they’ve done is show the eighth seed what it means to play the first seed in the playoffs. Whether they win each game in convincing fashion, or with last-second heroics, it’s still just taking care of business. Expected. But one thing’s for sure, and that’s the fact that the Spurs look anything but old and beaten after their first two games of the 2012 NBA playoffs.
The Spurs look like a team that might just be the best in the West, as their regular-season record indicates.
MLE Or Bust For Kidd?
Dallas Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd has made no secret of the fact that he is losing his fight against age, and has even gone so far as to suggest on a number of occasions that he wouldn’t be too terribly offended if someone emerged to take his place in the starting lineup. That doesn’t mean Kidd has nothing left to give on the basketball court, but anyone who’s watched Mavericks basketball this season has to acknowledge that Kidd’s best days are behind him.
This season, Kidd averaged career-lows across the board, managing just 6.2 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game while shooting a career-low-tying 36 percent from the field. He still contributes in a significant way when he’s healthy by making incredibly smart basketball plays and coming up with key defensive stops at critical times. But the question remains – how much longer can Kidd actually play the game of basketball?
Kidd has talked about retirement often, and has already begun his pursuit of his next gig, which will presumably be on the sidelines coaching. He took on some coaching duties with Team USA and has been a coach on the floor for years. But what about his immediate future? His contract with the Mavericks expires at the end of the season, and with every indication being that Dallas will throw all in for Deron Williams in free agency, is there still a place for Kidd?
According to Sports Illustrated‘s Chris Mannix, the only way Kidd will consider signing a new contract next season is if it’s for the full Mid-Level Exception, which is a pretty steep price for Kidd, who will almost assuredly be in a reserve role going forward. It would make some sense for Dallas to bring him back as a back-up to Williams, assuming they can actually land Brooklyn’s prized possession, but considering the number of roster spots the Mavs would have left to fill after signing Williams and the small amount of cap space they would have left to do it, they would almost certainly need to split the MLE between at least two players just to fill out the locker room.
What seems more likely than Kidd getting an offer of the full MLE is Kidd getting an offer to join a coaching staff somewhere, perhaps even in Dallas. If his agent is, indeed, going to demand the full MLE he might find that the market just isn’t quite ready to bear that load, certainly not in Dallas.
The Fourth Pick In the 2012 NBA Draft . . .
If the NBA Draft Lottery goes as the odds say they should (which it rarely does), the New Orleans Hornets should have the fourth overall pick in this summer’s NBA draft. Assuming they actually do land the fourth pick, which player best fits their needs?
HOOPSWORLD’s Yannis Koutroupis, in his latest Mock Draft, says the best pick for the Hornets is Kansas junior power forward Thomas Robinson, so let’s take a look at his game and see if it would, indeed, be a good fit in New Orleans.
First and foremost, it should be noted that the Hornets stand to lose a number of their front court players via free agency. Carl Landry and Chris Kaman, in particular, could very well be wearing different jerseys next season, so the smart money says the Hornets will look for size in the draft. Fortunately, this is a very good draft in which to find size. Thomas Robinson is 6’10″ with a 7’1″ wingspan and averaged 17.7 points and 11.9 rebounds for Kansas this year. Offensively he ranked in the 75th percentile among all college players, The departure of the Morris twins to the NBA last summer allowed Robinson to step into a starting role, where he was as dominant as any front court player in the college ranks. He loves to play in the post, where he scored 33 percent of this points this season, but is also exceptionally good at cutting to the basket, getting offensive rebounds and put-backs and will run the floor and finish in transition. He lacks court vision and passing ability at this stage of his development, so don’t look for him to be someone who draws a double-team and then kicks it out. He’ll use his size and quickness to overpower opponents and put the ball in the hole.
Robinson should also be a game-changer on the defensive end, especially after spending three seasons playing under the defensive-minded Bill Self. Robinson ranked in the 98th percentile in defending the pick-and-roll, 83rd percentile in defending the low post, 79th percentile in spot-up defense and 79th in fighting through screens to prevent scores. He’s quick enough to stay with the finesse power forwards like Dirk Nowitzki and Andrea Bargnani, but also powerful enough to hold down physical post players like Amar’e Stoudemire and Pau Gasol.
In short, if the lottery gods are kind and the Hornets do land the third overall pick in this summer’s draft, they may find their next David West in Thomas Robinson.
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