Draft Night 2011 was a big night for the San Antonio Spurs.
It signaled they are in a rebuilding mode of sorts after years of conservative moves while keeping the core rotation players intact they went and traded George Hill for the rights to Kawhi Leonard, Davis Bertans and Erazem Lorbek.
The Spurs also ended up taking Cory Joseph, point guard from Texas, and Adam Hanga a shooting guard from Hungary. The American players acquired on draft night are for the most part known quantities.
What is almost always a mystery to American basketball fans is the ability of the Euro players the team picked up on draft night. Prior to the draft, fans hear comparisons made by analysts of these Euro prospects to established NBA players.
In 2003 you heard things about Darko Milicic like '' He's Dirk Nowitski with an attitude'." I don't think anyone of us can forget the Nikoloz Tskitishvili debacle that ended with him in 2008 being cast by ESPN's Adam Reisinger as the worst NBA draft lottery pick ever selected at 5th overall.
Thankfully for Spurs fans, the Spurs have never made a huge gaffe like that. I'd argue they have never missed when drafting an international prospect ever. These three Euro players - Bertans, Lorbek, and Hanga - are all very well respected prospects, or in the case of Lorbek being too old to be a prospect, a respected player in the Euroleagues.
Here is a run down of what they bring to the table as players, and what potential growth they have in the future.
Davis Bertans: 6'10'', 210 lbs., 18-years old, F/C Latvia
Draft Night 2011 was a big night for the San Antonio Spurs.
Former San Antonio Spurs player Stephen Jackson was introduced to the media as the newest member of the Milwaukee Bucks today and what he said made you think both "maybe Stephen Jackson has changed," and "Nope, Cap'n Jack hasn't changed one bit," at the same time.
"Obviously, I regret the whole situation," Jackson said. "I regret it, because if I think about it, I would have never went in the stands."
Yet right after Jackson said he was misunderstood, he then quickly reminded everyone he's still the same old Stephen Jackson.
Well this is interesting.
Denver Nuggets center Nene has opted out of his contract, passing up nearly $12 million to become an unrestricted free agent.
Denver did try to sign him before today but Nene stuck to his guns and is free to sign with any NBA team. So with the San Antonio Spurs desperately needing a big man, could the Spurs target him?
The 6'11" Nene posted 14.5 points and 7.6 rebounds, shot 61.5% from the field, and 71.1% from the free-throw this past season and is exactly what the Spurs need. But with the Spurs and their salary cap issues, there is no way they can sign him out right.
The Spurs would have to do a sign and trade to bring the big man from Brazil to San Antonio but that would mean giving up either Tony Parker, packaging a deal some of the Spurs younger players, or convincing Denver to take Richard Jefferson and his ungodly contract. However, Denver does have Ty Lawson on board at point and Parker would be an upgrade which could prove attractive for Denver. But will Denver send a conference rival a high-caliber player like Nene?
Making issues a bit more tenuous for San Antonio is the fact Tim Duncan exercised his ETO for $21 million which severely hurts the Spurs' financial flexibility to get a player like Nene who will be looking for a long-term deal and a pay day.
In the end, I'm sure the Spurs will do their due diligence and see if anything can be done to add Nene but it will be a bit tough.
What do you have to say Spurs fans?
On this episode of the Spurscast, Jeff and I were joined by Project Spurs lead writer Paul Garcia and staff writers Jake Faunce and Trevor Zickgraff to discuss the San Antonio Spurs draft night.
We talked about our first thoughts when the George Hill trade was announced, and what we thought about the group of players San Antonio is bringing in due to the trade and their other two picks.
We all agree Kawhi Leonard will be a welcome addition, but question whether or not Cory Joseph is ready to come in and take over the backup point guard reins after only one year in college.
We also talked about what the Spurs could be getting out of their draft-and-stash players including Davis Bertans, Erazem Lorbek and Adam Hanga.
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With all signs pointing toward a lockout when the clock strikes midnight tonight, several NBA players are already looking for outside areas where they can stay in shape and keep playing basketball until the lockout ends. One of those players is San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair. According to Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Blair played in a Pro-Am game on Wednesday.
That means NBA players will have to find somewhere else to play for the next few months and tonight that meant the crowd of roughly 400 people at Greentree Sportsplex was treated to a real treat as former Pitt star and current San Antonio Spurs forward DeJuan Blair showed up and played for team UPMC in the third game of the tripleheader of the summer Pro-Am league.
"I'm just looking for a run," Blair said as he took the floor. "Need to find as many runs as I can."
Argentinian newspaper, Olé, recently spoke to San Antonio Spurs' all-star guard Manu Ginobili about the Spurs' season, Tony Parker's recent comments about the team and the myth of the Spurs being too old.
After a successful 61-21 regular season, Ginobili chalked up the Spurs' first round playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies wanting it more.
'It's simple. Memphis played hard, defended well and had a very inspired Zach Randolph," Ginobili said.
Ginobili also said the Spurs slump at the end of the season was due to the Spurs peaking too soon, not a matter of the Spurs' age catching up to them.
"I do not think it was physical. We reached the top in February when the rest is done more slowly or as happened to us in other seasons, when we gave up in the playoffs. This time it was not."
Before last season, Ginobili's backcourt-mate Tony Parker said last season would be the Spurs' last chance at winning a title with the current nucleus of Parker, Duncan and Ginobili.
Parker made news recently when, according to the French media, he said the Spurs' championship window was closed.
"Closed-no, but it is closing. I'm going to be 34, Duncan is 35 and this is not forever. But we won 61 games and in six months...Boston, two years ago, played the final and was a veteran team more than we do today. It depends if you play well, you put it when it counts and not suffer injuries. Fortunately, in our case we do not injure this year."
Last Thursday, the San Antonio Spurs acquired the draft rights for Erazem Lorbek in a deal for guard George Hill. Lorbek was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in 2005 with the 46th pick, but has yet to set foot in the NBA. According to Sports Haze, Lorbek has opted to extend his contract for one more season with his Spanish club Regal FC Barcelona.
FC Barcelona and Slovenian player Erazem Lorbek has reached an agreement extending contract for a third season.
Lorbekjoined Regal FC Barcelona on in August 2009 from CSKA Moscow. The Slovene is a big physical presence and also an accurate exterior shooter. With Regal Barcelona Lorbek won all titles possible: 1 Euroleague, 1 ACB league, 2 King's Cups, 2 Super Cups and 2 Catalan Leagues.
On draft night, I was present when Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford talked about acquiring Lorbeks draft rights. He talked about Lorbek's accomplishments overseas and even said he hoped to see him in a Spurs uniform at some time.
When the San Antonio Spurs drafted Cory Joseph from the University of Texas, one of the statements General Manager R.C. Buford made about Joseph was he has "terrific Spur qualities." There is no definition for Spurs qualities, but many of the players who pass through this organization inherit them as they spend time in this culture.
Take former Spurs Stephen Jackson and Beno Udrih, they were recently traded to the Milwaukee Bucks and they both attributed their time with the Spurs as positive influences in their career writes Tom Enlund of the Journal Sentinal.
“I learned how to be a professional (in San Antonio),” said Jackson during his introductory press conference Wednesday at the Bradley Center. “Playing with David Robinson, Tim Duncan, and Danny Ferry, those guys showed me the business of basketball. How to approach games, how to approach practice and film and how to get prepared for games.
“I think that’s the reason I was able to have success in my career so far. Those guys definitely showed me how to be professional in this league and I think it’s helped me be a leader.”
Udrih played more in his first championship season with the Spurs than he did in the second, but he said that even by just observing in San Antonio, he learned how important the “little things” were to a successful team. Such as?
“The character of the players,” said Udrih. “Awareness. Everything matters. I think sometimes little stuff makes a team better more than the big stuff.
“I learned in San Antonio when I was playing there…I was able to observe things and just learn how a team basically should play. The last couple years, defensive mentality was winning championships. And team mentality.
“It wasn’t the stats or the players with the crazy stats. It was a team effort.”
As many former Spurs players, coaches, and front office personnel have made their way around the league, most of them always reiterate that their time in San Antonio has taught them how to be leaders. Recently traded guard George Hill wasn't bitter about being dealt for draft picks on draft night, instead he told the city of Indiana he's going to take what he learned with the Spurs and lead the Pacers organization in the right direction.
Former San Antonio Spurs player Steve Smith did a lot in his NBA career. Played with and against some of the best ever, was a prolific scorer, and even won a title with the Spurs in 2003.
However, did you know he wishes he could be a professional golfer?
In an interview with ESPN, the former Spur opened up about many topics including golfing, playing overseas, and his favorite food and drink. Here is a snippet of what Smith had to say:
On his dreams of playing pro golf:
I'd love to have enough talent to be a professional golfer. It's virtually impossible for me, since my game isn't that advanced. But I think with my style of clothing and play, I could have brought a bit of flair to the golf course.
On playing overseas:
Former San Antonio Spurs assistant coach PJ Carlesimo will not be returning to the Toronto Raptors as an assistant coach according to Fan 590:
PJ Carlesimo - in spite of the one year he had remaining on his contract - will not be back with the Raptors.
So should the Spurs bring him back?
Considering reports current assistant coach Don Newman is being considered as a defensive-coach for the Phoenix Suns, the Spurs could bring him back if Newman does leave.
Carlesimo was with the Spurs from 2002-2007, helping the Spurs capture two NBA titles during that span. He is quite familiar with the Spurs' system and with the influx of younger players such as Kawhi Leonard, another strong presence on the bench for San Antonio would help.
Though it did not work for him as a head coach for the Sonics/Thunder once he left San Antonio, Carlesimo could prove to be an asset for the Spurs.
What do you have to say Spurs fans?