It's a never-ending job for the San Antonio Spurs front office and their pursuit of basketball talent.
This time, Spurs GM R.C. Buford, along with Spurs' Dennis Lindsey, and Spurs' scout Claudio Crippa, are in Italy for the 2011 Adidas Eurocamp, where some of the best foreign talent display their basketball skills in hopes of catching the eye of an NBA GM or be drafted in the upcoming NBA draft.
A player attending Eurocamp is Brazilian big man Lucas Nogueira. Norgueira is 6'10”, has a 9'3” standing reach, 7'4” wingspan, 1'9” vertical. His name has been on Spurs fan's lips recently especially seeing how the Spurs need size as this past season proved.
Here is a write up on how Nogueira did at day one of the camp:
[T]he player receiving the most buzz who is actually fully participating in the camp is Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira. But, the buzz isn't all warmth and fuzz, with one GM saying, “[he's] So raw… So raw… and he's out there on the court laughing with all the guys – it's like, ‘get serious,' ” and others reaffirming that notion that he did not help himself at all with his first day showing.
Indeed Noguiera looked very raw and showed some questionable body language throughout the day.
Early on he looked very uncomfortable when forced to put the ball on the floor or pass and he failed to stand out going up against fellow lanky big man and camp teammate (Team 1) Bengaly Fofana.
As the day went on, in two five-on-five games, Bebe showed a bit better. First he registered 5 points, 5 rebounds and 4 blocks when going up against Sarra Camara and Team 4. Then, he exhibited a bit more offense going for 11 points and 5 rebounds against the Serbia U19 squad later in the day. His decision making left something to be desired, as did the lack of awareness and experience he showed on both ends of the floor.
All-in-all, without reading too much into day one, Nogueira probably showed talent evaluators a lot of what they expected to see considering his lack of polish, confirming his status as a long-term project.
Though Nogueira seemed to not have a great day one, here's hoping Buford and the rest of the Spurs' staff out in Italy find that hidden gem and once again surprise the NBA come draft day.
It's a never-ending job for the San Antonio Spurs front office and their pursuit of basketball talent.
San Antonio Spurs' great James Silas' son Xavier Silas was one of the better offensive players in the college ranks at Northern Illinois. Last season he averaged 22 point per game as a senior.
Now as he is making his way to the NBA and working out for various NBA teams leading up to the NBA Draft, Silas says of all the Spurs players he has a close connection with, it's former Spurs player Avery Johnson, now head coach of the New Jersey Nets:
After my roundtable interview, head coach Avery Johnson wanted to see me in his office. As you know my dad, James Silas, was the first to have his number retired with the San Antonio Spurs, so growing up he would take me into the Spurs locker rooms, shoot arounds and practices. Avery Johnson happened to be the starting point guard at the time and ironically enough I formed the closest bond with him out of everyone. What is even more Ironic is that Avery was on the very first Spurs team to win a championship in 1999 and that was the year of the last lockout. I have looked up to him for a long time and It was good to see him in New Jersey doing so well, grab a hug and listen to him praise my game and tell me he thinks I will make it.
Silas is hoping his name will be called at the upcoming draft and if "The Little General" sees Silas making it to the NBA, how fitting would it be for the Spurs to draft the son of the of the franchise's greatest players.
Marv Albert. You can recognize him with his emphatic "Yes, and it counts!" line while watching NBA games on T.V. and today he celebrates his 70th birthday.
In a Q&A with the New York Post, when asked to reflect on some of his favorite television calls, Albert stated his favorite calls are game-winning shots which included shots from former San Antonio Spurs player Steve Kerr:
It’s usually a game-winning shot where you make the call and get out and let the crowd do the rest: Robert Horry against Sacramento in the conference finals; the NBA Finals shot by (John) Paxson to beat Phoenix;did the same for both Chicago and San Antonio in the NBA Finals.
Indeed Kerr did provide Spurs fans with some clutch shooting during his time in San Antonio and their march towards a title in 1999 and 2003 when Kerr was in silver and black.
And no Spurs fan can forget Kerr's three-point barrage in the 2003 playoffs versus the Dallas Mavericks.
With an outstanding college career at WVU, and making it to the 2010 NCAA Final Four, Da'Sean Butler suffered a crushing knee injury against Duke in the Final Four setting back his NBA career.
Though drafted by the Miami Heat, he was soon released and was signed by the San Antonio Spurs last season where he was assigned to the Spurs' D-League affiliate Austin Toros for continuous rehab.
Now, according to Butler, he is ready to get back on the court and is brimming with confidence:
"Anybody that has gone through an injury like this will tell you that confidence is the main thing," Butler said. "You can work out and get all the strength built back up, but if you don't have confidence, the rest of it really doesn't matter."
"Honestly, I'm fine now. I'm good to go," Butler added. "I'm working out every day and shooting. I'm just playing as much as I can to get back into shape. I'm lifting a lot to keep the strength up in my leg."
Indeed confidence and hard work is key for Butler's road back to getting on the court, and it's that hard work which is making forget about his injury and and becoming mentally focused on what he is doing on the court:
"I'm starting to catch myself beginning to do the things I used to do. Like, if we're playing five-on-five, I'm not even thinking about my knee anymore. I just go out and play. That's cool, because I was so worried about my knee for the longest time. Now I don't even worry about it that much."
"I'll know I'll be as nervous as hell before my first game back. That may be the most nervous I'll ever be before a basketball game."
Coming back from the terrible injury he suffered is not an easy road. It has been countless hours in the gym, undergoing surgery and having the mental and physical strength to see it through.
"I realize I'm a little more tougher than I thought I was," Butler said. "I've learned a lot about myself in general. I've also learned I have a great support staff around me. WVU and the fans have always supported me. I have my family and friends who have stuck with me through this. They kept me grounded and kept me relaxed, which helped a lot."
Here's hoping there is no NBA lockout next season and Butler will finally get a chance to see all his hard work pay off as he steps onto the court for the Spurs.
San Antonio Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer was in the running for the head coaching job with the Golden State Warriors. How strong? Warriors owner Joe Lacob flew out to San Antonio to meet him personally about the job.
In the end, Mark Jackson got the nod and Budenholzer remains on the Spurs' bench.
So now that Golden State has their new coach, what did Lacob have to say about his meetings with Budenholzer?
It was a long, long conversation, because he was late in the process. I think he is technically a very good coach. Excellent.
I didn’t think he was the right fit for our organization at this time. I think he fits very well in the San Antonio organization. He’s been there for 15 years. I think he’s a very, very good coach. He was strongly in consideration, but he’s not the guy we chose.
As much as Spurs fans might be relieved to know Budenholzer is still with San Antonio, he is still head coaching material for any NBA team and does deserves a shot.
Oh and your loss Warriors!
San Antonio Spurs' Tim Duncan is viewed as a calm, cerebral player on the court. Rarely engaging in smack-talk, always trying to out-smart his opponent and letting his game do all the talking.
But just how cerebral is Duncan? What goes on in that brain of his? Well according to former Spur Bruce Bowen, Duncan views things in everyday life a bit differently and was a bit strange due to Duncan's psychology degree from Wake Forest. For example, the number "7."
And with that, take it away Bowen:
"Tim's a psychological guy," Bowen said. "They don't see things the same way."
Bowen pointed to a sign with the number 7 on it.
"He might not say that's a 7," Bowen said. "He might say that's an upside-down L."
You know what, this is just fine.
If Duncan wants to see 7's as upside down L's so be it. Heck for that matter he can view the number "8" as a vertical infinity sign. I don't care. As long as it brings in more winning seasons, and another title for the Spurs, then he can be as quirky as he wants to be.
Working behind the scenes of every NBA is a strength and conditioning coach.
Some are good at their job and some set the professional standard. Mike Brungardt is one of the best in his field and is the only strength and conditioning coach in the history of the San Antonio Spurs franchise.
Brungardt is retiring after 17 years of service with the team. He had his work cut out for him in those 17 years.
Keeping players physically together on four championship runs. Working through tough injuries with key players such as Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker to keep the Spurs' championship hopes alive. Coach Popovich described his service to the team the best when he said
“All of us will miss Mike a great deal,” said Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich. “He has been an important part of the Spurs success over the last 17 years. He built our strength and conditioning program from the ground up and remains one of the best in the business. He has the respect and admiration of everyone in the organization, from players to coaches to front office staff. On a personal note I hate to see Brungy leave. He is a good friend and a wonderful man.”
From everyone on the Project Spurs staff we wish ''Brungy'' the best on whatever endeavor or path he chooses next.
The San Antonio Spurs have already drafted a player out of Great Britain with Ryan Richards and it seems they might be interested in another.
The Spurs worked out forward Matthew Bryan-Amaning out of Great Britain, London and from the University of Washington:
Bryan-Amaning has been projected as a possible late second-round choice when the annual Draft takes place on June 23 in Newark, following an impressive stint at the University of Washington.
He has also held private work-outs with the San Antonio Spurs, Portland Trailblazers and New York Knicks in a bid to make his case for selection.
Amaning is a 6'9", 240 lbs., forward who averaged 15.3 points, shot 54.6% from the field, 8.0 rebounds, 1.5 blocks in 28.2 minutes for the Huskies last season.
Looking at Bryan-Amaning's game, there is a stark contrast in the style of offensive play he employed in college compared to what he'd have a chance at doing in the NBA initially. Bryan-Amaning relies heavily on a somewhat unrefined back-to-the-basket game at the moment, one he's not terribly efficient with but shows some nice flashes. He is extremely quick for a player his size and is capable of beating many players laterally in the low and mid post, while his length and creativity allow him to finish from multiple angles around the rim. Still, ultimately this area of his game is still unpolished and not yet consistent.
Watching the San Antonio Spurs' greatest weakness be exploited over and over again in the opening round series versus the Memphis Grizzlies, it was clear to Spurs fans what was needed upfront for the Spurs to succeed next year.
But that's an overly simplistic view, and looking deeper into the numbers they paint a different picture then what you would reflexively say after watching the Memphis series. The Spurs don't just need more size, they need more size with a specific skill set.
This needed skill set enables the offense to run at a high level. The Spurs also need some added emphasis on defense, dropping out of the 10 top in league defensive rankings. Which is traditionally un-Spur like. And lastly, they need some good fortune in the trade market if indeed they do start dealing valuable parts to fill in roster weaknesses.
Here's the basic agenda for the Spurs off season with more expansion.
1) Draft or trade for a long 4-5 with a passable defensive game.
Tim Duncan plays better with Matt Bonner sharing the frontcourt with him than any other big man in the rotation. His FG% is at its highest coming in at 57% while he scores 18.3 points and pulls down 11.5 boards. His +/- is 4 points higher playing with Bonner then any other big man. The Spurs' numbers are up across the board against most teams when Bonner is in the lineup.
The plus/minus when Bonner is in the game versus when he is on the bench is as high as 13 points versus some teams in Bonner's favor. But when looking at the numbers against playoff teams with good frontcourts, the numbers tell a different story.
The Lakers benefit greatly from having Bonner on the floor. Their three-point percentage jumps 11 points with Bonner on floor. Their rebounding average jumps from 44.9 with him off the floor to 51.4 with him on it. They also have a +/- of +6.2 when he is playing vs 0.0 when he is not. You see the same pattern with the Grizzlies, though it's much more drastic. With Bonner on the floor Memphis' +/- jumps to +12.5 versus -6.5 when he's off it. Their three-point percentage makes a huge jump with them making 34.8% of their threes with him off the floor versus 52.4% when he's playing.
Rebounding was up for Memphis from 37.8 with him off the floor to 47.0 with him on it. That's almost a 10 rebound difference per game. Bonner's positive statistics during the regular season come from him fulfilling a specific role in the offense which requires a skill set rare to big men. He can shoot the lights out. And in the Spurs offense you need a long 4-5 to let the wings do their thing. They need to get in the lane and keep moving the defense. You can't do that with big men clustered around the hoop collapsing on them. So having Bonner play in the playoffs against teams with big and skilled front courts is a losing situation.
What the Spurs need is to draft or trade for a long 4-5 who can play some post defense and stop the huge leak Bonner brings to the table. If the Spurs acquire a long 4-5 who can play passable defense you will see a team prepared for a long playoff run.
2) Acquire a more defensive oriented wing player.
Former San Antonio Spurs players Maurice Cheeks and Terry Porter are rumored to be candidates for a coaching positions in with the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers respectively.
According to ESPN, Cheeks is a strong third candidate for the head coaching position with the Raptors:
Lawrence Frank and Dwane Casey are on the Toronto Raptors' list of coaching candidates, but sources say there is a strong third candidate: Oklahoma City Thunder assistant coach Maurice Cheeks.
Cheeks comes with head coaching experience with the Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers. Overall, his coaching record is 284-286 and is currently an assistant coach with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Cheeks played with the Spurs during the 1989-1990 season, which was also David Robinson's rookie season, but was traded to the New York Knicks midseason for Rod Strickland. In 33 games with San Antonio he averaged 10.9 points, 6.0 assists, and 1.6 steals.
Porter is rumored to be an candidate for an assistant coach with the Pacers according to Yahoo! Sports:
Bird and Vogel have met several times in recent weeks, and have targeted several assistant coaches – including Terry Porter and J.B. Bickerstaff – that the Pacers would like to surround Vogel.
Porter would be a great assistant coach for the Pacers who are looking to surround Vogel - who is likely to become the permanent head coach in Indiana - with no-nonsense assistants seeing how the Pacers front office is worried if Vogel can command respect among the players.
Porter played for the Spurs from 1999-2002 with his best season as a Spur coming in his first season in silver and black when he averaged 9.4 points, 3.3 assists, and shot 44% from the field.