When I looked at the schedule for this week in thinking about which game I should do a Q&A on, tonight's Mavericks game stared me right in the face and with the way the Mavs showed the Spurs the door in last year's playoffs, I knew this was the game. I got a chance to talk to Rob Mahoney of The Two Man Game to preview tonight's game.
1. A lot of people are ignoring Dallas when it comes to talking about who will come out of the Western Conference. What would you say to the people that say it'll be between the Lakers and Celtics to decide who will go on to the Finals?
I would say 'Wise up.' These things rarely turn out exactly as planned. An injury here, a Gasol trade there, and the entire conference landscape can change in the blink of an eye. The Mavs have all the offensive weapons necessary to be a dangerous team, and the defense is looking rock steady. Dallas certainly has the power to significantly alter the playoff picture, whether it's winning it outright, taking out a contender before falling short, or even something as simple as wearing down a team like the Lakers with a tough road ahead.
2. Both the Mavs and Spurs added some key pieces in the offseason with the Spurs getting Jefferson, McDyess and Blair among others and the Mavs picking up Shawn Marion, Tim Thomas, Drew Gooden and Rodrigue Beabois. Which team made the changes that will have the most impact this season?
It's gotta be the Spurs. Jefferson, McDyess, and Blair can all be huge factors in the Spurs' rotation, whereas Shawn Marion is the only Mavs addition performing up to snuff. Drew Gooden has been alternating between shades of bad and awful, and though I'm holding out for a turnaround, I don't think he can match Blair's activity level. Thomas and Beaubois are relegated to role player duties, and though each has their respective strengths, they're not going to improve the team on an every-night basis. That's the impact that Jefferson, McDyess, and Blair are having, and though it hasn't quite come together for SanAn on the defensive end, I wouldn't worry. That Popovich guy is pretty good at his job, so I hear.
3. Does Jason Kidd have a chance against Tony Parker, assuming he plays, or will Carlisle adjust and start Kidd with Barea, who has given the Spurs fits?
I wouldn't be surprised if Carlisle used either Kidd, Howard, or even Shawn Marion to defend Parker from opening tip. Countering TP's speed with length could be the most effective approach when Barea isn't on the floor. Even though J.J. does cause some problems for the Spurs (as you mentioned), I just don't see Carlisle fiddling with his starters right now. Josh Howard is still working his way back from an ankle injury, and establishing an early game rhythm with Howard and the rest of the starters is going to be key.
All of that said, I wouldn't completely count Kidd out. While he's not exactly as fast as lightning these days, the Mavs' D has looked much better this season than in years past. I'm hoping that those improvements will help Kidd to contain Parker should that be Carlisle's match-up of choice, but otherwise the defensive game plan may be geared towards taking away the rest of the Spurs' 3-pointers. Or hey, maybe TP sits out tonight and spares Rick the headache.
4. Does anyone on the Spurs have a chance against Dirk Nowitzki, and what do you think Pop will have to do to keep Dirk from going off like he did against New Orleans?
Dirk has always been in a strange no man's land when it came to San Antonio (not that other teams are necessarily more equipped). Bruce Bowen and Tim Duncan were both great defenders, but Dirk could take advantage of either player in different ways. For the record, I don't think the current Spurs cast has a chance against Dirk, but if I had to nail down the best possible option, I would probably go with Richard Jefferson. Smaller, athletic defenders don't consistently give Dirk trouble like they used to, but given the other match-ups (Bonner? McDyess? Blair?) it's definitely worth a shot.
5. Spurs fans like to call Dirk "Irk" and sometimes say "there's no D in Dallas." After watching your latest Moving Pictures video, would you say that is just a misconception? Is Rick Carlisle the reason for this focus on team defense?
I think it's a huge misconception. Earlier in his career, Dirk was miserable on defense. But he's shown remarkable improvement since that time, and his public perception has just never caught up. He's not as slow on the perimeter as others may have led you to believe, and a surprisingly decent on-ball post defender. The only reason Nowitzki doesn't log more time at center is mostly due to an attempt by Carlisle and his staff to shield Dirk from needless fouls.
As for the Team D, it's a combination of Carlisle's mentality and the additions of Shawn Marion and Quinton Ross. Defense, defense, defense has been the company line since the end of last season, and was items A, B, and C on the agenda at training camp. It shows, and the Mavs' defense (1st quarter against Houston last night excluded) has looked awfully strong.
6. In your opinion, what is the key matchup for tonight's game and what's your prediction?
The ankles of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan vs. The Spurs' medical staff. Those two change everything, and if their 'doubtful' status translates into watching from the sidelines, the Mavs should be able to coast to a win despite their tired legs.
Mavs by 14.
Though it's worth noting that the Spurs beat the Mavs under similar circumstances last year, although if I remember correctly it was without Duncan and Ginobili. Fingers crossed that we don't see a repeat of that flub.
Thanks to Rob for taking the time out to answer our questions. Feel free to comment below with your thoughts on his answers.
Live Show Tonight
We'll be going live right here on ProjectSpurs.com starting at 6:30 p.m. CST tonight to preview the Spurs vs. Mavericks game.
Aside from previewing the game, we'll be taking your calls throughout the night at 210-757-0847 and have two giveaway.
The live stream will be audio only and we'll also have a live chat set up to interact with us and chat with other Spurs fans.
We'll stop right before the game starts and when it ends, we'll be back live for postgame recap and react, and we'll have plenty of time for your calls to talk about the game, win or loss.
Again, we will start at 6:30p.m. CST and go until about 7:25 p.m.and come back on right after the game. Look forward to talking to you all tonight.
As some of you know, last month I was a speaker at the Sports Media 360 conference in Cleveland. Joining me as a speaker was Brian Cuban of The Cuban Revolution and brother of Dallas Maverick's owner Mark Cuban.
Talk about two worlds colliding or as Brian said "It was a WTF moment." Here we had a Spurs blogger meeting the brother of Mark Cuban. Though we didn't have a WWE cage-match fight for the honor of the Spurs and Mavericks, we did become good friends and he was kind enough to give Project Spurs an exclusive interview.
So with today being the first time the Spurs and Mavericks play each other this season, we thought it would be fitting to release this interview today. We talked about the Western Conference, discussed Spurs-Mavericks and many other topics. Of particular interest are his experiences with Spurs fans in San Antonio. Joining me in the interview was my partner, Michael De Leon who went to the douchebag move (as Michael put it in the interview) of calling the Mavericks chokers. Enjoy.
Thanks to Brian for giving us this interview. Please leave us your thoughts on this exclusive interview and please visit The Cuban Revolution where you might find a familiar face being interviewed on his show.
By Dan Ehrlich
Contributor to Project Spurs
The 2009-10 season is still very much in its infancy. The Spurs have only played a handful of games so far, and it is clearly too early to make any firm conclusions either way. There is no doubt that the thumping of Chris Paul’s Hornets on opening night gave us a hint of how good the team can potentially be, with a bench that some say is the best the team had in recent memory.
Not long after that, though, the Spurs also displayed early season jitters in heavy losses at Utah and Portland. Being at the 0.500 mark is not too surprising. The fact remains that the wins so far all came at home, and that the Spurs are still winless on the road so far. They have in fact lost their first 3 regular season road games for the first time in 16 seasons, and all of them in pretty emphatic fashion. The reason that this is cause for concern, in my view, lies in the schedule for the remainder of the season.
Having a sneak peek into what’s awaiting the Spurs in the months leading to mid-season, an unusually home-heavy schedule is revealed. By the time the team embarks on its annual Rodeo Road Trip in early February, the Spurs would have already played 29 home games versus only 17 road games. That is quite a significant discrepancy, which then of course has to be balanced out by a very road-heavy schedule in the second, and crucial half of the regular season. In February, March and April, the team will go on no less than 24 roadies, with only 12 games at the AT&T centre.
Why is this a potential cause of concern, you might ask? Shouldn’t a home-heavy schedule allow the Spurs the get into a good run of wins, given their great start at home? That is of course a plausible argument, and there is obviously a good chance the Spurs will head into the latter half of the season sitting on a very good record. My concern is actually more around what happens if the Spurs do not capitalize on this opportunity and head into a very tough stretch run needing to win a lot of tough road games in order to get a good playoff seed and to avoid playing teams like the Lakers or the Nuggets early on in the battlefield that is the Western Conference Playoffs.
To see why this is a cause for concern, and why the next few weeks could prove crucial to the season, here are a couple of points to consider:
Let’s remind ourselves that the Spurs are not normally at their best in the first half of the regular season. Pop usually uses this time of year to determine the most efficient rotations; the starting unit and the pecking order on the bench. He cares more about players learning the system and gaining experience than winning every game. This season, more than most, there is a lot of jelling and system-learning to do for multiple key rotation players such as Jefferson, McDyess and Blair. As a result, fans and experts alike expect the Spurs to have some early-season rustiness, leading to a sub-par game here and there that can give a perennial lottery team such as Memphis a surprising road win in the Alamo City.
Most of those who have followed the Spurs over the past couple of seasons know that Pop will choose some nights to rest one or two of the "Big Three" in order to save them for the playoffs, especially in the second night of back-to-backs. He would do that even if it means sacrificing the game for it. This point is actually mainly applicable for the road-heavy second half of the season.
Starting February, the Spurs have eight back-to-backs, where the second leg of those back-to-backs include games at Portland, New Orleans, Orlando, Phoenix and Denver. Most fans would agree with me that resting key players in such games would make those games extremely hard to win, despite having a great bench this year. Let’s not forget the above opponents will all have playoffs seeds to fight for. If the Spurs do not come into this stretch of the season with a decent record, there is a danger of either getting a low playoff seed, or risking injury to key players by playing them more than Pop would ideally want.
The Western Conference’s top echelon is as competitive as it has ever been. LA Lakers, Portland, Denver, Dallas, Houston, New Orleans, maybe even Phoenix and Utah, could all pass the 50-win mark. A couple of extra losses here or there could mean facing the Lakers very early on, maybe even in the first round.
Given the above points, it gets apparent to me that this regular season could turn out to be much tougher than expected if the Spurs don’t capitalize on the upcoming string of home-stands and head to the Rodeo Road Trip with only an “OK” record. It will be important for Pop and the coaching staff to very carefully plan their approach to the schedule so that, on one hand, the new players are still given the time they need to get confident and to learn the Spurs system, but on the other hand, the team also does not lose sight of what is coming later in the season and realises that they cannot afford to drop many home games early on.
In the coming few weeks, the Spurs play at home to teams such as Oklahoma City, Milwaukee, Golden State, Philadelphia, Sacramento, Charlotte, LA Clippers, Minnesota, New Jersey and Memphis. These are all games that the Spurs should really win at home, with or without any early season rustiness. And I do think that resting the Big Three in the second leg of back-to-backs later in the season is probably more important as far as the playoffs are concerned than anything else. To be able to do that, the Spurs will have to make sure enough wins are earned in the easier, home-dominated, first-half schedule.
Getting 60+ wins suddenly sounds a tad harder now. All of this is actually one of the reasons why I personally predicted only 54 wins for the Spurs this season, and the more I think about it, the more I realize even 54 would actually be a very good achievement considering the circumstances. I hope, of course, that the Spurs prove my concerns to be completely baseless by playing like road warriors later on in the season and therefore compensating for any silly early home losses. However, I’d still rather have the luxury of being able to rest our big three late in the season to keep them fresh for the playoffs by capitalizing on the extended home cooking the Spurs are about to get in the upcoming few weeks.no comments
By Robby Lim
The Spurs season is still in its infancy but so far it would seem the Spurs can’t find a groove. There are times they look a step slow on defense and times where they can’t find their shooting touch.
Some Spurs fans might get easily worried or frustrated about the slow start and rightfully so. After seeing the summer acquisitions, and the hype surrounding the Spurs heading into the new season, it’s perfectly normal to get excited and expect immediate results. But the truth is it doesn’t work that way. Having great talent is one thing. Building team chemistry is another.
Now you might ask why do teams like the the Lakers, Celtics, Nuggets and even the Suns have all great starts, while the Spurs have struggled?
Those teams didn’t change their roster as much as the Spurs did. The Lakers basically swapped Ariza for Artest. The Celtics simply added Rasheed Wallace and Marquis Daniels to the mix. The Nuggets retained their core and drafted Ty Lawson and signed Aaron Afflalo while the Suns returned to their old running game while acquiring Frye.
The Spurs, on the other hand, are almost an entirely new team. They’ve added new pieces in Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and DeJuan Blair. They also added Theo Ratliff, Keith Bogans and Marcus Haislip, all who need time to develop chemistry among themselves and with the returning players from last year's Spurs team.
The point is that the other teams mentioned are quite familiar with each other. They retained their core and have fewer guys that need to learn the system. For a team game like basketball, familiarity and chemistry are of great importance. It’s one thing to add a piece or two, but having a roster overhaul is a different story.
It is also important to note that despite their early struggles, the Spurs starters are getting a lot of rest. In five games, no Spur has averaged at least 30 minutes of playing time. This means Pop is not forcing it. He’s still in the "break in" mode so to speak.
As Pop put it, "the chemistry between the new Spurs and old Spurs — the learners and returners, is still a work in progress."
Pop has his work cut out for him. This year is probably the most challenging chapter in his coaching career. If the Spurs are to compete for a title, the learning curve for the newcomers needs to be shortened.
Championship teams are not built overnight. It’s a process and for a team like the Spurs, positive results might take a while.
With that being said, I’m inclined to believe the Spurs will continue to improve as the season goes on. By mid January or early February, it’s safe to say that we could see a different Spurs team. A team that is more focused, winning, and passed chemistry 101 with flying colors.
Please leave us your thoughts on the Spurs slow start and if it is more to it than just a chemistry issue.
After losing two games on the road against the Utah Jazz and Portland Trailblazers, the Spurs returned to San Antonio to face the Toronto Raptors. With Tony Parker sidelined for a week, all eyes were on George Hill as he took the reigns of the Spurs. Oh and Duncan was not in action for the game and was listed as day-to-day. Awesome huh? How did the Spurs do? This is how it went down in San Antonio.
Talk about a complete change at the starting lineup. The Spurs started with Hill, Jefferson, Ratliff, Finley, and Bogans.
Ratliff started the game with a nice dunk and Bogans hit a three. Good to see from the new guys. Hill had a slick move to the rim for an easy layup. Can you say learning from Parker?
But the Spurs D was non-existent as the Raps were hitting the outside shots and getting to the rim easily. Doing the damage for the Raps were Bosh and Bargnani. Spurs were down 12-9 at the 7:26 point of the first quarter.
Hill was steadying the team by getting to the rim and Bogans was aggressive attacking the basket. However the Raps were using their size against the Spurs with former Spurs Turkoglu, and Nesterovic and with Bosh and Bargnani. This proved to be too much for the smaller Spurs.
But to the Spurs credit they stayed tough and with help from Matt Bonner hitting a three and a soft turn around jumper, the Spurs took the lead, 23-22 at the 3:06 point of the first quarter.
After the Spurs went on an 8-0 run, Finley checked in late in the first quarter and hit a three but Antoine Wright answered back with a three of his own for the Raps.
Even after some Manu hustle, and Spurs toughness, Raps Jarrett Jack hits a three pointer to end the first to allow the Raps to take the lead, 32-31.
Spurs started with Bonner, Hill, Mason, Blair and Jefferson.
Spurs started off slow, missing shots, not finishing but Hill stayed in attack mode and hit a nice shot in the paint. Blair used his big body on Bosh to block him out for a nice layup off a Hill miss but it still wasn't enough as the Spurs were down 40-35 at the 8:35 point of the second quarter.
Raps Jose Calderon was hitting mid-range jumpers but the Spurs Richard Jefferson had a nice reverse dunk in the lane. RJ was continuing to be aggressive going to the lane but at the 5:48 point of the second quarter it was 47-40 Raptors leading.
Then enter Manu. He was running the show for the Spurs. Setting up guys for easy buckets and the Spurs went on a 12-2 run to tie the game at 49.
Still wasn't enough as the Raps were leading, 53-49, at the 2:50 point of the second quarter.
It was a back and forth affair to end the quarter as the Raps and Spurs stayed close to each other. Even Bonner had a dribble-drive for a dunk. No joke.
To end the first half, RJ hit a three to tie the game at 63.
Leading the way for the Spurs was Manu with 13 points.
Spurs started with Bonner, Jefferson, Hill, Ratliff, and Bogans.
RJ showed some ball-handling ability for a coast-to-coast layup to take the lead for the Spurs, 70-69, early in the third quarter.
Hill had some nice moves to the basket, including some fancy dribbling on Bargnani, and Bogans hit some shots but it was a back and forth game during the midway point of the third.
At the 6:40 point it was 77-75 Spurs. With the D not really being there the Spurs relied on their offense to get it done.
Manu looked like he was fresh in the third quarter. He was getting to the rim, scoring, and setting up other guys for easy scores. Whatever they put in rabies shots, keep jabbing Manu with them! Seems to be working.
Though the Raps were shooting above 60% in the third, the Spurs kept it close since they were out-boarding the Raps, especially on the offensive glass.
Manu was just vintage Manu. Driving, scoring, drawing fouls. He did it all to keep the Spurs close. But with seconds left in the third, Marco Belinelli hit a three point shot to end the quarter to take the lead for the Raps, 95-93, heading into the fourth quarter. Yes you read that right. Spurs put up 93 points and the game wasn't over.
Manu leading the way after three with 24 points.
Spurs started with Mason, Jefferson, Hill, Bonner, and Blair.
Bonner and Jefferson started off strong. RJ slashing to the rim and Bonner hit a three to open up the quarter.
Manu was continuing his hot hand and with 8:03 left in the game, he already had 30 points. The Spurs also went on an 8-0 run until Bosh went to the free throw line to make it 108-105 Raptors.
RJ, Dice, Bonner, and Manu were leading the way for the Spurs and it was 114-109 with 4:04 left in the game.
Manu continued to pour it on hitting three's and even Bonner got in the three point barrage by hitting a three of his own and with 2:50 left in the game it was 123-112, Manu. . . . I mean Spurs!
With 1:04 left in the game it was 117-125, Spurs in the lead.
Though the Raps kept it close with a Bosh three but in the end, the Spurs closed out the Raptors and got back on the winning track. Final score Spurs 131, Raptors 124.
Spurs get back to .500 with a record of 3-3. Manu finished with 36 points and two blocked shots.
The "Shiny Spur Award" goes to Manu Ginobilli while the "Rusty Spur Award" goes to Roger Mason.
- Whatever these rabies shots are Manu is receiving, he needs to keep them coming. He looked like the Manu we know.
- Dice and Blair did a fine job on the boards with 10 and 7 boards respectively.
- Great to see the Spurs play great without Parker and Duncan.
- Hill did a fine job steadying the Spurs while TP is out. He was getting to the rim and finishing. 22 points and 5 assists.
- For all the smack talk I give Bonner, I may have to take it back. He was draining 3's, fighting for boards, hitting his shot, putting the ball on the floor for drives and even had a dunk.
- RJ seems to be finally getting the swing of things in the Spurs system. He finished with 24 points and 7 assists.
Jeff and I went live right after the Blazers game on Friday night to break down the Spurs third loss of the season.
We brought on Jared Wade of Both Teams Played Hard to recap the game and get his thoughts on where the Spurs are standing this early in the season. Jared says there is no reason to panic, but some adjustments should be made.
We also took your calls, gave out the Shiny and Rusty Spur and put a new Spurs player on the hot seat.no comments
Sure the Blazers got the win against the Spurs this past Friday but this is just too good not to revisit. This was about the only good thing coming out of the Spurs loss. And for those who have not seen this RJ dunk on Greg Oden, enjoy!no comments
Tony Parker will be out for one week after spraining his ankle during the Spurs loss to the Portland Trailblazers. Parker was driving to the lane on Steve Blake when the injury occurred. Good news is X-rays were taken in Portland and were negative.
Parker has had ankle injuries in the past and the most recent was the ankle injury he suffered this summer playing for the French National Team.
Expect George Hill to get more minutes while Parker is out. We saw last year what he did when Parker was injured. He had an impressive stretch of games as a rookie while Parker was out including getting the best of Bulls guard Derrick Rose in Chicago last year.
Here is the video of Parker's injury.
Please leave us your comments on this injury and what you think on Hill having to now run the team.