Here's the full list of the Southwest Division team previews, which we participated in as part of CelticsBlog's NBA Blog Previews.
New Orleans Hornets
San Antonio Spurs
Here's the full list of the Southwest Division team previews, which we participated in as part of CelticsBlog's NBA Blog Previews.
New Orleans Hornets
San Antonio Spurs
I recently had an opportunity to talk with Rey Moralde of The No Look Pass. He is a huge Lakers fan and is probably the most rational Lakers fan I know. He and I had a conversation about Lakers fans not respecting or even recognizing the Spurs as a threat in the Western Conference this coming season.
Well as a huge Spurs fan I had to enter enemy territory and remind Lakers nation the Spurs are not going to lie down without a fight.
And for the record, Rey and I are good friends and not enemies. He just cheers for the wrong team.
Here is our conversation:
JEFF: Rey, I know your Lakers team are the reigning champions of the NBA and L.A. is the clear favorite but Lakers fans are forgetting about one team….the Spurs.
REY:As a Laker fan, I’m thrilled that the Lakers ARE loaded. But like… about five other teams are loaded. One of them being the Spurs. And this is why I don’t really hang with too many Laker fans; they’re delusional. They don’t think there’s any other team in the league. It’s like… they’re already crowning them. Championship games are played in June. I’m sure you know a little bit about that.
JEFF:I’m a huge Star Wars fan and the way Laker fans are acting remind me of Luke Skywalker in Episode 4 when he shoots down one enemy ship, turns to yell “I got him! I got him!” Well, Lakers fans allow me to be the Han Solo, “Great, kid, but don’t get cocky.” And cocky the Lakers fans are acting. Did they forget there are other teams in the west? But the Spurs are the Number 1 threat to the Lakers. Laker fans can’t be blind to that fact.
REY: Let’s see. Dallas has improved. Portland is more experienced. New Orleans might surprise teams again. Phoenix COULD be back. Utah is going to get healthy. And, of course, them Spurs are loaded. Although I still say that the Lakers are favorites but they’re only slight favorites to me.
JEFF: I will admit LA has a superior front court. Aside from TD and RJ not much left to contend with Odom, Bynum, Gasol. But need I remind you, Spurs have the advantage in the backcourt with Parker, Manu, and even Hill. And, yes, you did get Artest.
REY:Yeah, Phil is thinking of tinkering with a backcourt of Artest and Kobe.
JEFF: But who does Phil go to to cover RJ?
REY: Yeah, not sure if Odom can come in and do that.
JEFF:Even if Phil switches Artest on RJ, that leaves a defensive weakness for LA in the backcourt.
REY:Yeah, I mean… Derek Fisher is like 77 years old. And Jordan Farmar can’t even spell defense. Shannon Brown might put in some nice minutes, though…
JEFF: I am not here to believe SA will sweep the season series or even sweep LA in a 7 game playoff series. What I am here to do is to remind LA fans that they are sleeping big time on SA.
REY: I think it’ll be a fight. I won’t be surprised if San Antonio wins the West. Sure, the Spurs don’t have the length but they can probably outhustle and outmuscle the L.A. frontcourt.
JEFF: In essence, LA is in for a fight no a war w/ SA.
REY: It’s too early to tell, obviously. But I like those two teams going to the West Finals. And, by the way, I don’t wanna piss off Denver fans by not mentioning the Nuggets…
JEFF: Think about it, two of the best NBA coaches, Pop and Phil going at it and you think they won’t have their respective teams geared up?
REY: I really hope the Spurs stay healthy throughout.
JEFF:Same for LA. Farmar and Bynum were injured. And just like the Spurs with TP, LA has to monitor Pau’s minutes since he played in the summer for Spain. LA fans, you are getting cocky.
REY:You’re right. It’s going to be a war. I can’t imagine why Laker fans are ignoring the Spurs. Hill, Ginobili, Finley, Bonner, and Ratliff? Not exactly a sparkling line-up but these guys can get it done off the bench. That’s just the BENCH.
JEFF: Your team was taken to a 7-game series with a depleted Rockets team. Now imagine a healthy Spurs team.
REY:I haven’t even talked about Keith Bogans and Dejuan Blair. I sure hope L.A. stays focused.
JEFF: A healthy, younger Spurs team.
To read the rest of the conversation, click HERE to visit The No Look Pass. Expect Rey and I to do more of this as the season is underway. You can catch everything on the Lakers and Clippers and all of the NBA at The No Look Pass.no comments
In his first preseason game, DeJuan Blair showed us his ability to rebound the ball. In his third game, we now know he can put the ball in the basket.
Blair scored 15 of his 28 points in the fourth quarter as the Spurs fought back from an 11 point deficit to beat the Heat 95-93 on Sunday night.
Since Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili stayed back home for this game, the Spurs started Tony Parker, Roger Mason, Michael Finley, Matt Bonner and Ian Mahinmi. The Heat also decided to take precautions with their players and kept Dwyane Wade, Quentin Richardson and Jermaine O'Neal out.
Before it became the DeJuan Blair show, Michael Finley and George Hill kept the Spurs afloat as they struggled through a dry spell in the second quarter. Finley and Hill had 10 points and eight points respectively as the Spur s went into the lockerroom at halftime down 41-45.
In the third and fourth quarter it was all Blair. Even with the Spurs digging themselves into a deeper hole in the third, Blair hit a few layups and free throws as Michael Beasley and Mario Chalmers got going.
With the Spurs down by 11 to start the fourth quarter, it looked like the Spurs would be picking up their second loss of the preseason. When Blair connected on an alleyoop pass from Malik Hairston with 6:44 remaining in the game, he never looked back. He went on to score every way he could with a jump shot, reverse layup, hook shot and free throw. Then he showed some defensive prowess and picked off a pass from Dorrell Wright and took it the other way for a layup and a three point lead for the Spurs 89-86.
Heat guard Daequan Cook, who had been hot all quarter, made a three pointer to tie the game up with 1:18 remaining, but the Spurs relied on Blair once again to pull them ahead for the eventual win.
Marcus Williams continued to show that he is not ready for this level of basketball at either small forward or point guard. In three minutes of playing time, Williams had three points, one assist and three turnovers.
Ian Mahinmi started and got extended minutes so Pop could evaluate him. He finished with 9 points and three blocked shots in 26 minutes. He also had four fouls, but one of them should have been called on Roger Mason.
George Hill once again looked comfortable and put up 12 points in only 17 minutes, but I'll be looking for more assists once he starts playing games that count.
Malik Hairston, as always, made every minute count. He scored six points, had five assists and four rebounds in just under 17 minutes on the floor.
While I'm not sure if he'll earn a roster spot, Curtis Jerrells certainly continues to outplay Marcus Williams. Jerrells had nine points and two steals and shows no fear getting to the basket.
The San Antonio Spurs took on Olympiakos from Greece in San Antonio and it was a reunion of the "Big Three" of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. Olympiakos came into the game with some familiar players such as former Hawk Josh Childress, former Nugget Linas Kleiza and former NBA player Von Wafer.
The Spurs started the game with Keith Bogans, Tim Duncan, Matt Bonner, Richard Jefferson and Tony Parker. However something was very noticeable, Tim Duncan in a knee brace on his left knee. We all know TD suffered knee issues last season so this is something to keep an eye on the rest of this season.
With that out of the way, the Spurs did win their first preseason game beating the team from Greece 107-89 moving to 1-1 in the preseason. It was good to see the Spurs "Big Three" back on the court together. Manu, Tim, and Tony did play limited minutes with a combined 51 minutes on the court. Tim and Tony did not play in the second half while Manu played the most of the three with 20 minutes scoring 7 points, 5 assists and 2 steals. Tim finished with 10 points and Parker with 12.
So how did the new guys and the young players look? DeJuan Blair did not duplicate his stellar NBA debut but did manage to score 9 point and 2 rebounds. This should be expected from a rookie learning the ways of the NBA and this inconsistency from him should be expected. Plus Olympiakos had a 310 lb. player, Sofoklis Schortsanitis, to clog the middle. George Hill was the leading scorer for the Spurs with 17 points and looked comfortable leading the team. He even cut down on his turnovers with just one in the game. That's something nice to see from a young point guard in the NBA. Even Marcus Haislip got into the act and had a highlight worthy pass to Hill for an easy bucket at the rim. Haislip befuddles me. He has the height and build of a center but plays like a small forward. Surprisingly Ian Mahinmi did not pick up a single foul while in the game and managed to score 7 points and grab 2 rebounds. Are pigs flying? Quick! Check outside!
Making their Spurs debuts were Antonio McDyess and Theo Ratlliff. In 17 minutes McDyess scored 4 points and grabbed 5 rebounds while Ratliff had 3 points, 1 block and 2 rebounds.
Again the final score Spurs 107, Olympiakos 89. Click here for the complete boxscore.
The Spurs next preseason game will be this Sunday against the Miami Heat in Miami.
Some observations on the game:
By Dan Ehrlich, Contributor to Project Spurs
Before you contact the Project Spurs editors to wonder about this new contributor’s credentials or allegiance to the wrong NBA team given the dubious heading of this article, hold your horses and read on. Rest assured there is no error here. This is indeed an article on the Spurs written by a huge life-long fan from across the pond -- London, England. It concentrates on an area in which many of our younger fans may not know the Spurs have been one of the pioneers in.
The role of foreign players in the NBA has been immense in the past couple of decades, and if anything, only continues to grow. The draft has now become an event which involves teams selecting and attaining rights to talent from overseas just as much as it is about plucking the best American players from colleges around the country. Yao Ming (China), Andrew Bogut (Australia) and Andrea Bargnani (Italy) have been the No. 1 draft picks in this very decade. Ming and Bargnani never even officially played ball in the U.S. before being selected (Bogut played college at Utah). This all just proves how much impact the international game now has on the best league in basketball. There is also no doubt that Team USA’s struggles in the past few years in international competitions (2002 World Championships, 2004 Olympics and again at the 2006 Worlds), despite fielding great players from around the league, only served to drive the point home.
The Spurs have embraced the international game more than most teams in the league. After all, two of the team’s "Big Three" are from overseas. Tony Parker was an unknown 19-year old, even back in Europe, when selected at No. 28 in 2001. Manu Ginobili was selected at No. 57 back in 1999. We all know how great these players have become - three of the four championship banners would most probably not be hanging in the rafters of the AT&T Center without their contributions. There were of course others who have made contributions (to various extents) over the last decade – Francisco Elson, Fabricio Oberto, Rasho Nestrovic, Beno Udrih, Shane Heal, Hedo Turkoglu, to name but a few.
But what is less known and mentioned these days, is the fact the Spurs have been one of the trail blazers of the international game in the NBA. Back in the late 80’s, foreigners were a real rarity in the league. In fact, in 1989, the year David Robinson arrived on the scene and changed the franchise forever, there were only a total of five foreign-born players who hadn’t attended college in the U.S., and all five arrived from Eastern Europe. Very few teams put an effort to scout players overseas those days. One of those very few teams, though, was indeed the Spurs. And perhaps even more interesting is that two key personalities that helped kick-start the wave of import of international players were Gregg Popovich and RC Buford.
Popovich and Buford were both assistant coaches on Larry Brown’s Spurs team back then, and one of select few that paid serious attention to basketball talent offshore. It all started when Pop was given permission by Bob Bass (then Spurs GM) to scout the Euro Championships in the summer of 1989. A few weeks later, Pop came back from the tournament together with one of the best talents of European basketball, Zarko Paspalj.
From that point, other players came from overseas and played for the Spurs, and although none of them had as big an impact as Parker or Ginobili later on, they provided the grassroots for the development of international players not only for the Spurs organization, but for the NBA as a whole. Below I’ve provided a quick run-down as to who these players were and what they have done for the Spurs.
However, one should remember these guys less for their stat lines, and more for their influence years later. Gregg Popovich and RC Buford always maintained that some of those players were ahead of their time – the NBA was simply not ready yet, and coaches were also reluctant to give these players a real chance. Pop and RC’s ability to see what foreign talent can potentially bring to the table, and to wait for the right time to deliver their well-planned strategy - this time as much more influential people in the Spurs management ladder – paved the way for repeated use of the Riverwalk as a popular venue for NBA championship parades.
Height: 6' 9"
Origin: Serbia / Montenegro (Former Yugoslavia)
Spurs Stats (1989-1990): 23 Games Played, 2.6 PPG, 1.1 RPG, 0.4 APG, 0.3 BPG
Paspalj is probably considered the real pioneer of the Spurs’ true “foreign legion”. As mentioned above, Pop plucked him out of the 1989 Euro Champs after scouting there for the Spurs. Paspalj was already well known in Europe at the time, being a member of the strong, up-and-coming Yugoslavian national team.
Larry Brown played Paspalj very little in his only season with the Spurs (1989-1990), hence his not very impressive numbers. He also apparently played very little defense, not really helping himself playing for a defensive-oriented coach like Brown. Interestingly, when converting his numbers to 36 Minutes-Per-Game averages, perhaps one can see the potential he had – 14.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.4 BPG. Granted, it’s not necessarily a sound conversion, given that his actual minutes were probably played in garbage time, but there is still something to consider.
Paspalj was cut by the Spurs right before the 1990 playoffs to make room for Mike Mitchell who, ironically, played in Europe during that very season. He went back to play in Europe and became a full-fledged star in league competitions (both Yugoslav and Greek leagues) and nationally, winning multiple Gold medals with Yugoslavia. Popovich and Buford both claim that had Paspalj come to the NBA later on (he was only 23 when he arrived in the US), he would have been able to contribute significantly.
Although his on-court contributions were not significant, Paspalj was still popular in the locker room. In fact, he had a song written about him by Terry Cummings, “Mark of Zarko”. Another interesting fact is that when he arrived in Texas in the summer 1989, he stayed at Popovich’s house for a period. Somehow I can’t see something like this happening now in the NBA.
Height: 7' 0"
Spurs Stats (1989-1990): 13 Games Played, 1.2 PPG, 0.9 RPG
Welp’s stint with the Spurs was a very short one in the first part of the 1989-1990 season. His NBA career actually started a little earlier though. After enjoying great success in college basketball, becoming the all-time leading scorer for the Washington Huskies, he was selected by the 76ers in the 1987 draft. He played two seasons in Philly before being traded to the Spurs during the 1989 off-season.
However, as was the case with many of the other international players at the time, he got very little chance to prove himself in a Spurs uniform and barely played. He eventually got traded in the midst of the 1989-1990 season to the Warriors. His NBA career finished not long afterwards.
Height: 7' 1"
Spurs Stats (1989-1990): 7 Games Played, 2.1 PPG, 1.3 RPG
Blab joined the team in February 1990, as part of a trade deadline deal with the Warriors for… Chris Welp! It seems that when the Welp project failed, the Spurs simply tried it all again with another talented German center.
Blab actually played in the NBA since the mid 80’s after being drafted by the Mavericks back in 1985. He also played college basketball for Indiana prior to that.
All said, he appeared in only 7 games for the Spurs, and was waived after the 1989-1990 season.
Height: 6' 10"
Spurs Stats (1994-1995): 23 Games Played, 1.3 PPG, 1.0 RPG
Nwosu only played with the Spurs for one season (1994-1995) and averaged a mere 3.7 minutes per game. He actually went to Liberty University in Virginia, but was never drafted.
Nwosu is actually more known for what he has done outside the NBA. Amazingly, he played in 14 different countries in his career! He won the Russian league with CSKA Moscow, the French league crown with Orthez, and even a couple of cup competitions in the Philippines, before trying his luck in Romania, Syria and Iran. I suspect he would give anyone a run for their money as far as passport stamps are concerned.
Height: 6' 7"
Spurs Stats (1998-1999): 19 Games Played, 1.1 PPG, 0.3 APG, 31% 3-pointers
Gaze is still considered Australia’s most successful basketball player. He was well known to be an extremely prolific 3-point shooter with good passing skills to boot. He was one of the leading figures of his Australian team, Melbourne Tigers, and also played for his home country in a staggering five Olympic games.
His experience in the U.S. game started already back in 1989, when he played for a Seton Hall team that reached the NCAA final. However, he did not get his chance in the NBA until later on. He had a very brief stint with Washington (then Bullets) in the 1993-1994, before going back to play down under.
In the 1999 lockout-shortened season, he came back to the U.S. and joined the Spurs. Unfortunately, he was injured for part of that already-shortened season, so never had the real chance to display his famous shooting stroke. He did not make the Spurs playoff roster that year and as a result did not fully participate in the ensuing thrilling title run. However, the Spurs, being the classy organization it is, still gave Gaze a championship ring!
What are your thoughts on the Spurs being pioneers in scouting foreign talent? Leave us your comments.
Every year around this time, Jeff over at Celtics Blog organizes a NBA preview with bloggers from every team. Our Spurs preview article will be up Saturday, but here's the full list of Atlantic Division Previews.
New Jersey Nets
New York Knicks
I try to resist the draw each time. I tell myself that it's not worth it. That it will only result in heartbreak and disgust. That the last time was really the last time. Of course both you and I know that last time was not the last time. I'm like a lover that won't go away. Or an alcoholic.
At least my drug - potential - is not as harmful.
Each year the Spurs have a new case of potential. This year it's more pronounced than normal. Ian Mahinmi. DeJuan Blair. Marcus Haislip. That's not even including the overseas potential with James Gist. In the past it was James White, Beno Udrih, Jackie Butler and Francisco Elson. The names, positions and styles change but the irresistible nature of potential stays the same.
My dilemma is one based in rationality. I know that each of the players, despite their potential, is a long shot to become an integral part of the Spurs for a number of reasons. Only 450 basketball players can fill roster spots at a given time, which is a very small number in regards to the number of professional basketball players around the world. The NBA is for the elite basketball players, not just those that are good. Numerous experts time and time again have stressed that the players who make the NBA typically have one skill that they are exceptional at such as three point shooting, defense, rebounding, etc. A player who is mediocre or even good at a number of skills is less likely to make and stay in the NBA than a player who is exceptional at one skill.
The difficulty of making a NBA career is even more pronounced with the Spurs. It's no secret that Pop prefers to sign and play veterans. Just look at how long Jacque Vaughn stuck around and actually saw time on the court. If Pop has the choice of developing a young or raw player or playing a proven veteran who might not have as high of a ceiling, he typically goes with the veteran who can contribute immediately. He has this luxury with a core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, preventing him from needing to take chances. This lack of athletic, young players was evident last year and fans universally lamented this deficiency.
I know that the chances of Marcus Haislip becoming a consistent contributor are slim. I know that James Gist is a long shot to become the athletic three/four that the Spurs have not had during the decade. I know that Ian Mahinmi is foul-prone and extremely raw, limiting his chances of sticking with the Spurs in the long run.
So why do I keep caring about these players?
Potential is an insatiable drug, tantalizingly tasty yet so very often fleeting. I watch the youtube highlights, read the articles telling me how good the player could be and follow the message boards where so-and-so is the answer to all the Spurs problems. I convince myself that Jackie Butler's high PER is indicative of a great low post player and ignore the fact that he is unproven and horribly out of shape. I see James White jump from the free throw line, put the ball between his legs and dunk the ball and envision him stuffing alley oops from Parker. I watch Beno Udrih win a Rookie of the Month award and think he is the back up point guard of the future. Three players full of potential and three disappointments.
Potential is an inately fascinating idea, tapping into the American Dream that we can somehow improve our position in society through hard work and perseverance. I see Bruce Bowen go from Cal State Fullerton and bounce around overseas, CBA and the NBA before becoming one of the best defenders in the league and an integral part of multiple championships, and I see this opportunity in every player. With hard work James Gist can develop a reliable outside shot and strong defensive skills, carving out a place on the Spurs roster. I want these players to succeed. Not only for the Spurs sake but for my sake because that reaffirms the message I have been fed since I was a child that anything is possible.
Of course I know that not anything is possible. There are limitations. Still, this potential draws me in time and time again. I grow cynical and skeptical but I know that I will always come back, drawn by the irresistable nature of potential.
Michael and Jeff talk about the Spurs first preseason game against the Houston Rockets. After a full quarter-by-quarter recap (read the full recap) we go over some of the highlights and lowlights.
Among the highlights was DeJuan Blair, or "Windex", as Jeff calls him. Blair was an absolute beast and we thank the NBA gods for answering our prayers. Among the lowlights was another post player, Ian Mahinmi. It wouldn't be a Mahinmi game if he didn't foul out and time is running out on his career in San Antonio.
After discussing the first game, which resulted in a loss, Michael talks about the open practice/scrimmage on Sunday and they close out with some news of other Spurs and former Spurs in the news.