The Immortalized Spurs is a series comprised of articles that give an in-depth look at the player behind the retired jersey hanging in the AT&T Center's rafters. James Silas, Johnny Moore, George Gervin, and Avery Johnson have been previously covered.
Sean Elliott 1989-1993 & 1994-2001
Sean Elliott began his illustrious career playing high school ball in Tuscon, Arizona. He was a high school basketball standout and was a McDonald's All-American in 1985. Elliott played his college ball at the University of Arizona where he was a two-time 1st Team All-American as he averaged an impressive 19.2ppg, 6.2rpg, and 3.4 apg over his four years. The San Antonio Spurs drafted Elliott with the third pick in the first round of the 1989 draft.
Elliott would go on to play a stellar eleven seasons with the Spurs. He was voted onto the All Star team twice, once in '93 and again in '96. Spurs fans will remember the '96 All Star game took place in San Antonio and Sean treated us to a 13 point, 5 rebound, 2 assist performance amongst the best in the NBA. His best statistical season came in '96 when he averaged 20ppg, 5.1rpg and 2.7 apg.
In 1993, the Spurs traded Sean Elliott for Dennis Rodman. This was frowned upon by many since Rodman stood for everything the Spurs, and Sean, were not. The following year the Spurs recognized Sean's value and orchestrated a trade that would get him back into the Silver and Black. Elliott would go on to finish his career with the Spurs, retiring in 2001.
Sean Elliott was the key player in arguably the most memorable play in San Antonio Spurs' history, the "Memorial Day Miracle." At Project Spurs, we have discussed this at length so take a look here and here for more. As an NBA junkie, let me just say this ranks up there with the most amazing plays I have ever seen on a basketball court. It was simply incredible. The catch, the dribble to regain balance, the tip-toe to avoid the sideline, the unbelievable arch to clear 6'11" Rasheed Wallace's outstretched arms, and the momentum shift everyone in the Alamodome experienced. It was breathtakingly classic.
The ManA month after he helped the Spurs win their first championship, Sean Elliott announced he had been suffering from a kidney disease for years. Though he used every treatment available, his kidneys had continued to deteriorate and he needed a kidney transplant. In a circumstance that trumped the "Memorial Day Miracle," his brother, Noel, offered to give Sean one of his kidneys. Amazingly, the surgery was a success and Sean would live on and continue to contribute to this world we all share.
Through hard-work and ceaseless determination, on March 13, 2001, Sean Elliott accomplished what many thought was impossible; he became the first player to return to the NBA after a kidney transplant. Elliott would compete that season and the one after, before retiring. To this day, Elliott continues to shed light on kidney diseases as well as participate in many charity events. Sean is currently our favorite color commentator and can be heard during most every Spurs game. Sean's jersey was retired on March 6th, 2005, forever cementing his place as one of our Spurs heroes.
In the first debate of Spurs big shots, Project Spurs had the "Memorial Day Miracle" taking on "The TD 3." It was a landslide and Elliott's shot clearly won the debate. Thanks to all who voted, commented and actually READ the post to know this week we will be debating the "Memorial Day Miracle" against Horry's "3" in the 2005 NBA Finals against the Pistons.
Competition for the "Memorial Day Miracle" heats up. Both were crucial for the franchise and it's place among the pantheon of NBA's great teams.
Once more let's take a look at the "tale of the tape" and you decide.
The Memorial Day Miracle
May 31, 1999. Memorial Day. San Antonio. 1999 NBA Playoffs Game 2 Western Conference Semifinals, Spurs vs. Blazers in the Alamodome.
It was late in the fourth quarter and the Spurs battled their way out of an 18 point deficit to bring the score 83-85 Blazers leading, with 12 seconds left in the game. Mario Elie inbounds the ball to Sean Elliott, who was tip-toeing the corner sideline. The ball barely clearing the outstretch hands of Stacy Augmon, Elliott catches the ball, heels never touching the floor though they were out of bounds, Rasheed Wallace leaping to try to block the shot, Elliott launches a "3" over Wallace, and makes it! Spurs take their first lead with 9 seconds left and go on to win the game, 86-85, taking a 2-0 lead over the Blazers.
Points to consider:
- Elliott, though heels were out of bounds, never touched the floor
- Elliott was known to hit the "3" thus making it more likely he would make it
- Elliott had to shoot over Wallace
- Spurs were down as much as 18 points and were losing heading into the final quarter
- The shot devastated the Blazers moral and got swept by the Spurs
- The shot propelled the Spurs in the series against the Blazers on their way to their first NBA championship
The Horry "3"
June 19, 2005. Auburn Hills, Michigan. 2005 NBA Finals, Game 5. Spurs vs. Pistons at The Palace of Auburn Hills.
It was late in overtime of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, 5.8 seconds left and Horry was inbounding the ball. Horry passes the ball to Manu and Rasheed Wallace (again involved in another big shot in Spurs history) leaves Horry to help Tayshaun Prince trap Manu in the corner. Manu passes out of the trap to Horry who was wide-open for a "3" and makes it! "Big Shot Rob" strikes again! Spurs go on to win Game 5 in OT, 96-95 and would go on to take a 3-2 lead in the 2005 NBA Finals.
Points to consider:
- Horry hurt his shoulder going in for a dunk moments before his "3"
- Horry ended up scoring all of his 21 points with 17-plus minutes left in the game
- Horry's shot allowed the Spurs to take a 3-2 series lead and the team would go on to win their third title
- Unlike Elliott's shot, Horry had a clear shot at the basket
- Horry was known to hit big shots in the past
- During the 2005 playoffs, Horry went 38 of 85 from the three-point line
Amazing shots to debate but in the end there can only be one! Let's settle this Spurs fans. Go vote on the poll and leave us your comments with your opinion as to which was the bigger shot in Spurs history.
Michael and Jeff interview Ben Hunt from Spurs.com about all aspects of his job, including running the official Spurs twitter account.
Ben talks about different parts of his job and breaks down what a typical game day is like for him, from morning shootaround to uploading video and writing recaps at around 11 p.m. after the game.
Aside from the Spurs, Ben and the web services team also work for the Silver Stars and the Rampage and are responsible for the content you see on all three sites.no comments
When we published Jeff Garcia's post on the "Memorial Day Miracle" vs. the "TD 3" debate, we found there were a variety of answers and a strong case could be made for each shot. During a Project Spurs planning meeting last week, we found even we had a differing opinion, so we present our staff roundtable in hopes of determining which is the biggest shot. You decide in the comments.
Michael De Leon
If we are talking about bigger shot, I think many characteristics define that aside from which was more shocking. I was lucky enough to be in attendance for both games and both were plenty shocking and unexpected. While Tim Duncan doesn't shoot from beyond the arch much, he may as well have been in the shooting stars competition because he was wide open for a three and Tim himself has said his entire career that he has that range. What is more shocking than him knocking that down is that Pop actually drew up a play involving Tim shooting a three.
Some will say Elliott hitting a three is not a big deal because he shot the three his entire career at a good percentage. But what was his percentage of hitting falling out of bounds, tippy-toeing threes with Rasheed Wallace in his face. Elliott's shot also propelled the Spurs past the Blazers and into the Finals, while Duncan's got the Spurs past the first round before an eventual loss to the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
And as far as it killing the Suns, when was the last time the Suns got past the Spurs anyway and I believe we are asking which was the bigger shot, not which killed the Suns. I said as soon as the Suns acquired Shaq that I thought it was a terrible trade and that they were going downhill. So a shot that killed a team on its way down or an even more unexpected shot that got the Spurs into their first Finals. They were both amazing, but Elliott's was bigger.
TD's shot was bigger. The title of the post wasn't which shot was "pivotal" but which shot was bigger. If it was then by all means Elliott's shot was bigger. As mentioned in the post, since when was Duncan ever seen as a 3-point threat? He never was. Elliott on the other hand was known to hit the three with regularity and in that game, he was hitting his stroke with some 3-shots made in the fourth quarter.
Duncan's three was unexpected, and it absolutely killed the will of the Suns in the playoffs and the Suns organization. For all the moves the Suns made to beat the Spurs, it was all for nothing.
Sure Elliott's three won the game but Duncan's three was just more crushing to the Suns. Pivotal? No. Bigger? Yes!
Both Tim Duncan’s and Sean Elliot’s three point shots were improbable. Duncan simply does not shoot threes and here he is draining one in one of the greatest playoff games in Spurs history. On the other hand, Elliot’s heels were hovering precariously over the line and Rasheed Wallace was flying at Elliot with his arm stretched as far as possible. While Duncan’s might be more shocking, in the end Elliot’s was bigger because of the postseason outcome. His shot was instrumental in the Spurs’ first championship while Duncan’s came in a season that ultimately ended at the hands of Kobe Bryant. There were other factors that made Elliot’s shot bigger for me. We did not know it at the time, but Elliot was dealing with kidney failure and would have a transplant after the season. Imagine playing with that condition and making the biggest shot of your life. When I encounter two amazing performances or moments, the one that helped the team win a championship, the ultimate goal in sport, will come out on top unless the other moment is just so spectacular that it can’t be denied. Even though Duncan’s shot was amazing and caused my roommate, who hates the NBA, to declare it one of the greatest games he has watched, it cannot overcome the importance of Elliot’s shot to the team in helping it win its first championship.
I realize that this is not the most popular choice, but hear me out. The reason the Tim's shot was bigger than Elliott's is because of the lasting impact it had on the Suns. Tim's shot was the knockout blow to the Phoenix Suns franchise. They are still falling to the mat. Remember, when we played them in '08, they were contenders. Nash, Stoudemire, Shaq, Diaw, Barbosa, Grant Hill, and Raja Bell; this was a team to be reckoned with. This shot in Game 1 sent chills down every one of their spines. They never recovered and the Spurs went on to beat them four games to one. If Tim misses that shot, they steal home-court advantage and the series plays out in a completely different way. If the Suns had beaten the Spurs, maybe they do not trade away Bell, Diaw and Shaq. Maybe we are talking about the Lakers, Spurs, and the Suns right now as the three favorites in the West. We may not have won the title that year, but Tim's shot guaranteed the Suns would not be contenders in the future. And I for one, am very happy about that.
The Spurs have treated their fans to some of the biggest and best playoff memories in their existence. For example, winning four NBA titles, the "Memorial Day Miracle", the "TD 3" against the Suns, Steve Kerr's 3-point bombardment on the Mavs, and a thrilling game 7 against the Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals.
But what about the other memories us Spurs fans like to pretend never happened? Let's take a look at the Spurs top five worst playoff memories.
5. 1983 Western Conference Finals, Game 6
It was the "Iceman" and the Spurs taking on "Magic" and the Los Angeles Lakers in the 1983 Western Conference Finals. In an odd way, this game would be very foretelling of the future these two franchises will have playing against each other.
After finishing the season with a 53-29 record and winning the Midwest Division, the Spurs looked poised to make a run at the Finals. They eliminated the Denver Nuggets (4-1) in the semi-finals and advanced to the Western Conference Finals to take on the L.A. Lakers. The Spurs got the split on the road to open the series, won two games in the Forum but just couldn't win at home. They lost all home games against the Lakers and had a heartbreaking game 6, losing the the Lakers by one point! Final score: 101-100, Lakers.
4. Manu Fouls Dirk in Game 7 of the 2006 Western Conference Semi-Finals
Not only did the Spurs rally back from a 3-1 series hole, the Spurs also rallied back from a huge deficit in game 6 and things were looking great! Late in the fourth quarter, Manu hits a clutch 3 to give the Spurs their only lead of the game with 32 seconds left. And in a blink of an eye, Manu went from hero to goat. With 20 seconds remaining in regulation, Manu fouls Dirk Nowitzki as he was going to the basket, giving Dirk the "and 1." This ties the game and in overtime the Spurs lose to the Mavericks, 119-111 and lose the series. They do not defend their NBA title.
3. The Rod Strickland Pass in the 1990 Western Conference Semi-Finals
It was game 7 of the 1990 Western Conference Semi-Finals between the Spurs and Blazers. Tied in overtime, 103-103, the Spurs had posession of the ball with 30 seconds remaining when Rod Strickland threw a no-look pass to no one! Apparently he thought Sean Elliott was going to cut to the basket on the baseline. Jerome Kersey saves the ball from going out of bounds, passes the ball to Drexler, who was then fouled from behind by Strickland, giving the Blazers a breakway foul. Drexler would go on to make the free throws and the Spurs would eventually lose the game 108-105 and the series.
2. Hakeem Olajuwon Destroys David Robinson in Game 1 of the 1995 Western Conference Finals
The 1995 Spurs had the NBA's best regular season record and the Spurs marched to the Western Conference Finals to face Hakeem Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. That year, David Robinson was named the 1995 NBA MVP but some felt Olajuwon deserved it more. So what did the Spurs and the NBA decide to do? Give the MVP trophy to Robinson right before the series started. Call it motivation for Hakeem but he absolutely demolished Robinson. Hakeem and the Rockets went on to win game 1 and the series.
With the series tied, 2-2, between the Spurs and Lakers in the 2004 NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals, Game 5 proved to be the worst heartache for Spurs fans in recent years. The score was 72-71, Lakers, and with seconds left in the fourth quarter, Tim Duncan hit an amazing shot over Shaq to give the Spurs the lead, 73-72 with .4 seconds left in the game. After a Lakers timeout, Gary Payton inbounded the ball to Derek Fisher who then shot over Ginobili in .4 seconds. Fisher made it, winning the game for LA. Final score 74-73. The Spurs never recovered and went on to lose the series. Once again the Spurs do not defend their NBA title.
Well there you have it Spurs fans. Sorry to open old wounds. Leave us your comments on what you feel are other tough Spurs playoff memories you experienced.
Players improve in their second year with a team, especially if that team is the Spurs, who have intricate defensive rotations and demand full effort.
At least, that's the perception fans around the league have. For the Spurs, fans can point to Stephen Jackson increasing his minutes by 18 and points by 8. There is Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker making big jumps from their rookie year to year two. Even smaller improvements can be seen, such as Fabricio Oberto increasing his minutes by 9, points by 2.7 and rebounds by 2.6.
The supposed reason for these improvements is that a player has had a year to understand the offensive sets, learned how to play with his teammmates and grasped any defensive nuances. Logically it all makes sense, especially with the Spurs. Popovich is notorious for his reluctance to play new players because he is stubborn with his rotations, just ask Michael Finley, making it hard for first year players to become fully integrated.
However, I have often wondered if this improvement is statistically true. Our minds tend to remember the good, which is why we think of Jackson's improvement or Bruce Bowen's big jump in three point field goal percentage, but we easily forget the players who regressed, such as Francisco Elson or Rasho Nesterovic.
To have a better idea about the difference between a player's first year with the Spurs and his second year, I turned to one of my favorite basketball websites - basketball-reference.com. I found all the players since 1998-1999 who joined the Spurs and played at least two seasons with significant minutes per game (greater than 10) and made a spreadsheet with their statistics. I included some basic stats, such as points, rebounds and assists, but I really wanted to look at their advanced statistics because so much can change from year to year, such as playing time or usage, and I wanted to utilize statistics that would minimize those changes. This spreadsheet allowed me to see the differences from year one to year two, which I then averaged for the 25 players who fit the criteria.
The following chart shows the average difference from year one to year two. I've used some of these advanced statistics in the past, but here is a key for those who aren't familiar with them.
TS% - True Shooting %, takes into account 2's, 3's and free throws
eFG% - Effective FG%, takes into account that 3's are worth more than 2's
TRB% - Total Rebound %, estimate of total available rebounds a player grabs while on the court
AST% - Assist%, estimate of teammates FG a player assisted while on the court
TOV% - Turnover %, estimate of turnovers per 100 possessions
ORtg - Offensive Rating, estimate of points produced per 100 possessions
DRtg - Defensive Rating, estimate of points allowed per 100 possessions
OWS - Offensive Win Shares, estimate of # of wins a player contributed to because of his offense
DWS - Defensive Win Shares, estimate of # of wins a player contributed to because of his defense
WS - Win Shares, estimate of # of wins contributed to
I'll readily admit that these numbers are not perfect. Twenty five players is too small of a sample size to build a great dataset. Also, merely averaging them is not that most advanced way to look for improvement. I did not determine if the change was statistically significant, but it is a good jumping off point for discussion.
So what do these numbers tell us?
First, the average playing time was almost the same from year one to year two. While players like Jackson and Ginobili had significant increases in minutes, others like Steve Kerr, Steve Smith and Brent Barry saw significant decreases. Also, the basic statistics (points, rebounds, assists) showed slight improvements but not big enough improvements to blow me away.
I was intrigued to see that the average PER increased by 0.39. While it is not a large improvement, I found that players improved their PER more often than not, with 15 showing some improvement. This tells me that players were slightly more efficient in their second year with the team. Standouts in this area were Jackson (6.6 improvement), Parker (4.8), Ginobili (3.8), Oberto (2.6) and Kurt Thomas (2.9). The biggest drops were Nesterovic (-3.3) and Matt Bonner (-4.1).
I wanted to see if the TS% or eFG% improved at all because players were more comfortable with the offense and found better shots. It seemed that there was not a change. Some players improved (Bowen, Oberto, Jackson) but just as many regressed (Elson, Smith, Mario Elie).
To me, the most telling numbers were the AST% and TOV%. These showed that players assisted on more field goals while on the court and had fewer turnovers. Now, these numbers might be slightly skewed because they include Parker and Ginobili, but I was still impressed. This tells me that players felt more comfortable with the Spurs in their second year and protected the ball better, which has always been a key to the Spurs offense.
The ORtg showed that players, on average, contributed two more points per 100 possessions in their second year. Once again, this indicates that they are more comfortable with the offense. Of course, Jackson and Parker showed big improvements, but so did Nazr Mohammad and Kurt Thomas. Both players joined the Spurs towards the end of the season, so it makes sense that they would be more efficent in their second season.
I was a little surprised about the DRtg results. They showed that players allowed one more point per 100 posessions. I thought this would be lower since players would understand the defensive rotations better. Only five of the players actually lowered their DRtg while most increased it slightly.
The win shares showed slight improvement offensively and defensively, which is not too shocking. Overall, the win shares indicate that players contributed to nearly half a win more per season. While this is not a big amount, it is encouraging.
In the end, the numbers show that players in their second year with the Spurs are likely to experience a slight improvement in their offensive and defensive efficiency. The difference most likely won't come in their field goal percentage or points but in their overall understanding of how the team works. They will make fewer mistakes and help the offense run more efficiently, which makes sense when you think about it.
However, when I looked closer at the players that improved, it appeared to me that the jump from year one to year two was not necessarily because of better understanding of the Spurs offense but because of logical improvement that would have happened regardless of where they played. For example, Parker and Ginobili showed improvement because it was their second season in the league, and increased statistics and greater efficiency makes sense. I would also argue that Jackson's improvement was not because of greater familiarity with the Spurs but because he had raw talent that just needed time to develop.
What does this all mean for the Spurs players entering their second year with the team, Roger Mason Jr. and George Hill?
I expect Mason's basic numbers to fall because of the changes the Spurs have made. The addition of Richard Jefferson will cut into the number of shots he sees and it moves him down the pecking order on offense, which in reality moves him to his more natural role as a spot up shooter and not a creator. Since our numbers show that players improve in their efficiency, I expect his advanced statistics (PER, AST%, TOV%, etc.) to improve. Also, he will be asked to play point guard less (I hope), which means he will have to make fewer ball handling decisions and take better shots.
As for Hill, his numbers should improve across the board with Pop showing more willingness to play the youngster. Both Parker and Ginobili showed improvement in their second year, and while I'm not suggesting Hill is on level with either All-Star, he is closer to them mentally than Beno Udrih, the only other rookie in my dataset. Udrih, another back up point guard, saw his numbers decrease in year two, but Hill stronger mentally and seems to have Pop's confidence. He played well in the playoffs, when he got to play, and had a great Summer League.
Based on all of this, what do you expect out of Mason and Hill this year?
In the final installment of the "Home Sweet Home" series, we look back at the memories the Spurs have given their fans in the AT&T Center.
AT&T Center (2002-present)
After leaving the cavernous Alamodome, the Spurs moved into the AT&T Center, formerly the SBC Center. The Spurs lobbied the City of San Antonio to help build a new arena and left it up to the citizens of San Antonio to vote on a referendum to help with costs of construction. If it didn't pass, the Spurs were likely to move. The referendum did pass and construction began in 2000. The original plan was to open a new arena next to the Alamodome but a last minute deal between the Spurs organization and Bexar County, the new arena was to be built on the city's east side.
Once construction was complete, the Spurs broke in the new arena with style. Just in it's first season, the Spurs would win the 2003 NBA Championship against the New Jersey Nets, bringing them their second NBA title. And of that wasn't memorable, perhaps the bigger memory was David Robinson would retire as a champion. A fitting way for this Spurs legend to end his career.
The AT&T Center would be home to memories that will live with Spurs fans forever. In the 2003, Tim Duncan would come close to a quadruple-double and dominate the Nets in the 2003 NBA Finals. In the second season, the Spurs would host the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2004 Western Conference Semi-Finals and give Spurs fans the worst memory possible. Simply known as ".4."
The memories do not stop there. Who can forget the thrilling 7 game series against the Pistons in the 2005 NBA Finals giving the team its third NBA title, the constant beatdowns on the Phoenix Suns in the playoffs, the Tim Duncan "3" in OT versus the Suns in the 2008 NBA playoffs and the rise of the Tony Parker era. It also brought us Roger Mason's clutch shooting, David Robinson's jersey retirement night, heartache against the Mavericks in the 2006 NBA playoffs, the "no-call" foul on Brent Barry by Derek Fisher against the Lakers, Horry's hip-check on Steve Nash, the fourth NBA title against the Cavs in the 2007 NBA Finals and the prime years of Tim Duncan.
The AT&T Center is home to the biggest wealth of memories the Spurs have given their fans. I am sure the memories will continue to mount up as we will see the final years of Tim Duncan, Coach Pop, and the end of the "Big 3." But with the Spurs retooled bringing in Richard Jefferson and drafting DeJuan Blair, Spurs fans are sure to see more exciting times in the AT&T Center.
Top 5 Memories in the AT&T Center:
4. The "Big 3" era
3. Duncan's "3" against the Suns in the 2008 NBA Playoffs
2. Game 7 of the 2005 NBA Finals vs. the Pistons and TD's near quad-double
1. David Robinson retiring a champion in the 2003 NBA Finals & his jersey retirement night
Please tell us your memories of the AT&T Center and we leave you with the following.
When I first started thinking of Spurs nicknames, I thought there was no way I could come up with 10 among the list of lame nicknames like The French Connection, El Contusion, Ninja and San Antonio Daniels. We've now been through the The Admiral and The Iceman but I decided to turn back the clock a bit for a majority of the remaining nicknames, listed in no particular order.
Big Shot Rob (or Bob)
Although it wasn't a Spurs original, Robert Horry lived up to his nickname with clutch performances in several games throughout his five year stint with the Spurs, most notably his three-pointer in game five of the 2005 NBA Finals.
If you thought Horry was clutch, you may want to turn the pages back a bit on the Spurs history book and find the section on 6-2 guard James Silas. Nicknamed "Captain Late" among other nicknames for the way he took over games in the clutch. Silas played most of his career for the Spurs, and was an original Spur coming over in 1973 when the Dallas Chaparrals relocated to San Antonio. His best season was his last for the ABA Chaparrals, with averages of 23.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5 assists and just under 2 steals per game. Silas had his number 13 jersey retired by the Spurs in 1984.
The Bruise Brothers
Look up the Bruise Brothers on wikipedia and you'll find a list of wrestlers and ice hockey duos. But who can forget the early 80's Spurs players that were labeled "The Bruise Brothers" by then Express-News reporter Kevin O'Keeffe. The players that made up the Bruise Brothers were Dave Corzine, Reggie Johnson, Paul Griffin, Mark Olberding, Kevin Rstani and George Johnson. Check back tomorrow for a full profile on "The Bruise Brothers."
Larry Kenon spent 4 years with the Spurs, joining George Gervin to make one of the most potent scoring tandems the Spurs have ever seen. Known for grabbing one-handed rebounds, Kenon averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds in his tenure with the Spurs.
Chuck Connors Person played for the Spurs from 1994-98, before he was traded to the Bulls for Steve Kerr prior to the 98-99 season. He was originally given the nickname "the rifleman" after Chuck Connors, who played in the television western by the same name. But Person made the nickname relevant with his sharp-shooting displays on the court.
The Spurs recently released their '09-'10 schedule, which means it's time to get excited. To help you get back into Spurs mode, here are some games to watch and things to look forward to. Be sure to Tivo/DVR/do whatever it takes to have the March 8th game against the Cavs recorded so you can rewatch it.
Spurs vs. Hornets
Wednesday, October 28th
Beause this is our home-opener! I've been looking forward to this game since Game 5 against the Mavs, and I assume you have too.
What to look for?
-- First, check out our starting lineup. Will Coach Pop choose to start Manu or Jefferson, McDyess or Bonner, Finley or Mason, or will he throw a curve ball and start someone we haven't even considered?
-- Pay attention to Pop's bench rotation. Early in the season he will probably limit the Big Three's minutes. Tony may see especially low minutes since he chose to play for France rather than let his body recover from a long season. He is also dealing with an ankle injury.
-- Notice who is calling the game in the AT&T Center. The Spurs seemed unable to decide who should call the game and rotated announcers throughout the season. I must say, it annoyed the hell out of me. I think they finally settled on Big Kev.
-- As far as the Hornets go, pay attention to how the players interact with Byron Scott. Rumor has it they hate him. When he calls a timeout, count how many players are checking out the Silver Dancers rather than paying attention to what he has to say. When a free throw is being shot, see if he is trying to convey anything to his team, and more importantly, watch them ignore him.
Spurs @ Mavs
Wednesday, November 18th
This game will serve as an early measuring stick for the Spurs. Obviously, the Mavericks knocked an injury-riddled Spurs team out of the playoffs last season. At this point, knock on wood, we should be healthy and will be able to get an idea of how the Spurs match up against one of the best offensive teams in the West.
What to look for?
-- Pay attention to what happens when the Mavs go small, because they will. When the Mavs put Kidd, Terry, Howard, Marion, and Dirk on the floor, will the Spurs also go small or will Pop punish this small lineup with his bigs?
-- Watch Tony Parker drop 30+ on Jason Kidd. Ever since the Spurs nearly traded for Kidd the year after we beat him in the finals of '03, Tony seems to take this matchup personally.
-- Count how many boneheaded plays Drew Gooden makes on the defensive end of the floor. This will be a little difficult since Dirk and Kidd may disguise his mistakes with their own ineptitude, but still look for it.
-- Also count how many times Dirk flops when shooting to draw a call from the officials. And Mavs fans call Manu a flopper, how hypocritical.
Spurs vs. Celtics
Thursday, December 3rd
Because the Celtics won the championship two seasons ago and feel as if they did not lose to a team last year, they lost to injuries. The Celtics still feel like champions and will bring that attitude to the AT&T Center.
What to look for?
-- If you want to play a fun drinking game at home, drink every time Kevin Garnett drops the F-bomb. You will get loaded, I promise.
-- Notice how Garnett, Pierce, and Allen are moving. I feel as if one of these guys is destined to get injured during the course of the season and if you notice one of them limping, their season may be nearing its end. Those three just have too many games on their odometer and are getting a little too old to play the minutes that are being asked of them.
-- I wish Vegas let you bet on which official is going to get assigned to specific games. If they did, I would put the house on Joey Crawford officiating this game.
-- Enjoy the Parker versus Rondo show. This is the key matchup of the game.
Spurs vs. Lakers
Tuesday, January 12th
This is a matchup of arguably the two best teams in the West. It will be the 36th game of the season, so at this point both teams should have developed an identity and it could be a nice preview of the Western Conference Finals.
What to look for?
-- Tony should run Derek Fisher ragged. Will Phil Jackson have enough confidence to play Jordan Farmar extended minutes? Farmar struggled last season and the Lakers' most obvoius weakness is their point guard position. If Tony can dominate the game, the Spurs will have a great shot at winning.
-- If Kobe gets hot, who is Pop going to use to cool him off? Without Bruce, this will be a point of contention for all Spurs fans.
-- What lineup will Coach Pop go to when Phil plays Odom, Bynum, and Gasol at the same time? My guess is he will put an even smaller lineup in to give these three bigs a headache on the defensive end.
Spurs @ Nuggets
Thursday, February 11th
This is the 5th away game of the 8 game Rodeo Road Trip. Always an important stretch for the Spurs, this game is especially critical because it follows a Spurs, Lakers battle. It will be vital for the Spurs to win this game if they dropped the previous one in LA in order to avoid a potential slump.
What to look for?
-- In my opinion, the Nuggets overachieved last season. They benefitted from other teams' injuries. Generally when a team overachieves as they did, they come crashing down to reality the following year. If this happens, the wheels will come off since they are loaded with crazy people. Just keep an eye on the body language of the Nuggets' players.
-- The Nuggets lost their best perimeter defender in Dahntay Jones. Look for Manu to have a huge game.
-- Similarly, the Spurs lost Bruce Bowen so if JR Smith or Melo get hot, that will be a very bad thing for the Spurs.
Spurs @ Cavs
Monday, March 8th
King James and Shaq. That's why.
What to look for?
-- At this point of the season, we should pretty much know how the James, Shaq experiment is going to turn out. My guess is that they will not have improved much from last year. Shaq really does not address any of the Cav's problems. It will still be fun to watch them play, though.
-- Who will Shaq guard? It will have to be Tim, right? Tim should be able to dominate Shaq with his superior quickness. Expect Tim to draw Shaq away from the basket to limit his effectiveness as a help defender.
-- Pay extra attention to the coaching matchup. Mike Brown is intimidated by Coach Popovich. This was very evident when the Spurs faced the Cavs in the '07 finals and swept them. Mike Brown is baffled by Pop.
Spurs vs. Magic
Friday, April 2nd
In my opinion, the Magic own the most talented roster in the NBA, at least on paper. This late into the season, both teams will attempt to use this game to make a statement to the rest of the league. This will be an extremely intense contest with a playoff-like atmosphere.
What to look for?
-- A weak running hook by Howard. It was his only move last season, and if Patrick Ewing spent the entire offseason teaching him everything he knows about post moves, it will be his only move this season as well.
-- As I said, on paper the Magic are an extremely talented team; but are they too talented? That can be an issue in a locker room full of big egos. Also, Barnes, Gortat, and Bass all play the same position and will be fighting for minutes. One of them will not get the minutes he probably would on any other team in the league. I just feel there is a possibility that this team may implode. Keep an eye on it for me.
-- Vince Carter quit on his team in Toronto. Clearly, he was extremely selfish as a young player. Has he outgrown it? The Magic are definitely hoping he has.