Note: With several members of our staff being big Star Wars fans, the biggest fan likely being being our hard working content editor, Jeff Garcia, I will discuss the Spurs-Hornets opener with a dash of Star Wars dorkdom mixed in.
Jedi Master Gregg Popovich squares off against his Padawan, Hornets head coach Monty Williams. It’s easy to say Spurs assistant head coach Mike Budenholzer is the heir apparent to Popovich, but don’t count out Monty Williams in that discussion.
Williams is very close to Pop, probably closer to him than any other member of the Spurs extended family around the league. We’re talking Qui Gon Gin/Obi Wan Kenobi stuff here (Episode 1 happened, right?).
Rewind a little bit to Las Vegas Summer League. On each side of the court, there is a section roped off for coaches, team exectutives and VIPs. Coach Pop showed up a little before the Spurs’ first game against the Hawks. Pop and Monty spent the entire first quarter sitting right next to each engaged in conversation. There’s an obvious connection there and Monty’s defensive mentality certainly shows signs of early years Pop.
Just because Monty is so close to Pop doesn’t mean he’s destined to rise to a seat on the Spurs’ Jedi Council. No one besides Pop knows the Spurs system better than Coach Bud. Budenholzer has been very selective in which head coaching jobs he’s even agreed to interview for, which shows that he doesn’t want the first head coaching job that comes his way and probably also means he doesn’t want to go somewhere that would keep him becoming the Spurs next head coach when Pop finally decides to walk away from the bench.
Just because Williams would be a good fit on the Spurs’ bench doesn’t mean he’d be interested in it. Why you ask? Because the Hornets have the best rookie big man since Tim Duncan on their roster. Williams pulled a Pop and reached out to Davis before the Hornets even drafted him (not that it was ever in doubt). If you have the next Kevin Garnett or Tim Duncan on your team (and a possible Tony Parker clone in Austin Rivers), it’s probably going to be really tough to walk away from.
There’s another Jedi Master-Padawan relationship that we’ll see on the court Halloween night, only it has less of chummy feeling to it. Tim Duncan and Anthony Davis probably have not met. Austin Rivers and Tony Parker may have met since Rivers’ dad is an NBA coach but it’s safe to say there’s no tight relationship there.
Despite little to no relationship between the duos, these four players are going to be linked to each other for as long as Duncan and Parker are in the league. Anthony Davis could become Tim Duncan 2.0. Some scouts have already made the comparison and Davis’ play in college and the fact that he’s a member of Team USA at the age of 19 shows it’s not the most ridiculous comparison in the world. Rivers said leading up to the draft that he models his game after Tony Parker (among others) and the Hornets used Rivers at the point during his abbreviated Summer League appearance. I think the Hornets would like to build their franchise around Davis, Rivers and Eric Gordon much like the Spurs have with Duncan, Parker and Manu Ginobili. Time will tell if Williams can get those three to blend in the incredible way Coach Pop has helped mold the Spurs’ Three Amigos.
I wouldn’t call Halloween Night a passing of the torch ceremony from one Western Conference team to another, but the Spurs-Hornets could become a very compelling series to watch the next couple of seasons.
Chapter One starts Opening Night.