Last we left the Spurs they were 2-1 and looking very much like last year’s team with some extra length and defensive toughness. They were already demonstrating a cohesiveness that was going to help them through what shapes up to be a mentally and physically draining season.
Last Saturday followed a similar script. The Spurs took care of business at home against Utah after getting pummeled by Houston. Then a couple of unexpected things happened. The Spurs went to play the Minnesota Rubios (wait they didn’t change their names yet?) in Minnesota. In the midst of a game when Los Lobos (that’s not their name either?) hit seemingly every shot they took, the Spurs season took a sharp turn in an unknown direction on what appeared to be a harmless play. Manu Ginobili reached in on Anthony Tolliver’s drive to the basket, fouled him and then went running to the sidelines in pain. You know the rest, Manu broke is pinky finger and is out for most likely six weeks (this also revealed Tolliver as Colossus from the X-Men in disguise since Manu barely touched him and broke a finger).
James Anderson moved in to the starting line up for what we thought would be the next month and a half as the Spurs welcomed Golden State to town. The start of the game wasn’t encouraging as Steph Curry and Monta Ellis were on fire to start the game and the Spurs offense looked leaderless and divided. The way Tony Parker was shooting I thought he might have one of his fingers too and just wasn’t telling anyone. Then the Spurs went on a surge in the 4th quarter led by T.J. Ford and Danny Green. Talk about an unexpected spark. These guys were all over the place. Also all over the place was Tim Duncan on defense, but this isn’t so much unexpected. He was incredible though. Then Tony Parker found his shot and his aggressive offense and the Spurs closed things out. The next night they crushed the defending champion Mavs in a game where Dallas scored 29 points in the first half. You’ve seen the stat that sums up the weirdness of this game: Matt Bonner outscored Tim Duncan… And Dirk… Combined! The schedule only gets tougher from here as they play Denver, then Oklahoma City back to back and then Portland all in the next week (not to mention two other games).
T.J. Ford – Danny Green was perhaps more impressive in the Golden State game, but Ford is more important to the Spurs’ success while Ginobili is out. Ford was aggressive in setting up his teammates and getting his own shot when the time called for it. I am in no way saying Ford is an upgrade over George Hill because he’s not, but the Spurs haven’t had a shot creator like this in their second unit since Manu was coming off the bench.
Danny Green - All energy, all the time. He was everywhere in the Golden State game. He was the first guard off the bench in Mavs game so the real question is whether or not this will be a permanent shift in the rotation.
Gary Neal – Welcome back, Gary. Keep shooting.
James Anderson – He wasn’t great in the Golden State game. I didn’t think he was nearly aggressive enough. He had one of the worst defensive backcourts in the NBA on him and only scored five points. Even worse, it earned him five whole minutes in the blowout win over the Mavs. Currently he’s shooting 40% from the field and 25% from 3. Expect to see a much more aggressive James Anderson the next time he gets extended minutes. Either that or he is quickly going to become the Spurs’ 12th or 11th man.
DeJuan Blair – When you look at what he’s doing on a night to night basis you wonder why I would put him in the bad category. 12 points a game and six and a half rebounds a game are pretty good numbers. So is his 20.84 PER. But he’s been really bad on defense. Having to guard guys like Kevin Love is no easy assignment, but you would think that by his third season he’d have better instincts, especially in the pick and roll game. But so many times he looks completely lost on what to do.
Tony Parker – This isn’t where I say trade Tony. I’ll have enough fun with that at the trade deadline and before this June’s draft. 14 points per game on 40 percent shooting isn’t enough. Over the last couple of games we saw Parker get in to the paint more, a trend I hope continues.
It’s a tough week schedule wise. Denver tonight, at Oklahoma City tomorrow night, at Milwaukee Tuesday, home for Houston Wednesday and home for Portland on Friday. Thankfully that tough isn’t as tough when you weigh in the fact that Denver and Houston are playing the Spurs on the second night of a back to back and Oklahoma City is on the third night of a back to back to back this coming Sunday. Stay tuned, Spurs fans. This is shaping up to be the most interesting season in some time.