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The Ugly Truth

By Jeff Koch on November 15, 2009.

I just finished watching The Ugly Truth, a crappy romantic comedy that was neither romantic nor a comedy. I didn’t once laugh out loud, I felt no empathy for the characters, nor did I believe any of their emotional growth. It was predictable, unengaging, and frankly, the two leads were both pretty unlikeable. What’s more depressing is that I watched this movie alone, without my girlfriend, on a Saturday night.

And it was still better than watching that Spurs game.

Now that’s an ugly truth.

What I Liked:

–George Hill. Definitely my favorite Spur of the night. He was our second highest scorer with 18, but he really killed it on the defensive end. He took his turn guarding Kevin Durant in the second quarter and, giving up at least 5 inches, shut him down. He was able to front him, and with those long arms denied the entry pass (even stealing one of them). I just love watching him play, and hope we see a lot more of him as the season progresses. He played a lot of minutes alongside Tony Parker tonight, which is going to be important, because we’ll need Hill’s defense out there in crunch time, but not at the expense of Parker’s playing time.

–Tim Duncan. No rust on that ankle. He had a typical Duncan-esque game with 22pts, 10 rebs, and 3 asts and 2 blocks for good measure. And he threw it down. 3 times. Always a rare site to see Duncan slam. Normally I wouldn’t care; but with all the injury concern, it is nice to see him active and athletic.

–Antonio McDyess. When he’s hitting that 15 foot jumper, our offense can be really, really good. He’s still hitting his stride, but I like his energy and his competitiveness.

–2nd Quarter Defense. We held them to 21 points, shut Kevin Durant down, and played smart and aggressively.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Tony Parker. He pressed. He was probably a little rusty. He seemed out of sorts. Parker is a great player, and he carried our team offensively last year. But we don’t need that any more. We have great offensive weapons on our team, and we need to find a way to use them all. And that’s a point guard’s duties. Right now, Parker is a ball stopper, and our offense runs better when he is not on the floor. We talk about all the time it’s going to take for the team to gel, and to figure each other out, and most of that burden falls on Parker. He needs to figure the team out, and he needs to get everybody involved. His forays to the hoop are great and create a lot of things for us, but, unlike last year, that’s not always our best bet on offense. We retooled this offseason so that Parker wouldn’t have to be all of our offense. Jefferson only got 4 shots tonight, and was never in sync. In a close game when our offense is struggling, that is unacceptable. Right now I think we’re a better team without Parker.

–3-pt shooting. Sometimes it’s as simple as one shot. In our wins, we’re hitting our 3 balls; in our losses, we’re not. Some of it is just luck and hot or cold shooting. But when we’re hitting our 3s, it’s because we’re getting wide open shots within the flow of our offense from ball movement and aggressively attacking the rim. When we’re missing our 3s, it’s usually because we’re taking bad shots, forcing the issue, not making the extra pass. Rather than the success of our offense being a function of our 3-point shooting, it’s the success of our 3-point shooting being a function of our offense, and how effectively we’re running it.

–Rebounds, points in the paint, and 2nd chance points. We were beat pretty handily in all 3 categories. It’s a theme on the season. These are 3 categories that we need to win or neutralize in every game, and we’re not.

–Transition defense. Most of our defense was bad. But we gave up some easy points in transition tonight. On one embarrassing sequence, we let James Harden drive straight to the hoop unimpeded. I know nothing about basketball, but I know the first real of transition D is stop the ball. Other times I would look down to write a note about something we did on O, and when I looked up, they had scored already.

–Michael Finley, 17 minutes; Roger Mason, Jr., 4 minutes. I know Roger is in a shooting slump. But I actually think he’s playing a more complete game now. His handle is much improved, and he’s confident running the offense. He had a gorgeous pick and pop with McDyess in his 4 minutes of play. And he seems eager to to be a more complete player and compete hard. We all know about Pop’s love affair with Finley, but he is becoming a huge liability out there. Yes, his jumper is smooth and reliable. But he gets torched on defense, and I don’t trust him dribbling the ball more than 5 feet, and I don’t trust him passing in transition. He had a few passes picked off that he shouldn’t have even been attempting (he got lucky on one that was kind of picked off, but then fell right in Hill’s hands, who then took it in for the slam). His court vision is seriously impaired. What does Finley give us that Mason, Jr. doesn’t? The only way to get Roger out of his slump is to let him get some confidence in a game.

–Manu. Kind of a stinker of a game. He didn’t shoot well (and by that I mean he didn’t hit any shots). He had some nifty passes, a few of which led to Duncan slams. But he just didn’t seem to have it, and he didn’t play in the fourth quarter with the game in the balance (usually the time when he shines). The report is that he tweaked a hamstring, but man, did he look dejected on the bench in the 4th. I’m particularly concerned that Tony and Manu are having difficulty playing together. Something to monitor.

Observations:

–It’s early in the season, and there is plenty of tinkering to be done. But right now we just have too many good players and players that need playing time. Right now we’re running 11 players deep, and have at least 10 that probably deserve at least 15-20 minutes a game. Most great teams usually only play an 8 to 9 man rotation, with spots 10-12 to be used in emergency and specialty duty only. This is going to be Pop’s greatest challenge this year: who gets the minutes, and who gets the short end of the stick. Players thrive on consistency in both their playing time and who they’re playing with. Right now we have a ton of talent on the floor, but nobody seems entirely comfortable.

Game Ball:

–Could very easily go to George, but I’m giving it to Duncan. He slammed it three times, was our best and most consistent offensive player, and he looks good with a newly shorn head.

Looking Forward:

We get 3 more days off, then have Dallas and Utah back to back on Wednesday and Thursday (at Dallas, home against Utah). The Dallas game will be a fun rematch after just playing them last Wednesday. It will be fun to see how both teams respond. I anticipate Dallas coming out hard early, looking to avenge their poor showing on our floor last Wednesday. Let’s see if we can absorb their first blow and stay in the game, and maybe steal one late. We’re still looking for our first road win, and this would be a great one to get.

Utah has not one in San Antonio in like 37 years. It’s a fact; you can look it up. Deron Williams is away from the team for personal reasons, and they are in a constant state of turmoil. Hopefully we can keep the streak alive.

Pay attention to Tony Parker, and his role in the offense, and if we actually play better when he’s not on the floor. Always keep an eye on the rotation, and who is getting minutes when and with whom. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Hill get a start in one of these games. A starting line-up of Duncan, Parker, Hill, Jefferson, and McDyess/Blair would be interesting. With his long arms, Hill
can guard PGs all the way up to finesse PFs. Having him on the floor with Parker gives us another ball handler, and allows both to handle and play off the ball (remember, George was a 2 guard in college, and Parker plays very well off the ball). Manu could check in for Geoge about the 7-minute mark, then Hill could come back in for Parker near the end of the 1st/beginning of the 2nd.

Just a thought, if you’re reading, Pop.

(Call me.)

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