Not All Shots Are Created Equally
My favorite part about going to NBA games is watching the warm-ups. Players take shot after shot, and they just don’t miss. Bonner will take 20 3-point shots and make 17 of them. Even players like Duncan will take shots he never takes in games and make them at a high rate. Players practice; they work hard. What they are capable of and what they often achieve in games can be totally different things.
One of the big concerns of the Jefferson-Jackson trade was that while Jackson was deemed the better ‘fit’ overall, he was a much poorer 3-point shooter than Jefferson, and that what the Spurs needed most from that position was 3-point shooting. Jackson is a career 34% 3-point shooter, and Jefferson had been well over 40% the last few years with the Spurs.
But not all 3-point shots are created equally; and there’s a reason why people have career shooting numbers with the Spurs, and then quickly disappear into end of bench oblivion. The Spurs offense is designed to get wide-open, high efficiency looks for shooters. Almost no 3-point shot comes off the dribble or even with a defender in the shooter’s face (unless you’re Ginobili and sometimes Neal). You catch the ball in your pocket, feet already set, square up, and stroke it. With that, players are bound to have more success, as that is how they practice it every day of their life.
For the last several years, Jackson has been playing on poor teams, and has been asked to create his own offense, to be a focal point, and to lead teams. His efficiency numbers have suffered. But Wednesday night, we got a glimpse of what we might get from him, and why he’ll be a much better fit than Richard Jefferson, perhaps even matching his 3-point shooting. Jackson got several wide open looks from deep, and buried 3 of 4. That’s good.
He also showed many of the ‘intangibles’ that Spurs fans and players/staff alike have always loved. On one possession, he harassed a rebound off of a missed free throw, got the ball back, and the Spurs scored on the ensuing extra possession. RJ would never have done that. He was active on defense overall. He was engaged with his teammates, communicating and connecting with them. After good plays, he was jumping off the bench in show of support. It’s already clear how much the team enjoys playing with him.
Time will tell if any of the “bad” Jack will surface in San Antonio. But there’s plenty of reason to be optimistic that Jackson can offer the spark that the team craved when trading for him.
It was announced today that the Spurs have officially signed Boris Diaw after he was bought out by Charlotte. I love this move; it’s all upside, no downside. The Spurs clearly needed a 5th big man for the rotation, if only to help ease the load on Duncan and co., and to offer support in case of injury (like Wednesday’s game, when Bonner sat out). While it’s fun to watch Leonard and Jackson guard Kevin Love, it’s not something I’d like to see happen over 7 games in a playoff series. So just from a roster/rotation perspective, any big body will do.
But I think Diaw can be a good fit for the Spurs. In his best seasons in Phoenix, he was a kind of jack-of-all-trades player that could do a little bit of everything. He’s an exceptional passer, can score in a variety of ways, rebound, play solid position defense, and can even have the offense run through him a little bit. I think his skill set can be particularly useful in the Spurs system, where unselfishness and team play are rewarded.
Of course, the knock on Diaw has always been his lack of preparation and conditioning, his lack of interest, and his apparent non-chalance. A few things make me hopeful that this can be avoided in San Antonio. First, Parker and Diaw are countrymen and friends. They play together on the French national team, and by all accounts have a strong relationship beyond the court. This can only help Diaw feel welcome and engaged. Second, as everybody knows, the Spurs have a culture of trust and accountability. Certain things are expected of players, and if they don’t deliver, they are no longer useful and no longer used. Diaw will be no different. Finally, Pop and the Spurs command respect around the league, and can often get the best out of disregarded players. (see: Stephen Jackson.)
It’s a no-risk move: if he works out, fantastic. If he doesn’t, he just won’t play, and we’ll go to battle with the bigs we already have. Either way, after the trade deadline, we weren’t getting anybody better than Diaw.
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