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Pro Forma

By Jeff Koch on March 16, 2014.

Utah 104, San Antonio 122

Utah played great and with great energy, but there was no way they were beating the Spurs on this night at this point in the season.

The Spurs weathered the storm through a long patch of injuries and rotation roulette, and yet here they stand, first in the league to 50 wins, the 15th straight time this team has reached that milestone, easily an NBA record (it’d be 17 if not for the 98-99 lockout season).

Pro forma. Pro forma.

I really like this Utah team. They have a lot of solid players and players with potential greatness. Haywood could be a future Ginobili-like player; Favors always seems to have career nights against the Spurs and could be a real star in this league. The team is run well, drafts well, and plans well. In comparison to this Spurs team, it really shines a light on just how much luck and good fortune is involved in building a truly great basketball team, particularly in ‘small’ markets.

The Spurs are only the Spurs because of Tim Duncan. An basketball organization needs that once in a lifetime player. A team could surely mess up a Duncan situation and only give him a great career, not the Hall of Fame career he has had. But the Spurs can’t be the Spurs without Duncan. Everything that follows comes because of him. Parker and Ginobili would still be great players, but the Spurs organization put them in position to be world class, and Duncan allowed the Spurs to be that type of organization.

We all know this. I say this now because when I look at that Jazz team, they have the pieces to be a truly great team. But they need their Tim Duncan. Without a player of that caliber, this team will never learn how to win, the really great players will most likely leave via free agency to greener pastures when the time comes, and the team will be left with talent and hope and optimism…and continued losing records. For teams like the Jazz (and, yes the Spurs some day), great leadership and management can only get you so far, otherwise the team remains in a constant loop, ever searching for that player that can bind it all together.

Tim Duncan. Pro forma.

A few thoughts from tonight’s game:

–Kawhi has been terribly impressive since his return. Every facet of his game has ticked up, defensively and offensively. He is more aggressive than I’ve ever seen him in attacking on offense, and his jump shot (particularly off the dribble) is reliable. Early in the season, a lot of his woes stemmed back to below average shooting, which really gums up the rest of your game. Right now he is looking incredible, and is poised to take another ‘leap’ in this year’s playoffs.

–Manu and the entire second unit also looked great tonight. It’s a pleasure watching “The Foreign Legion” play, and in games like this, they really should ‘win’ it for the Spurs. Our bench is way too talented for only a handful of teams to really stay competitive with it.

–Baynes seems to have usurped Ayres in the rotation. I’m not sure if this is a permanent thing, an injury thing, or just Pop seeing what he has from every possible angle before the playoffs. I’m not entirely sure if one player is necessarily better than the other, but they both offer different and unique skill sets that could come in handy in different match-ups in the playoffs. One reason I really like this year’s team is I feel like they have the roster to match what any other team can put out there.

–After a few really hot games, Parker seems to be struggling a bit again. Nothing major, but worth keeping an eye on. As Doug Collins said in the Portland game, this team is poised to make another deep run, but we don’t make the Finals without Parker being the Parker of last year, i.e., a legitimate Top-5 player in the league and a truly unstoppable force.

–Speaking of which, I did get to see the Blazers game. Two teams headed in separate directions. I felt the Blazers were playing a bit above their heads for the first half of the season. They’ve come down to earth a bit, and are playing a very tough schedule. They’ll still be a tough out in the playoffs, but I think we’ve seen they’re still a year or two away from being a legitimate Finals contender. Still, I hope to not see them in the playoffs, for match-up and personal reasons.

The team has a few days off before starting a 3-day West coast swing. The Lakers, the Kings, and The Warriors (on the second night of a back-to-back). Getting two out of three would be great, and the first two seem like the obvious ones to get. The last game (against the Warriors) will be the most interesting and important, though.

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