Author: Daniel Strickland (page 1 of 4)

Spurs Beat Grizzlies a Second Time, By a Bigger Margin

Season 51, Game 22
San Antonio 95, Memphis 79
15-7, 3rd in the West

Something remarkable is happening this season.

Despite the fact they’re still without their best player, and their veteran point guard missed the first 19 games, the Spurs are third in the Western Conference and only 1.5 and 2.5 games behind the Warriors and Rockets, respectively.

Put another way, the Spurs are winning games, and remain in the thick of the early playoff chase, even though they’re only playing at half strength.

How impressive is that?

We all know that Coach Pop is a master at getting the most out of the talent he has at his disposal. This season Pop’s mastery has been on full display.

Kyle Anderson was considered too slow for the NBA, and dismissed by some of my colleagues here at SpursDynasty.com. And yet here he is, after 22 games, second in total minutes played, third in rebounds, third in assists, and first in steals.

Danny Green was waived twice, first by the Cavaliers and then by the Spurs, and played in only 28 games in his first two seasons in the NBA. Now he is one of the best ‘3-and-D’ guys in the league. Better yet, he’s still developing his game, adding some good off-the-dribble play to his repertoire this year. Danny had a rough shooting night, going 0-for-7, but he was still +13 on the court with 5 rebounds, 3 steals and 3 assists.

Patty Mills continues to impress. He’s averaging more assists, and taking more three pointers, this season than in any other.

Rudy Gay was all but forgotten after playing the last three and a half seasons in Sacramento and then tearing his Achilles’ tendon last January. With San Antonio, he’s shooting a career best 47.2% FG percentage. Tonight he was the Spurs’ second leading scorer with 18, including 3-of-5 from long distance.

Can you believe Manu Ginobili is 40 years old? Tonight he had 11 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists, and one steal. That’s a stat line any player half his age would love to have. Amazing.

And I haven’t mentioned LaMarcus Aldridge, who looks every bit the All Star he was in Portland and we had hoped he would be for San Antonio. LMA led all scorers tonight with 22.

If all this weren’t reason enough to celebrate, the beautiful game is back, too.


In the preseason, Jake tried to convince me that this Spurs team could be the most talented we’ve ever seen. I scoffed then, but I’m starting to believe now.

And I can’t wait to see how good this team gets when Kawhi is back and Tony is playing at a higher level.

Go Spurs Go.

Round the Horn:

The 7 Best Memes of Manu Ginobili Blocking James Harden

AP Photo/Eric Gay

It was the block heard around the world.

With seconds to play in overtime Tuesday night, 39-year-old future Hall-of-Famer Manu Ginobili blocked 27-year-old James Harden and the San Antonio Spurs held on to beat the Houston Rockets 110-107.

Let that sink in for a second.

And then think about this: James Harden “was 9-years-old when the Spurs drafted Ginobili with the second-to-last pick of the 1999 NBA draft – or 34 picks after Devean George.”

You’ll find 5 great photos of the block and the moments that followed on USA Today Sports.

What follows are some of our favorite fan-generated memes.

Enjoy.


 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Spurs Dynasty Podcast – Episode 25

In this week’s podcast, Stephen, Trace and I:

  • review the Spurs-Grizzlies series.
  • preview the Spurs-Rockets series.
  • consider the greatness of Kawhi Leonard.
  • argue about the imminent demise of Tony Parker.
  • look around the league.

Let us know what you think in the comment section below or on the Spurs Dynasty Facebook page.

Go Spurs Go!

Well-Rested

Season 49, Game 81
San Antonio 102, Oklahoma City 98 OT

Season 49, Game 82
San Antonio 96, Dallas 91

67-15, 2nd in the West

Back in the day, coaches didn’t rest players. At least not much. And records, both for teams and individual players, mattered a whole lot. Just ask David Robinson.

On April 24, 1994, entering the final game of the regular season, The Admiral trailed Shaquille O’Neal by 33 points for the league’s scoring title.

On today’s Spurs team, Robinson might have been allowed to play long enough to score 34 points, if he could. Then again, with the playoffs looming, Pop might have DNP’d David, because records don’t matter. Right?

Instead, Robinson played nearly the entire game (44 minutes) and achieved something only four other NBA players have ever done – he scored 71 points. And of course, beat Shaq for the scoring title.

Despite David’s remarkable personal achievement, things didn’t turn out well for that year’s team. In the first round of the playoffs, the Spurs lost to the Utah Jazz. (The Jazz in turn lost to the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Finals, who beat the New York Knicks to win the NBA Finals.)

It’s astonishing really, but that season Robinson averaged 40.5 minutes per game. Dennis Rodman wasn’t far behind, averaging 37.8 MPG. Even crazier, The Admiral played in all but two games and The Worm played in all but three. The only rest they got would be during the offseason.

Fast forward to the 2013-2014 season. Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich has turned resting players, or more precisely managing players’ minutes, into an art form. Two years ago, the Spurs became the first team in NBA history to not have a single player average 30 minutes or more per game. And they won their 5th title.

Pop is still resting players. This season, only two players have averaged more than 30 minutes per game — Kawhi Leonard (33.1 MPG) and LaMarcus Aldridge (30.6 MPG). And they’ve missed or have rested for 10 and eight games, respectively.

Resting has paid off again, too. This year’s Spurs finished with the 7th best record in NBA history and the best in franchise history. They also tied the best record for a team playing at home… a record they very nearly broke.

Two weeks ago, Golden State Warriors Coach Steve Kerr speculated about whether Pop would go for that record or rest players.

“He’s smart. They’re locked into the No. 2 spot and there’s no danger of anybody catching them from behind. And they’re not trying to set any records. I will be interested to see if they rest guys at home. Do they want to go undefeated at home? But he’s been through this forever and, obviously, their team is older than ours. Duncan and Parker and Ginobili need rest at this stage of their careers.”

In another era, any other coach might have gone all in, playing everyone in hopes of becoming the first team to have a perfect record at home.

So what did Pop do? He rested Duncan and Diaw. Still, the Spurs might have beat Golden State and the record for wins at home, had it not been for LaMarcus Aldridge dislocating the pinkie finger on his shooting hand. (It’s still sore, by the way.)

But as we all know, records don’t matter to Pop. All that matters is winning in May and June. And that means strategically resting your players, even if it means losing a winnable game or two.

I suppose you can learn something by looking at who Pop rests, and when.

Tuesday night against the Thunder, Pop rested Boris Diaw and Manu Ginobili, while Andre Miller and Matt Bonner did not play. Bobo and Manu have both suffered recently from groin issues – although no one would argue that they were anything remotely similar — so their rest made sense.

On paper, this game looked to be an easy Spurs win, since Billy Donovan let Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka take the night off. Even though the Thunder were without their three best players, they nearly won. In fact, the Spurs only led this game for 11 minutes. It was an ugly, frustrating, teeth-gnashing game to watch as a fan. Some inspired play by Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker down the stretch was enough to send the game into overtime, and for the Spurs to eventually win.

Conclusion? The Thunder are damn good. They present serious matchup problems for our team, even when they’re without their best players.

On Wednesday night against the Mavericks, Pop rested Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, while Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Tony Parker, and David West did not play. That’s resting players taken to an absurd extreme.

Put another way, Pop’s starters for the regular season finale were Boban Marjanovic, Kyle Anderson, Andre Miller, Danny Green and Matt Bonner.

The Mavericks, on the other hand, leaned on their starters to try and finish their season on a high note. Raymond Felton, Dirk Nowitzki, Deron Williams and Wesley Matthews combined for 70% of the Dallas offense.

The Spurs leading scorers? Boban, Jonathon Simmons, and Anderson. Not surprisingly, Dallas led this game for nearly as long (32 minutes) as OKC did the night before (34 minutes). Against all odds, the Spurs second unit completely outmatched the Mavs starters in the second half, outscoring them 62-39.

Conclusion? The Mavericks are pretty terrible right now.

(These teams played yesterday, perhaps coincidentally. The headlines on Yahoo Sports tell you everything you need to know about the game: “Miserable Mavs get blown out by Thunder” and “OKC demolished Dallas in a laughably one-sided Game 1.”)

This evening the Spurs open the 2016 playoffs against the injury-riddled Memphis Grizzlies. Turn in later today for Jeff’s series preview.

Let’s hope that the Spurs are well rested and ready to roll.

Go Spurs Go.

Who created the drill, Bruce Fraser or Chip Engelland?

Earlier today, I read an interesting article about Golden State Warriors assistant coach Bruce Fraser in the San Francisco Chronicle: “The Curry Whisperer: Shot guru Fraser has MVP’s ear.”

Why do I mention this here, on a San Antonio Spurs fansite?

Because Warriors Beat Writer Rusty Simmons tells a story about Fraser which will sound oddly familiar to Spurs fans, like us, who were avid readers of Grantland.

Back in April 2014, Bill Barnwell wrote a fascinating piece about Spurs coach Chip Engelland: “The Shot Doctor.”

In it, Barnwell describes how Engelland helped Steve Kerr when he was playing in Portland. Barnwell wrote:

“With Kerr playing reduced minutes in Portland as a 36-year-old during the 2001-02 campaign, he found himself struggling to stay loose for meaningful shooting opportunities. Kerr told Engelland about his problem and the shooting expert flew up and offered a solution: a 30-minute, seven-shot workout. Kerr and Engelland would sit alone on the bench in the Portland practice facility after everybody else had left. Engelland would ask Kerr to tell him what was going on with his kids or even leave him to read a newspaper. After a few minutes, Engelland would shout at Kerr to go, and the two would sprint off the bench and set Kerr up for a single 3-point attempt from the wing before returning to the bench. Repeat six more times and you’ve got the league’s most unlikely — and simultaneously most logical — shooting workout.”

Fascinating, right? (If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read the entire article here.)

Now here’s what Rusty Simmons wrote about Bruce Fraser, who is an assistant coach for the Warriors under Steve Kerr and working with Steph Curry.

“When Kerr, one of the best shooters the game has seen, found himself in a slump, he wouldn’t have considered calling anyone else.

“In that episode, Fraser flew to Portland, but didn’t want Kerr to pick up the airfare, hotel bill or food costs. Fraser simply wanted Kerr to shoot better and suggested a never-before-tried drill to do it.

“Kerr wasn’t playing many minutes. When he was in, he’d get a shot or two. Then, he’d return to the bench.

“So, Fraser had Kerr re-enact his usual 48-minute game without Kerr realizing it. The two would chat on the sideline for six minutes and then Fraser would jump up and pass Kerr a ball at the three-point arc.

“Make or miss, Fraser would go back to the bench. Sometimes, he’d start reading a newspaper or start asking Kerr about his family. After 12 minutes passed, he’d dart for the ball, shuttle it to Kerr for another three-pointer.”

My first thoughts were, who flew to Portland? Who ‘suggested a never-before-tried drill’ to Kerr? Was it Fraser or Engelland?

I sent a letter to Bill Barnwell asking him that very question.

Then it occurred to me, maybe Warriors Coach Fraser took credit for a shooting drill actually developed by Coach Engelland? But that doesn’t make any sense, does it?

Assuming that Fraser did not tell Simmons the story about flying up to Portland to work with Kerr, developing a shooting drill that involved him sitting most of the time, reading a newspaper, I’m left thinking that Simmons stumbled across, or knew, the anecdote about Engelland and mistakenly attributed it to Fraser. It was an honest, but strangely specific, mistake.

On the other hand, Simmons was recently suspended “after writing a news story on the Warriors’ purchase of land for their new arena that was copied almost entirely from a Warriors press release.” Perhaps that explains why he might have taken a story about one NBA coach and attributed it to another, to make his piece more interesting. I honestly don’t know.

Deadspin reporter Kevin Draper found numerous examples where Simmons cut-and-pasted press releases for copy in his own articles, so maybe what we’re seeing here is just sloppy or lazy journalism. Or worse.

I Cc’d Draper in the aforementioned letter to Barnwell. (Barnwell’s response is below.) I will let you know if I hear from Draper.

I’ve also tweeted Simmons, and his Editor at the Chronicle, Audrey Cooper.

UPDATE #1: Bill Barnwell responded to my email, in which I asked whether the drill for Kerr was created by Fraser or Engelland. He replied:

Kerr told me it was Engelland when I interviewed him for the piece in 2014. Chris Ballard also tells the story in “The Art of a Beautiful Game” and says it was Engelland.

UPDATE #2: I received an email from Rusty Simmons. Here it is, in it’s entirety:

Thanks for the head’s up, Daniel.

What a silly mistake. Kerr gave me the anecdote in March, and I wrote about it when Klay Thompson was in a shooting slump.

… When I was working on the Fraser feature, we talked a lot about his shooting drills. I somehow confused Fraser/Engelland on the previous Kerr/Portland anecdote, a mistake made worse by the fact that I had already correctly written about it once.

My editors are currently discussing what needs to done (on top of the obvious need to write a correction).

~Rusty

There you go. The drill was created by Spurs Shooting Coach Chip Engelland, not Warriors Assistant Coach Bruce Fraser. I’m glad we got this sorted out.

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