Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Spurs vs Cavs II: Spurs win 4-0 in tough series

Kawhi Leonard led the Spurs past the Cavaliers again.
Similar to last year's showdown that featured Kawhi "The Claw" Leonard besting LeBron "King" James, the Spurs dominated the Cavaliers again in just 4 games although their opponent caught fire as the series progressed.

In Game 1, the Cavaliers were bogged down by poor shooting and the Spurs raced out to a strong lead. The Cavaliers would go on a remarkable 17-4 run late in the final minutes, but it would be too late. The largest lead for the Spurs at home was 24 points, dominating the 3rd period with a 34-23 advantage, winning 99-113.

Manu Ginobili had 18 points, Danny Green had 14, Pau Gasol had a double-double with 10&10, and the Claw had just 13 points. Michael Carter-Williams had 8 points with 7 assists and Tony Parker had 12 points. In the loss, Kyrie Irving had 19 points; Kevin Love had 16 points with 10 rebounds and LeBron James had 18 points, 7 assists with 5 rebounds.

A vengeful Kyrie Irving came out hot in Game 2, culminating in 40 points for the gifted scorer. He also had 15 assists, but the Spurs would claim the victory, winning 108-124 after a 3PTer by Manu Ginobili. Irving had 30-something before the 3rd quarter was over, but his production slowed in the final quarter as the Spurs pulled away. The Spurs made 12 consecutive points on 3PTers, using defense as a steal by Kawhi Leonard stopped a 16-3 run by Cleveland to start the second half after SA had secured a 10pt lead. The largest lead was 15; SA finished with 12 blocks and 12 steals.

Kyrie Irving's 40-point showcase was one to remember.
Things got interesting as Kawhi and LeBron traded blows, making circus shots and tough and-1 drives, and Danny Green (20pts/6-3PTers) kept that lead for the Spurs with his marksmanship. An isolation 3PTer over LeBron by Leonard iced the game as SA's lead increased, showing the Spurs' shooting talent from the likes of Pau Gasol (17pts/15rebs), Tayshaun Prince and even MCW to stave off the Cavaliers. The Spurs dominated the 4th quarter 35-22, sealing the 2-0 advantage. Kawhi Leonard had 28 points with 9 rebounds, whereas LeBron James had a poor showing on 5-13 shooting but 13 rebounds with 8 assists. MCW came up with a clutch steal late, as well.
Kevin Love finally got hot in Game 4, but it was too late.

Game 3 came along with poor defense by the Cavaliers. Pau Gasol was on fire, scoring 18 points in the 1st Quarter. Tony Parker made three straight 3PTers. The sensational Kyrie Irving went cold in Game 3 after his huge effort in Game 2. A 3PTer by Danny Green at the buzzer made it 40-21, Spurs. The Spanish big-man would finish with a monstrous 27 points and 8 rebounds. Kawhi Leonard had 22 points and 4 steals, some of which obtained from LeBron James in another underwhelming effort. Tony Parker had 16 points and 10 assists. Green finished with 15 points on 5 long balls. Thaddeus Young had 13 points, Josh Smith had 10 and even Kevin Garnett had 10 off the bench.

Kyrie Irving's play would improve as the game went along, finishing with 24 points and 11 assists (8-20 shooting) and LeBron caught fire late for 22 points/9 rebounds/9 assists. Tristan Thompson had a nice showing with 18 points and 13 rebounds. JR Smith also had 20 points. It became clear that Cleveland had the talent to make things interesting for Game 4, but they needed this win. For what it is worth, LeBron James' heat-check began with defense by blocking Kawhi Leonard more than once. The Spurs found themselves in foul trouble as the Cavaliers tried to steal this one. Leonard and Green were not having it, winning 129-120 in Cleveland.

Game 4 began with an early lead for the Spurs, but its two-man punch struggled in Gasol and Leonard. The Cavaliers looked poised to prolong the series to a pivotal game 5, especially thanks to Kevin Love (34 points) and his range from 3PT territory. The Cavaliers would rally and take the lead as this turned into a point-for-point showdown with the series on the line. Kawhi Leonard would be clutch in these moments, rising up over LeBron James for a 3PTer and sailing over him for a pair of dunks that sealed the game, similar to last season. Danny Green did not disappoint, matching Love from 3PT land, making some ridiculous long balls in transition that even wowed the Cleveland crowd. A steal by Kawhi on the King all but sealed the game, leading to another dunk by Leonard. The Cavaliers would miss one final shot at the buzzer, but the lead had already grown by that point. Kawhi Leonard was named Finals MVP, and he had a tremendous season for the Spurs, more than making up for the absence of retiree Tim Duncan. It could have easily shifted into a 5-game series, but the Spurs edged the Cavaliers when it mattered most.

The Spurs, sans Tim Duncan, still won their 5th title in 6 seasons.

Spurs complete the sweep, beat Warriors 4-0.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Spurs win in crucial Game 3, 114-127 at home.

The Spurs won all but the final period versus the Warriors, surging to a 37-27 lead after the first. Kawhi Leonard had a 'cool' 36 points, dominating on offense and bothering Kevin Durant on defense. Durant would have 25 points in the game, but gave the only strong performance for the flailing Warriors, who now face a 0-3 deficit.

Steph Curry had 22 points but missed some open shots from long range, which might've altered his confidence as he looked less aggressive in this game, finishing with 16 assists. MCW smothered him on defense which chased him off the line. Klay Thompson eventually got going, but the early lack of productivity for the Warriors put them behind all night. Carter-Williams had 12 assists, 9 rebounds and 6 points. It was easy for him, passing to a hot Danny Green (16 points, 4 three-pointers) and utilizing the pick-and-roll with Gasol (who had 27 points too, by the way, with 9 monster rebounds).

Meanwhile, Kawhi was on fire, as the Spurs won the 3rd quarter 39-28, all but sealing the victory. The Warriors would wake up in the final period, trying to cheaply steal the game, but only got within 12 points. San Antonio's bench stepped up too in this game, winning that battle 38-12: David Lee had 10 points and 8 rebounds, Thaddeus Young had 10 and made a 'dagger' three-pointer to quell the run by Golden State.

Tony Parker will be fresh for what could very well likely be a final game 4, marking a would-be sweep that nobody had seen coming. If it happens, that is. But MCW made it easy for Tony tonight, who only played 10 minutes. The Spurs drew from GS's frustration, getting 10 more free throw attempts and cashing in. For the Warriors, Zaza Pachulia had a strong showing with 18 points and 13 rebounds as did Draymond Green with 20 points and 13 rebounds, but GS just looked a step slow tonight.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Spurs barely win anemic Game 2 dogfight, 113-109 (2-0).

The Spurs came out strong in Game 2, with both Pau Gasol and Kawhi Leonard surging early. Both teams played far from their best, though, shooting poorly from 3PT territory, committing too many fouls and turnovers, and playing hot-potato with the lead.

Somehow, despite the Warriors claiming the lead late, the Spurs held on by an inch in the 4th quarter, capitalizing once again with three additional points at the charity stripe than Golden State. The Spurs ultimately won by 4 points, but not after collectively sighing "Whew!" when Draymond Green's wide-open 3PTer surprisingly missed to the chagrin of the Oakland crowd inside "Roar"acle Arena. Green and Andre Iguodala sparked the comeback for the Warriors, who trailed early by 10, more so the former as Iguodala had an awful first half.

However, both teams kept missing shots and they were quality chances to claim control of this game: from layups to open three-pointers, to perceivably-easy dunks at the rim.

Steph Curry had a disastrous showing with only 8 points on 3-15 shooting, despite 16 assists. Klay Thompson had 24 to lead the Warriors, but his shot was off too. This result was highly unexpected, after both teams lit up the scoreboard in Game 1, but anything can happen in the NBA!

Tony Parker went scoreless in this game, and MCW got into early foul trouble, still able to pester Steph Curry on defense enough to somehow get the Spurs a 2-0 lead heading back to San Antonio.

Meanwhile, Pau Gasol looked sharp in the first half, but fell off later, finishing with 28 points (scored 18 in the first half). Kawhi Leonard had 34 points and 12 rebounds. Dewayne Dedmon hauled in 11, playing strong on the boards (with plenty of shots missing), and drew a foul on a drive to the rim that put the Spurs up by 2 late. Cue Green's missed three-pointer, and MCW iced the outcome at the line.

This ugly game should not overshadow the advantage that San Antonio has earned, being up 2-0 with two games upcoming on their home court. This series could very well wind up being another sweep, which nobody would have predicted at the outset. The Warriors are reeling at this point, and something has to give if they are going to stay in this showdown for the crown of the west. If any positive quality can be taken from this game, it's that the Warriors played far from their best and still almost won the game. Had the Spurs lost, it would have made their own early proficiency an afterthought.

Spurs sweep Westbrook's Thunder, defeat Warriors in Game 1.

The Spurs were simply too much of an obstacle for Russell Westbrook's OKC Thunder, sweeping them in relative ease. Westbrook visibly struggled against the defending champions, only scoring 8 points in Game 3. Westbrook would go down valiantly in Game 4 with 20 points and 15 assists, but the Spurs fearlessly double-teamed him all night, with OKC simply not having enough firepower other than Steven Adams. Victor Oladipo struggled.

Against OKC, Danny Green had 27 points in Game 1 (132-115) to match Westbrook's 27. Game 2 was led by Pau Gasol with 27 points in a closer 118-113 win by the Spurs. Surprisingly turning back the clock, Kevin Garnett had 16 points off the bench for San Antonio. OKC might've stolen that contest, but Westbrook had a poor performance on 5-19 shooting. In Game 3, Westbrook struggled again despite the series switching locations, with his team losing 116-103. Kawhi Leonard had 25 points then, followed by 40 combined points from Manu Ginobili and Pau Gasol. In Game 4, the Thunder only lost by 6 points after a remarkable 35-18 run, but by that time the Spurs had already pulled their stars out of the game after dominating the earlier quarters, leading by 25 at one point. Manu Ginobili had 23 points in the decisive match, as the Spurs' defense suffocated OKC's chances to prolong the one-sided series.

The Spurs took a hard swallow, knowing what lay in wait: the Goliath #1 seed led by the hydra: Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant (formerly of OKC) and Steph Curry himself. Somehow, in dramatic fashion, the Spurs were able to play hard, tough all night and cling to a small lead. It wavered at times, and Warriors almost got out and running, but the Spurs were able to quell each swing of momentum, hitting clutch shots late in the final minutes.

This win was huge for the Spurs, and they'll need to use it as a blueprint to beat the Warriors (who never laid down, fouling to the end and utilizing their unrivaled perimeter mastery). The Spurs, however, were just as efficient from distance. Danny Green had 31 points, leading the Spurs, making eight three-pointers, matching the 8 total long balls made by Curry/Thompson/Durant. To say the Warriors were a bit 'off' with shooting is a fair observation. The Spurs had a few lapses on defense due to the A+ ball movement by the Warriors, but the ball just wouldn't go in.

The teams were separated by only 9 points all night, to emphasize how contentious this series will be between the top two teams (record-wise) in the league. Despite struggling with shooting, Curry/Thompson/Durant combined still for 70 points, but Kawhi Leonard and Green combined for 61 together. Michael Carter-Williams got the starting position at point guard over Tony Parker, whose defense has been a concern for the Spurs, and MCW was able to make Curry's night more difficult. Curry had 15 assists, though, to make up for 10-23 shooting.

Tony Parker still made some shots when counted on, finishing with 11 points in the close 125-118, strong road win by the Spurs, who certainly feel vindicated but cannot allow to rest on laurels. Pau Gasol made a clutch 3PTer late, but only had 8 points. The Spurs will need to utilize him better once the shooting suffers, and without a doubt, the Warriors will rev up the defensive effort to make sure as best they can to not surrender Game 2 to the Spurs, knowing it would send them to Texas with an 0-2 deficit.

Kawhi Leonard, meanwhile, had some furious dunks and MCW finished with 12 assists. The Spurs made 10 more three-pointers than the Warriors, too, which is unlikely to continue. Both teams played neatly, combining for only 12 total turnovers. The Spurs' bench carried the day though with 46-26 points. In a close game, it is crucial to capitalize on any advantage and the Spurs earned three more free throw attempts than the Warriors and had 3 more steals as a team and one more block than the Warriors.

But oh boy, is this going to be a great series for the ages. Per the league's slogan, that's why we love this game.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Spurs lose a close Game 4, but win Game 5 (4-0).

Damian Lillard would not be denied in Game 4, with his Blazers team on the verge of being swept. Although the Spurs' Pau Gasol got going well early, and the Spurs barely lost due to a run by Portland in the 4th quarter, it was not meant to be and Portland's firepower was simply too much. Danny Green's marksmanship (6-20 FG%) failed to deliver, despite scoring 20 points, which hurt San Antonio's ability to get a rhythm.

In the loss, Kawhi Leonard had 33 points, and Tony Parker had a double-double. Gasol finished with 19 points, but fell off later in the game as Portland won the final period 40-25, winning 123-109. Damian Lillard had a career-high 17 assists with 26 points, and CJ McCollum had 33 points.

Game 5 was a slightly different event, and in the first half it looked a bit ominous and likely for a Game 6, because Portland came out the gate hot, going up by 11 points, especially Al-Farouq Aminu's 23 early points due to Spurs' defensive lapses. But the Spurs stayed in the game, being patient, and its stars were playing well enough to contend.

The Spurs would improve defensively and up the tempo, with Kawhi Leonard (26 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists) getting dunks on the fast break that ultimately put the Spurs over the top in the final minute. Pau Gasol (14 points, 7 rebounds) was fouled and made two free throws, forcing a desperation 3PTer by Damian Lillard (21 points, 6-17 FG%) that fell just short, ending the series, 4-1.

Aminu cooled off with just 26 points total, but CJ McCollum had 25 points with 10 assists. The Spurs won the 4th Quarter 30-22, and overcame two deficits late to rally and take the series home. They'll face the OKC Thunder, a stark rival, in round two. The Spurs had 13 blocks as a team, and Tony Parker delivered after struggling in Game 4, with 24 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, and 6 three-pointers.

Manu Ginobili had 14 points and sparked the first run before halftime, but Portland played hard and kept the lead, before finally coming up short against the defending champions. Danny Green had 15 points.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Spurs achieve hot start, withstand rally by Blazers (3-0).

Pau Gasol had a great performance, but not after the Spurs entered Game 3 in Portland and won the 1st Quarter 38-27, a sign of things to come. The Spaniard specialist finished with a game-high 28 points and strong 12 rebouds with 3 blocks, making 4 three-pointers as well.

Ball movement was stellar by the Spurs in the first half, as every player got into a rhythm, but the Blazers weren't going to simply accept an 0-3 deficit, as their play improved down the stretch and challenged for the lead, ultimately taking it in the 3rd quarter 87-85. It was a rough night for Damian Lillard, however, and the Blazers top scorers were Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu.

The final period, however, belonged to the Spurs in typical Spurs fashion with a 12-2 run to begin the 4th Quarter. Kawhi Leonard's athleticism took center stage, as did his tremendous defensive efforts, finishing with 19 points on a proficient 7-10 FG%. Danny Green was solid too, scoring 18 points on 5 long balls. Another strong showing was in store for Thaddeus Young, whose solid play on the boards hoisted 10 rebounds with 17 points, drawing free throw attempts and looking 'in the zone' tonight.

The Spurs did miss several free throws, which almost cost them the game once Portland took the lead, because the Spurs would've been up by 8 had they made all of their free throws, especially when it's better free throw shooters missing the most. Slight frustration aside, the Spurs held off the Blazers, winning big in the final period 38-20, for a commanding 132-111 victory to all but finish off this series. Josh Smith also thundered the rim at times on the fast break with some nice pick-and-roll exchanges for 10 points and 7 rebounds. The Spurs also out-shot Portland 50% to 46%.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Spurs lay an egg early, but tremendous rally catapults them to victory, lead 2-0 after 119-130 victory.

The Spurs did not start this game out well! Danny Green was 0-5 from 3PT distance early, and the team's defense almost made Coach Popovich retch...giving up 45 points in the paint in the first half!

The Trail Blazers came out blasting, outscoring the Spurs 34-22, and then 35-32 in the second quarter. The Spurs looked hopeless and destined to give in, surrendering a 1-1 split as the series would move to Portland for Game 3.

But something happened, a spark, something...the Spurs edged Portland in the 3rd quarter, 31-25, and then a mountainous rally in the 4th quarter easily became the wildest moment of the playoffs yet. San Antonio walloped the Blazers 45-25, and all struggles they once had vanished!

Kawhi Leonard would not be denied, catching lightning in a bottle with 37 points, 5 assists, 4 blocks and 2 steals off 5 three-pointers, including an ice-cold dagger from long range to finish the insane comeback. On the fast break, he resembled his rival LeBron James, rumbling down like a polished freight train for several layups in the deciding moments of the game.

Danny Green was not far behind with 30 points off eight--yes, eight--three balls after struggling terribly for 3/4 of the game, making one on the fast break that turned the tide for good. Pau Gasol's experience came in handy too, scoring 17 points with 11 rebounds. Dewayne Dedmon had 11 rebounds as well. Tony Parker hit a clutch jumper off a screen late to pad the newfound lead for the defending champions, finishing with 17 points and 7 assists.

How it happened is hard to explain, but the Spurs crunched down, reached deeply inside of their dreams, and soon the Blazers were turning the ball over, never getting a shot off, robbing themselves of a chance to respond back to the unforeseen rally, playing an otherwise perfect 3 quarters on the road. Damian Lillard had 21 points and a career-high 20 assists, but 3 late turnovers were deadly. CJ McCollum had 25 points, but 6 turnovers in the game, late mostly as well. Al-Farouq Aminu had 21 points, Evan Turner had 13, Ed Davis had a double-double, as did Mason Plumlee with 15 rebounds. The Blazers will head back home, feeling a mixture of emotions after this peculiar loss when it all seemed to be going their way.

Michael Carter-Williams had 8 points with 5 assists, using his long limbs to bother the Blazers' talent, also making two clutch free throws to secure the lead in the final minute and driving hard for a monumental layup late. Manu Ginobili had 8 points.

This fight is just what Coach Pop needed from his players to show the world that this season's title is not a dead giveaway to the Golden State Warriors, because the San Antonio Spurs are still the defending champions and this game reminded us all how they won in the first place.

The Playoffs begin! Spurs defeat Blazers, win game 1.

The San Antonio crowd rocked their Spurs gear in unison, an ocean of white, gray and gold aspirations as the playoffs got underway against the offensive firepower of the Portland Trail Blazers, starring Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

In Game 1, the Spurs led by as much as 21 points, firing on all cylinders with full tanks all around, breaking out to an early lead. The fiery Blazers would rally late and make things interesting, but fall just short, losing 121-126, leaving the Spurs with a lasting impression to not let up on this hungry squad.
The Spurs had 6 blocks as a team, 8 steals, and outscored Portland 37-26 in the first period.

Kawhi "The Claw" Leonard proved his status as the new appointed court general, leading the way with 26 monster points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals.

Manu Ginobili had a strong showing with 19 points off 5 three-pointers. Michael Carter-Williams scored nicely with 17 points and 5 assists. Pau Gasol and Danny Green combined for 32 points and Tony Parker had 8 points. Every Spur that touched the floor scored in this promising win.

In the loss, Damian Lillard surged to 27 points with 12 assists and CJ McCollum had 22 points. Al-Farouq Aminu had 21 points with 8 rebounds, Evan Turner had 16 as did Myers Leonard.

Popovich's plan works, Spurs win 3 straight.

After Coach Pop's decision to bench the stars of the team for the sake of proficiency and rest once the playoffs begin, the final stretch of games brought some unease for fans of the Spurs. But for now, those fears have dissipated and the process has proven to be trustworthy. It still took hard work by the players, but the bench and role players certainly delivered to Popovich's liking.

First, it was a game against the rival OKC Thunder, led by Russell Westbrook. It was a close game throughout, anyone's for the taking in the fourth quarter, but the Spurs were able to win this dogfight and surge for a lead in the final minutes.

The Clippers brought Lob City to town as well, and while it was close, the Spurs more easily bested them than Westbrook's crew.

However, the Spurs would lose the final two games to the Golden State Warriors, despite gaining a brief lead in Oakland on the road, and then in what was more of a classic showdown, whiffed on a pass in the final seconds that would've given them the lead had they scored on a drive by Kawhi Leonard.

Frustrating, certainly, but the Spurs are rested for the playoffs now.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Spurs bludgeoned by Warriors at home, lose by 35.

The Spurs ought to have been careful for what they had wished for, feeling confident after two strong wins against rivals OKC Thunder and LA Clippers as they headed into the second showdown of the season with the top seed, Steph Curry-led Golden State Warriors.

No player on the Spurs could throw a pebble in the ocean in this game, killing any hope for team flow on the court, and much credit is due to Golden State's defense. Out of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant and Draymond Green, none of the away team's stars had any 'spectacular' performance, but they didn't need to. The Spurs were simply not up to the task. What most fans and the Spurs themselves had foreseen as another close breakneck contest quickly dissolved into a one-sided rout of the defending champions. The collective groan of the San Antonio crowd inside the AT&T Center sounded when the Spurs were down by 30 POINTS in the third quarter.

Danny Green, Kawhi Leonard, even Pau Gasol--nobody could get rolling and score the ball. Then foul trouble ensued and Gasol actually fouled out of the game before the 4th quarter even started.

The response?

"I've gotten in trouble for it before, but it's time to look at the bigger picture here," Coach Popovich said after the game, deciding to fully implement a resting rotation change as the playoffs loom in the distance, referencing the controversy when he was fined by the NBA for resting his stars during a national T.V. game a couple of years ago. The Spurs sit just above the OKC Thunder with 52 wins, ten less than the mighty Warriors, but should be fine moving forward. "I want the rest of our guys to close out the season, produce consistently, let them see what they can do to help us, get them locked in--'cause they gotta be ready when I call for 'em." Popovich undoubtedly speaking most about Michael Carter-Williams, Dewayne Dedmon, Thaddeus Young, David Lee, Kevin Garnett.

The Spurs lost to the Charlotte Hornets on the road after the devastating blowout, but recuperated with home wins against the Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies. The Spurs head into the next game against the OKC Thunder sporting a lineup of:

PG: Tony Parker (limited minutes)
SG: Michael Carter-Williams
SF: Josh Smith
PF: Thaddeus Young
C: Dewayne Dedmon

We'll see how it fares against the machine that is Russell Westbrook, but knowing Coach Pop, he's going to stick to the plan no matter the results. "Our stars need to be ready, have a full tank, 'cause with teams like the Warriors out there, we gotta be ready for them when it matters most." Expect to see Jordan Farmar and even Shane Larkin, Tayshaun Prince get more burn on the court.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Spurs defeat rivals, en route to rematch with Warriors.

With the trade deadline in the past, Michael Carter-Williams has already validated the trade for the Spurs, racking up assists and relieving Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and Danny Green when they need to rest. On the receiving end of MCW's slick passes has been Green and Kawhi Leonard, the latter continuing his beastly awakening this season, scoring 26 against the OKC Thunder and then 32 against the Clippers in games that the Spurs narrowly won and needed to win to show dominance.

With no Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook lost the ball a few times to MCW's long 6'6 height-savvy thievish arms, queuing the fast break for the Spurs at home. It was still close late, and the Spurs almost lost the game, but the defending champions rallied in a gutsy effort and made free throws late.

Then the Clippers came to town from Los Angeles, and the Spurs could never quite put them away, rather down after a game that was full of runs for both teams. Especially San Antonio, which despite red-hot play by Blake Griffin, who nailed a tough fadeaway in the final seconds just over Kevin Garnett, and 15 assists by Chris Paul, whose Kawhi Leonard would not be denied. As Griffin sized him up on defense, Kawhi shot a 3PT dagger in his eye and then made another one after getting open on an inbound play.

MCW iced it at the free throw line, his defense bothering Chris Paul much like Westbrook. Danny Green also shot the lights out, catching fire late this season which is good for the champs.

The Spurs are gearing up for another showdown with the #1 seed Warriors next, and these two strong victories have them firing on all cylinders, with a rested Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili ready to win.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Tiago Splittter traded for Michael Carter-Williams.

After losing a close fight with the Warriors, the Spurs' road to the playoffs got too bumpy for the front office's liking. Although they battled valiantly, the Spurs lost to both the Cavaliers in the rematch (after San Antonio closely won the first contest), in Phoenix to the Suns and at home to the Orlando Magic. The Spurs would 'get revenge' on the young Frank Vogel-led Magic squad back in Orlando before the All-Star Break, but the recent struggle was still enough to tweak the chemistry just a tad.

Tiago Splitter was once traded when the Spurs acquired Kevin Garnett, and brought him back the next season. Splitter struggled after the return to the Alamo City, but Spurs kept him and won the championship, brushing the matter aside. This season, Splitter has not been 'bad' by any means, but with new Spur, Dewayne Dedmon, scrappy and producing alongside Pau Gasol down low, Tiago's role diminished and he saw less and less playing time.

In some of San Antonio's losses this season, both Danny Green and Manu Ginobili struggled, with Ginobili showing signs of fatigue, even as the backup SG this season. The Spurs were looking at possibly Ricky Rubio who keeps being subject to trade rumors in Minnesota, but "MCW" offers the same value as Rubio, with both players not having the best offensive talents but being great distributors and MCW having the edge defensively. Many Bulls fans questioned the trade for MCW, considering the presence and similar low offense/high distribution talents of new Bulls maestro, Rajon Rondo. A first round draft pick also went to the Chicago Bulls.

Meanwhile, the Western All-Star team won the popular, high-scoring affair this time, despite a comeback effort by LeBron James and John Wall of the east. They had a chance to tie the game, but a turnover decided the contest in the closing seconds.

With the acquisition of MCW to the Spurs, Coach Popovich now has the rest of the season to experiment with the new player and with new lineups, with hopefully MCW being the difference to relieve pressure from Ginobili & co and catapult the Spurs past their strongest foes: Cavaliers and Warriors.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Warriors edge Spurs in Oakland, 110-100.

The top two teams in the Western Conference, and by record the entire league, faced off in dramatic fashion. It was neck-and-neck throughout the game, with the Warriors and Spurs both sputtering to really execute at their best.

In the first half, the Spurs defense hobbled the fast-paced style of Golden State, getting blocks, neutralizing Steph Curry as best as humanly possible, a task not easily carried out by Tony Parker, who did a decent job. Coach Popovich later revealed, "I told Tony his mission was to guard Steph with 100% effort and he did. It just didn't work out for us tonight for other reasons. But I'm proud of our guys. Made a late run, missed a couple of good shots, made some mistakes. Just didn't execute like we know we're capable of doing. But we'll see this team again and it'll--it'll be interesting."

Coach Popovich appeared frustrated at times on the sideline. His main firepower went 'dud' for the former Air Force member tonight, with both Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green misfiring too often for the Spurs to develop any real flow. Coach Pop was forced to experiment with his lineups, and Dwayne Dedmon had a poor game, David Lee's usual spark off the bench fizzled, and even Pau Gasol (who scored 27 in a huge win versus the Cavaliers) underwhelmed.

However, the Spurs were still in the game until the 4th quarter when the Warriors gained a lead. (It was a virtual tie game for 3 quarters, other than an early 1st Qtr lead for SA.) Kawhi Leonard had 5 fouls and went to the bench, and the Warriors lead grew behind 25 points from new arrival Kevin "OKC" Durant. Klay Thompson had an off night (2-15 FG%), but Danny Green didn't fare much better being the one guarding him, missing 3PTers he'd usually make. Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala had bad nights, too, and only Shaun Livingston was able to utilize his athletic skill against their mighty foe. San Antonio knocked off a couple of runs late and had a chance to take that late lead with the potential to take it home, but their attempts fizzled being tied and then being down by only 3 at one point, only for Manu Ginobili to miss in crunch time.

The Spurs managed to cut the lead to 5 in the final minute, but following 3PTers missed and the game was decided. Steph Curry had an off night as well, but made up for it with 15 assists and 15 points. For the Spurs, Tony Parker had 17 and Kawhi still had 18, but not a strong 18 by any means. Gasol had 10 rebounds, but the bench did not contribute enough to supplement the poor showing by the stars. San Antonio's flashes of stellar shooting proficiency made fans nervous, but the Warriors held on during the most crucial moments. Klay Thompson iced it at the free throw line.

Things will certainly be interesting when the rematch happens later this season in San Antonio for a change, and most likely again in the playoffs, as the defending champion Texans hope to withstand the new 'death lineup' of the Golden State Warriors. Hopefully next time, both teams' strengths will be more established and reliable. Notably the defense by San Antonio was on point, and the only decisive quarter was the final one, and the Spurs still had a chance to steal it. But they lost.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Spurs edge Cavaliers in Finals rematch, 113-116.

This NBA Finals rematch lived up the hype, and then some! A close game early, the Spurs used the home crowd to carve a lead that grew to double-digits due to San Antonio's stellar ball movement and suffocating defense.

However, the big three of the Cavaliers (LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love) were also playing strongly and sparked a huge 19-7 run in the second quarter, stealing the lead away at halftime, 56-55, in dramatic fashion.

Dramatic fashion was perhaps the theme of the second half. The Cavaliers kept executing flawlessly, and the Spurs started missing shots, especially Danny Green (3-12 from 3PT range) and Kawhi Leonard was not his usual self from distance either. However, Pau Gasol kept his strong play going from the first half, becoming player of the game with 27 points, 9 rebounds and 6 assists. Gasol hit a clutch shot from mid range late in the 4th quarter as the Spurs somehow rallied back despite all odds, even with Tony Parker having fouled out in an unusual manner.

Manu Ginobili stepped up late with just 3 minutes left, nailing a three-pointer to give the Spurs a three point lead. Cleveland called timeout, marking what would be a wild conclusion to this showdown. But the Spurs defense was so strong, the Cavaliers were called for the 5 Seconds Inbound Violation, to the cheers of the Texan crowd. On the ensuing possession, Gasol hit that shot written above, only for LeBron James (16 points/5 assists/6-18 FG%) to nail a tough fadeaway over Kawhi Leonard (19 points/10 rebounds/7 assists). The game in the balance, Dewayne Dedmon was fouled, made one of two free throws, then a tough layup missed by LeBron and by Tristan Thompson (23 points/10 rebounds) as well. Next, Kawhi passed to an open Dedmon under the rim for a monstrous jam over the Cavaliers' Thompson.

Up by four, Kawhi Leonard slipped as the ball went to an open LeBron James, who hit a clutch 3PTer. But there was only 20 seconds left, so the Cavaliers fouled Ginobili (17 points) and he hit both free throws. Next, adding to the drama, Iman Shumpert made a 3PTer, had his foot not barely been on the line. So, Cleveland got two points instead, forcing them to foul Gasol. The 7'0 Spaniard received "MVP" chants from the home crowd as he made both free throws. LeBron James threw the ball from full court, but it fell way short as the fantastic contest was ended.

Coach Popovich celebrated with his team and shook hands with Cavs' Coach Lue for a great show of competition. The defending champions won round one this time, and they will square up again later this season. The next challenge for the Spurs is Steph Curry's red-hot Golden State Warriors.

When the Spurs were down, "J-Smoove" Josh Smith made a clutch 3PTer as did Thaddeus Young, the latter whom has hit a dry spell as of late, but it was welcome tonight and much needed. Danny Green also had 8 assists.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Kevin Garnett reaches buyout with tumultuous Timberwolves organization.

In a sudden turn for the worst, the Minnesota Timberwolves organization has fired Coach Sam Mitchell due to the disappointing start of this season and has replaced him with defensive, but also divisive former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau. Mitchell has been very vocal in his disagreement about the firing, and sadly this ordeal comes not long after the passing of famed Timberwolves president Phil 'Flip' Saunders.

Last season, "The Big Ticket" Kevin Garnett chose to leave for his original team and ideally close out his career there, with the possibility of moving into the front office. This move came after 'KG' won two championships with the San Antonio Spurs alongside longtime, former rival Tim 'The Big Fundamental' Duncan. In the season before Garnett left for the T'Wolves, his production value had dropped and made his request more acceptable to the Spurs. Garnett was able to mentor the 'Big Cat' Karl Anthony-Towns in his first season back with the T'Wolves and also get into a scuffle with Lakers prospect Julius Randle, in classic 'KG' fashion.

Now, though, things have gone quite sour in Minnesota and far from where Garnett would prefer for them to be. He let this be clear and known to the front office, and shortly thereafter was able to reach a buyout agreement with the team. This is an unfortunate chain of events, as KG's return renewed fan interest. However, some fans felt it was part of the problem with the philosophy of team management and why the team did little more than benefit from Towns' production as Rookie of the Year.

 So, "The Big Ticket" and his agent contacted the only team he trusted to boost his spirits and offer a familiar environment. It doesn't hurt that it appears for San Antonio to be a viable threat to repeat again as NBA Champions this season. Coach Popovich and executive R.C. Buford made it clear to Garnett that he would leave his feelings about the tumult in Minnesota where it belongs and that, as history has shown, Popovich would not hesitate to cut him from the team if undesired problems arise.

This team is different in appearance than when Garnett left it almost two seasons ago, and Garnett will fall in at the power forward position behind Thaddeus Young and David Lee. To ease the transition, Josh "J-Smoove" Smith will move over strictly to the small forward spot behind 'The Claw' Kawhi Leonard, instead of hopping back and forth between the two. The deal will be for the veteran's minimum (1.55m) and it appears likely, though uncertain, that Garnett may retire after this season, and the second year of this deal accordingly being a player option.

 The biggest difference now is that Tim Duncan is gone, and this is, by all predictions, poised to become Kawhi Leonard's team. Garnett recently shared a picture of a younger Duncan and himself upon hearing of Duncan's departure from the hardwood, a declaration of respect. Pau Gasol is the newest addition to the Spurs lineup since KG's exit and was a strong rival during the Lakers/Celtics most recent Finals clashes before KG left the Celtics in a trade to the Spurs seasons ago. "Well, certainly he can offer a lot of experience and toughness to our team. He's been here before, and I've definitely seen firsthand the level of competition and intensity he brings on the court, so it will be a joy to play alongside him with the Spurs," Gasol told reporters once he heard the news.

Hopefully, as Garnett is known for his passion, the Big Ticket will be able to come to peace with some of his demons as he re-joins the Spurs that brought him success. KG will wear #10 this time for San Antonio, in tribute to the ten years he played under the late Coach Saunders.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Kawhi Leonard dismantles Bucks late, 117-111.

This was a close game early as the Bucks came to play against the defending champions, sans Pau Gasol. Gasol tried to give it a go, but it was clear that he was unable to achieve proper lift on his jumpshot due to his ankle injury, scoring only 6 points in 13 total minutes of action before leaving the game.

Kawhi Leonard slid over to the power forward position, showing Coach Popovich's innovative efforts at the helm. Kawhi did not disappoint, either, and in the 4th quarter went on a tear, putting the Spurs up 113-102, hitting shot after shot, and making tough baskets down low, drawing the foul and icing it at the free throw line. "The Claw" finished with 29 points, 9 rebounds and 5 steals, shooting a stellar 11-17 from the field.

For the Bucks, Khris Middleton had 28 points and Coach Kidd's prized point-forward hybrid Giannis Antetokounmpo dazzled with a near triple-double. Jabari Parker had 20 points and 8 rebounds, using his skills down low to score. Michael Carter-Williams (who has been on the Spurs radar as a possible acquisition) had 13 points and 8 rebounds with 7 assists. Struggling star pickup Greg Monroe had 14 points with 13 rebounds, but failed to carry Milwaukee into a win tonight.

Dewayne Dedmon showed his athleticism also, getting some nasty jams down low with 11 points and 6 rebounds. Manu Ginobili had 12 points, Tony Parker had 16 points with 8 assists and Danny Green was not far behind Kawhi's performance with 26 points of his own from 6 three-pointers and 7 rebounds.

Spurs recover against Rockets, winning at home 105-94, but Gasol rolls ankle.

James Harden played well, making tough layups down low and drawing plenty of free throws. Nene also played strongly, with 15 points and 7 rebounds. Houston had a chance to win this game, due to the amount of turnovers by the Spurs and considerable defensive effort by the Rockets.

However, the defense kept San Antonio in the game and ultimately got them the win. They got two small leads before finally pulling away from the feisty post-Dwight Howard Rockets.

Tony Parker had 16 points and 10 assists. Kawhi Leonard had 19 points and 8 rebounds.

Sadly, though...Pau Gasol rolled his ankle after scoring 14 points and grabbing 9 rebounds. It wasn't severe, but it's unsure whether he'll play in the SA's next game against the Bucks.

Manu Ginobili had 14 points, shooting 4/8 from 3PT land.

But at least the Spurs did not lose the game too on top of Gasol's injury. The Rockets had their own problems as their offensive firepower fizzled, with Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza all shooting terribly from the field (Ariza: 2/13). The Spurs also won the rebounds battle 57 to 47 and shot 42% from distance.

Suns eclipse Spurs for second straight home loss, Gasol misses at buzzer

The Spurs and Suns both struggled to score in this game, and it came down to a single shot with a chance to send the fans home happy, but Gasol's shot down low (and it was a great shot opportunity) rattled out of the basket at the buzzer. The Suns singed the Spurs, 99-98, and outscored them 29-17 in the second quarter as it became apparent the Suns were visiting San Antone to leave with a win.

Manu Ginobili really struggle, missing all 5 of his shots, and even Danny Green couldn't hit a lick missing all eight of his three-pointer attempts.

Eric Bledsoe dished out 13 assists, especially to Alex Len who had a great showing, forcing the Spurs to respond, with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Despite the loss, the Spurs big three had a good showing and this game got away from them. Tony Parker is improving as the leader, with 20 points; Kawhi Leonard had 20 points/8 rebounds/7 assists and Pau Gasol had 24 points.

It's rough losing two straight games at home, but it's part of the game.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Young, hungry T'Wolves snap Spurs win streak at twelve.

The Spurs lost for only the second time at home as the young, gutsy, defiant, Coach Thibodeau-led Timberwolves went on a 14-2 run to kick off the final period, punctuated with a 4-PT play by Zach LaVine, slam dunk extraordinaire, who splashed in a three-pointer and the free throw after being whacked by a late-arriving Danny Green. That moment would give Minnesota the lead, which would surprisingly rise to 10 points, and, despite an admirable fight by the Spurs, give them the upset.

The Spurs were slow out the gate all night, despite decently responding to a 7-0 run by the T'Wolves to start the game. Foul trouble and resting Pau Gasol did not help matters, but Coach Popovich would have it no other way. When asked about Gasol's absence affecting the outcome, Popovich said:

"He's one of our best players, he's a star, but some nights, you can't see the stars 'cause we didn't want to play him and he didn't feel up to it."

The always curt Popovich also noted the team's fatigue after this impressive 12-game win streak that had the whole league buzzing, as the Spurs are now on the Warriors' heels. Even the Warriors lost at home earlier this week, when the rival Cavaliers came to visit. "Well, they're tired. I'm tired, too. We had a good run, but everything has an end. We're gonna tip our hats to Coach Thibodeau and his team of go-getters, props to their players--they beat us tonight. Season series is 1-1 now. We're gonna get some rest tomorrow and come back strong for our next game. Heck, who knows--maybe Pau will sit out again." Popovich laughed, humoring Doris Burke as he left the court to support his team in the locker room.

Ricky Rubio, despite trade rumors (some of which fancied him landing in San Antonio), had 9 assists and made a few shots to show off his improved shooting ability (still not great, but improved). Beast-like prospect, 'the Big Cat', Karl Anthony-Towns had 17 points with 15 rebounds, including a monstrous jam that rattled the rim in the first half, part of the 112-102 surprise win by the Timberwolves.

For the Spurs, Kawhi Leonard brought them back to within one shot's distance with 24 points on stellar shooting and Danny Green had high numbers as well, despite missing some longballs late that would have kept San Antonio in the running. Tiago Splitter started in place of Gasol tonight, but struggled all game long, fueling trade rumors as this is the second season now that Splitter has failed to be an effective piece of the team. No confirmation from the Spurs front office regarding the rumors, but the Spurs certainly need more help outside of the rebound-snatching but otherwise raw pickup in DeWayne Dedmon. Manu Ginobili also went scoreless tonight, missing all 6 of his shots. In good news, David Lee had 10 points off the bench and Thaddeus Young made for some nice pairings with Tony Parker in the pick-and-roll when the game was still close prior to the 4th quarter.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Spurs extend win streak to 10, defend home court against Wizards & Clippers.

The Spurs were given a fierce challenge by the visiting Wizards and Clippers, respectively, but San Antonio was able to defend its turf and hold on for two close wins that came down to the final two minutes.

Against the Wizards, Danny Green burst out in the fast break and once given the ball splashed in a three-pointer to give the Spurs the lead, reminiscent of that lethal killer instinct that this Spurs team has shown during its 4 championship seasons in 5 years. John Wall led the Wizards strongly with 28 points and 18 assists (new career high) and with 2 minutes left, things looked a bit grim for the home team, but the Wizards were smashed by a late rally from San Antonio.

Next, the Clippers came to the Riverwalk, reminded by the chorus of boos that it was them that handed the Spurs their first home court loss last season (credit for that goes to the Hawks this season, who the Spurs got 'revenge' on by winning the rematch in the ATL). Chris Paul meant business, but Blake Griffin was hindered by foul trouble. DeAndre Jordan had some monstrous dunks and the Clippers shot well in the loss, and like with the Wizards contest, could've easily won this game. A masterful feint pass by Manu Ginobili led to a 3PTer by Manu himself over Paul that sealed the victory. The Clippers also had struggles, with the likes of Jamaal Crawford and J.J. Reddick missing 3PT opportunities.

In both games, and during this 10 game win streak, Pau Gasol has dominated and gone on a roll, which has been a great benefit with Kawhi Leonard struggling a bit as of late. The 29 other teams are now impressed by the Spurs success and turnaround after a bumpy start sans-Tim Duncan, with social media blowing up fittingly about this unexpected surge by the defending champions. The Spurs still trail the Warriors (who are undefeated still at home) for the top record in the western conference, and the Spurs still have yet to play other elite teams in the league, but this win against the Clippers (close yes, but still a win) is inspiring.

Coach Popovich when asked by Doris Burke post-game about the win streak put his snarky quips on the back-burner and said, "The guys have been playing great. Real proud of them, putting in the work to win these tough games, showing their true talents out there on the court." When Doris pointed out that Popovich was also the coach calling the shots and keeping them calm under pressure, Popovich was quick to support it. "Yeah, that too."

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Ingram shines, but Lakers dissected by Spurs.

The Lakers visited the Alamo City tonight and left with a bruised ego and some bruises too. D'Angelo Russell had a tough night, turning the ball over to the feisty Spurs defense all night long and struggling to convert at the basket on drives. He rose to 21 points, but on ugly 6-22 shooting with 10 turnovers. Lou Williams had 15 points off the bench, but Jordan Clarkson struggled. Tarik Black had 15 rebounds as well.

#2 pick Brandon Ingram played well lost in the shuffle, although his shot isn't quite there yet, missing some open jumpers to smear an otherwise quality performance. Kawhi Leonard also muscled his way over the lean rookie at times, exposing his strength or lack thereof, but to his credit, Ingram didn't let Kawhi get open shots either. Ingram finished with 23 points, leading the purple and gold squad. He also had 7 rebounds and 1 block (10-19 FG%).

Meanwhile, the Spurs cruised to their 6th consecutive victory. Danny Green went 5-6 from the field and was arguably fouled on his final attempt from distance, but finished with 24 points earning player of the game honors, as the Spurs finished with 12 total blocks on the night.

Kawhi Leonard had 18 points on 6-11 shooting. Tony Parker had a good game to mark possibly his first good showing of the seasons so far, showing his range that has been missing so far this season. Tonight he knocked down 4 three-pointers. Manu Ginobili had 13 points. At one moment, the Spurs picked off three steals in a row and rushed onward for three easy dunks at the rim, earning approval from Coach Popovich.

Tayshaun Prince nailed 3 long balls off the bench, David Lee had 8 points, and the bench allowed the stars to take it easy tonight as the season grinds onward. The Spurs won 118-104, including 36-27 3rd quarter dominance.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Spurs edge Raptors on the road as DeRozan goes cold.

Kawhi Leonard was tasked with defending DeMarr DeRozan in this game and he mostly delivered, save for a couple fast break baskets that Kawhi had no real chance of defending. DeRozan and Kyle Lowry were in sync on a few alley oops as well late in the game that was neck and neck throughout, but DeRozan had two tough shot attempts over Kawhi that rattled out of the rim and arguably three far easier attempts that he whiffed on, as his team fell behind late.

It looked like the Raptors game to lose, as Pau Gasol was burdened by foul trouble and Tony Parker struggled with turnovers, Lowry snatching the ball a few times leading to easy fast break shots, despite Parker shooting better than lately.

Eventually, the never-say-die mentality of the Spurs got the job done as they sneaked out of Toronto with a 107-99 victory. Tiago Splitter played well despite his recent struggles and got an offensive rebound after a jumper by Parker missed to give the Spurs a commanding 4 point lead with seconds left in the game.

DeRozan shot a disappointing 9-26 from the field, not helped by Kyle Lowry's 3-11 performance. Meanwhile, Gasol hit some savvy shots down low in the face of adversity and Kawhi "The Claw" Leonard claimed 13 rebounds to go with 19 points. Danny Green also played well, stepping up when no one else was playing well, even though he probably shot a bit too much, but that could be argued is his role.

Thaddeus Young also had some tough shots at the rim that went in for him and some nice pick-and-roll deliveries with Parker and Ginobili (who played well off the bench, and even took on the PG role during Parker's butterfingers period). This win marks 5 straight for San Antonio, who now host the young-blooded Lakers tomorrow night, ending their road trip on a high note after this potential NBA Finals showdown.

Kawhi Leonard leads comeback from 13 point deficit in eventual win against 76ers.

Before the halftime buzzer, T.J. McConnell stole the ball from Tony Parker and launched a half-court prayer and it banked in, giving the younger 76ers a 5 point lead over the defending champion Spurs. Only down 5, San Antonio did not seem too worried once the 3rd quarter began, but that soon changed.

Despite playing well in the first half (including a 13-5 run in the 1st quarter), the Spurs offense went stagnant and the 76ers turned up the pace, eventually gaining a 13 point lead. Tony Parker continued to falter at scoring, Kawhi Leonard had 3 fouls and the Spurs were losing the battle of rebounds, allowing Philadelphia several second-chance baskets. Rookie stud Ben Simmons almost reached a triple-double as Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel kept the pressure on the Spurs, who began to improve at scoring but their defense began to weaken.

All of a sudden, Kawhi Leonard made two three-pointers and then stole the ball before firing another one from deep on the standalone fast-break opportunity, and the lead was cut down to just a point. The 76ers called a timeout after Kawhi's surge to 20 points on the night, but little did they know, the Spurs had finally woken up and Pau Gasol (who started well with 11 points) erupted to end the game.

The 76ers caught up and tied the game, to the loud applause of the home crowd, and actually took the lead back before a three pointer by Manu Ginobili courtesy of a screen set by Thaddeus Young (15 points) went through the net tied the game after a couple of empty possessions by San Antonio.

The Sixers called another timeout, but missed a shot after the inbound. The Spurs had a chance to take the lead with under a minute left now, but this possession had anything but flow to it. Eventually, after some risky passing, Pau Gasol launched a good look from distance (with the shot clock nearing zero) and it bounced, bounced, and bounced some more before finally going in the basket.

Suddenly, the Spurs were up by 3 with 30 seconds left and the 76ers struggled to get off a shot, let alone make one. They soon began to foul intentionally, and with only two misses on the night, the Spurs continued near perfection at the charity stripe to seal the game as a last second 3PTer was stuffed by Josh Smith.

Tony Parker, despite his own struggles, gave an interview after the buzzer noting the toughness and fight of his team to not surrender, even when down by double-digits on the road. The Spurs improve now to 4 straight wins and 15-7 on the season after another fabulous showing by Gasol & Leonard.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Bumpy start for new-look Spurs in Duncan's absence.

The Spurs are 14-7 after a bumpy start to the season. New players, new lineups, new changes to those new lineups, but the same philosophy and winning culture has been enough to win more games than not, and the Spurs looked poised to pick up steam now that the new players are beginning to gel.

Speaking of new players, Pau Gasol has moved to the starting Center position instead of Power Forward. Coach Popovich had become displeased with Gasol at the 4, since it meant less playing time for the other new Spur in town, Thaddeus Young, who has played well when given some burn on the court. Young & Gasol are a much better combination rather than an energy exchange. Part of this change was also due to the struggle of Tiago Splitter, who had some struggles last season to be effective upon returning to the Spurs. RC Buford of the Spurs front office has declined to comment on the possibility of Splitter being on the trading block again, but some fans are already requesting it on social media platforms as the NBA encourages them to do so. Dewayne Dedmon has played well in the backup center role especially on the boards and Dedmon has even moved up in the rotation over Splitter.

Jordan Farmar and Shane Larkin have done well backing up Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili has played outstandingly great when called upon, reminding fans of the 2014 finals when he helped crush the Miami Heat. Danny Green, however, has either been ice cold or red hot, having some 20+ point scoring performances or missing 20 shots instead. Coach Popovich when asked said that Green will undergo Lasik eye surgery to hopefully help his accuracy as a marksman, but this is two seasons now where Green has struggled to deliver his one quality skill, outside of his defense.

Gasol has played the best of all roster members so far in the season, including 30 points against the Blazers, and helped overcome a 15 point lead by the Bucks in a recent game, as the Spurs surged on a 20-6 run and held on to win the game. The once perfect home record of last season was not to be, as the Spurs lost early at home this season and had the Bucks held on, would've added to the understandable home imperfection with the new roster.

The Spurs have also recently signed Josh Smith, the athletic stud who spent most of his career with the Atlanta Hawks, then hit a low point with the Detroit Pistons, before regaining his form with the Houston Rockets. Since joining the Spurs' hard-working culture, Smith has shown strides as the backup Power Forward. Adding to the new arrivals is David Lee, a talented big man who's been compared to Chris Webber by legend Shaquille O'Neal in the past, so Smith may be moving over to a backup role at the Small Forward position behind Kawhi Leonard, who's turning in another strong season next to Gasol, also due to former Spur Tayshaun Prince struggling to be a quality backup at the 3.

Most of all, Tony Parker has been less than stellar so he'll need to improve, once the team gels more as a cohesive unit. But, if that huge comeback against the Bucks is any indication, this new look Spurs team can easily do that by season's end. The hardest problem they're facing right now is a sadness because Tim Duncan is no longer suiting up with them.

Friday, April 15, 2016

The Riverwalk: The Stride for Five Rings

Tim Duncan, "Mr. Fundamental", has chosen to retire after 20 years in the league and after winning a 4th championship with the San Antonio Spurs in 5 seasons.

The veteran-led squad bested the Cleveland Cavaliers in 5 games, winning 4-1 and making LeBron James a dissatisfied runner-up yet again.

With a new season comes new faces, and for the Spurs that happens for one reason: An NBA player's desire to win it all. With the departure of Ray Allen, who shot the lights out in the definitive game 5 of the NBA Finals, and the tenacious "AK", Andrei Kirilenko, the Spurs were left shorthanded as both men left with an NBA title as a capstone on their respective careers.

Thaddeus Young, who has playoff experience with the Philadelphia 76ers before moving to the Brooklyn Nets, has been sought after by Coach Gregg Popovich in the past for his hustle plays. San Antonio almost acquired Young before, and when asked about it after the NBA Trade Deadline passed, the 6'8" power forward told reporters:

“You know, [joining the Spurs] is a great opportunity. I’m one of those guys that just wants to win. We play the game and make a lot of money, but this is our career, and me personally, I want to win. I want to play for a winning team, and I want to win a championship. At the end of the day, right now, the trade deadline is over and I’m just trying to develop guys and rebuild the culture.”

When asked by reporters which player on the Spurs he sees himself being comparable to, Thaddeus chose Kawhi Leonard for what Leonard does for the Spurs when he's on the floor, chipping in on both ends and often being the spark that wins games. Young might not have been able to rebuild the Nets into a winning team, but it's not without effort on his part, both on and off the court. When asked if he’s thought about this off-season, and the possibility that his name will again surface in trade rumors, Young said he hasn’t thought about it. And when he was asked again about joining Leonard in San Antonio, he smiled saying: “It can happen. Like I said, I can play with anybody.”

Well, now Thaddeus Young has his opportunity to play alongside the new star on the Riverwalk, as the old yet still capable guard of Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan ride into the storm once again for the Spurs. In the photo above, Young did battle against Boris Diaw, who the Nets had requested in the past trade negotiations and they got him officially this time around. Losing Diaw is a tough realization for the Spurs, but they know that's part of the game and they know what they're getting in return with Young. Tiago Splitter will remain in Tim Duncan's absence and had previously been traded to the Nets with Tayshaun Prince for Kevin Garnett, with "The Big Ticket" winning three championships with the Spurs before voicing his desire to return home to the Timberwolves for the end of his career, but before last season Splitter was brought back to the Spurs.

Amidst the turmoil of the Chicago Bulls organization, two-time NBA Champion Pau Gasol has opted out of his contract and signed with the San Antonio Spurs in pursuit of one more title. Gasol's post-proficiency will most definitely help the Spurs with Duncan's departure. The versatile Spaniard wants to win and be part of a winning culture again after years of frustration with the post-championship Los Angeles Lakers and a disappointing season with the Chicago Bulls.

Also returning to the Spurs is Tayshaun Prince, who became a journeyman visiting the Grizzlies, Celtics and ironically the Timberwolves after being traded to the Nets for Garnett, and is now back with the team that matched his success with the Detroit Pistons. Prince has admittedly lost his once-stellar defensive capabilities that neutralized Kobe Bryant once upon a time, but when asked about retiring, the UK product defiantly said it's not happening anytime soon. Prince meshed well with the Spurs mentality as a team in the past and Coach Pop hopes he will fit right back in, supporting Kawhi Leonard off the bench at the small forward position.

The roster is still not final, but the Spurs let prospect Ray McCallum go and picked up the former Lakers-champion, Jordan Farmar, to back up Parker at the point guard position, as well as Shane Larkin, who has bounced around the league so far in his young career but shows pick-and-roll knowledge and has voiced his desire to stay put with a team that wants to win. With Manu Ginobili returning to shooting guard off the bench, sharpshooter Danny Green will have to play strong with Ray Allen now gone. The Spurs have also signed Dewayne Dedmon from the Orlando Magic, a scrappy go-getter player that can backup Splitter at the center position. One thing is sure: Coach Popovich will mold this team into the juggernaut of the western conference again come playoff time, with promising female assistant coach, and former WNBA player, Becky Hammon as counsel with the rest of the inspiring and the tremendous Spurs organization that includes Ime Udoka as assistant coach.

Pending Roster:

Tony Parker (Captain)
Kawhi Leonard (Co-Captain)
Manu Ginobili (Co-Captain)
Pau Gasol
Thaddeus Young
Tiago Splitter
Danny Green
Tayshaun Prince
Jordan Farmar
Dewayne Dedmon
Shane Larkin