Archives For San Antonio Spurs

“This ain’t reality TV!”

That’s one of the big lines from the movie The Departed, delivered by Jack Nicholson in a bizarre role that both fits, doesn’t fit, and falls everywhere in between. It comes during a scene in which (SPOILER ALERT) the tension surrounding a Boston crime boss, an undercover cop, and a bunch of lackeys has built to an uncomfortable level. The undercover cop (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) is on the verge of being found out and murdered by the crime boss (played by Nicholson). DiCaprio’s character just watched a fellow henchman die when Leo was close to getting busted and soon after the death, DiCaprio, Nicholson, and several henchmen watch a news report revealing that the body had been found and the deceased had been identified as an undercover police officer.

The henchman responsible for burying the dead body is wondering how the police found the body so quickly, and Nicholson is furious at everything going on as his empire is starting to unravel. As Nicholson berates him for not doing his job properly, the henchman laughs at the colorful analogy Jack offers up for where the body was dumped. The laughter adds to the vitriol and frustration suffocating Nicholson and he screams:

“Don’t laugh! This ain’t reality TV!” Continue Reading…

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Taken as a whole, basketball teams can be viewed as their own living organism. People are, after all, not just one thing either, but instead made up of crisscrossing and often conflicting wants, needs, impulses, understandings and judgments. A person who can keep all these things in balance, who can understand that it’s less important to label impulses as good or bad and more important to understand where they come from and how to limit them or let them flourish, is said to be well-adjusted. At the height of their powers, people can harness their understandings — both intuitive and consciously learned — alongside both natural and hard-earned talents to create wonderful things and live happy lives.

Basketball teams aren’t so different. The Spurs are the Spurs not because of Tim Duncan, not even because of Gregg Popovich, but because they’ve developed an understanding of how the whole can be greater than the sum of their parts. They get the players they need and leverage their skillsets in ways that maximize their contribution to the whole. And they do it patiently, putting the bench players on the floor regularly and often in high-pressure situations so that over time their interactions with the other players on the floor become a seamless dance. The timings become precise, nearly instinctual; the spacing is balanced unless they want to unbalance it and tilt the floor. This idea of the team as a single larger organism is what allows us to say a team has an identity and, top to bottom, the Spurs are as close to a hive-mind as you’re going to find in today’s NBA.

The Los Angeles Clippers — who soundly thrashed the Minnesota Timberwolves last night 127-101 — are not there yet. If the Spurs as a whole are a mature organism, operating at or near the height of its powers, the Clippers remain a capable but occasionally impulsive young adult. After an inconsistent start to the season, they’ve now rattled off five consecutive wins and won seven of their last eight. Against the Wolves, things started to hum in the second quarter as plays unfolded beautifully and Chris Paul picked apart a Minnesota defense that lacked Ricky Rubio. As it was against the Trail Blazers the night before, Zach LaVine’s arrival in the game heralded the collapse of the defense as pick and roll after pick and roll freed up the ballhandler, allowing him space to dish to the diving big man or kick the ball out to the perimeter for a 3-pointer, where Los Angeles took 34 to Minnesota’s 12, making them at a 44% clip to Minnesota’s ghastly 17%.

Against the Wolves, the Clippers looked — if not exactly Spurs-ian — then at least comfortable in their element, running plays that cascaded into secondary action and got them the looks they wanted, even when they didn’t fall. Sure, the Clippers’ roster has some questionable pieces like Glen Davis, but even he managed to make a positive impact in the game by being a giant body against a Wolves team lacking in size.

As for the Wolves, well, let me talk about another organism: my nearly 3-year-old daughter. Continue Reading…

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(Once upon a time, friend of the program Matt Moore wrote a wonderful post about why the Oklahoma City Thunder fell short against the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs last year. He looked at everything: the departure of James Harden; the perpetually woebegone Scott Brooks; the injury to Serge Ibaka. All of it. And what he found is that none of that was really to blame, although each thing certainly plays its part in ways. At the bottom of all of it, the Spurs were just better. So just take that article and in place of the Thunder — a team with one of the two best players in the league, two of the top 15 or 20 and probably three of the top 40, plus many years and many playoff runs together — and substitute a Wolves team whose ten available players together have played 297 minutes (or roughly six games) more than Tim Duncan alone. They played the Spurs tonight and lost, badly. To quote Gregg Popovich from after the game, “It wasn’t a fair fight.” Wiggins got aggressive and good in the third quarter, Bennett had a career high with 20 and several strong dunks. That’s my recap.)

Earlier today I needed a break from basketball-related activities. This is maybe something that sets me apart from your real “hoops junkies,” which I am definitely not. I am not a “cannot get enough of basketball” person. I can get enough. So I just wanted to dial up a movie on HBO GO and watch it, maybe take a little nap along the way. Continue Reading…

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What does the Zach LaVine pick say about the state of the Timberwolves?

According to Flip Saunders, LaVine was seventh on their board, so getting him feels like a coup to the front office, even if he’s not ready to be an immediate contributor. “Some players you go after, they have the ability to hit a home run,” Saunders said at a brief press conference immediately after the pick. “Some players that are ready-made players, they’re only going to be doubles hitters. This guy has the opportunity to be a home-run type player.”

The pick as it relates to the Wolves right now, though, could go in a couple different directions. On the one hand, it (along with the pick of Glenn Robinson III) signals the Wolves’ desire to fill a need for the team as currently constituted: athletic play on the wing. No one on the roster last year — from Shved to Budinger to Brewer to Martin — was going strong to the hoop from the wing position. Brewer got there on the break, but that was as often a disaster as it was successful.

The problem with this is that in spite of Saunders’ insistence that LaVine can play physical and GM Milt Newton’s belief that LaVine is a guy who can go get a basket or get to the foul line, the fact is that LaVine is more or less the same size as Shved (6-6, 185 lbs) and we’ve seen how physical he can(‘t) be. Also, as Layne Vashro points out in this post for Canis Hoopus, LaVine only got to the rim 1.5 times per 40 minutes, and only shot 46% there when he did. Continue Reading…

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I’m not sure a game like this loss to the San Antonio Spurs is ever good, per se.

The Spurs established their dominance by playing exactly how they love to play. The Wolves never were able to take back control of the game or dictate their own style. While both teams like to move the ball up the floor and use brilliant decision-making and passing to put the defense on their heels, the Spurs do it in a much less chaotic style. The Wolves can play that structured tempo the Spurs love to throw at their opponents, but everything has to be clicking for the Wolves.

Things certainly weren’t clicking Sunday night, outside of Nikola Pekovic continuing his torrid affair with scoring the basketball and being a presence inside. Kevin Love couldn’t seem to find a way to hit a shot or get past the solid defender that is Boris Diaw (that’s not pejorative either; he’s become a defensive presence). Kevin Martin couldn’t finish inside and he couldn’t knock down a jumper. Corey Brewer looked lost on both ends of the floor as he was a non-factor on offense and he got destroyed by Kawhi Leonard on the other end. Ricky Rubio distributed well but just couldn’t have a big impact against Tony Parker.

So while this loss wasn’t good for the Wolves as I stated above, sometimes it’s a nice reminder of just how important each part of the system is, so you don’t lose sight of the value of each component.  Continue Reading…

This game had a lot of beautiful basketball. Midway through the third it erupted into play after play of move and countermove and this, honestly, should be what every basketball fan hopes the game can aspire to. Look at this layup by Kawhi Leonard:

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LOOK AT IT! Continue Reading…

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I would like to preface this post with the fact that I have full confidence in Rick Adelman’s coaching abilities, fully believe in his philosophies when it comes to basketball, and think his offensive system is superb. I will never pretend to know as much about basketball theory or even half of the practical applications of said theories in comparison to Rick Adelman.

The offense of the Minnesota Timberwolves is crucial. This isn’t so much basketball theory as an expectation of what’s in store for us this season. I’m not breaking any ground in telling you that the Wolves have to be good on offense. This isn’t news to anybody reading this site. The Wolves need to score points and we expect that they’ll need to score a lot of points in order to neutralize whatever shortcomings are there on defense. We felt this way going into last season. Points wouldn’t be the problem; defense would.

Turns out that was backwards but mostly due to an injury rash that turned into an injury flesh-eating bacteria. Kevin Love went down. Ricky Rubio came back but missed significant time while needing a month or two to get back to where he needed to be. Brandon Roy never materialized. Chase Budinger went down for the middle of the season with love handles on each side of that middle. Nikola Pekovic and Andrei Kirilenko were sporadically banged up. The season fell apart before we could even see how it fit together.

And that’s why the offense of the Wolves is so crucial this year. I think we see frustration this early from Rick Adelman for two reasons: Continue Reading…

Spurs

Model and process.

The San Antonio Spurs are the model franchise for those places that have trouble attracting free agents to move their families to a less than desirable location. When I say less desirable, it’s in relative terms. It’s hard to equate our lives to those of an NBA player, whose lifestyle will always be a different world to us. When you have the opportunity to live in a lively city that also has complementary amazing weather or unmatched nightlife, that’s going to be more desirable for you as an NBA player. When you don’t have those luxuries, you have to have a core set of values that never get compromised. You have to possess a process to believe in.

This is how the San Antonio Spurs are and it makes me insanely jealous. It’s not even that they’re successful. Sure, it would be awesome if the Wolves had four championships or even one championship to look up at in the rafters of the Target Center, but what I’m envious of is the process for how they look to accomplish their goals for success. Continue Reading…

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I don’t know if you heard about it on MPR on the way to work like I did, but the Timberwolves were shocked last night to defeat “one of the best teams” in the NBA, the San Antonio Spurs. Numerically speaking, it’s not even a matter of “one of” with the Spurs; even with last night’s loss they stand atop the Western Conference with the most wins in the NBA at 49-16.

But it’s a little more complicated than that. The Spurs actually have the second best win percentage behind the Eastern Conference’s top team, the Miami Heat (.754 vs. .774). So even by the numbers the definition of “best” is a little fuzzy and it only gets weirder from there. With Tony Parker sidelined with a sprained ankle and both Tim Duncan and Kawhi Leonard sitting with somewhat suspicious “sore left knees” last night, the Spurs weren’t putting their best team out there. And yet that exact thing might be what makes them “one of the best” teams in the NBA. Continue Reading…

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A pair of white and blue Nike Hyperdunks lie in front of Greg Stiemsma’s ice-wrapped legs in the Timberwolves’ locker room. The tongue is branded with a nickname: B. ROY in all caps. But this isn’t some handmade tribute; these shoes were made by Nike for Roy.

“He’s got a ton of them,” explains Stiemsma, nodding his head towards the locker where Roy hasn’t been since November 9 when he played his fifth game as a member of the Timberwolves and likely his last game as a pro. Roy isn’t using them, so he passed them along.

Another pair of the shoes stands in front of Nikola Pekovic’s locker, one of them knocked to the side and the B. ROY on each tongue blacked out with Sharpie. As he dresses, he answers questions. Are these Brandon’s shoes? “Yup.” You put the marker over them? “Yup.” His clipped responses carry some kind of weight, but it’s hard to tell just what. Continue Reading…