The Spurs and the new balance of attack

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San Antonio has lost six times out of 43 games.  That to me, puts it in the best perspective. They’ve had success 86% of the time. They’ve failed less than 15% of the time. That’s insane. This from a team with a trio of aging stars and late first round and early second round picks plus Richard Jefferson, for God’s sake.

More surprising? The way they’re getting it done.

The Spurs are seventh in defensive efficiency this season. Before we get too far into this, the Spurs are not bad at defense. That’s a top ten rating in defense. The Los Angeles Lakers were fourth, the Boston Celtics fifth in defensive efficiency last season, and that worked out pretty well for them. It’s mostly important when we put in context that the Spurs are first in offensive efficiency.

The Spurs are averaging 109.6 points per 100 possessions. That’s .6 more than the Lakers, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but is in relation to the fact that it’s nearly as great as the gap between the Lakers and the sixth best team, the Knicks. In short, the offense is spectacular. And what’s more, it’s beyond just one player making them great. Consider this quote from a scout in ESPN’s Weekend Dime with Marc Stein:

“I can’t see Pop [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] spending two minutes worrying about 70 wins, but they’ve never been more fun to watch. They’ve just got five guys playing basketball. They’re the best passing team in basketball. They’re shooting lights out. They’re so much more high octane than they used to be.

“Everybody shares the ball and Tim [Duncan] just gets his stuff out of flow instead of [the Spurs] just calling ‘4 Down’ and ‘4 Up’ every time down and pounding the ball into him. The Spurs win championships when Manu’s healthy and they make 3s and that’s what they’ve been doing all year. I think Boston, in a series, beats everybody in the East. But I really like San Antonio.”

via Weekend Dime: What NBA scouts are saying – ESPN.

That’s a pretty stirring assessment from a league insider perspective. The Spurs are winning with a team concept, not with stars taking over. They have stars. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan when he has nights like last night. But for the most part it’s guys committed to winning within the system, sharing the ball and winning games. And they’re doing it with offense.

But let’s be clear. They have to do what everyone assumes and kick that defense into another level come April. Many teams have looked invincible on offense and pretty good on defense and then fell in the playoffs… often teams like the Spurs used to yield. We should appreciate what the Spurs are doing in the regular season while also trying to understand how they’re going to improve come the playoffs.

But I for one am done trying to find a nitpick. They have simply been awesome, and it’s time to recognize what they’ve accomplished.

(They will inevitably now lose to New Orleans. Sorry about that, Spurs fans.)

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.