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.)

Suns’ Richaun Holmes facing marijuana charge

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Josh Jackson was charged with felony escape, reportedly for running away while handcuffed after repeatedly trying to enter the VIP area of a music festival without a pass.

Now, another Suns player is facing a criminal charge in South Florida.

David Ovalle of the Miami Herald:

Phoenix Suns backup center Richaun Holmes was booked into a Miami jail Wednesday night on a misdemeanor marijuana charge after being pulled over in Aventura.

Holmes, who was booked as Richard Holmes…

Marijuana is becoming increasingly legalized. As a society, we’ve largely stopped caring about people using it.

Unfortunately for Holmes, he was in a place that jails people for it and works for an employer that prohibits it.

If Holmes is convicted, it’ll be a violation of the NBA’s marijuana penalty. First violation: no penalty. Second violation: $25,000 fine. Third violation: five-game suspension. The league doesn’t announce violations until a player gets suspended. Holmes has no announced violations.

I’d support Miami/Florida legalizing marijuana and the NBA allowing it. But in the meantime, Holmes must handle this.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert: ‘I think Kyrie will leave Boston’

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Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert said his team “killed it” in the Kyrie Irving trade.

One of Gilbert’s justifications stood out.

Gilbert, via Terry Pluto of The Plain Dealer:

“I don’t know, but I think Kyrie will leave Boston,” said Gilbert.

The league’s enforcement of tampering is so arbitrary. I have a general rule against predicting when the NBA will punish someone for tampering.

I’m breaking it here. This has to be tampering.

Irving is under contract with the Celtics until July 1. A rival owner is publicly predicting Irving will leave. This is the essence of tampering – a member of another team interfering in a team’s contractual relationship with a player. And owners get even less leeway.

Maybe Irving will leave Boston. But it’s wild Gilbert said this publicly.

Pacers’ Myles Turner says it’s “blatant disrespect” he didn’t make All-Defensive Team

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The NBA’s All-Defensive Teams were announced on Wednesday. When it came to the center position, Utah’s Rudy Gobert was named to the first team, and Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid the second team.

That left Indiana’s Myles Turner, the league’s leader in total blocked shots last season, off the list. He took to Twitter to vent about that.

His teammates and GM had his back.

The NBA puts players, and by extension voters (selected members of the media), in a box by the use of rigid positions for this award. In an increasingly positionless league, voters for the All-Defensive Teams have to choose two guards, two forwards, and one center for each of the First and Second teams. It’s unlike All-Star voting, for example, where two backcourt and three frontcourt players are chosen, which allows some flexibility. In the attempt to make the All-Defensive Teams (and, also, All-NBA Teams) look like the kind of lineups teams would put on the floor 25 years ago, voters are limited.

Because of that format, Turner got squeezed out. (Note: In an effort at transparency, that includes on my ballot for these awards.)

Two centers only. Gobert is the defending — and soon likely two-time — Defensive Player of the Year, and is the anchor of a great Utah defense. Embiid’s impact on the defensive end is critical for Philadelphia, something evident in the Sixers second-round playoff series against Toronto when he was +90 in a series the Sixers lost (voting took place before the playoffs, but Philadelphia’s defense was 5.8 points per 100 possessions better with Embiid during the season, Indiana was 1.2 better with Turner).

There were three deserving centers — Turner was fantastic this season, he made a huge leap and anchored the NBA’s third-best defense — but two spots and no flexibility. So when the music stopped, Turner was the guy standing without a chair. It sucks, but that’s the way it went.

Turner will use this as motivation for next year. Keep playing like he did last year and his time will come.

Cavs owner Dan Gilbert on Kyrie Irving trade: “We killed it in that trade”

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The Cleveland Cavaliers had no choice but to trade Kyrie Irving back in 2017. Irving asked to be moved, and if he hadn’t been there were threats of knee surgery that would have sidelined him much or all of the next season (he didn’t get that surgery, but then missed the 2018 NBA playoffs due to those knee issues).

The trade they took was with Boston: Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, a 2018 1st round draft pick (which became Collin Sexton) and eventually a 2020 2nd round pick. At the time that didn’t seem bad because we didn’t yet grasp the severity of Thomas’s hip surgery — but the Celtics did. Once Cleveland’s doctors got a look at Thomas the trade was put on hold until more compensation was added, which proved to be the second-round pick.

Looking back now, the Cavaliers didn’t fare well, with all due respect to Sexton (who made the All-Rookie second team). Although that’s to be expected, nobody gets equal value back when trading a superstar.

That’s not how Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert sees it, speaking to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“I don’t know, but I think Kyrie will leave Boston,” said Gilbert. “We could have ended up with nothing. Looking back after all the moves Koby made, we killed it in that trade.”

“Killed it?” I didn’t think the kind of stuff Gilbert must be on was legalized in Ohio yet.

This is a matter of semantics. Was it about as good a deal as GM Koby Altman was going to find at the time? Yes. Again, at the time we thought Thomas would return midway through the next season and be closer to the guy who was fifth in MVP voting the season before than the guy we ended up seeing (which is still a sad story, hopefully Thomas can get back to being a contributor next season somewhere). Crowder was in the rotation on a team that went back to the NBA Finals. Sexton showed some promise as a rookie, maybe not as much as some Cavaliers fans think but he can play.

But “killed it?” To quote the great Inigo Montoya, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”