The sky is blue, Washington is gridlocked and the San Antonio Spurs have the best record in the NBA. There are some things we can always rely on, even if the latter feels increasingly unlikely. With the 2005 NBA playoffs long behind us as Pistons fans, it's common for us to look at what the Spurs have accomplished since with plenty of admiration. It makes you wonder just what Detroit could have accomplished had they squeezed the Going to Work core for just a few more seasons...
How the hell do the Spurs do it? Is it black magic? Cult sacrifice? To demystify the mystery, we turn to our own brother-at-arms and resident Spurs specialist, MF Spurs Fan Steve. It's a part of an annual tradition between two communities that share way too many similarities to exist in comfort, DetroitBadBoys and PoundingTheRock. Hello, SpursFanSteve, and Hello, PTR People!
(I answered a few questions for MFSFS and the PoundingTheRock community, which you can check out here)
MP: There is talk that the Spurs might try for a deadline deal that would make Al Jefferson a Spur for the remainder of the season. How do you feel about Jefferson in a San Antonio jersey, and where do you think that would place the team in the 2013 playoffs? Who would SAS have to give up to make that happen?
MFSFS: I just heard this rumour today, and what I heard was Splitter/Jackson/Patty Mills. I love the idea of Big Al in a Spurs jersey...circa 2007. I'm not sure his style fits what we do anymore, and he definitely doesn't address the teams only real weakness- defending mobile power forwards in the pick and roll. He's perfect for a team that needs a go-to guy in the post, and in my opinion it's tough to have too many of those type of guys, but Splitter I think is more mobile and a better fit defensively. Also, Stephen Jackson is up there with Josh Smith and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute as far as combo forward defenders. He does it a bit differently than they do, as he's much better at denying the ball than they are but he's not as athletically gifted as far as blocking shots. Splitter and Jackson fit what they Spurs want to do about as well as you can possibly ask them to. So I don't think I'd give them up.
MP: I remember the first time DBB/PTR fraternized, we talked about the age-induced twilight of the Spurs current dynasty. That was two years ago, and they're still dominant. Best-record-in-the-league dominant. How is this happening? Is it wizardry? Vampirism? How can Detroit get some?
MFSFS: Well, Tim Duncan is a wizard. Manu Ginobili is Batman. Tiago Splitter kind of looks like that sparkly guy from Twilight. Aron Baynes recently signed with the Spurs after finishing terrorizing Gotham City. So we've got a pretty wide collection of fictional characters on our team, and all of them stand the test of time pretty well. But to answer your question, I'll say this: the Spurs age is greatly exaggerated. Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard represent the young nucleus of the team, Manu and Tim the old, and Tony, Gary Neal, Boris, and Tiago are right in the middle. So the front office has done a great job of perfectly balancing the roster. Add that age balance to Pop's ability to keep the older guys on restricted minutes (at last check, only Tony and Kawhi were averaging much more than 30 per game) and you've got a pretty constantly fresh roster. Plus, everything fits together perfectly. When you've got a team full of Swiss Army knives or Leatherman multi-tools, chemistry just reaches an absolutely incredible point. There isn't a player in the rotation right now who only has one use, which is a pretty sharp contrast both to the rest of the league and to Spurs' teams of the past who relied on role players to do a specific job and not much else.
On top of that, Tim has had "sore knees" for the past few weeks and has been in and mostly out of the lineup. Manu has also missed time with a sore hamstring. So, really, we're probably more dominant than our record indicates.
I think Detroit might be on it's way to getting some, but it's probably too early to tell. Players who rely more on savvy than athleticism always age better, and a casual observer would probably notice that Moose isn't especially athletic, but still pretty talented. He should age well. Detroit Newby Jose Calderon, also, should age well. From the little I've seen of athletic freak Andre Drummond, I'd also think his game should translate well. While he's an uber-athlete, he seems to be pretty good at playing positionally and has good rebounding and defensive techniques. If he and Monroe can play together, you've got a young big tandem that only Utah can match as far as potential.
MP: Manu Ginobili's contract expires this summer, and Tiago Splitter will be a restricted free agent. What does San Antonio do this summer to prolong its dominance for another year or two?
MFSFS: I wish I had the answer to this question. I expect Manu to likely re-sign a year-to-year style contract or retire. Personally, my money is on him sticking around until Tim also decides to go. But Manu has young twins and the family itch effects everyone differently.
Splitter is a huge question mark. He's a really, really good role player on both sides of the ball. But he's not a franchise altering player. I'm hoping the Spurs can talk him in to doing what Tim, Manu, and Tony have done as far as taking less than what they are worth, but I'd bet the farm some bonehead GM is going to offer him so much money he can't turn it down. Or maybe we'll get lucky and they'll look at his stats, see that he doesn't really block many shots, get many steals, or score off of much other than the pick and roll, and they'll throw their money at Greg Oden instead. One can always hope. As far as responding to that kind of market pressure, the Spurs just brought over Aussie big man Aron Baynes, who was in the middle of a solid season in Europe. Reports are that we signed him to a multi-year, non guaranteed deal. He's an athletic rim protector that can probably do most of the things Tiago does, plus block more shots and get moar dunks. He'll need time to incorporate himself into the Borg, um, I mean, the Spurs' system. But with half a season, the playoffs, and training camp next year, if Tiago leaves we're still in pretty good shape.
MP: Looking ahead to the playoffs, do you think OKC could get by San Antonio again this summer without James Harden? Which team(s) do you think will pose the greatest challenge to San Antonio on yet another Quest for the Ring?
MFSFS: On my optimistic days, I'm 100% positive that there isn't a team in the league capable of beating the Spurs in a seven game series. Unfortunately, even my optimistic side remembers being that confident last year, too. Looking at our regular season losses, a couple of them have come at the hands of the Thunder and Clippers...so if I was going to pick two teams that could beat us in the playoffs, it would be those two. The good news, though, is that they should probably have to play each other in the playoffs before meeting up with us. There's no reason the Spurs should not get the number one seed. After the road trip ends at the end of this month, the team rarely leaves San Antonio for the rest of the season. While the strength of schedule picks up again once we get to all those home games, if we can stretch the conference lead to three or four games by the end of February, barring a major injury that should probably be enough to effectively lock up home court through the playoffs. Other teams I'm confident but slightly nervous about are Golden State with a healthy Bogut and the always physical, defensively elite, but offensively inept Memphis Grizzlies.
MP: PoundingTheRock memes. What new memes have arisen in the last year that we here at DetroitBadBoys should know about? Do red pandas still show up from time-to-time?
MFSFS: As far as new memes, I've been out of the game-thread loop for awhile, so I'm not the best person to ask (although I'll make sure someone who knows comes over to DBB and fills everyone in). Regarding the red pandas, I post them any time I find an excuse to, which isn't really that hard, considering they are the most awesome animals on the planet. I try for at least one a week, just so they stay fresh on everyone's mind (because everyone could use a weekly panda), although I'm not nearly as consistent as I should be.
Thanks SpursFanSteve, for your continued insight and brotherhood from historically unlikely places.