Tag Archives: Manu

As the Spurs Prepare to Go Fishing, the Suns Prepare to Rekindle a Philosophical Debate

philosophical gangsta

After the Goran Dragic-fueled beatdown that Phoenix handed out last night, it looks like San Antonio will soon be on vacation for the summer. And with this, we once again have an uber-hyped Western Conference Playoffs that, while by no means lacking luster, will not quite live up to the “this might be the best Playoffs ever” billing that it had way back when we were all salivating over four First Round match-ups featuring eight 50-win teams.

This is at least the third consecutive year that this has happened out West. And it seems marginally ironic that, this year, the key reason is that the Suns unexpectedly beat the snot out of the Spurs whereas, in 2008, one of the key reasons was because the Spurs dismantled the Suns, starting with a Tim Duncan three-pointer that sent Game 1 into double OT. After that shot, the series was all Spurs.

This year? There was never even any that much intrigue. The games have all been competitive by and large, sure, but the Suns have been in control throughout. There has been no question about that.

When we look back at the 2008 series, Duncan’s three was an oddity that helped prove the truth: those Spurs were much better than those Suns. And when, a few years from now, we look back on the 2010 series, Goran Dragic’s 10/13 shooting, 26-point night will stand out as an oddity that helped prove our new truth: these Suns are much better than these Spurs.

It’s a weird thing to type — let alone think — given how thoroughly San Antonio dominated Phoenix for the entire last decade. And it’s also strange for me personally because I really wanted both these teams to win this series.

On the one hand, I was starting to enjoy the “one last run” thing for the Spurs and would have loved to see Timmy — the grizzled, battle-tested titan who often seems like he may be the Last of the Mohicans when it comes to a certain type of big man — get a crack at knocking off the upstart, more-talented, more-flappable Lakers squad that we all now believe to be the class of the Western Conference. Plus, more Manu. That’s always a “yes, please” proposition.

On the other hand, the Suns getting back to the Western Conference Finals — and perhaps even continuing on to greater heights — after getting back to running represents a culmination of sorts for the Seven Seconds or Less era and — perhaps more philosophically meaningful — the Seven Seconds or Less conceptual view of basketball. These aren’t the Mike D’Antoni Suns exactly anymore, but the Nash/Amar’e core is still intact and the script is similar. Very similar. Snatch/Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels similar.

And this is a great thing for those of us who loathe the dismissiveness continually raining down from Wisdom Mountain of Certitude by the hallowed “defense wins championships” crew who will never even consider that uptempo basketball can be good basketball.

Offensively focused basketball is beautiful basketball and it can be winning basketball.

You of course need to get stops and you of course need to do many, many other things well (rebound, execute, not have Patrick Ewing as your center), but an offensively focused team, with good enough players, could someday win a championship. It’s just a fact. And the fact that so many people refuse to acknowledge it and dismiss all the positive contributions that the Seven Seconds or Less Suns brought to this League (which, oh by the way, seems much more receptive to incorporating uptempo, early-shot clock concepts into its repertoire for success) is a very negative thing. Maintaining an allegiance to certainty when new information that should make you at least question that certainty surfaces is not a positive trait. Not for a basketball fan thinking about basketball. Or for any person thinking about anything.

Yet, so many people’s only thoughts about offensively focused basketball are this: “The Suns lost so it can’t work.” While factually true, that line of thinking is an oversimplification of a much more nuanced conversation.

The series that Phoenix lost throughout this decade were failings of those particular Suns teams, not the failings of a philosophical view about the sport that should now be dismissed and never tried again. Nothing one particular team does can disprove that a particular way of playing can work.

But — and this is the beautiful part — one particular team winning while playing that way does prove it can work.

In the Western Conference Finals, the Suns will try.

Mt. Manu Puts KG on His Hind Parts

Everybody knows that Manu is both one of the best players in the League and perhaps the best international guard to ever grace the NBA. He’s also one of the most fun guys to watch and the main reason that I have always been baffled that anyone could ever consider the Spurs boring. Timmy is the Big Fundamental and does everything with perfect precision, but has little in the way of flair or personality, so I get why some people would fail to enjoy his even-keeled brilliance.

But Manu?

He plays a brand of basketball that inspires joy joy feelings in all those around him and Kobe, according to Chris Ballard in his book The Art of a Beautiful Game, likes to repeatedly characterize as “balls to the wall.” Usually, Manu’s greatness comes with the rock in his hands. But this year, dude’s defense has been on full display.

Last night, par examplar, he unleashed this Yeti-like-force block on KG, who now has two huge reasons to be thoroughly embarrassed: the blowout his Celtics suffered at the hands of the old, boring Spurs and being swatted this badly by a slow, white, geeky, balding chump. (via Real Cavs Fans)

And this wasn’t the first time this year Manu has publicly de-scrotumed a future Hall of Famer named Kevin. Here we see Mr. Durant also get got by the Argentine. (Video via Project Spurs … Click through to see KD’s PG-rated response to the block … And my sincere apologies for the Sean Elliot commentary.)

Is that all?

Nope.

Here’s Manu standing on his head to prevent a lay-up attempt by his Eastern Conference SG doppelgänger. If you can’t stand the Heat, Dwyane, better get out of the kitchen.

Am I right?

Lastly, who can forget this Halloween swat?

Spotting Spots with Manu, Peja, Sheed and a Gas Giant*

Most of you Both Teamsters should probably know Zach Harper from, among many other things, his contributions to The NBA Logo Ranking Project and our on-going Talking Hoops with Talk Hoops series. (That reminds me, I actually owe him an email right now as a matter of fact … stay tuned).

Well, he and some other NBA scholars have a podcast that I rather enjoy called The Weekly Fix, and they just dropped the 81st episode today, which I will presume is the Terrell Owens edition. That’s quite a few, so kudos on that, Mssrs. Harper, Gallawa and Eisner.

I haven’t listened to it yet, so I’m not really here to endorse this particular episode. I just needed to point out how great the photo is that they included in the post.

It’s the top one of Manu, Peja and some other dudes.

I have included two other photos that it reminded me of.

ManuPejaBaldSpot

rasheed wallace bald spot

the eye of jupiter

We should probably start calling Eddy Curry by the name “Gas Giant.” You in?

Young Blazers, Old Spurs & Spackling the Holes

I was rather impressed by Portland on Friday night. They looked really, really good.

Brandon Roy is just an absolute surgeon. We already knew this, but it bears repeating over and over and over again. Moreover, if you combined LaMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden’s skill sets together into a single player, that guy might be First Team All-NBA. Ok, that’s probably an exaggeration, but Oden’s defense is already that for real and, actually, even his post moves/jump hooks looked pretty impressive the other night. (I wrote a little more about that while giving Oden a Lion Face over at Hardwood Paroxysm yesterday. I’m biased, but I’m a big fan of both that Lion Face/Lemon Face series as well as Trey Kerby’s Morning Bells over at HP. Good place to check out every morning — after stopping by BTPH, obviously.)

Yet, more so than having an amazing “Big 3” or whatever other shallow distinction people want to dub the star-studded rosters of teams like the Celtics and Lakers, the Blazers just have a whole corral full of thoroughbreds. I’m not positive that the numbers bear this out, but, qualitatively, there seems to be almost no drop off when they go to the bench. They remain just as potent offensively and, in some ways, get better. It’s like a hockey team that just keeps running out quality guys. After Brandon, Greg and LaMarcus, it doesn’t really matter whether the other guys are Miller, Pryzbilla, Outlaw, Blake, Rudy, Martell or Bayless (and, remember, Nic Batum isn’t even playing until after the All-Star break). They lose very little, if anything.

And because all their wings are fairly similar stylistically, and because Oden and Pryzbilla are fairly interchangeable, the only real difference is that they lose a post threat when LaMarcus is out, and they lose a PG who can hit threes when Miller replaces Blake. Obviously, having different looks to throw at other teams is a good thing though, so the advantages gained by going with a lineup of something like Miller/Rudy/Roy/Outlaw/Aldridge is a great thing to have, too.

Ultimately, Portland just has a whole roster full of ballers. I really enjoy watching them. And they’re gonna be a problem in the West all year, perhaps even giving the recently-terrible-playing Nuggets a run for the Northwest Division title.

On the other hand, I was also really impressed with the Jazz on Thursday — and they’re the same team that then lost to the Sacramento Kings (without Kevin Martin, no less) at home on Saturday night.

So, perhaps, the Spurs just aren’t that good right now? I’m not yet ready to say anything is really wrong at their core, obviously, and I will always maintain that the only thing more pointless than preseason results are November results. But they certainly aren’t playing well. And seeing Tony Parker hurt his ankle on Friday — fresh off his ankle issues last season — starts to make me think “Oh, no. So it’s not just Manu and Duncan’s health we have to worry about this season but Frenchie, too?”

They have way too much talent to not be a factor out West, of course, but when looking at their front court in particular, it’s hard to believe they have the size to bang in the Playoffs with the likes of Pau/Bynum or Nene/Kenyon — and, perhaps, even Oden/Aldridge. In the last five years, Timmy has usually had a Rasho Nesterovic or Nazr Mohammed-type guy alongside him to help absorb the sizable defensive burdens of playing high-level post defense. Sure, no one is ever going to single out Rasho or Nazr as major difference-makers on those Spurs teams, but they were both high-level defenders for Coach Popovich, and there is no one on the current roster, with the possible exception of an in-my-eyes-completely-washed-up Theo Ratliff, that can even fill that “secondary big body banger” role beside an increasingly aged-looking Tim Duncan. I really think they need that guy and, no, Matt Bonner is not that guy. And as much as I like the Antonio McDyess pick up, he is not that guy anymore either, if he ever was.

It doesn’t need to be anyone high-profile. Just someone to bang with Nene for 15 minutes a night and battle with Bynum on the block. Timmy can’t be expected to do that for 30 minutes per night anymore — at least not if you still expect him to have the energy to hit his patented, back-breaking bank shots in the final three minutes of close Playoff games. I’ll always remember a great quote from Charles Barkley after Nazr Mohammed, who was having a pretty damn good year at the time in New York, was traded from the Knicks to the Spurs: “Isiah is building a championship team — too bad it’s in San Antonio.” I think they need to make a similar, under-the-radar, spackling-up-the-holes-in-the-roster move this year.

(We’ll explore that “spackle” concept more down the road. A lot of teams are too slow to identify that one little thing they need to fix their weakness. Often, it’s just a small thing, but, more often, teams make some big, unnecessarily radical move that fixes some things but creates new issues. Look for that spackle, GMs.)

Anyway, I’ll be watching the Spurs closely to see how this plays out, and all this is something I had the pleasure of discussing with my 8th Seed brethren Jeff Garcia and Michael De Leon on Friday night after the Spurs loss to Portland. Check the video below from their live post-game SpursCast where I joined them to offer my two cents.

I come on at the 23:30 mark. Some minor technical difficulties pop up right as I’m coming on, but we fight through it and chat for 20 minutes or so.

* Alright. I’ve had just about enough of this. Brandon Roy needs a nickname. Neither his first nor last name work on their own and I’m done writing out the whole thing. I’ve waited and waited, internets, but you’ve given me nothing to work with here. You’ve offered no good options. So he’s now “Daggers.” Me and Capital_T were unsuccessfully looking for a guy to call this anyway, and I’m not sure I’ve ever seem many bigger daggers than that one he hit against the Rockets last year. I mean, the purity with which that ball went through the net was just like someone getting stabbed. It’s official. Done and done. Put it on the board.