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23 March 2005

Look, You Stupid Bastard, You've Got No Arms Left

Alright, I'm going to try this again. *Save as Draft*

It has been a while since I last littered the internet with Spurs talk. I think I burnt myself out a little bit. Not to mention The Wife has totally been hogging the computer. And, of course, it's not much fun to talk about a team without its best player and playing so badly. But my need to say something has grown too ardent to ignore. Sort of like that time in graduate school when my right testicle hurt for multiple consecutive days. I didn't want to go to the doctor, but, as my mother always said, you've got to take care of your balls. Well, it's time for this blog to turn its head and cough.

As everyone by now knows, Timmeh The Cornerstone Duncan hurt his ankle very early in the Detroit game. I thought for sure that something was broken or torn. Maybe a frayed instep tendon or a fractured metatarsal -- hell, I was surprised his shoe even stayed together. One of the officials said something like "That was the worst ankle roll I've ever seen." Thankfully, it's "only" a grade 2 (out of 3) ankle sprain and he will "only" miss most or all of the remainder of the regular season.

Before I talk about the ramifications of his injury I must comment of the Spurs putrid play during the past three games. I fully realize that Duncan is their best player; I certainly was not expecting miracles. But the play of late has been remarkably hard to watch; a level even the Bobcats should be ashamed of.

The only player who managed not to suck ass as of late is Devin Brown, and he luckily avoided the chance to suck tonight (he had back spasms). It's not just the players; Popovich has been coaching so oddly that I am beginning to think that either:

A) He's betting on the other teams.
B) He's had a stroke and managed to hide it from the entire organization.
C) He is having trouble at home and is trying to assure losing home court advantage for the entire playoffs.
D) He's trying to be all "Phil Jackson" and let his team work through its problems.

The Knicks game featured quite possibly the worst 18 minutes of basketball in the history of the Spurs franchise. With the Spurs leading 59-53 the Knicks went on a 25-1 run. Twenty-five to one. During this time Popovich called zero timeouts. There were some mandatory stoppages of play, but he did little to try and stem the tide. He also did little to try and stop Marbury, who at one point scored 14 straight points. During that entire time Rasho was on the bench while Starbury went into the lane with impunity. It seemed like Pop was resigned to losing.

As bad as Pop has been, the players have been worse. Where do I begin?

Rasho rarely steps into the paint on the offensive end. Either this is by design and Pop really does want him shooting 18 footers, or maybe Rasho is like that guy in Awakenings who would only walk on checkered tile. Or maybe Rasho had a stroke, too.

Bowen now apparently thinks he's a shot maker. He's driving the lane, shooting leaners. He's touching the ball waaayyyy too much on the offensive end. Back to your corner Bruce. One dribble max.

Ginobili continues to practice his shot fake instead of shooting the open three. He's also working on his "take two long steps into a crowded lane and throw up a wild attempt without getting the foul call" move.

Brent Barry couldn't guard an iceberg. Every team has posted him up with whoever he's guarding. The Spurs should have him guard Boykins just to see what happens.

Nazr has contracted Fortson's sydrome: he's averaged a foul every 4.92 minutes during the last three games. And apparently he's the only player allowed to shoot early in the shot clock. He has no trouble hoisting up 15 foot fade aways with 18 seconds on the clock while Barry passes up wide open 3s.

Robert Horry has lost the ability to rebound: he has 10 the past three games.

Then there's Tony Parker. Unfortunately the league has finally figured out how to guard him. I'll spell it out for everyone. Here it is. You have your pens and papers ready?

Step 1. Put a long and/or muscular player on him.
Step 3. Reread Step 2.

It's that simple and I have no idea what has taken teams so long to figure this out. Here's the thing. Tony Parker is quite possibly the worst jump-shooting guard in the NBA. Tony Parker is quite possibly the worst jump-shooting guard in the NBA. Reread those last two sentences. Despite being maybe the best finishing PG in the game, the man cannot consistently hit the J. Want proof? His effective FG% on jump shots is 41.1%. That is AWFUL. The following is a list of the rest of the Spurs effective FG% on jump shots:

Udrih -- 48.5%
Ginobili -- 51.0%
Barry -- 46.8%
Brown -- 42.8%
Bowen -- 49.2%
Duncan -- 41.3%
Nesterovic -- 34.5%
Horry -- 46.1%

According to ESPN.com, Kirk Hinrich has the lowest (non-effective) shooting percentage of qualified guards. His effective FG% on jump shots is 44.8%.

I knew, before even looking at the numbers, that Parker was a horrible shooter. Yet NBA teams, complete with advance scouts, endless game tape and the same internet I use still go over the top of just about every screen, exposing some big man who has no hope of preventing Parker from penetrating into the lane where he kills opponents. This shit drives me crazy.

I mean, fuck, just look at the way he shoots. He's got the most awful follow through -- he's one of those damned wrist-flickers -- after his shot his arm isn't extended all the way. Think of the great free throw shooters -- Reggie Miller, Damon Stoudamire, Steve Kerr, Ray Allen -- they all end with there arms fully extended. The only decent shooting wrist-flicker I can think of is Brent Barry.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not mad at Tony Parker. I love the guy as a player; I was hoping the Spurs wouldn't sign Kidd because of The Wee Frechman. Blind stupidity in sports just really pisses me off. When it comes to baseball, every at bat Rey Ordonez gets, every "pitching and defense wins championships" comment goes right to my core like someone slapped my face. This is just a basketball equivalent of that.

On to the ramifications of Duncan's injury. Take a look at the playoff standings. Here's some more info regarding remaining games. Given Timmeh's injury and the remaining schedules for Miami and Phoenix I think it's pretty obvious the Spurs have lost home court advantage to those teams. Seattle is only 3 games back, but they have a real tough schedule including games at Sacramento, San Antonio, Memphis, Dallas, Houston, Denver and Minnesota. They also play Houston and Dallas again at home. Ray Allen and Danny Fortson are also nursing minor injuries. Taking all that into account, .500 ball from the Spurs should be enough to keep them in the two spot.

I think the most important seeding issue is where Houston winds up. Nobody wants to face the Rockets. They play defense, have outside shooters, a legitimate inside presence and that One Guy who can take over in McGrady. They scare the crap out of me. I hope they grab the five or four position. This would set them up for a second round matchup against the Suns. "$50 on the Houston money line please." Yeah, I don't see Phoenix even making it to the conference finals. I think Dallas or Houston will take 'em down. And Detroit could take out Miami (though I'd rather play the Heat).

Sooooo, the Spurs losing home court to PHX and MIA is not a huge issue unless it means facing HOU earlier than the WCF. The more time Duncan has to heal the better. The race is so tight that I doubt we'll know anything for sure until the final days of the regular season. Until then, pray for Duncan's ankle. (And world peace yada yada.)

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All content copyright Matthew Powell 2005.