Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Mid-season moves?

As per usual around the time of the All-Star break teams are starting to consider if any roster moves are necessary to make that improvement to take things to the next level. Gregg Popovich is already thinking ahead with his benching of Tony Parker and Tim Duncan in their last game against Portland and gave the younger guys some burn, with Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter, and T.J. Ford all still out with injury we were looking at a rather limited rotation of Cory Joseph, Gary Neal, Kawhi Leonard, Richard Jefferson, DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, James Anderson, Danny Green, and D-League call-up Eric Dawson. Super. However, given the frenetic pace of the compact season, it seems that teams are thinking twice before pulling the trigger on any major moves. Some free agents have returned from China and J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin have both signed with the Knicks and the Clippers respectively. Wilson Chandler is expected to return and sign a deal with the Nuggets given that FIBA clears him.

While the decision to rest Tony Parker in his All-Star play and the new found youth in Tim Duncan's legs may have snapped our win-streak at 11 on the Rodeo Roadtrip, it was to be expected. We've seen Pop start to take fewer chances with his stars in order to have fresher legs come playoff time. That being said, the bench has been playing very well together and despite an extended injury to Manu, the Spurs role players have been coming together and making the Spurs one of the hottest teams in the league. However, despite that, the concern that is to be had given our frontcourt rotation is still, well, just that, a concern. Currently, Pop typically starts Blair next to Duncan, and brings in Splitter and Bonner in off the bench, however, the issue that is to be had is that Blair and Splitter cannot coexist on the floor at the same time, which somewhat limits Pop's rotations. While there have been great improvements, their defensive limitations do make a frontcourt pairing of Bonner and Blair somewhat questionable. So, what are we looking for? Well, ideally, we'd like someone that can play next to both Duncan and Splitter, as those two, I believe will be the key pieces to any run in the playoffs.

While we can take something of the 2005 Championship frontcourt rotation route as a model, we need to remember that Duncan is 6 years (and thousands of basketball minutes) older, and while Tiago Splitter looks to be way better than Nazr Mohammed, Matt Bonner is no Robert Horry. So who is available? Well, that question is difficult enough as it is, but the question that we need to understand before that is who do we have to offer? This is presuming a trade scenario presents itself. Generally speaking, the offense is still largely based around Parker, Ginobili, and Duncan, and the key role players have been Leonard, Splitter, Neal, Bonner, and Green, which means who do we have available to trade? Richard Jefferson, DeJuan Blair, James Anderson, and Cory Joseph. More the latter three as I don't know that anyone really wants Jefferson's contract. In total, Anderson, Joseph, and Blair probably sum up to around $2.5 million in salary, so we'd have to get something comparable back.

With that, who are we looking for? Well, if we're considering someone that can play next to Duncan AND Splitter the immediate players that come to my mind are Splitter's Brazilian teammate Anderson Varejao, Tony Parker's French teammate Ronny Turiaf, or maybe the Birdman Chris Andersen. However, I don't know that we can make anything work. While the Nuggets are suffering through some major injuries, requiring the minutes of Birdman, they also already have a high energy big in Kenneth Faried, thus making Blair not very attractive in a package. While they are decimated by injuries the return of Wilson Chandler may make the wings unnecessary as well.

Honestly, I can't say I've been doing my homework in paying attention to what's going on this season, but from a cursory glance, it doesn't seem that we can find someone to work with, I personally think Ronny Turiaf might work if Washington is just looking to shed salary, and he's slated to return from his injury soon as well. With the crowded frontcourt of Andray Blatche (also due to return from injury), JaVale McGee, Trevor Booker, Kevin Seraphin, and Jan Vesely it's hard to imagine that a veteran role player like Turiaf would find a lot of time in there when Washington is looking to develop its youth. However, with that youth I don't know that we'd be able to package anything that would be attractive to the Wizards as well.

James Anderson might be the biggest trade piece available, and with the development of Tristan Thompson and Samardo Samuels it's possible that Varejao is the most available, especially with the wings at Cleveland being hit hard with injuries, James Anderson might be able to find a chance there to show his stuff, however, that being said, there's no guarantees there either. It's been said before that it's hard to make a trade in the NBA, and that's true, particularly in this shortened season where healthy big men seem to be at a premium. I could probably putz around for something that would work, but honestly, there's not much that I can think of that would be appealing to another team. It's not that the package we have would be bad, it's just that it's actually a little redundant to the rest of the league. Maybe something I haven't thought of will come up, I trust Buford, and this little thought exercise was just a way to consider things down the line. With injuries mounting, it may not be the best idea to shop around, but rather to stick with what is working, and maybe I'm being pessimistic about our chances in the post season, but hey better safe than sorry. I mean, it's not like the Lakers would just give Pau Gasol away.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Oh the Linsanity!

Will somebody think of the children?

Anyways, I figured that given last week's peek into how everyone has been writing about Jeremy Lin, it was my turn to take an official stab at what I think of him. Naturally, as an Asian American NBA fan, I'm ecstatic that Jeremy has made it this far and has gotten this sort of recognition. I won't vehemently declare that "I told you so" because frankly, I will honestly (and rather sheepishly) admit, I didn't know a lot about him, and I didn't think he was THIS good. Of course, we only have a five game sample size where he's played over 30 minutes, in a PG-friendly Mike D'Antoni offense, but despite the fact that his amazing victories come over the Nets, who really don't have anyone except Deron Williams who isn't really a defensive standout, the Jazz, who have an old Raja Bell who lives mostly on his reputation and Devin Harris who has lost all confidence in everything basketball, the Wizards who basically pay $56 million for a glorified pick-up team, the Lakers on the wrong side of a back-to-back (the flip side of which was a great OT win over Boston), and Minnesota, who frankly, I'm not entirely sure what make of, but really isn't known for its defense either. That being said, in those five games Lin did average 26.8 points, 4.2 rebounds, 8.0 assists, and 2.0 steals on a blistering 58.8% shooting. I mean, sure, on the flip side he did average 4.6 turnovers and only shot 17.6% from beyond the arc, but the raw stats really are something to behold.

That being said, I, like every other person out there who didn't watch the games, voraciously devoured any and all YouTube highlights that were out there. Recently, someone asked me who I thought Jeremy Lin reminds me of by his play, he also mentioned some people likened Jeremy Lin to a Rajon Rondo-lite. I don't really quite buy that, while I'm not entirely enamored of Lin's jumper, it's serviceable, that being said, I finally figured out who Lin reminds me of. Frankly, being an Asian American Spurs fan you can all see where this is going, but honestly, if we all think about this reasonably, I think people can see how this is a fair comparison. Who does Jeremy Lin remind me of? Why, our very own Tony Parker of course.

So... what does a 23 year old 6-3, 200 lb, Asian-American Harvard graduate from Mountain View, CA have with a 29 year old 6-2, 180 lb, Frenchman have in common? Where do I begin?

While both being relatively unheralded, as Parker, drafted in 2001 (with the 28th overall pick), was picked up by San Antonio when European talent was still largely untested and more of a novelty than a norm, Parker was, at the very least, drafted, in the first round no less. I'm not saying that all first round picks are good, but at least someone thought he would be good. Lin on the other hand, was passed over by most major college programs and ended up in Harvard, which is one of those schools that you want to go to, but not for sports. Parker has 3 rings after ten years in the season, basically came in as the de facto starting point guard after the departure of Avery Johnson. Lin, started, in Summer League, after not getting drafted, and only really got extended minutes due to the injury to Summer League teammate Rodrigue Beaubois. He then got picked up by the Warriors, his "hometown" team, and played garbage minutes behind Stephen Curry, Monta Ellis, and Acie Law (or something like that). After bouncing back and forth between the NBA and D-League, he got cut before workouts of his sophomore year by the Warriors, picked up and cut shortly thereafter by the Rockets, and finally picked up by the Knicks, and then was almost dropped by them, but was given one last opportunity and from there it's history. I mean, ultimately he was in the right place at the right time. Mike Bibby hasn't been a relavent name since Chris Webber was a King and the Toney Douglas and Imam Shumpert experiments were, to put it kindly, utter failures, and Baron Davis was hurt and/or out-of-shape as per the Baron Davis norm. So what did D'Antoni have to lose, let's give the only other guy on the roster that has actually played some PG a run, and the Knicks win 5 in a row.

Wait, I thought they were supposed to be similar players... Well, it's actually all in the game, not in the history. First, let's consider both Lin and Parker, while we have a significant smaller sample size from Lin than from Parker, I think it's pretty safe to say that both players like to look for their shot first. If I were to think of a way to describe them, they are the consummate shoot-first team players. Wait? What? Here's what I mean, both players make their teams better by shooting. Now, I don't mean Gilbert Arenas pull-up 30 footers, but when their shots are falling, they can better get their teammates involved. Both of them like to attack the basket. While Lin is slightly bigger and Parker probably faster, they both do something that guards aren't always known for doing much, scoring in the paint. How it manifests itself may be different, Parker gets around defenses faster while Lin can absorb more contact, both are relentless in their attacking of the rim, with little twists, turns, and flips. I haven't seen as big an arsenal of shots from Lin (i.e. Parker's patented running tear drop), but the general style of play is basically the same. As noted by their extraordinary FG percentages (for guards). They both excel at running the pick-and-roll. Now granted both D'Antoni and Popovich's offenses live off of the pick-and-roll, both of them do the job well. Both have serviceable, but not great jump shots, extending, at times, to the three point range.

Off the court, Lin reminds me of another great Spur, while their games couldn't be more different, I believe that Lin has the potential to be that nice guy like David Robinson. You can tell both players genuinely enjoy playing the game, which makes the game that much more enjoyable to watch. Beyond the fact that both players are devout Christians, I thought it was great to have David Robinson Twitter endorse Jeremy Lin.

Again, even Jeremy Lin ends up being closer to Toney Douglas rather than Tony Parker, I still think he's made his mark. He's shown us a willingness to face the odds, and to make the most of his opportunities. While I don't think he'll be a Spur anytime soon (thought that would be pretty awesome), I look forward to seeing how he grows in this league. While expectations are high, I'm have to say, I'm pretty dang proud to have been around to see his emergence.