Despite injuries, road heavy schedule, the popgate scandal, Stephen Jackson’s threats over twitter and the Halloween photos, the San Antonio Spurs sit second in the Western Conference standings.
Call it the Spurs way or whatever you like but they are one of the rare teams that play in the same style and pace whoever the personnel. Perhaps, only Doc Rivers’ Boston Celtics and Tom Thibodeau’s Chicago Bulls can play with the same identity without key stars and reserves.
Second year forward Kawhi Leonard (knee tendonitis) and veteran forward Jackson (broken finger) have missed the last month due to injury. Leonard and Jackson are the Spurs’ best two defenders and are good rebounders for their position. Their ability to defend the wings and use their height to defend the bigger wings who like to move down to the post, make them crucial to the Spurs’ success.
Yet, despite their absence and other minor injuries to Manu Ginobili and Danny Green, the Spurs have a 19-6 record.
The key to the Spurs being able to survive and thrive is trust in Coach Pop’s system and a deep talented roster. Gary Neal (12 ppg) has stepped up into a starting role at shooting guard, who recorded a career high 29 points against Houston and another 20 against Boston. Neal’s three point shooting and solid tear-drop makes him a deadly scorer.
The discovery of Frenchman dime dropper Nando De Colo, Tiago Splitter’s strong ‘roll’ game and Boris Diaw’s flexibility has ensured the Spurs boast a strong record.
For the Spurs, one man’s misfortune is another’s opportunity.
“It’s an opportunity,” Neal said. “You go out there and compete, and try to prove you deserve the minutes.”
Coach Pop has a more simple explanation for the trust instilled in the entire roster, all the way down to James Anderson.
“Whoever is available that’s who plays.”
Of course, Tim Duncan’s best season in five years and Tony Parker’s continued excellence and leadership has made the absence of key players and swirly controversy easier to manage.
The once boring Spurs are now one of the prettiest teams to watch. The Spurs may not get on ESPN highlights for high flying dunks but they sure play with an uptempo pace with sometimes gorgeous passing. The Spurs once again are one of the top offenses and lead the league in assists per game (25.4).
While the over-hyped Los Angeles Lakers continue to linger below 500. and struggle to play with any fluency and confidence on either end of the floor, the Spurs just continue to do what they have always done in the Duncan-era and that’s win.
Nothing seems to change down in the Alamo.