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Can the Spurs Win the Title?

It bespeaks the brilliance of Gregg Popovich and R.C. Buford that the San Antonio Spurs have somehow managed to defy Father Time and remain a powerhouse in a conference as ruthlessly competitive as the West. With nary a superstar in sight (Tim Duncan is far too old, Manu Ginobili is hurt far too often, and Tony Parker’s greatness is hardly on par with that of LeBron, Kobe, Rose, etc.), and despite a hodgepodge supporting cast comprised of D-Leaguers, cast-offs, undrafted free agents, and late First Round/Second Round draft picks, the Spurs are on track for the second seed and home-court advantage through (at least) the first two rounds of the postseason. Few of their prospective playoff opponents can sleep peacefully knowing that the league’s most successful team of the last fifteen seasons will be waiting for them come playoff time.

But can the Spurs be counted a legitimate title contender? Or are they destined for another disappointing denouement to an otherwise impressive season?

We have, after all, seen this movie before. Last season Duncan and co. proved rumors of their demise premature en route to capturing the league’s best record; of course, rumors of their revival would in their turn ultimately

 prove hallow, as the Spurs became only the third #1 seed in league history to fall to their First Round opponent. And though they essentially played shorthanded in that series, San Antonio’s failure to contain the devastating Randolph-Gasol tandem spoke to a much larger problem in regards to the latest incarnation of the Spurs dynasty: a marked inability to defend against the league’s premier big men.

Unfortunately, this season has offered little to mollify concerns in regards to this particular deficiency. Indeed, the Spurs have been entirely unsuccessful in containing the likes of Dwight Howard (23-18, 58 FG% in 2 games),

Of course, the Spurs cannot and should not be entirely discounted this postseason. With Tony Parker enjoying one of his greatest seasons, a healthy Manu coming off the bench, the venerable Tim Duncan on the low block, and a deep (if unconventional) and versatile brigade of role players augmenting the Big Three, San Antonio certainly has a puncher’s chance of earning its fifth Finals appearance in franchise history. Indeed, throughout the season the Spurs have demonstrated that they’re more than capable of hanging with the league’s elite, as can be evinced from the success they’ve enjoyed against the Thunder (2-1), Clippers (2-1), Grizzlies (3-0), Jazz (3-1), Magic (2-0), Sixers (2-0), Nuggets (2-1), Celtics (1-0), Pacers (1-0), and to a lesser extent the Mavs (2-2) and Rockets (2-2).Blake Griffin (22-13, 53 FG% in 3 games), Kevin Love (20-14, 46 FG% in 3 games) LaMarcus Aldridge (25-7, 60 FG% in 2 games), and Chris Bosh (30-8, 63 FG% in 1 game) (though they have fared relatively well against Dirk Nowitzki, the Grizzlies’ duo, and Luis Scola). Coupled with their general defensive shortcomings (they rank 17th in points allowed per game, 21st in defensive field goal percentage, and according to 82games.com are only 11-9 when facing teams characterized as having “good” offensive production) and one begins to wonder how far a squad as reliant on its (admittedly astounding) offense can advance when the pace slows and defense becomes an imperative.

What’s more, of the fifteen games San Antonio has lost thus far, only three could be considered true blowouts: a 40-point massacre at the hands of the Blazers (without Duncan, Ginobili, or Parker in uniform), along with two early-season drubbings in Miami and Houston. Five of the Spurs’ other losses were decided by five points or less, and only three (excluding the aforementioned blow-outs) by ten points or more. And with an offense as potent (3rd highest scoring average) and efficient (2nd highest FG% and 3rd highest 3FG%) as San Antonio has seen in quite some time (the last season in which the Spurs ranked in the top 3 of scoring: 1984), the Spurs will pose a daunting threat to whoever has the misfortune of meeting them in the postseason.

 Yet however impressive the Spurs’ transformation from a defensive juggernaut (from 1998-2008 San Antonio earned a top-three defensive rating every single season, and even in 2009 still managed to rank fifth) to an offensive powerhouse, a return to the Finals will require a much tougher and resilient style of basketball. One, ironically enough, that the Spurs perfected over the course of a decade (and change) in which they captured four titles and were a bane to those teams (Nellie’s Mavs and the Seven Seconds or Less Suns being the most prominent examples) which lacked the requisite mental and physical fortitude to persevere in May and early June. That they’ve come to resemble that which they once trampled with abandon is a stunning development, one that bodes ill for a team that can no longer rely on Tim Duncan to simultaneously anchor both the offense and defense when needed.

Related posts:

  1. Henry Abbott: Does Too Much Playing Time Hurt NBA Title Chances? (1/22/12)
  2. Memphis Grizzlies: One F’d Up Title Contender

Discussion

70 Responses to “Can the Spurs Win the Title?”

  1. Nice read sean, I’m really starting to enjoy your perspective on the L and I think your a great addition to my favorite basketball website!

    Posted by alex | April 15, 2012, 9:39 am
  2. Offense is actually more predictive of postseason success than defense, and margin of victory means more than either. The Spurs are 4th in MOV, behind the big 3, and are 2nd in offensive efficiency. They outscore their opposition by 6.1 points per 100 possessions, which places them 4th in the league as well (and while slightly behind the big 3, they also outpace the rest of the league by an even wider margin). Age and experience predict that teams’ will slightly outperform their predicted record based on MOV and, lo and behold, that’s why they’re neck and neck with OKC for the 1 seed out west.

    They’re certainly one of the 4 elite teams in the league. They’re more likely to get upset along the way than the other 3, particularly in round 2 (because as you point out, they’re going to have a heck of a time with either Gasol/Bynum or Blake Griffin), but against OKC, Miami, or Chicago, they seem to match up well. I like their chances.

    Posted by Lochpster | April 15, 2012, 4:56 pm
    • I don’t like their chances vs Miami. I think Miami would beat them in 5 games because they would be capable of running them off the court.

      Posted by nightbladehunter | April 16, 2012, 7:32 am
      • I agree that a healthy and functional Miami team is the team to beat, but I don’t trust them, and I think the Spurs would have a lot of advantages against Miami (depth, coaching, obviously exploitable matchups at point guard and center, and a defensive specialist who can at least make James or Wade work). And of course, there are very real questions about Miami’s mental fortitude after last year’s finals debacle-the Spurs will not be overcome by the stage. Miami also has very little margin for error-if one of their big 3 is off, they have nobody capable of stepping in and picking up the slack. I actually think Chicago’s the worst matchup for the Spurs.

        Regardless, the Spurs will appropriately be underdogs against whomever they play.

        Posted by Lochpster | April 16, 2012, 11:59 am
    • I certainly agree that the Spurs are an elite team, particularly on the offensive side of the basketball. But their defensive deficiencies will be their undoing against other elite offensive squads like the Thunder, Lakers, or Clippers. Unbalanced teams seldom win championships, and I don’t expect that to change this season

      Posted by Sean Cribben | April 16, 2012, 7:03 pm
      • How bad do you really think their defense is?

        The Spurs are 2nd in offensive and 11th in defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). Five of the past 9 NBA champs have ranked 11th or worse on at least one side of the ball. And the last 3 title teams, the Mavs and both Laker teams, also gave up more points per possession than this year’s Spurs team (ie a lower efficiency rating). The Spurs defend the 1-3 very well, which is where most of the elite players they’re likely to find in the playoffs play.

        I think they beat the LA teams despite matchup issues. I think they’ll lose to the Thunder because OKC is a better team overall, not because they can’t match up defensively. I guess we’ll see come playoff time.

        Posted by Lochpster | April 17, 2012, 3:39 pm
        • OKC is a contender? But they’re 5-5 this month and lost to playoff teams! And only won mone more than than the Heat since the All-Star break! And as the wise members of the media tell us, REAL champions NEVER take games off. NEVER.

          (…of course they’re contenders. Interesting how there’s no outrage over their struggles, probably because Kevin Durant has endeared himself to the media more than the big bad villains in Miami.)

          Posted by The Realist #2 | April 17, 2012, 4:30 pm
          • True. Lebron’s fault, though. And I don’t feel bad for any of them.

            Posted by Lochpster | April 17, 2012, 6:46 pm
  3. do they have a chance to win all or what . i am a spurs fan all the way.

    Posted by raul rodriguez | April 16, 2012, 9:55 am
  4. Spurs will have problems with the bigs of the Lakers and Grizzles in the playoffs. Spurs are so-so when it comes to rebounding and defense (wins champinopships). The Spurs have enough players at the 1, 2, and 3 spots to handled the Thunder. The Spurs will beat the Clippers in the playoffs just as the use to beat Stoudimare, Nash and the Suns.

    Posted by PopKat | April 16, 2012, 11:27 am
  5. The main thing for the Spurs has always been about staying healthy throught the year.Pop has taken care of that by limiting Duncan’s minutes during the regular season.He is well rested this year and healthier then last year.The added pieces came at the right time and they have contributed well to make them a deep team with their bench.Pop is a much better coach then Miami’s inexperienced leader.Miami may not even get to the finals this year since Chicago is playing well without Rose.The Spurs are always a contender as long as they stay healthy!

    Posted by Ray | April 16, 2012, 12:34 pm
    • Oh please. Chicago still does not have a legit second scorer that it needs to even push Miami to 7 games. Lebron will guard D-Rose again in the 4th Q and Chicago will lose the series again. Don’t make the mistakes of last season and be fooled by regular season results. That matters very little in the playoffs. Star power is what matters.

      Posted by nightbladehunter | April 16, 2012, 7:18 pm
      • Then why didn’t Miami beat Dallas? Miami is deep, but Chicago’s a little deeper. Chicago has 2 things on Miami, which has been the downfall of lebron in each of the past 2 postseasons: physical and mental toughness. Chicago will keep on fighting, and they have a suffocating defense. Chicago is better than last year. If they’re healthy, which they aren’t right now, they have a great chance to beat Miami.

        Posted by boyer | April 17, 2012, 8:23 am
        • “Chicago has 2 things on Miami, which has been the downfall of lebron in each of the past 2 postseasons: physical and mental toughness.”

          I won’t go into LeBron’s “mental toughness” again here since you’re obviously a nitwit when it comes to the sport. But since you like to use the past to make predictions about performances, how many Finals games and championships have the Bulls won since the “mentally tough” Rose (and yes Boyer, I will safely assume you think Rose is “mentally tougher” than LeBron) joined the team?

          Posted by The Realist #2 | April 17, 2012, 9:51 am
          • Do you really deny what I said about Miami? It should be pretty evident. Lebron has faded dramatically during the past 2 playoffs. His effort level dramatically waned in several games during each of the past 2 playoffs. This is why it’s so hard to trust him or his team, since he is his team’s best player.

            And I didn’t say the bulls would beat the heat. What I said is that the bulls have shown that they will continue to compete hard every game, and this is something that I haven’t seen in the heat. And when the bulls are as good as they are and won’t back down from anyone, much like the c’s and mavs teams that beat lebron’s teams in the past, they’re not to be taken lightly.

            Posted by boyer | April 17, 2012, 10:30 am
          • You’re dodging the question.

            Again.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 17, 2012, 10:36 am
          • Better question: how many Finals games did the “mentally tough” Kobe Bryant win last year? Since it’s about “mental toughness”?

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 17, 2012, 10:38 am
          • Not really, but ok. You’re putting words into my mouth again, while conveniently disregarding why lebron has come up short. And all I was saying is that the bulls are a team to be reckoned with primarily because they’re ‘tough’ and won’t back down. I didn’t say the bulls will beat the heat, though. But, I do think that if the heat don’t show toughness through 4 rounds of playoffs, then they won’t win it all.

            I didn’t say that mental toughness(and physical toughness at that) is all you need. I said mental and physical toughness is what lebron and his teams have failed to have each of the past 2 seasons. Even in a weak year like last year, you’re going to come up against at least 1 other ‘tough’ team.

            While the bulls weren’t ready for the show, like the thunder, and I guess we can see the heat as well, the bulls played tough and didn’t wilt away. The heat got by them; however, they still had to win one more series, and the mavs stood up to them, and when they did, the heat had no answer, starting in game 2. It’s much like the 06 fiba title game against greece. Lebron said something to this extent: “they don’t know what to do”, after the USA had a big early lead. The irony is that lebron was the one who didn’t know what to do. Once greece fought back and showed toughness, team USA and their supposed leader, lebron, had no answer, and lost. Yes, he/they could’ve fought back and showed toughness and still lost, happens all the time. But, the pt. being is that if you’re not willing show this type of toughness through 4 rounds of playoffs, no matter how talented or deep of a team you are, you’re most likely not going to win the title. The c’s had no business making the 2010 finals, but they were a ‘tough’ team and almost won it all. This is why, regardless of your take on lebron, I don’t think he can be fully trusted. His lack of toughness in the 2011 finals was just the latest example showing his ineptitude, it’s happened enough now that it’s a pattern now.

            Posted by boyer | April 17, 2012, 11:55 am
          • “You’re putting words into my mouth again, while conveniently disregarding why lebron has come up short.”

            The same reason the greatest, “mentally toughest athlete of all time” Kobe Bryant came up even MORE short last year.

            They play in teams.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 17, 2012, 12:17 pm
          • Oops, missed a point. He went 1-3 at the line in “crunch time” in the series. So he finished with a legendary, HoF/highlight-worthy 3 points when the pressure was “on”.

            You see, for people like me, Loch, KS, etc. who don’t care about this “closer”/RINGZZZZZZZZ nonsense, this stuff is trivial. But those who put stock into the “mentally tough guy” narrative got some explaining to do.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 18, 2012, 11:52 pm
        • Chicago have 0% chance to beat the Heat. Even if they are better than last year, Derrick Rose isn’t. He could not lead the Bulls past Miami last year, he will not do it this year.

          Rose is overrated. He is quick and athlethic, but skillwise is overrated.

          Personally I wish that the Bulls win the East, but I just don’t see how this can happen.

          Posted by doosiolek | April 17, 2012, 12:58 pm
          • The lakers overall weren’t tough last year in the playoffs. Kobe still was, though, but a gimpy Kobe and a cast that was looking ahead to the summer won’t get it done. Kobe’s proven himself with 5 titles. You don’t have to worry about him. He might be injured and older, but if he’s out there playing, he’s going to give it his all.

            I think you need to read what I wrote again. I never picked the bulls to beat the heat, and I said that just because you’re mentally tough, that doesn’t mean you will win. And I said lebron and his TEAMS have failed to show this toughness.

            However, if your best player isn’t mentally tough for 4 rounds of playoffs, I think it’s nearly impossible for that team to win it all. Which is exactly what we saw from the cavs/lebron in 2010 and the heat/lebron in 2011.

            Doo, the bulls have shown they can beat the heat without Rose. While the heat would likely be the favorites in such a series, the bulls have a much better chance than 0%.

            Rose might be overrated a little, but when healthy he’s showed he’s a top 5 player. However, he’s not healthy right now, which is a problem.

            Posted by boyer | April 17, 2012, 1:19 pm
          • “He might be injured and older, but if he’s out there playing, he’s going to give it his all.”

            And yet he got swept by the Mavs. As in, not win A SINGLE GAME. “Mental toughness” and all. Must be embarrassing that the “mentally inept” LeBron got way farther and even won a couple games against the Mavs than the legend of American sports legends, Kobe Bryant.

            So what did we learn, Boyer? That only teams win titles, right? Is that why you brought Kobe’s supporting cast into the mix to explain their loss in the 2nd round against a team they were heavily favored to win against, even more so than the Heat?

            Or do you still want to have it both ways and talk about “Kobe (notice the word here; KOBE and not the Lakers) proving himself with 5 titles.”

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 17, 2012, 1:43 pm
          • And also Boyer: quit playing the injury card. Kobe fans don’t like it when people use injuries as an excuse. It’s all about being tough and “WINNING”.

            …oh never mind, the injury card only applies to Kobe. My mistake.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 17, 2012, 1:57 pm
          • I never brought up Kobe in the first place.

            The lakers were trying to do something only a few teams have ever done last year, and that’s make 4 straight finals. It’s extremely hard to go that deep in the playoffs year after year, especially with an old team. Still very hard with a young team, but much easier. Just not enough athleticism on the lakers.

            Kobe was seriously injured, that much should be evident, not an excuse, just the way it was. He’s an old man in nba years, and he’s already proven himself with 5 rings and not being mentally weak. The lakers could get away with this for 2 series probably in the east, but not in the west. And for as much as we hear how great pau/bynum are, neither one of them stepped to do much. And odom was even worse.

            Back to the topic at hand that I was first replying to is that nightblader thinks star power is needed, which isn’t necessarily true, otherwise the heat win last year. The bulls are a similarly constructed team as the mavs and 09/10 cavs. One superstar surrounded by a deep good supporting cast. If the mavs could do it, then there’s no reason to think that the bulls aren’t at least in the mix, especially having the top record in the nba the past 2 seasons.

            The bulls have shown that they will keep on fighting and not back down, unlike recent lebron-led teams. So, the bulls are a formidable opp. for the heat, especially since they’ve beaten them without rose this year, and recently beat them with rose playing awful.

            Posted by boyer | April 17, 2012, 7:19 pm
          • “I never brought up Kobe in the first place.”

            Boo-hoo.

            You started talking about mental toughness, then I showed you a player who apparently doesn’t have “mental toughness” in your eyes – and he went alot farther and won more games against the same team that should’ve been bounced two rounds earlier by the “mentally tough” Bryant. Whoops. Unless you actually picked the Mavs to win that series beforehand, and I guarantee you that you didn’. Don’t give me your “injury” excuse.

            The Bulls should give Miami fits. But the better team will win that series. Which means when you make statements such as “the downfall of lebron in each of the past 2 postseasons: physical and mental toughness”, you look silly. Players don’t lose games or titles outright – a concept that seems to evade you.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 17, 2012, 8:35 pm
          • Like I asked nightblader before, if better teams(or star power) wins the playoffs, then why did dallas beat the overrated heat last year? This theory of yours isn’t true. How do I look I silly when I say toughness has been lebron’s downfall each of the past 2 playoffs when he quit on his teams each time? When your best player isn’t going to show up, guess what, you’re going to lose, it’s as simple as that.

            For the 3rd or 4th time, I never said that the mentally superior player or team will always win. But, I said if a team’s best player isn’t mentally tough for 4 rounds of playoffs, like lebron has shown not to be more than once(do you really dispute this?), then that team will not win it all.

            When has a team won the title when their best player was mentally weak and didn’t give full effort throughout the playoffs?

            If lebron actually gives full effort throughout the playoffs, then the heat have a chance, since they are extremely talented and a very deep team. If he doesn’t, then they won’t win for sure, as we saw in 10 and 11.

            Posted by boyer | April 18, 2012, 7:00 am
          • “I said if a team’s best player isn’t mentally tough for 4 rounds of playoffs, like lebron has shown not to be more than once(do you really dispute this?), then that team will not win it all.”

            How do you prove “mental toughness”, Boyer? Because if it’s by your ability to make shots in close games in the 4th, you’re wrong with your claim. Thus is just one example, but the 2008 Celtics were subpar in the clutch, especially against the Hawks. Their Big 3 laid bricks in crunchtime. Bryant and Gasol outperformed Boston’s stars in the clutch in the Finals – and the Celtics won the title.

            If your beef with LeBron is that he didn’t play well in the Finals, perhaps he should’ve told Wade to sit down on the bench and jacked up his share of shots instead. Would that satisfy you? Better yet, let’s say he takes and MAKES all of his shots, and the Heat still lose because they’re outscored by the opponent. I don’t know how you could call someone who does that as not “mentally tough”. Would you stop your bitching then and finally give him credit? Or would you still use your laughable ring argument to judge his play?

            The Heat won games without a top 3 (i’ll say it again, TOP THREE) player in the league in the lineup, some against great teams. How is that possible? Is it because other players are able to pick up the slack? Couldn’t that have very well happened in the ’11 Finals and LeBron finally win the coveted “ring” that every irrational fan wants him to get? Would you still whine about lack of “mental toughness” then?

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 18, 2012, 10:47 am
          • “How do I look I silly when I say toughness has been lebron’s downfall each of the past 2 playoffs when he quit on his teams each time? ”

            Remember when Kobe quit on his team in 2006 in much more dramatic fashion than Lebron ever has? If you don’t think Kobe quit in that game, how do you justify saying Lebron quit in any game, ever?

            “When has a team won the title when their best player was mentally weak and didn’t give full effort throughout the playoffs?”

            Do you realize, in his past 2 elimination game losses, Kobe’s Lakers were outscored by 75 points? His Lakers are 0-5 in road elimination games since 2003, with a combined average defeat of 25.6 points. You ever notice how his production noticeably decreases in the playoffs, and his career finals numbers are frightening? (41% from the field? yowza!)

            If that’s proven mental toughness, you need to have your brain examined.

            Posted by Lochpster | April 18, 2012, 10:32 pm
          • Fun fact: “Mr. NBA Finals” and the “mentally tough” Heat closer Dwyane Wade went a scorching 1-5 from the field and 0-1 at the line in “clutch play” situations during Celtics series. He scored 2 points. Two.

            Does that count as “shrinking from the moment” too? “Standing in a corner and watching everyone else” as the rest of your team closes the game? “Quitting”? No way can a team win a playoff round when your star player isn’t “mentally tough”. That’s why the Celtics won the series.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 18, 2012, 11:33 pm
          • Misplaced post:

            Oops, missed a point. He went 1-3 at the line in “crunch time” in the series. So he finished with a legendary, HoF/highlight-worthy 3 points when the pressure was “on”.

            You see, for people like me, Loch, KS, etc. who don’t care about this “closer”/RINGZZZZZZZZ nonsense, this stuff is trivial. But those who put stock into the “mentally tough guy” narrative got some explaining to do.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 18, 2012, 11:53 pm
          • Loch, do we really need to rehash the 06 lakers/suns series? Go reread brown mamba’s article and watch the links to that game again. We can go back and forth all day about that, but it should be very clear Kobe was playing hard in that game, which many people associated with that game have said. Phil and Kobe admitted the game plan to change at halftime, as is evidenced throughout the series that when Kobe shot less, the lakers had more success. And not to mention that the 06 lakers had no business even being in that series, unlike the last 3 lebron teams that were each favorites to win it all.

            That’s right, Loch, Kobe’s teams haven’t always been mentally tough, but that doesn’t necessarily include Kobe. Kobe was playing hard in last year’s mavs series, is it his fault his teammates didn’t want to compete hard? Do you really doubt that Kobe is going to give it his all and not give full effort out there? I have no idea where you’re coming up with some of this stuff.

            This is what I’m saying about lebron, that you can’t trust him in big moments every time. Watch games from the reg. season and early games during the playoffs, and then compare them to some of his playoff games against the c’s in 2010 and the mavs in 2011. His effort level is greatly less than in previous games. He’s often just moping around the sidelines, not involved at all.

            My beef isn’t that lebron played poorly, which he was awful btw, my beef is that lebron didn’t play hard and didn’t give full effort. Making/missing shots is often irrelevant of effort level or mental toughness.

            You two are very rude, and interesting to hear your psychoanalysis on some of this stuff. I give lebron credit for his reg. season success, but that’s about it. His extremely overrated and overhyped as evidenced by his playoff failures. When a player shrinks from the big momenst as much as him, and has been on the best team 3 years running, what do you want? At some pt., enough is enough. It’s not like he’s been playing on crappy teams, if that was the case, then that’s different, but it isn’t. He’s one of the current elite players, sure, but that’s it.

            Interesting how loch says this: “I wish I could stick a permanent fork in this argument. So painful to read every single time, and so completely and utterly wrong 100% of the time.” about this: “The fact that you could even consider someone else other then him just shows(again) how little you really know about basketball.”

            And then he says something like this: “If that’s proven mental toughness, you need to have your brain examined.”

            Posted by boyer | April 19, 2012, 9:58 am
          • “Kobe was playing hard in last year’s mavs series, is it his fault his teammates didn’t want to compete hard?”

            Since Kobe fans want to arbitraily throw the entire credit/vast majority of the credit of a championship to Kobe whenever the Lakers win, it’s only logical to blame him when the Lakers aren’t hoisting the trophy. After all, Kobe IS the Lakers”…right?

            Don’t get mad at US, Boyer. It’s your own crappy rings logic at work against you.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 19, 2012, 10:46 am
          • “This is what I’m saying about lebron, that you can’t trust him in big moments every time. ”

            “That’s right, Loch, Kobe’s teams haven’t always been mentally tough, but that doesn’t necessarily include Kobe. ”

            Kobe’s mentally tough even when his team loses or he has a terrible game, but you can never trust Lebron? I’d love to hear your justifiation for these statement. But my guess is you’ll just say watch the tape, as if you can see things that I don’t.

            “Making/missing shots is often irrelevant of effort level or mental toughness.”

            Why do we even care about it then?

            I’m glad you brought up Mamba’s article. His arguments were that a) Kobe continually made the right play by not shooting and b) his teammates let him down by not converting. In fact, in this article, he counts shots that his teammates missed as a good outcome for Kobe.

            If these arguments sound familiar, it’s because Lebron’s apologists use the same talking points. Should we give credit to Kobe for deferring to teammates like Smush Parker and Kwame Brown, then fry Lebron for passing to Wade?

            I apologize if I hurt your feelings. You’re under no obligation to continue to converse with me if you think I’m so rude.

            That said, there’s a difference between my saying that the logic in your argument is terrible and that you know nothing about basketball. And your argument here does not make sense.

            Lebron surely has warts on his resume. Nobody will deny that-the 2011 finals in particular reflect poorly on him. But he’s also had great successes, unless you only define success by titles. To label Kobe as mentally tough and Lebron as untrustworthy when they’ve both had a wide mixture of results during their careers, and that Lebron is statistically superior any way you slice it both during the games and in the clutch, regular season or playoffs, doesn’t make sense. At all.

            If your main criteria is rings, that’s fine. Just don’t pretend like it’s about effort or toughness, because you just don’t have a leg to stand on.

            Posted by Lochpster | April 19, 2012, 11:09 pm
          • Nobody will deny that-the 2011 finals in particular reflect poorly on him. But he’s also had great successes, unless you only define success by titles.

            The funny thing is, even with LeBron’s struggles, the Heat were still a couple stops and made teammate buckets (and yes, other teammates could’ve scored as well) from being champions. Imagine that. Then the media would probably claim he played like a “winner” instead – even if his crappy performance was exactly the same.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 20, 2012, 1:17 am
          • “Then the media would probably claim he played like a “winner” instead – even if his crappy performance was exactly the same.”

            This is exactly what happened to Kobe in 2010. He was on his way to shoot the Lakers out of Game 7, but other Lakers (Gasol & Artest in particular) won this game for him.

            To me Gasol was the true MVP of those finals.

            Posted by doosiolek | April 21, 2012, 12:06 am
          • Boyer, I’m curious how you would rate John Havlicek in comparison to Kobe, careerwise.

            Posted by Lochpster | April 21, 2012, 12:16 pm
          • Ha! He’d probably backtrack on the rings argument and claim that John played with more help around him.

            @Doosiolek: Kobe played like crap in that game. Period. The Lakers winning a title doesn’t change that. He did rebound the ball well and shoot 15 fts (and fts is the least important part of offense in basketball, by the way) but Gasol and the team defense made up for Kobe’s crappy shooting. The Celtics could’ve won that game with Kobe giving you the SAME performance – they were just a couple makes away from the title.

            Kobe can thank the irrational media for heir ring counting though. That way, people can be fooled by the FACT that he played well below “championship” level.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 21, 2012, 2:43 pm
          • Loch,

            I would consider Kobe and Hondo almost identical. Perhaps, Kobe is a touch better scorer, but Hondo was perhaps a touch better defensively.

            Realist #2, FT shooting is a very important part of the game. Don’t focus on FT%, but rather on FTA as that indicates how hard he attacks the rim and how often he places opponents defenders into jeopardy. All the great players went to line the line 8 or more times a game. Check out Jerry West in 1965-66. West is the only backcourt player to have 900 FTA twice.

            Posted by Paulie Walnuts | April 21, 2012, 10:52 pm
          • “Realist #2, FT shooting is a very important part of the game.”

            I agree that it’s important, but I was talking about its importance relative to the OTHER parts of offense in basketball, such as shooting from the field and turnovers. Compared to those areas, FTA isn’t as important. Kobe was dragging his team down with his horrendous shooting in that game (and yes, this is keeping his shot-creation into account).

            Not Kobe’s ugliest offensive performance, but it was far from “title-worthy”. Luckily for him, the Celtics weren’t any better.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 22, 2012, 12:26 am
          • Again, I would have to slightly disagree.

            Getting to the line is every bit as important, if not more so than performance from the field.

            What is curious about Kobe is that, like Iverson, he has the ability to attack the rim and draw fouls. Also like Iverson, he often makes horrendous choices from the field and ALSO turns the ball over a lot.

            Kobe’s worst performance (2004 NBA Finals) saw him shoot more three’s than FT’s. That is simply not winning basketball. Especially when you have Shaq, regardless of how lazy people may have that Shaq to have been by that time.

            Posted by Paulie Walnuts | April 22, 2012, 2:52 pm
          • It’s not just putting up field goal attempts; its also making them. See this article Paulie: http://www.basketball-reference.com/about/factors.html

            The weights are good guidelines, but studies suggest that shooting (eFG%) is even more important to winning games and FTA is less important. Agree about Kobe’s ’04 Finals and his shot-chucking, but then again he wasn’t making his shots either.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 22, 2012, 3:31 pm
          • thanks for the link, yet I hardly need to be convinced of the value of making shots.

            That seems rather obvious, don’t you think?

            Posted by Paulie Walnuts | April 22, 2012, 3:58 pm
          • The point about FTA is that it is indicative of where the player is attempting his shots.

            I would guess that far far fewer fouls are called on pull up jumpers from 24 feet than are when driving to the rim.

            Thus, when a player has more three point attempts than FTA’s in a playoff series, that leads to the conclusion that said player was content to shoot contested shots from distance rather than seeking a higher percentage shot form himself or a teammate.

            Rather than draw fouls, get to the line and also place tactical pressure on the opponent, shooting contested jumpers leads to more scoring opportunities for your opponent. Making these shots does not turn them into good choices; it is still a recipe for losing.

            Posted by Paulie Walnuts | April 22, 2012, 4:04 pm
          • “That seems rather obvious, don’t you think?”

            Hey, I’m just saying that you can actually see how much it matters in basketball compared to other areas of the game.

            I also don’t disagree with anything you said in your other post about FT shooting from a strategic standpoint. I don’t agree with this statement though: “Making these shots does not turn them into good choices; it is still a recipe for losing.” I’m positive that the Pistons were glad that Kobe didn’t get make those shots and get hot from the field, because that would’ve been a different series.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 23, 2012, 9:35 am
          • What I mean to say with that statement is that a contested 24 footer is NEVER preferable any open shot, or even a contested 4 footer.

            Though changing the scoreboard and perhaps the outcome, attempting contested long range jumpers is still a recipe for losing in the long term.

            Posted by Paulie Walnuts | April 23, 2012, 9:48 am
          • Ah, that makes sense now. I agree with that.

            Posted by The Realist #2 | April 23, 2012, 10:07 am
        • Miami beat itself in the finals last year. You can’t blow big lead after big lead in the finals and expect to be able to win it. I knew they were in trouble when they blew a 17 point lead with 5 minutes left at home. So more then anything as a Heat fan I blame the horrible defense that Miami played late in games. Everything they did that got them wins in series vs Boston and Chicago they didn’t do late in the games vs Dallas, which is why they lost IMO.

          And Dirk played amazing, like once in a life time amazing with how well he was shooting.

          Btw you keep bringing this up in thread after thread and I keep telling you the reasons. And you keep using it like it matters one bit for this season.

          Posted by nightbladehunter | April 22, 2012, 9:25 am
      • Do you still feel that way about the Heat since they are struggling with Indiana’s strong defense?Maybe Chicago is out of the playoffs since Rose did get injured again but Miami is showing it’s lack of depth with it’s team.

        Posted by Ray | May 18, 2012, 2:43 pm
  6. After seeing the job Pop has done again this year with the spurs is this guy one of the 5 greatest coaches this league has ever seen or what?

    Posted by stillshining | April 16, 2012, 1:58 pm
    • Stillshining — I wrote an article last year where I put Sloan just ahead of Pop — but given Pop’s standout performance this year, I think I would now have to move him definitively ahead of Sloan. In my mind, he is top 5.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | April 16, 2012, 5:31 pm
  7. What really needs to be done, rather than simply saying someone is “top five”, actually LIST your hierarchy to offer some context for that choice.

    Far too often, the “top five” or top ten” gets applied with little to no thought ever given.

    Offer the list so that we can see who else is in the group to offer better understanding as to how and why the choice was made.

    Posted by Paulie Walnuts | April 16, 2012, 5:59 pm
    • Paulie — here’s my list:

      http://chasing23.com/ranking-the-five-greatest-nba-coaches-of-all-time/

      As stated, with yet another year of overachievement, Pop moves up my list to #5.

      Posted by Brown Mamba | April 16, 2012, 6:05 pm
    • I don’t think it’s necessarily any more important to say anything more than top 5, etc., a lot of times, especially in Pop’s case. Once you get to elite status, you’re there. There’s arguments for and against Pop as possibly the greatest coach ever. Saying he’s #4 or #5 isn’t going to diminish him or vice versa. It should be pretty evident Pop is elite status.

      Posted by boyer | April 16, 2012, 6:31 pm
      • Are you kidding me? Phil Jackson is the greatest coach ever period. No doubt about. The fact that you could even consider someone else other then him just shows(again) how little you really know about basketball.

        Posted by nightbladehunter | April 16, 2012, 7:15 pm
        • I said there’s arguments for Pop for being the greatest ever, which there is. I didn’t say I considered him the greatest ever. Phil is the best ever for me, but it’s not a definitive fact, is it? It’s hard to say anyone, without a doubt, is the best ever.

          There’s no way Phil could win 11 titles coaching the spurs every year, right? However, would Pop win 11 titles if he coached at the same places/times as Phil? Maybe, maybe not. If they replaced each other, I don’t think Pop wins 11 in 13 finals. But, I also don’t think Phil wins 4 with the spurs either.

          Posted by boyer | April 17, 2012, 8:28 am
        • The thing about the former Lakers coach is he has never had to start with a team that had no talent.He didn’t have to rebulid a team from scratch.He had Jordan & Kobe.If he had the LA Clipers and no superstars then I would like to have seen if he would have had the same results.

          Posted by Ray | April 17, 2012, 9:16 am
        • Boyer is right here. One could argue for Red Auerbach, Larry Brown and, yes, even Pop, for the greatest coach of all time. Phil Jackson is many people’s first choice, but he is by no means a slam dunk.

          “The fact that you could even consider someone else other then him just shows(again) how little you really know about basketball.”

          I wish I could stick a permanent fork in this argument. So painful to read every single time, and so completely and utterly wrong 100% of the time.

          Posted by Lochpster | April 17, 2012, 9:16 am
          • My sentiments exactly, Loch.

            However, I disagree with Phil building from scratch, Ray. Phil took 05 off, then came back in 06, and without Kobe going all world in 06/07, those lakers’ teams were awful, still weren’t too good. He oversaw the development of Bynum, and led the lakers to 3 straight finals with probably the weakest cast of players ever to do that. Obviously, you need great players to win titles, but what do you do with the talent once you get it is the question. And Phil seemed to have maximized the # of titles he won.

            He also led the 94 bulls sans Jordan to 55 wins, only 2 fewer than in 93. And minus one awful call in the conf. semis, the bulls could’ve won it all that year, too.

            Posted by boyer | April 17, 2012, 10:37 am
          • Well let me put in a different context.What if Phil Jackson would have coached a small market team that doesn’t have a lot of money?Would he have been as succesful as coach Pop?Pop is the first coach to take a former ABA team and win an NBA Championship!Of coarse we will never know since he quit!

            Posted by Ray | May 4, 2012, 4:55 pm
  8. Out of curiosity; what changed about Sloan’s record that allowed Popovich to surpass him?

    Where did Pop rank prior to that list?

    What were the conditions that prevented Pop from being ranked higher at the time and what has occurred that altered that condition?

    Another “overachieving” year?

    In what sense was it “overachieving”? The past three seasons the Spurs’ record was 165-81. Their point differential since 2008-09 is +5. The Spurs have been and are still very good, irrespective of who tier coach was.

    This is NOT to dismiss Pop’s contribution, yet how are we so certain that the Spurs are, in fact, overachieving? Because they haven’t made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs despite good regular season records?

    Please, explain your reasoning.

    What were the criteria that you applied to get your results?

    What made Jerry Sloan a greater coach than say Billy Cunningham or Chuck Daly?

    Why does Larry Brown rank so high on your list? Do you lace greater weight on career rather than peak value?

    I’m not saying your wrong. I just want you to tell me what metrics and methods you applied to establish that top 5.

    Posted by Paulie Walnuts | April 16, 2012, 7:25 pm
    • Haha come on man, what Pop has done this year is nothing short of amazing. He has only had one true all star this year (Tony Parker) and as great as Tony has been he is still below the tier of true superstars in this league. Pops best player for the last couple of years IMO has missed more games than he has played and his aging legend is exactly that, aging.

      For a team with that everyone said was going to suffer because of the insane schedule has thrived and put on the second best record in the entire league? This guy is a shoe in for COY this year IMO and has added to his legacy

      Posted by stillshining | April 17, 2012, 8:39 pm
  9. Can the Spurs win the title this year? Well, they obviously can. They won it all the last time we had a lockout-shortened season. Of course that doesn’t prove anything, but they still have Duncan, Parker and Manu. They know how to win and they did it many times before. We’ll see.

    Posted by doosiolek | April 17, 2012, 1:01 pm
  10. Wow!!

    Coach of the Year!!??

    What is the criteria for that award?

    Does that mean Pop is as good as Avery Johnson?
    Sam Mitchell?
    Hubie Brown won it twice, is Pop not as good as Hubie?
    Frank Layden?
    Don Cheney?
    Mike D’Antoni?
    Byron Scott?
    Don Nelson won the award thrice; is he better than Pop, then?

    Because someone asks to see a methodology is not, in of itself, a dissension from the claim.

    Posted by Paulie Walnuts | April 17, 2012, 10:07 pm
  11. The Spurs can win it all.Yes Pop is agreat coach.Phil Jackson won titles with three or more superstars and great complimentary players.Let him coch Bobcats or Pistons and we will see how good he is.Pop won titles with one superstars and complimentary players.Parker/Ginobolli are near superstars but not of Duncan quality,but good just as well.

    Posted by Dartagnan Narvaez | April 17, 2012, 11:58 pm
  12. Thank you Joe Crawford for giving the Thunder their first trip to the finals! Free throws {OKC:25-31} {Spurs:14-18}.You do the math!!!! OKC could do no wrong!

    You think Crawford remembers that Technical he called on Duncan a few years back?Even though Timmy was sitting on the bench?Remember he got repremanded for it?He quit the NBA but was reinstated?Pitty they gave Crawford another chance!Clearly he holds some grudges against the Spurs organization!

    I wish the NBA would call games equally the way they are called during the regular season.They seem to change the criteria in the playoffs.Hard fouls like hits to the head are not called but ticky tacky ones are always whistled!WTF?Can’t they see it is so obvious to people who are watching?

    Inconsistent which makes the game frustrating to watch.

    I’m not going to say that the Thunder are slouches because they are a good team but they sure don’t need any other help.

    The number of free throws tells quite a bit as to how the game was called.

    Posted by Ray | June 6, 2012, 9:05 pm
  13. Q: Can the Spurs Win the Title?
    A: Yes, they can. But they won’t this season.

    Posted by Gil Meriken | June 6, 2012, 9:23 pm

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