About Last Night: Leaders Of The Pack

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – All this chatter about the new world order and the youth movement that was going to take over the league has been squelched by the NBA’s elder statesmen.

Miami and Oklahoma City are still working out the details while seasoned crews in other places seize the opportunity to set the pace for the rest of the league.

In the Eastern Conference, it’s the Boston Celtics ruling the roost so far, their mix of veteran savvy and leadership paired beautifully with the a virtuoso start to the season by Rajon Rondo.

In the Western Conference, the supposedly over-the-hill San Antonio Spurs continue to defy father time, refusing to age gracefully (or at all it seems) despite a Big 3 of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker that has seen its best days come and go.

With plenty of thirty-somethings littering both rosters, some people have a hard time seeing these two teams keeping up this pace over the course of an 82-game regular season.  Since most of us here at the hideout are “Thirty-somethings” as well, we’re rooting for the old folks to show these young whippersnappers how it’s done.

In addition to superior talent, coaching and staying on the right side of the injury bug karma, most elite teams need at least a couple of guys on the roster that understand the nuances of a winning operation. Both the Celtics and Spurs (not to mention the Dallas Mavericks, winners of nine straight games themselves) have handfuls of guys like that to call on when they need them.

It’s one of the beauties of how they’ve been constructed and managed, courtesy of Celtics GM Danny Ainge and coach Doc Rivers and Spurs GM R.C. Buford and coach Gregg Popovich, respectively.

So deep are the Celtics, they have a bench that can defeat most teams on a good night, as they did the Nets Sunday. Rivers explains the decision to let his subs cut down the Nets, via Julian Benbow of the Boston Globe:

“I told our coaches, ‘Put your seatbelt on, because we’re resting guys,’ ’’ Rivers said. “Really, no matter what the score was, we had to give our guys a blow.’’

He left the game — and the Celtics’ six-game winning streak — in the hands of his bench. Not the normal cast of reserves, though. He grouped regulars Marquis Daniels, Glen Davis, and Shaquille O’Neal with little-used Avery Bradley and Von Wafer, and let the chips fall where they may.

“We didn’t have a lot of scoring on the floor,’’ Rivers said. “And I was just going to look at the scoreboard as far as substitutions.’’

The offense was irrelevant, because the defense was impossible to crack. Bradley set the tone, hounding Devin Harris into two offensive fouls.

“That was the main thing for the second unit,’’ Bradley said. “Just to come in and pick up the defensive intensity.’’

And even though they didn’t muster many points (just 6 in 4 minutes 27 seconds), they pulled the plug on New Jersey’s offense. And when the Celtics’ starters returned, they had a field day, pounding the Nets, 100-75, for the Celtics’ seventh straight win.

The leaders of the pack were on display on a busy Sunday around the league, each team showing off why they sit atop their respective conferences right now. Check it out in the Daily Zap:

While not necessarily as deep as the Celtics, the Spurs have plenty of firepower of their own, as the Hornets found out. Led by Parker in this game, the Spurs pounded the Hornets into submission with their defense.

Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News explains:

Tony Parker scored 19 points to head a list of seven in double figures, and the Spurs – obviously over the thrill of always having to battle back from double-digit deficits — ripped to a 30-point first-half lead that would get as high 38 before the night ended.

With the victory, the Spurs improved to 17-3, matching the 2007-08 squad for the best 20-game start in club history.

“We have to keep it going,” Parker said. “We can’t be satisfied. The West is tough. Every night is tough.”

It certainly didn’t seem that way Sunday, when Spurs’ 17th win also was their most lopsided.

On a night the Spurs shot better than 70 percent for much of the first two quarters, playing so well that they went the final 5:25 of the second without a field goal and still set a season high with 68 first-half points, coach Gregg Popovich opened his pregame remarks talking about defense.

“It’s one of the few games we’ve had really consistent defense for the whole 48 minutes,” Popovich said. “That was the best part of the game.”

Granted, we’re only a little over a month into the season. But how crazy would it be to see the Celtics and Spurs battle it out for the Larry O’Brien trophy in June instead of the Lakers and Heat?

42 Comments

  1. Barnard says:

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  2. UR OUT OF UR MIND says:

    and for the east orlando is a contender but boston will be on top by then..

  3. TrueFan says:

    The only things that are set in stone right now are:

    1. Never count the Celtics out, regardless. The bench is deep and more than capable of running with most teams’ starters, KG is playing like “What injury?”, Shaq is revitalized, actually running back on defense and hitting free throws(?), Rondo is improving every game, Pierce is just as clutch as ever…oh and all this without those Perkins or West guys. Plus they’ve got some young players that are being groomed for the takeover when their (the REAL) Big 3 hang the Nikes up

    2. Bynum will NEVER be 100%. Ever. He can take the next two seasons off, get a robotic knee and endurance train with Triathletes…he’ll still never be 100%. Its unfortunate, the kid’s got skills, but its just the way he’s built. Bynum will be a perpetually injured player until his premature departure from the league…sad but true. Lakers fans the sooner you admit this to yourselves, the better…The Lakers main concern should be Gasol getting hurt. He’s putting in a ton of minutes and he’s already got a tweaked hamstring. No Pao=No 3peat….I’d be surprised if they even made it out of the west without Gasol.

  4. ken says:

    hi there mr. smith! I have a question, is there a chance that rasheed wallace would join the celtics before the deadline?

    • Sekou Smith says:

      That seems very unlikely. Rasheed’s name has not come up in any chatter I’ve heard about the Celtics this season.

  5. CELTICS FAN says:

    Coming from a CELTICS fan.. dont ever think that spurs will go to the finals.. yeah theyr at the top of the west now but remember the season is still on FIGHT.. dont underestimate the LAKERS coz their more GOOD than Spurs.. season standing are nothing if they are in the PLAYOFFS.. BUT STILL THE CELTICS ARE THE BEST ROSTER IN THE LEAGUE NOW.. Who ever face them will get crush in the PLAYOFF specially MIAMI and ORLANDO..

  6. CEltiC_PRidE9 says:

    bOStON iS lOOkiNG hEAlthY,,hOPEfUllY thEY StAY thAt WAY thROUGhOUt thE SEASON..

  7. KGfan says:

    I think There might be a possibility of a Celtics-Spurs finals matchup.

  8. Wait a minute says:

    Didn’t the Lakers beat San Antonio a couple years back in the western confrence finals without Bynum or Ariza? i’m just saying that because I think the Lakers have 6 gears and they ALWAYS play at 3rd maybe 4th gear in the regular season. But when Playoffs hit, it’s like a COMPLETELEY different team wearing purple and gold.

  9. Nick says:

    Spurs has always been the team that i support since i have watched this game, i really luv the charisma of Ginobli, skills of Parker and Solidity of Duncan, but this year what they have really improved is the long range shooting from other youngsters.. i hope this will continue all season long..

  10. Nicolas says:

    The site referred by ldhl89 (Hoopism.com) is amazing.

  11. jaret says:

    oh and the Lakers have lost in a finals, against detroit, and Boston.

    • Lakers ALL DAY says:

      That’s not the only time the Lakers have lost in the finals, moron, and what difference does that make anyways?? If that had even a fraction of relevance to who would win today, then count Boston out now because they sucked back then!

  12. jaret says:

    If the lakers have everyone healthy, then they will have as good shot as spurs, or celtics, if they dont have it, they loose to Utah, or dallas. I still favor boston if they are healthy, too many people to contain, with tons of experience, defense and chemestry, and they are floppers, or whiney babies like LA.

  13. RG says:

    coming from a Spurs fan, even though the Spurs and Celtics are the best in the West and East right now, respectively, the Lakers are still the favorites to win the title. HOWEVER, that does not mean the Lakers are guaranteed the title this season. those of you that say the Lakers are 3-peating cannot predict the future because there’s still most of the regular season and the playoffs to be played, and both the Spurs and Celtics still have a shot at the title. GO SPURS GO!

  14. Mike says:

    As a Spurs fan, I’m just pleased that they’re looking like their former selves. The Lakers are still my pick for taking it all out, but I’m loving the fact that the Spurs could wipe the court with any team at playoff time, provided they stay healthy. But I’m quite surprised that Pop hasn’t sat out Timmy or Manu yet, even this early.

  15. AveryDalNegro says:

    Age is only a curse if your older players are passangers. The common themes with the Spurs and the Celtics is that their 3 leaders (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and Garnett, Pierce, Allen) are all smart basketballers and know how to bring others into the game. That’s were the heat fall over at the moment, their Big 3 are all finding their feet and are more worried about their own performances not the team as a whole.

    SA and BOS are at the end of their reigns, but their timing might be perfect cause Miami are struggling to get it together, Orlando lack the finishing touches come June and the Lakers could suffer cause of Bynum.

    Personally I hope spurs take it out and go through PHX, DAL, LAL and MIA to get there hands on their 5th trophy (yes that ties the Lakers and the spurs have never lost in the NBA Finals :P

  16. SA ALL DAY says:

    just to throw it out there SPURS will have a better roster after tim duncan/kobe bryant/ kevin garnett/paul pierce/ ray allen era.

    spurs are all ready stacking up for the future with young quality players. Hill, Anderson, Neal, Tiago, BLAIR.

    Spurs are not old anymore, so stop with this F*GG*T BS.

  17. celticsfan10 says:

    Celtcs v Lakers rematch.. Lakers sadly win and kobe 3peats.. this is coming from a celtics fan. Yes the spurs and mavs are good but noone in the entire west can actually beat L.A, Boston is the only one with even a chance.

    • true celtics fan says:

      ur not celtics fan….u make me sick saying somthing like that…anyways…lakers aint making it to the finals this year espacially if they dont have home court and if they do make it there they r not gonna beat boston…so thats it so i say boston and the dallas /spurs

  18. ManuTimmyTonyRJ says:

    I agree people.. Go SPURS Go!!! But dont count out the Lakers. They are still the best team in the west. And its too early to predict coz you know the NBA, its fast to go up and go down. Well see the cast of the playoffs maybe after the all-star break.

  19. SpursArentOld says:

    First of all, Tony Parker is still in his prime. He’s still, what, 28?

    The stigma that the Spurs are old should be scrapped altogether. Yes, for the past years, their roster has been old. This team, on the other hand, is an exception.

    Also, who cares if they’re old, anyways? Look at Duncan. He’s 34, but still effective. Who, again, cares if he isn’t the domineering Duncan of the yesteryears? His team is winning, so, yeah. Aging gracefully. Just like Manu. And Kobe. And Shaq. And Nash. And Kidd. And Billups.

    Even Karl Malone, I think.

    Those guys that have great longevity need to be given their props.

    And GO SPURS GO.

    • Bane says:

      What about Jordan :)

      • Joel says:

        If one tries to be really true to the matter, the Spurs are old, but only in the basquetball’s collective imaginario. I mean, they are not ACTUALLY old, they have just been around for a long time with the same core of guys: Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili have been playing TOGETHER for a lot of years, but that doesn’t mean they are old. As my pal here asked, Michael Jordan was old when he (finally!!!) hung it up for good in 2003. MJ won his last MVP trophy at age 35, which happenned to be the season in which he won his sixth NBA championship, hitting, by the way, the last shot. Duncan’s still one year shy of the MJ who won it all in 1998. Not to mention he scored 50 points at 40, playing for the Wizards. That’s old fashioned exuberance, isn’t it? And what about Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who won his last campionship at 39, and still came back for more at 40? So, talking about Duncan being 34… Come on! Are you kidding me? Give me a break! He’s still got a lot left. That threesome’s got a lot of game left. What? They can’t dunk it as hard, jump as high or run as fast as, say five years ago? Well, yeah. But they can shoot 120 on you any other night, if they want to. And they can definitively kick your gut defensively. That’s old shool, man. And old shool is GOOD, baby! So expect my Spurs to be on The Show, come June…

      • WeDontNeedToMentionJordan says:

        …cause he’s already the greatest of all time, man.

    • Zzanzabar says:

      Actually I think that many people equate the age of Tim Duncan with the age of the Spurs because that in the past, as Duncan went so went the team. As someone pointed out the Lakers fit nicely into the ‘old’ catagory, but few make the connection because of their style of play. By next year (3peat or no) you better believe that every one will be commenting about the Laker’s age and the ‘so-called’ changing of the guard in the West (that is if Carmello doesn’t sign there LOL).

  20. Joaquin says:

    Yeah i read alot about how old the spurs are, but if you at the age factor the lakers are older then the spurs this year…funny thing no wants to talk about that or that the mavs show up all year and fade in the playoff because no one on that team has the manhood to step up aside from dirk… and the east who rally cares because all you hear or read is the about the heat who have showen a darn thing.. so I say lets see if Boston can prove themselves and show up…

  21. Charlie says:

    The Spurs didn’t sweep the Mavs last year. It took 6 games, and the Mavs beat them the year before…

    Just saying, the Spurs never like seeing the Mavs in the playoffs.

    • lepiv says:

      What playoffs were you watching last year? The Spurs DID sweep the Mavericks … they do rather not playing them though.

      • Chad says:

        No, the Spurs beat the Mavs in 6 games, not 4. If you’re confused (which you obviously are) look it up on basketball-reference.com and find out for yourself.

      • guy31 says:

        what were YOU watching last year? spurs won against mavs in 6. the suns SWEPT the spurs in the second round.

  22. Junio says:

    GO SPURS!

  23. ldhl89 says:

    Actually

    The Old teams are: 1.Heat, 2._Dallas, 3._Lakers, 4._Boston

    look http://hoopism.com/?p=37

  24. zed says:

    Actually, all these “old” teams (Spurs, Celtics, Lakers – yes they are old), will start to rest their players by the end of the regular season. But they will balance it with getting a good record for home court advantage. All these teams are dangerous in the playoffs. The Mavs, i would think are not as dangerous in the playoffs because they basically live and die with one man (Dirk).

    Another common denominator for these teams are that they play good defense. That is why, these teams will be dangerous come playoffs.

    All of them (Spurs, Celtics and Lakers) are also deep in almost all positions. The Spurs having more double digit scorers are not necessarily deeper. I would say the Lakers and Celtics are deeper and they both built or tweaked their roster in preparation for each other.

    Its still a long way to go, but expect these elite, veteran teams to be strong come play-offs.

  25. Jake says:

    The Spurs swept Dallas last year, and as much as I hate to say it the Celtics handled the Magic. As for the champion Lakers, they should probably worry about getting better than the fourth seed in the playoffs which is where they’re at right now. The Spurs are deeper than the Celtics (7 guys in double figures, Duncan’s playing less than 30 min a game etc. etc.) and I don’t think any team in the league wants to see the Spurs in the playoffs.

    • Lakers ALL DAY says:

      Lol I am sure the two-time champs are not losing sleep over the Spurs. Let’s see where everybody is in 2-3 months, then we will see whether the Spurs are where they are today in the rankings. And I can guarantee you the Lakers will not be the 4th seed!

      • Keno G says:

        You’ll guarantee the Lakers will not be the forth seed. What is your guarantee worth to begin with, no matter what it is.
        You are just a shmuck on an internet blog spewing verbal diarrhea.
        If you’re wrong, or right, your guarantee is not work Jack Squat to anybody, or thing, but yourself.
        Must be a Lakers fan.
        There for your team when they are winning, but when they are not, can’t be found or heard from.
        There to take all the glory when they are winning, but once they lose, no where to be found for support.
        Classic band wagon fans out in Los Angeles, this is how it is for all their sports.

    • guy31 says:

      are you kidding me? the spurs never swept the mavs in any playoff series. they won in 6 the last time.

  26. Zzanzabar says:

    While everyone is breaking their arms patting themselves and others on the back, lets not lose sight of what really matters: the playoffs and (to a lesser degree) home court advantage. As the past has taught us it is NOT who is hot now but who will be hot towards the end of the season and who will ‘wake-up’ during the playoffs.

    I expect both Boston and the Spurs to ‘falter’ sometime during the long regular game season (by falter I really mean conserve their energies) and a plethora of people will start talking about how ‘time has caught up with them…yadda, yadda, yadda’. The post season match ups will be critical for both teams because there are teams that each must avoid early in the playoffs at ALL costs if possible (Dallas and/or OKC for the Spurs and Orlando and/or Miami for the Celtics).

    As for the champion Lakers they only have one real concern: if Bynum is ready for the playoffs. If he plays at %100 then they win…period, if not (or if he is at 60% like last time) then both the Spurs and Boston have a good CHANCE to knock them off.

    • luckyguy says:

      Perfectly said. A healthy Bynum will most likely guarantee a 3-peat for the lakers. The Heat won’t be able to beat the Celtics in the playoffs because they are a team with no bench, and relies on jumpers to win games. Without any players that can post up in the paint the Celtics will probably beat them in 5.

    • Gary says:

      Laker 3 peat, not happening. Bynum 100%, not happening. Heat vs Lakers not happeing. LA needs to hope they don’t face San Antonio this year. I don’t know how the Suns pulled it off last year but San Antonio is always the better team in the west.

      • Lakers ALL DAY says:

        Sorry Gary, but you are wrong. Don’t get ahead of yourself proclaiming the Spurs will beat the Lakers when they haven’t played each other yet this season. While the Spurs have enjoyed a relatively healthy start to the season, the Lakers have been limping the past 2-3 weeks. Obviously, the most notably absintee is Andrew Bynum, but also they haven’t had Theo Ratliff. With Theo out, his absence has caused a ripple-effect by Pau being forced to play loads of minutes, and, not to mention, their “big” coming off the bench has been Caracter, who is a rookie and only 6’8″. This is too early for any bold playoff proclamations, but know that the Spurs’ core are more susceptible to getting injured than the Lakers’ core.