Posts Tagged ‘Mike Monroe’

Spurs Grinding Down At Wrong Time

 

HANG TIME, Texas — Often in life, timing is everything. It’s the same in the NBA, too.

Just when the start of the playoffs — eight days away — is coming into sight, the Spurs are seeing stars. And scars.

The grind of the 82-game regular season just keeps grinding down the team that held onto the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference standings for months.

Boris Diaw underwent surgery for the removal of a lumbar cyst from his spine and is expected to be sidelined for three to four weeks.

The loss of Diaw comes with Manu Ginobili likely sidelined for the start of the playoffs by a strained right hamstring. Tony Parker has also missed three of the past four games with a sore neck and has been laboring through an assortment of other injuries, including a Grade 2 ankle sprain that kept him out for eight games.

Imagine that. Tim Duncan will turn 37 in just two weeks and he’s suddenly looking like the spryest guy on the roster, averaging 30 minutes, 26.5 points and 12 rebounds in April.

The loss of Diaw, at least for the first several weeks of the playoffs, could take a toll on an already undersized Spurs frontline. Can they get all the way to The Finals with a big man trio of Duncan, Tiago Splitter and Matt Bonner?

DeJuan Blair, who for much of the season was used only in mop-up duty, will be back in the rotation and second-year man Kawhi Leonard could be forced to play some minutes at power forward.

All of this comes at a time when the Spurs have fallen a half-game behind Oklahoma City in the race for the No. 1 seed and home-court advantage in the West bracket. But to coach Gregg Popovich that is a secondary issue.

In Parker’s case, he says he wants to develop some kind of rhythm in the last four games before the playoffs begin and is lobbying to start tonight at home against Sacramento. But he’s got to convince his coach, who usually errs on the side of caution with injuries.

“You don’t worry about your playoff seeding because if that makes you play (injured players) when they shouldn’t be playing, you’re going to be screwed come playoff time anyway,” Popovich told the San Antonio Express-News. “Your main concern is to have people be as healthy as possible come playoff time.

“If you’re the best team, the seeding doesn’t really matter. You wouldn’t give up first, second, third or fourth seed and say, ‘Yes, please give me fifth or sixth.’ Nobody would do that, but the best team doesn’t have to have the best record. It has to be healthy.”

New Rules Or No, Spurs’ Big Man Duncan Still Stuck Outside of All-Star Mix

HANG TIME, Texas — So much for the Tim Duncan Rule.

With voting changed to designate players simply as frontcourt or backcourt, eliminating the center position, the All-Star Game‘s new balloting process was thought, by some, to reignite the chances of the Spurs’ former two-time MVP to return to the Western Conference lineup. Duncan’s streak of 12 consecutive All-Star Game appearances ended last season when Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin beat him out in the fan voting. The poll of head coaches did not add him as a reserve.

Yet when the first returns for the 2013 NBA All-Star Game arrived on Thursday, there was Duncan on the outside of the West starting lineup again, while the Lakers’ center Dwight Howard held down a firm spot in the middle, flanked by the young guns Durant and Griffin

Tim Duncan is fourth among West frontcourt players. The first three make the starting lineup for February's All-Star Game. -- D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images

Tim Duncan is fourth among West frontcourt players. The first three make the starting lineup for February’s All-Star Game in Houston, Texas. — D. Clarke Evans/NBAE via Getty Images.

Have the voters not bothered to notice that one of the main reasons the Spurs are off to an 18-5 start — the second-best record in the league — is because the 36-year-old Duncan is putting up the kind of numbers not seen since the last time he was an All-Star starter? While managing his minutes to just 30.5 per game, Duncan is averaging 17.9 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.6 blocked shots. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich spent time at each stop along the way of the Spurs’ recent six-game Eastern Conference road trip trying to drum up appreciation and votes for the linchpin of the Spurs’ four NBA titles.

So what happened? In short, the Lakers. The Lakers are always the Lakers, no matter how dismal their 9-13 record, how many times they change coaches midseason or how often they get spanked by the likes of the lowly Cavaliers.

Imagine, the most underachieving team in the NBA would — with Kobe Bryant and Howard — have as many All-Star starters as the defending champion Heat (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade) and more than the league-best Thunder (Durant), East-leading Knicks (Carmelo Anthony) or Duncan’s Spurs. Duncan’s teammate Tony Parker is seventh among Western Conference backcourt players, more than 200,000 votes behind the hype machine of Houston Jeremy Lin.

Not that missing all of the hullaballoo and activity of All-Star Weekend would be something that Duncan regrets. As a 16-year veteran, he knows the value of rest and appreciated having a midseason break to relax with his family last year.

“I will not be campaigning,” Duncan told Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News. “I haven’t heard what Pop’s been saying, but I guess I’ve got to talk to him.

“I wouldn’t complain if I’m not on the (All-Star) roster. I want to play well and want to feel good about what I’m doing on the court, but I am not going to be unhappy if I don’t make it.”

Tim Duncan, as always, has his own rules.

It’s Never Too Soon For Snap Judgment

 

Never mind that the playoffs won’t begin for nearly six months. It’s never too soon to leap to conclusions about what we know — or think we know — one week into the 2012-13 regular season.

Knicks: Just when it became fashionable to trade in those blue and orange jerseys for the black and white of Brooklyn, the Knicks roll out their best start in team history, not only going 3-0, but also winning every game by at least 16 points. Nobody’s breaking out the countdown charts until Carmelo Anthony and his buddies run down the historic 72-10 record of the Bulls. But as long as the Knicks keep sharing the ball and the likes of Ronnie Brewer, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni give big man Tyson Chandler help with their defense on the perimeter, they’re for real. At least until Amar’e Stoudemire comes back to mess with the chemistry. Suddenly the Eastern Conference is about more than sniping between the Heat and Celtics. We all know the real bad blood is N.Y. vs. Miami with Jeff Van Gundy hanging onto Alonzo Mourning’s ankle.

Lakers: The NBA’s combination of longest-running soap opera/situation comedy of the past two decades has always been the ride on the day-to-day roller coaster of the Lakers. It’s part of the DNA of Angelenos to panic anytime their team loses two in a row and this season an 0-3 start hit the hysterical jackpot. Yes, Mike Brown will be under more microscopes than a newly discovered germ at the CDC and, yes, it will matter that soon-to-be-39-year-old Steve Nash is ambulatory for the postseason and it would help if their bench wasn’t paper thin. Still every team in the West outside of the Thunder and Spurs would trade its roster for a confused Dwight Howard and an aging Kobe Bryant. They’re not dead yet, but their breathing is labored.

James Harden: Look, LeBron James already has a shelf full of MVP trophies and is concentrating on chasing down Michael Jordan for his six championships. So wouldn’t it be simpler to just acknowledge right now that The Beard is unstoppable. It was never a secret that Harden was talented and explosive. But popping in 37 and 45 in his first two games with the Rockets and leading the league in scoring at 35.3 has been like scrapping the velvet off a painting of dogs playing poker and to find a Rembrandt hiding underneath. (more…)

Manu’s Injury Worst Break For Spurs


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HANG TIME TEXAS – Just last week Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was sounding delighted that the good health of second-year players James Anderson and Tiago Splitter could give his team the kind of added depth necessary to weather the rigors of this condensed season.

Now Pop is sounding the alarm.

The Celtics had to open the season with Paul Pierce missing a few games due to a bruised heel and the Lakers have had to adjust to Kobe Bryant playing with torn ligaments in his wrist.

But the Spurs became the first team to take a serious hit to their starting lineup when Manu Ginobili broke a bone in his left (shooting) hand Monday night in Minneapolis while trying to make a steal.

As our good friend Mike Monroe points out in the San Antonio Express-News, the Spurs are losing more than just their leading scorer in Ginobili:

The two-time All-Star is to be re-examined by the Spurs’ medical staff today, after which a timeline for his return will be determined.

By the time the Timberwolves claimed their second victory of the season, the Spurs already were counting the ways they will have to cope without one of their most important players and their emotional touchstone.

“It’s going to be tough for us, because he was playing at an All-Star level,” said Parker, painfully aware Ginobili entered Monday’s game leading the team in scoring (19.8 points per game), shooting (60.5 percent) and 3-point shooting (54.2 percent). “Now everybody is going to have to pick it up and play better.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said James Anderson would move into the starting spot at shooting guard until Ginobili returns.

Anderson said he will be in the gym at the Spurs’ practice facility today, even if Popovich doesn’t call an official practice session.

“With him gone, I’m just going to have to get in the gym for some extra work and try to fulfill that role the best I can. He’s one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle on this team. Without him, we lose a lot of stuff, and that’s on both ends.”

It is so much more than the almost 20 points a game from Ginobili that the Spurs will be missing. He’s their heart, their soul, their spark, their engine at both ends of the floor. While we watch the 35-year-old Tim Duncan age before our eyes and Tony Parker not quite rise to the level of someone who can carry his team every night, Ginobili is the difference-maker for the Spurs.

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Much Ado About The Amnesty Rule …

– For labor updates, follow: @daldridgetnt | @AschNBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Rarely have so few words received so much scrutiny.

But if we didn’t know any better, the amnesty provision in the NBA’s new labor proposal (and that’s all it remains at this point, until the untangling process is complete) would appear to be the most important piece of the pending collective bargaining agreement.

It seems strange that something that will be utilized by such a small number of teams would be the focus of everyone’s attention. Yet when you realize the names that could potentially be impacted by the rule — Brandon Roy, Rashard Lewis, Baron Davis, Richard Jefferson, Mehmet Okur, Gilbert Arenas and several others — the intense examination of how the rule works makes much more sense.

Folks in Portland have already singled out Roy as one of the certain casualties of the amnesty rule, with John Canzano of the Oregonian providing the background for how and why it will go down:

The whisper at One Center Court is that Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen won’t bother to take one last look at Brandon Roy before he goes amnesty clause on the guy who won all those games for him.

Here’s hoping Allen does. And that the longest look is into Roy’s eyes.

“Brandon’s out,” a league executive told me Monday. “Don’t know the exact details, but everyone around the league knows it’s way, way done. Paul and Bert (Kolde) are calling the shots on this one.”

While the amnesty provision seems like the hot topic of the day, there are other items in the tentative labor agreement, outlined in a letter from Billy Hunter to the players, a copy of which was obtained by SI.com‘s Sam Amick, that require more attention.

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Labor Talks: Finger-Pointing Season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – If you thought October was filled with empty rhetoric from both sides and nastiness that prevents progress in the NBA’s lockout saga, wait until you get a load of the new narrative.

The only thing worse than yet another breakdown in lockout negotiations is the incessant finger-pointing that kicked off in earnest on what should have been the opening night of the season.

And it’s open season on any and everyone connected.

(more…)

Labor Talks: Still No Common Ground

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The good news first: the two sides in the NBA’s labor dispute will meet again Monday.

The bad news? After spending a huge chunk of Friday’s session and nearly all day Saturday trying to find common ground, the sides are still “miles apart.”

That’s better than galaxies apart and even worlds apart. But it clearly puts us no closer to a solution than we were before the weekend began. That said, Monday’s and perhaps Tuesday’s scheduled sessions can yield more positive returns.

In the meantime, we’ll return to the sobering news that progress has been anything but steady …

Full Season Unlikely?

Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated: The threatened “enormous consequences” have yet to appear, but they will be revealed soon enough. Two days of extended negotiations concluded Saturday with little optimism that the NBA owners and players can end their lockout in time to rescue the full 82-game schedule.

Most fans will say nothing is more important than starting the season on time Nov. 1. But the owners and players have agreed to disagree with their paying customers on that point. It is, in fact, one of the few points on which the union and owners have struck common ground.

They are so far apart on how to divvy up the $4 billion generated by their league — by far the most important issue separating them — that they agreed to not discuss it whatsoever Saturday. Instead they turned their attention to the so-called system issues, including the rules for player contracts, caps on team payrolls, annual exceptions and the like. After spending all of Saturday and much of Friday on these topics they could claim little more than a better understanding of each other’s positions.

“It at least helped us to focus on a couple of issues,” said deputy commissioner Adam Silver. “Some of the earlier meetings have been a little bit more rambling in terms of various issues sort of raised and taken off the table, put back on the table.”

Commissioner David Stern acknowledged “a pretty broad gap” between the owners’ and players’ goals for a new system. “We’re not near anything,” added Stern. “But wherever that is, we’re closer than we were before.”

Stern would not say when the league would announce the cancellation of the remaining preseason games, nor would he hint at a deadline to reach agreement and save the full season. But the likely window is a scant 10 days to two weeks.

Modest Movement On Certain Issues

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: The “modest movement” on system issues that one person in the negotiating room described to CBSSports.com came only after the two sides, at [Billy] Hunter‘s suggestion, agreed to separate the division of basketball-related income (BRI) from the system issues such as the cap, contract length, nature of exceptions and luxury tax. The decision to tackle the two major sticking points in the negotiations separately came after players threatened to walk out of the bargaining session Friday upon learning that the owners have not moved off of their standing economic proposal that would give the players a 46 percent share of BRI — down from the 57 percent they received under the agreement that expired July 1.

“We’re very far apart in BRI and made no progress in that,” NBPA lawyer Jeffrey Kessler said. “So we tried to see if we could make any progress in something else.”

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Reading The Labor Tea Leaves

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Good luck trying to figure out which way the wind is blowing in the NBA’s ongoing labor impasse.

One minute all seems lost, with voices from both sides (players and owners) dispensing ominous soundbites about their fear that any sort of peaceful accord is anywhere in sight. And then the next, we hear that progress, however slight, is being made and that perhaps there is a chance that common ground is in the distance.

And then comes the announcement, Friday morning, that the league is wiping out the first week of camps and preseason games.

It’s a wicked game being played by those trapped inside of the labor dispute matrix. And we’re forced to do our best to read the tea leaves every day to see if we can decipher fact from fiction.

Good luck:

There Is Still Hope

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: After more than two years of negotiations, it’s finally time to negotiate.

Following a series of small compromises by both sides, it was the owners’ turn to move the needle in a significant way. And they did: According to a person briefed on the negotiations, the league put forth a new number on the split of revenues, or basketball-related income, on Thursday, a step that could help propel the talks forward even as the start of training camps were set to be delayed and preseason games canceled — with such gloomy but fully expected and insignificant announcements expected Friday.

“It’s moving,” said another person with knowledge of the talks. “Not as fast as some people would want, but it’s moving.”

According to one of the people familiar with the bargaining, here is some of what transpired Thursday: After signaling last week that the players’ offer to move lower than the 54.3 percent share of BRI was a starting point that could lead to a deal on economics, league negotiators came back with their own number. Unsurprisingly, the number was lower than what the players had last proposed, though multiple people involved in the talks refused to specify by how much.

The owners’ proposed BRI split was made without specific system details tied to it, and the number itself was “unacceptable” to the union leadership, one of the sources said. Thus, the faces of both sides emerged from the Manhattan hotel after five hours of bargaining and delivered the same vague non-answers with strikingly similar flatlined demeanors and monotone voices.

“I’m sorry, but the most important thing is to see whether we can’t have negotiations conducive to ultimately getting a deal, which is what our committee and our board will like,” commissioner David Stern said on his 69th birthday. “And having these conversations with you doesn’t add anything to that. And that’s the dilemma.”

Cancellation Of Camp Could Send More Overseas

Mike Monroe of the Express-News: The decision could move some key Spurs to join the growing list of players signing on with teams overseas.

Before departing Argentina, where he helped Brazil qualify for next summer’s Olympic tournament, center Tiago Splitter told the Express-News he would sign on with Flamengo, a Brazilian club where former Suns guard Leandro Barbosa currently plays, if training camps were postponed or canceled.

“I do not want to be waiting for something to happen,” Splitter said. “I want to be playing, so if our (Spurs) camp will not start on time then I think I will sign with Flamengo.

“Of course, I will make sure I will be able to join the Spurs when the lockout ends, but I want to be playing and working on my game.”

(more…)

Show And Prove Time For Lakers, Spurs

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Cover your ears the next time someone tells you that regular season NBA games don’t really mean anything.

In theory it sounds about right: 82 games, you lose one or two here and there, but that doesn’t sink you. In reality, there are certain regular season games that mean everything.

When the Heat and Celtics hooked up to start this season, a win or a loss then could come back to help or haunt them five months later when playoff positioning is being sorted out.

That’s why tonight’s Fan Night Game (on NBA TV at 8:30 p.m. ET) is much more than just another game for both the Los Angeles Lakers and San Antonio Spurs. In the most heated races in years for the top spot in the Eastern and Western Conferences, respectively, every little bit counts.

We’ve already spent time examining the Lakers after their Christmas Day debacle against the Heat — time well spent if you ask us. Any time the two-time defending NBA champs suffer back-to-back blowout losses at home, it’s worth a closer look. Our main man David Aldridge made it clear in his Morning Tip that the Spurs aren’t particularly smitten with their league-leading performance thus far.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is also not foolish enough to underestimate the Lakers, per our main man Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express News, no matter how many run through these NBA streets crying the end is near for the Lakers.

“Somebody is winning games, and they are amazing,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after his team’s Monday practice session. “And if they are losing, there has to be all these problems.

“The Lakers are NBA champions. And that’s a fact. And that’s all that matters.”

Good point coach. That’s also why we expect — better yet, demand — an instant classic from these two teams still running on the fuel of their own championship dynasties of the past decade.

A lopsided beating by either team won’t satisfy us. We need the sort of game that keeps us all talking deep into the next day. The sort of game the Lakers play all the time in May and June — but rarely before then.

All the contenders are playing those sorts of games. The Mavericks and Spurs are doing it in the West and the Celtics, Heat and Magic are doing it routinely in the East. Now it’s the Lakers’ turn to step up and give us something.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 34)

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Did we throw too much at Kevin Durant and the Oklahoma City Thunder too soon?

Should Pat Riley have replaced Erik Spoelstra months ago?


And why are we just wasting our time with all these regular season games when we all know that the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics are going to do their NBA Finals dance all over again in June?

Those are just three of the questions we tackled, there’s plenty more, on Episode 34 of the Hang Time Podcast with special guests Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express News and NBA.com’s very own Shaun Powell, two of the most seasoned NBA observers on the planet.

Listen Here:

Our guests weren’t short on opinions as we looked back at the first month of the regular season and revisited some summer time predictions to see how ridiculous they must seem right now.

Some of them (the Bucks were supposed to be ready for a move into the Eastern Conference penthouse) are bit more egregious than others (the Thunder will be the second best team in the Western Conference this season). But we’re not cutting any corners around here. We’re calling anyone out that needs it.

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast Lang Whitaker of SLAM Magazine, our super producer Micah Hart of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog and your host Sekou Smith on Twitter.

– To download the podcast, click here and here . To subscribe via iTunes, click here.