These last few days I've been talking with my twitter friend and Pounding The Rock writer Matt Tynan. He's a delightful guy. No seriously! He is! Stop laughing. Not all Spurs fans are mean. Anyway, we talked about our teams a bit. Please check out my answers on Pounding The Rock and check out their site.
To the questions!
1. Why are you PTR people so mean to us Mavericks!?
It's just a Spurs-Mavs rivalry thing. In all honesty, I think Spurs fans 'hatred' for the Mavs stems from a bit of an inferiority complex, not in terms of franchises (that would just be silly if you, ya know, count the rings :-)) but in terms of sports markets. The Spurs are all San Antonio has, so when Mark Cuban says bad things about the River Walk, oh buddy you'd better get your fightin' shoes on and make sure the laces are tied. Just as it is with any rivalry, any poking and prodding just exacerbates the animosity.
2. Sorry, you don't have to answer that. It's been a rough season. Duncan is once again showing why he's an all time great pivot man. How long do you see him playing? Does he enjoy playing?
I don't even know anymore. He's easily a top-3 big in the game at the age of 36, and on top of that he's making less than $10 million this season. He absolutely loves this game, and I believe he'd play until he's 50 if he could. I was surprised by him signing a three-year deal with San Antonio prior to the season, simply because it seems people have been calling for his retirement for years. Remember Barkley last year during the TNT broadcasts of the Western Conference Finals? But the fact is he looks better than he has in five years, so I really don't know when the end will come. You can't defy Father Time forever, though.
3. We at MMB have lamented our team's ability to develop talent. These last few years the Spurs have gotten big production from unheralded players who developed while on the Spurs or on the Austin Toros. What's been the key in these situations? Or is the Spurs scouting department simply better?
I know most fans around the NBA find Spurs fans to be obnoxious, so I'll try to be modest. But in all seriousness, it's a combination of coaching, scouting, front office knowledge, all of it. This franchise is as good as it gets from top to bottom, and I think that's evident when you look around the league and see all the former Spurs on coaching staffs and in front offices.
It's become a systematic thing, and whether you're playing in Austin or overseas you're playing in a system that shares many of the same philosophies the Spurs practice, especially if you end up with the Toros. And the Spurs basically paved the way for overseas development.
Whether it's Leandro Barbosa, Goran Dragic or Luis Scola, the Spurs' international contributions have been felt league-wide. It's crazy when you look back. Tony Parker was the 28th overall pick, and that Ginobili dude ... 56 people were drafted prior to him in 1999. I'll stop now, but it does seem funny to me that Danny Green was just a scrap-heap casualty of the damn Cleveland Cavaliers.
4. What's been your favorite five man Spurs line up? What's been the most effective group?
Such a difficult question to answer. There are so many. Please stop me when I'm getting annoying. The Spurs literally have 13 guys who can be effective, and Popovich is constantly mixing and matching. But Pop has decided to go with the Splitter-Duncan frontcourt combo to start games alongside Kawhi Leonard, Green and Parker. And I love it. Pop has been reluctant to start Splitter throughout his young NBA career, and for pretty good reason given Tiago's inconsistency. But I feel it's a necessity if San Antonio is to combat the big front lines in the West moving forward. Splitter is good enough now to make the impact he was brought in for, at least he'd better be.
5. Kahwi Leonard is arguably the second best player from the 2011 draft behind Kyrie Irving. What's his ceiling as a player? What has he added to his game as a sophomore?
Spurs fans love this guy, and for good reason. Only 21 years old and the answer to San Antonio's long-time search for a defensive-minded, athletic small forward, and on top of that, the guy can hit threes in the NBA after not exhibiting that trait in college? Gimme, gimme, gimme!
The only issue is that many Spurs fans see him as the future face of the franchise, and I'm just not sure that's the case. Unless he seriously improves his all-around offensive game by the time the Spurs' current playmakers are gone, I see his ceiling as a more orthodox Shawn Marion (to relate to someone you Mavs fans know well). Which is hardly a bad thing. Kawhi thrives in the hustle-stat categories and in spot-up situations. But I do believe we'll see a more improved Leonard offensively, he has all the tools to be an effective slasher and finisher at the rim, and with his ridiculously long arms and big hands he's very effective all around the basket.
I don't think he can ever be the best player on a title team, but his impact on the defensive side of the ball will eventually be elite. In terms of development this season, we haven't seen a ton given the fact he missed five weeks recently. But an increased understanding of the team's philosophies on both sides of the ball and an improved mid-range game are evident.
6. What do the Spurs need to work on before the playoffs?
Defense, rebounding and Manu Ginobili. The defense and rebounding are obvious as the offense isn't really a problem, and these have been the demise of the Spurs in recent years. But I'm concerned about Manu, though not too much. While he hasn't been the same player, that's understandable for a 35-year-old who's put some serious wear and tear on his body. Still, these days he has a way of biding his time and reemerging as the old Ginobili in the biggest of moments. We'll see if he can still do it. If he can, and if Duncan can keep up this improbable excellence at his age, the Spurs will be every bit the contender of anyone in the league.
Thanks so much and good luck! Mostly, at least.
Editor's Note... thanks Matt :-)