Spurs Survive Without Manu
As ESPN’s Skip Bayless put it during the 2005 NBA Finals, “No Manu No Win.” He said this after Manu got a bruised thigh during a collision with a Piston player in game 3 of the 2005 finals . ‘No Manu No Win’ would seem the popular opinion in the media and amongst Spurs faithful. You know the history, ankle surgery 2009/Broken nose 2010 playoffs/broken arm 2011 playoffs and now broken hand 2012. Nagging here, a tweak there, a snap here and eventually a loss of games for the Spurs.
However, it seems the Spurs have managed to survive without him and backup playmaker TJ Ford. The Spurs have gone 8-6 without the Services of Ginobili and Ford, while that’s not great, what’s impressive is the play of some other Spurs.
To start, what do the Spurs lose without two of their playmakers? 21.6pts / 6.8ast / 5.2rbs. That’s kinda hard to replace. What have the Spurs done to survive? Well besides run Tony Parker into the ground, three other young Spurs have answered the bell. Lets look at them.
Tiago Splitter – 9.6 pts / 5 rbs in 20 mins a game since Manu injury.
The numbers don’t look like much but they’re impressive considering how he is doing it. Outside of Tim Duncan, the Spurs have made it a point to acquire “floor spacing” bigs. Bonner, McDyess, and Kurt Thomas come to mind. What they haven’t had is a back to the basket big. Splitter in limited minutes (20) and attempts (5.6 fga) per game has become the Spurs second lowpost player. Points like that from a big man is very important because it takes pressure off the guards, and works the opposing defense in ways that a guard can’t. His stamina seems low, but hopefully the Spurs training staff can work on that. It is essential that the Spurs go to him early and often which means he will need more minutes and definitely more attempts. Having two lowpost players can do some real interior damage to the opposing team. Just look at the Lakers, and most recently the 2011 Grizzlies that beat the Spurs in the first round last year.
Danny Green – 8.7pts / 1 blk / 1 stl in 24 mins since Manu injury.
Danny Green has scored pretty well, but as the stats show above, defense is where he really helps the Spurs. He did a good job on prolific scorers Monta Ellis and Joe Johnson just to name two. He isn’t afraid to stick his nose in for a key rebound and plays tight perimeter D in addition to making plays for his teammates on offense. Since the loss of Bowen, the Spurs perimeter D has been like the turnstiles in the old hemisfair arena. If a player wants to get somewhere on the court, he does easily. With Danny Green the effort has been there and the results as well. He fights over screens and will come up with key steals and blocks. Looking forward the Spurs will need that effort from him come playoff time if Jefferson goes into hiding.
Kawhi Leonard – 8pts / 5rbs in 26 mins game.
Who knew what to expect from Kawhi, he was simply a rookie that did well in college. So was Sam Bowie, Greg Oden and a few other busts. Well, Kawhi earned Pop’s trust and eventually worked his way into the starting lineup at shooting guard for some out of all positions. Kawhi plays good defense and uses his athleticism and freakishly long arms to also grab a ton of contested rebounds. He’s not a great shooter or post player, but does have a knack for cutting to the basket and getting points in unusual fashion (ala former Spur Walter Berry). His versatility to play positions 2-4 will give the Spurs an edge defensively.
Last, let’s look at an unsung hero – a polarizing figure – Tony Parker. You either love him or hate him. And when I say you, I mean Spurs fans oddly enough. Parker is kinda like Tim Tebow (without the sideline hymns and the funky throwing motion). Their are things he does well and things he doesn’t. Tebow is known for running instead of throwing the ball at the QB position. Parker is known for scoring well and being an average playmaker compared to his fellow upper-class point guards.
Tony Parker – 19 pts / 8 ast in alot of minutes since Manu injury.
We’ve seen Parker have games where he racks up assists, but he does it running around with the ball looking for three point shooters. This year there has been more motion offense and Parker has simply made good decisions without doing alot of dribbling. Add to that Parker and Splitter have made each other’s life a lot easier with the pick and roll, its almost like Ginobili/Blair part 2. Parker has also looked to establish Splitter on the low-block making things easier for him, since he doesn’t have to run around and burn energy. He also is averaging only 2 turnovers for his 8 assists a game. Parker’s increased court awareness has really helped the Spurs to survive without Manu.
In a few Weeks we’ll see what the Spurs have in them as they continue to try and win on the road without their big gun in a rapid, shortened season.
Date: January 27, 2012