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Whose to Blame?

If you would have told me this summer after 18 games the Spurs would be 9 and 9, I would have laughed in your face. This year began with a great deal of fanfare and excitement, and rightfully so. Watching the first quarter of this season has been as enjoyable as getting attacked by a hoard of jellyfish. After this summer’s moves, the sun had once again shown on our faces. It was a bright, new day filled with anticipation. The first game only confirmed our glee with a blow out against New Orleans. As we glowed in our first victory, terror awaited in the warmth of our new found bliss. The creepy mood music began to play while we waded deeper into the season. Trapped in a slew of new-comer mistakes, under achievement, and terrible defense we have found ourselves gripped in the fiery tentacles of disappointment. Who is to blame? Everyone, including the fans, is to blame. Since we are not on the court, let’s find someone who actually plays to point the finger at.

It has been physically painful to watch the Spurs play basketball (probably because after every terrible play, I bang my fist on the table and yell at my TV). After doing some research, there are two key factors that are contributing to the slow start, one being, points in the paint. The Spurs are 7-2 when we score more points in the paint than our opponents. Utah has outscored us down-low by double digits in each of our 3 losses to them this season. The Spurs are not attacking the rim. With a healthy Manu Ginobili and the arrival of high-flyer Richard Jefferson, we should be attacking the rim like a pit bull. However, the Spurs seem more timid than ever, approaching the basket more like they would Grandmother’s china. Tim Duncan appears to be the only player interested in playing four full quarters of basketball. Pop referred to this in his post game interview, after the Boston and Denver losses, both of which we had control of the game at half time and let them come back in the final two quarters.

At first glance, I tried to blame the problems on Richard Jefferson, but as I looked at the numbers it was Manu Ginobili that seemed to influence wins and losses the most. Richard Jefferson has been the recipient of much blame for his lack of “production”, but his ups and downs have not affected the success of the team. Not to mention when Tony, Tim, and Manu were injured he stepped up in a big way and led San Antonio in their absences. RJ is new, hasn’t learned the system, and is trying to figure out his role on the team. Ginobili on the other hand, has delivered near career lows in every statistical category except assists and free throws. He has an excuse because of injuries, but he has also been with the Spurs for a long time and should be able to re-enter the lineup without this drop in production. Manu is shooting 36% from the field and from beyond the arc. He has played in only 12 of the first 19 games, in which we are 4-8 with him in the line-up, and 4-1 without him. In the 4 wins he has shot over 43%, but in the 8 losses only 27% from the field. This is not the way an impact player should be “impacting” the team. (If you are curious to find out what my recommendations are for Manu, read my article “Manu Mania” from November 25th.)

We the fans have some responsibility as well. Spurs fans, including myself, came into this season with stars in our eyes. The offseason proved to be a very eventful and successful one. ESPN and the entire sports nation dubbed San Antonio the winners of the arms race over the summer, and I still agree. We have turned over more than half of our roster, while losing key Spurs’ mainstays. There will be struggle, loss, and pain, but if we stand together, with our team and as a city, we can help propel them forward as the season moves on. The year has just begun, and we are on the right track. The Spurs are 8-4 at home this year, but home court is our responsibility. It is our chance to make a difference; it is our time to change what happens on the court. If we can maintain our passion while our team develops, we all will reap the rewards as we approach the promised land.


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