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WEDNESDAY WIRE

GOODBYE SPURS

As a fan I’m in a strange place, I would like to think that this year will be like all of the rest. The Spurs ride off into the sunset and return a perfect team, but I can’t help but feel that this year is different. It has been a perfect storm of sorts. The Spurs make a couple big acquisitions this summer, and the media finally gives the “Good Guys” some love. We all believed the Spurs would destroy every team we would face from the first tip. Game by game, loss by embarrassing loss, the Spurs find themselves in a position no one expected. The Silver and Black are not fighting to be the tops in the West, we are suddenly scrapping just to hang on, endanger of not making the playoffs at all. The Spurs are 27 and 19, just one loss away from slipping into the dreaded 8th spot in the West, all but assuring an early exit from the playoffs against the impenetrable Lakers. What’s done is done; we have to look ahead; beginning with the 8 game Rodeo Road Trip, followed by the final 28 games of the season.

The Rodeo Road Trip marks the point in the season when the Spurs dial in and start playing championship basketball. Historically, over this eight year tradition, we have earned a 40 and 16 record; we need the same effort now for San Antonio to make the playoffs. They say, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder”, but if the Spurs can’t pull out some wins, they may lose what little support they have left. There are two changes that must take place on this trip, Richard Jefferson needs to find HIS game, and the team needs to start playing like a team. I’ve already highlighted what I think RJ should do, but Pop needs to take off the leash. You don’t get a prime thoroughbred, and then run it at half pace during the race. Turn him loose, let him fly. R.J. plays above the rim, stop making him a jump shooter. Throw the man some alley-oops. As I said last week the Spurs must find their identity, without that vision they will die. Everyone is going in twenty different directions, get an image and stick with it. Our team should rely on the drive and dish game, focusing on Tony Parker and R.J. getting to the rim, drawing fouls or dishing out to open shooters. If the Spurs can manage a 6 and 2 road trip they will be on the right track. Look for the losses when we visit the Lakers and the Nuggets, we can win the rest.

When the Spurs finally return home February 24th, the hard work begins. To finish the season with 50 wins we must win 19 of the last 28 games. Only seven games will be against sub .500 teams, making this one of the hardest home stretches the Spurs have faced in some time. Those 7 games are must wins, leaving a simple 12 and 9 in the remaining games against +.500 teams. The key to beating the good teams is not how many shots we take, but the quality of the shots we take. The Spurs are a picture in contrasts, destroying solid playoff competition like the Lakers by 20 and the Hawks by 15, then the stench of underachievement creeps in and we lose again. This has only fueled the disconnect I now see between the franchise and the fans. Stop settling for jump shots, we are 10 and 3 when we shoot fewer three-pointers than our competition and a terrible 17 and 15 when we shoot more. It is clearly not our thing, change the game plan! Likewise, we are 15 and 9 when we take fewer shots altogether. Is anyone else as surprised by this as I am. I’m not saying we should stop shooting jump shots completely, but allow Richard and Tony to set up some better looks, rather than just heaving up a quick jump shot every time we run down the floor. Next, the drive and dish game will open up more free throw opportunities. The Spurs are 16 and 8 when we win the free-throw battle. Again, we have to let the game develop using the tools we have. Manu isn’t the slasher he used to be, but Jefferson can be. Manu, Mason, Bonner, Bogans, and even Hill have the ability to knock down the trey, but they need better looks.

Fans, this is one of the worst home teams I have seen from the Spurs in recent memory, and that is partially our fault. We are all disappointed, but we can’t be like the New York and Philly fans who destroy their teams when things aren’t going well. Pull out those Spurs car flags, hang up your “GO SPURS GO” signs, and wear your Matt Bonner jerseys with pride, it’s time for us to stand up. There are 36 games left in this season, Spurs fans and players, let’s make them the best 36 we possibly can.

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