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Thursday, February 28, 2013

SDH Presents the NBA's Worst to First for December: 3. San Antonio Spurs

Overall Win/Loss Record (as of December 31st): 25-8 , first place Southwest Division

This Month:

Team Statistics and League Rank (as of December 31st):

  • Points Scored: 105.5 (3rd)
  • Points Allowed: 96.5 (11th)
  • Team FG%: .487 (2nd)
  • Opponent’s FG%: .438 (8th)
  • Rebounds per game: 41.9 (15th)
  • Opponents rebounds per game: 42.2 (15th)
  • Turnovers per game: 15.4(23rd)
  • Opponents turnovers per game: 15.2 (9th)

Individual Statistical Leaders (as of December 31st):

  • Scoring (ppg): Tony Parker (19.3)
  • Rebounds per gameTim Duncan (9.7)
  • Minutes per game: Tony Parker (32.7)
  • Assists per game:  Tony Parker (7.3)
  • Field Goal Percentage:  Tiago Splitter (.593)
  • Steals per game: Kawhi Leonard (2.1)
  • Blocked Shots per game:  Tim Duncan (2.5)

Worst Player of the Month: Stephen Jackson

Stephen Jackson has always been overrated from day one as he inflated his stats throughout his career by jacking up 20 to 25 shots to get the seven to nine field goals he would make per game.  Now, from being an over inflated ball hogging role player, he has become a virtual non factor for the Spurs.  In 23 minutes per game, Jackson just averages a little over six points per game while shooting a woeful .375 from the field.  Add to the fact that he is currently earning more than 10$ million this season makes it even more frustrating to watch him play as there are far better players on that team that make far less.  In addition, his 23 minutes per game can be put to better use, if it were given to a younger and more productive player.  Fortunately, his contract expires at the end of the season allowing San Antonio to fall under the salary cap for next season and like those before him, Jackson and his over-inflated image and salary will be a distant memory.   
First Player of the Month:  Tiago Splitter

It is suffice to say that Tiago Splitter is possibly one of the best NBA players that no one has ever heard of. Forced to play behind future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, Splitter has been wasting much of his prime years as a backup whereas he would be possibly a starter in most teams in the league. At 28 years old, he is nearing his athletic peak and by the time Duncan finally decides to call it quits, whatever upside that Tiago had will all but disappear, leading many, including himself, to wonder "what if?"  Coming off the bench, Tiago has continued to be superbly efficient in the few minutes that he has played as he has averages close to eleven points and six rebounds per game in under 25 minutes of playing time while shooting a phenomenal .602 from the field in December.   It is only too bad that he will never get a chance to realize his full potential as long as he remains a member of the San Antonio Spurs.          

There is no surprise here: the San Antonio Spurs have remained on top the Western Conference as well as having one of the best records in the league.  They still remain both irresistible force and the immovable object as San Antonio has yet to show any signs of rust or that they are in the midst of decline.  In fact the Spurs can actually be likened to a fine wine as they seem to get better with age with each passing year.  For fans of the opposing teams, the Spurs still remain a thorn at their side or that will simply never go away--a painful boil or a gruesome wort that simply never goes away no matter how much they try to get rid of it.  It is for that reason that the Spurs do not get as much fanfare or the admiration as other elite team because people have been so used to them consistently winning to the point where all of its luster has worn off.

Despite consistently finishing among the top five teams every regular season, the Spurs are virtually shown no love by the media as they do not have the same flash or pizzazz as the Miami Heat, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, or the New York Knicks.  Even the ongoing drama of the collapsing Los Angeles Lakers has gotten more airplay in the spotlight rather than the Spurs who have remained in the hunt for an NBA Championship for the past 15 years.  In fact, despite always finishing among the top teams in the regular season, the Spurs have rarely come up in any discussions of who will be the top candidates that will contend for a title.  When the Spurs are even mentioned as a possiblility heading into the NBA Finals, it is usually met with groans instead of glee and jeers instead of cheers.  In terms of respect, the Spurs can be considered the Rodney Dangerfield of the NBA--they simply get no respect no matter what they do.

And that is what probably keeps the Spurs pushing hard every season--the simple fact that they never get the respect they are due as they are often overshadowed by the more attractive teams that offer more style to the Spurs' substance.  Absolutely no one gave the Spurs any attention when they went 12-4 in December simply torching their opponents as they beat them by an average margin of 17.1 points.  In those twelve wins, only San Antonio won all by ten or more points but four which included a hard fought four point overtime win against the Memphis Grizzlies (12/1/2012), two high scoring affairs against the Houston Rockets (12/10, 12/28), and a narrow five point win against the New Orleans Hornets (12/21/2012).  Their four losses came at the hands of quality teams such as the Utah Jazz (12/12/2012), Portland Trailblazers (12/13/2012), Oklahoma City Thunder (12/17/2012), and the Denver Nuggets (12/18/2012).  Out of those four games, only the Thunder were capable of suppressing the Spurs holding them to just 93 points as they beat them by 14 points while the other three just simply survived barely beating San Antonio by an average margin of 5.7 points.

Perhaps what probably hurts the Spurs the most in terms of their exposure and receiving the attention and respect that they deserve is the simple fact that although they simply dominate in the regular season, once the playoffs arrive, they are nowhere to be seen.  Since winning their last NBA Championship in 2007, the Spurs have been less than stellar in the post season to say the least.  After reaching as far as the Conference Finals in 2008, San Antonio was unceremoniously swept in the two following years--once in the first round against the Dallas Mavericks, followed by another sweep by the Phoenix Suns in the Conference Semis the following year.  In 2011, despite finishing with the best record in the league that year, they were once again shocked in the first round getting booted out the first round by the lowly eighth seed Memphis Grizzlies.  Last season looked as if the Spurs would finally break their post season losing cycling as they crushed their competition sweeping every series and even started the Western Conference Finals with a 2-1 lead over the Oklahoma City Thunder; however, all of that just went up in smoke as the Spurs would fall in the next three games as the Thunder went on to represent the Western Conference in the NBA Finals.

From simply looking at their post season failures over the past five years, one can put forth the argument that San Antonio's window of opportunity has all but closed making them even less interesting to follow with each passing season.   It has basically been the same old shtick year after year--the Spurs finish among the top teams in the regular season only to collapse and get eliminated early in the playoffs.  Add the fact that they have been playing the same bland way for the past fifteen years does not help either as they were never much of a draw to watch when they were even winning championships.   In every NBA Finals that the Spurs have appeared in and won, the NBA suffered its lowest television ratings in the league's history--compare that with any other team and see how poorly this portrays the San Antonio Spurs.  Now it is just simply a case of the Spurs being on top in the regular season just for the sake of being on top with no way else to go thus relegating them in the shadows and remaining as the league's least respected team.