Monday, December 27, 2010

Spurs upcoming schedule to test mettle

by Zvon Knezovic

After being swept in the second round of last year’s playoffs, few would have predicted the Spurs to be sitting atop the West — and the league — with a 26-4 record. But even after racking up wins at a franchise record pace, question marks still remain as to whether this Spurs team can truly challenge for their fifth championship.

For all the superlatives thrown the way of this new and improved Spurs team, they've yet to really test themselves against the big boys of the league. Their best wins to date have been on the road against the Jazz and Thunder — likely 50-win teams, and not expected by most to seriously contend through June – and at home against the old Magic — who later went on a run of 7 losses in 8 outings before shaking things up with a trade (and delivered a 22-point blitzing of the Spurs — albeit on a back to back for San Antonio). However, the upcoming schedule will afford the Spurs an opportunity to test themselves against what are very likely to be the two biggest roadblocks standing in the way of an NBA Finals return.

The Spurs will play host to Kobe and the Lakers tonight, and then travel to Dallas on Thursday to take a second crack at Dirk and the new and improved Mavs. If the Spurs are to make a return to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007, they will likely have to go through at least one, if not both outfits come the playoffs. It’s safe to say, when it comes to the Lakers and Mavs, the Spurs won’t find a tougher test in terms of matchups. 

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Spurs have a big problem

by Radoslav Komljenovic


The  Spurs are  having serious trouble against front lines consisting of  two big, bruising-types with skill. Milicic-Love, Gasol-Randolph. One can only imagine what it’ll be like against Bynum-Gasol-Odom—not that the latter two are bruisers, but they are big, long and highly skilled.
Specifically, Blair has serious trouble in these match-ups. He can't hold his own on the glass, can't adequately guard any of them and is an afterthought offensively, because the games are bound to be close when you're getting destroyed on the glass. And when the games are close, Blair is, rightly so, an afterthought offensively.

Pop's modus operandi in these match-ups is to (once the game proves to be tougher than initially thought, or at least hoped) play Blair sparingly, lean on Bonner heavily—presumably in the hopes that he can get hot from deep and negate the inevitable disadvantage in the paint and on the glass—and finally lean on McDyess heavily down the stretch.

But the Spurs shouldn't be in these situations consistently against the likes of a Memphis or Minnesota, not where they have to scramble and fight to survive against them. McDyess needs to start in these match-ups and Splitter needs to be inserted into the rotation, at the expense of Blair.

Even if Pop changes the lineups against these types (starting McDyess, inserting Splitter into the rotation, dropping Blair from the rotation), the Spurs will still be at a rebounding disadvantage. Because the reality is, Blair is the second-best rebounder on the team—and Splitter is a distant fourth. 

So plugging Splitter in for Blair won't necessarily help on the boards. But it will help the team defensively, as Splitter's length should at least bother some of the bigger front lines (at least more than Blair is capable of), even if he get's overpowered by some.

The bottom line is, Duncan needs help in the paint. He's 34, with bad knees borne of a ton of mileage and while he's a center by default at this point, due to the game continuously going smaller and faster and his decline in mobility, he's not a true center. Truly, he's a four and a half—asking him to take on two big, bruising-types alone, essentially, is a recipe for disaster.

Reality is, the Spurs have pulled out  three games against the Timberwolves and Grizzlies, mostly because, well, they're the Timberwolves and Grizzlies—and the Spurs have a vast advantage in both talent and experience. That won't be the case against the Lakers.

Perhaps the biggest and most alarming takeaway from the games played against these types of front lines, is Splitter being used sparingly. One more sign that Pop either doesn't see him as the answer or as a necessity for this season.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Reigning Black's Defensive Gameplan: Bucks vs. Spurs (12/15/10)

by Eric Salinas
Jennings Kid Pretty Darn Good (Bucks' Engine)

1) Control Mr. Brandon Jennings: Spurs should make it a priority to hound Jennings hard and often, utilizing aggressive hedges via the combo of Parker and Hill on the pick-and-rolls (hard traps in the corners when Jennings goes off the pick towards the sideline; away from the middle). The hard hedges can (and should) occasionally turn into hard traps, which will consequently force the ball to less threatening playmakers as the shot-clock counts winds down. After all, anybody but Jennings with the ball as the clock is winding down is of benefit to the Spurs—Jennings' teammates just aren't all that capable of creating efficient offensive opportunities for themselves or others (with the slight exception to Maggette and Salmons as being respectable... nothing more). Should this circumstance play out often, the Bucks should be forced into tough contested shots more often than not. (Not like Drew Gooden isn't accustomed to that or anything.)

2) Box OutDefensive Rebounding: Major emphasis on these two objectives. Bogut and Gooden are very active inside when the ball clangs off the rim. Keep Bogut and Gooden off the offensive glass and away from possible tip-in's or tip-out's. Spurs need to limit the Bucks to one shot per possession as much as possible.

3) Limit Turnovers: Spurs don't want to give the Bucks any free easy fast-break opportunities by turning the ball over. Spurs need to make this offensively challenged Bucks team beat their half-court defense. (Milwaukee is last in the league in points per game and field goal percentage; 91.96 PPG- 41% FG)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Jester in Winter

by G. Scott 

Even among the Spurs' faithful, there are quiet concerns about their legendary anchor, Tim Duncan, and the rather un-Duncan like numbers he has put up at times this season. And although few will admit it, the specter of other legendary athletes who refused to go out at the top of their games looms over this season. Has Duncan finally reached that point in his career? Or are he and Gregg Popovich simply taking a page from former Spur Robert Horry's playbook and saving their best for the playoffs?

Maybe it's a little bit of both. Certainly one of the most obvious reasons that Duncan's numbers are down is that he is simply playing fewer minutes. But there are those nagging games this season where he seemed to struggle against the likes of Darko Milicic. And how could he pull down 18 rebounds one night but only 5 (with zero defensive boards) the next night?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Process or Result: What's more important at this point?

by Radoslav Komljenovic

It's clear to those paying attention that the Spurs aren't exactly playing as well as their record indicates. Their 5-1 record is mostly a product of their talent and a favorable early schedule rather than their overall level of play.

Offensively, they're more than fine, as they currently sit 6th in efficiency, including 3rd in points per game, 4th in field goal percentage, 8th in 3-point percentage and 2nd in assists.

Defensively, it's a different story, as they currently sit 17th in efficiency. Granted, the points per game can somewhat be attributed to the positively un-Spurs like blistering pace -- 7th in the league. Nonetheless, the Spurs currently sit 23rd in opponents points per game, in addition to 25th in opponents field goal percentage and 29th in opponents 3-point percentage.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

What's Missing? It's Fundamental

by G. Scott

Jacob Riis (1849-1914)
Gregg Popovich has famously posted a quote about a stonecutter in the Spurs' locker room, in the native language of each team member. The gist is that when a stone cracks after 101 blows, it is the work of the first 100 blows that made it happen. It is an inspirational message, and a part of Spurs culture. What most people don't know is that Popovich has another sign in his own office that reads, "The stonecutter needs to play better defense." 

He doesn't really, but he should. It's a mantra that every Spurs player and fan has heard ever since the day Gregg Popovich arrived in San Antonio. So, four games into the young season, it is not surprising that the most commonly-heard critique of this year's version of the Spurs is that they need to improve their defense.

Unfortunately, that term gets thrown around in much the same way that car dealers use the word service. Ask any car dealer what makes them different, and they will say, "Better service". Ask any Spurs' player, or fan, what the team needs to do to improve, and they will say, "Play better defense". Move along - nothing to see here. 

That's okay. There are plenty of other clichés to discuss: They need to take care of the ball. They need to hit the boards, and hustle for loose balls. They need to execute better. They need better ball movement. They need to take better shots. Those may all be clichés, but they are still applicable. And if you memorize them, you're a candidate for any job ever held by Jeff Van Gundy.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Champions? You gotta believe

by G. Scott 

The 2010-2011 campaign is underway and the Spurs, as usual, are flying under the radar. Most sports analysts question whether Greg Popovich's team can truly contend for a title. In their secret hearts many, if not most Spurs fans, harbor the same question. But for those of us who have faithfully followed the NBA for decades, and remember Rudy Tomjanovich's famous quote - "Don't ever underestimate the heart of a champion", there is really only one question: Does this group of Spurs players really, truly believe that they can still win it all?"

There is a certain attitude that is clearly visible on teams that believe, that know, they are on a mission to climb to the top of their sport. It is most often described as a "swagger", although that word is as often wrong as it is right. Anyone who goes looking for a swagger on the Spurs' bench has been asleep for the past decade. This team still undeniably belongs to Tim Duncan. And not only does he not swagger, but any teammate who did would be... well... looked at sternly by the Stoic Mr. Duncan.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Cowboy's Way

by Nick Kapsis

The anxiety was just too much to bear. Anderson had held an NBA Draft viewing party in his hometown of Junction City, Arkansas, at the high school he once attended. 

The high school's name? 

Junction City High School, of course -- when your town's only got one you needn't overthink it. 

Junction City, Arkansas populates roughly 721 people, has one high school and one stoplight. It's small, quaint and if you're not looking for it, you just might pass through without so much as noticing. It's a world away from the big and bright lights of New York City -- home of the 2010 NBA Draft -- and it was exactly where James Anderson wanted to be. 

That is, for as long as he could stomach it. 

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"Jus Fly"

Reigning Black 

There are plenty of reactions and words that occur or come to mind when one views Justin "Jus Fly" Darlington display why it is he dons the moniker. 

But mainly:

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Richard Jefferson: In Focus

Reigning Black

A lot can change in a year.

A lot.

Relationships, jobs, finances -- for better or worse -- and even your outlook on some of the most significant and insignificant things in life, change is inherent all around us. What's here today is gone tomorrow; absence often makes the heart grow fonder.

Often -- exceptions abound.

When Richard Jefferson exercised an opt-out to forgo a $15.2 million salary in his final year, relief and good fortune seemed to rule the day. The Spurs were viewed as being "let off the hook," no longer an albatross or hindrance weighing them down or holding them back. The Spurs had been given a mulligan, a second chance. This time it was with Jefferson's departure -- last year it was upon arrival.

Needless to say, roughly three weeks after Jefferson decided to opt out, the celebration of R.J.'s resigning was muted, if even existent. Jefferson has his fans, and the team signing his checks are among them, but to some it signified a death knell of sorts. An end to championship aspiration. The Spurs -- as we've come to know them -- were done; Riverwalk parades reserved for a distant memory.

Things are generally never as or bad or good as they may seem, so in order to move forward and digest all that really happened -- and why what happened did happen -- it's best to look at the facts as we know them. Paint the picture, step away from the canvas, then critique the work.

Monday, July 26, 2010

2010-11 San Antonio Spurs Salaries

Reigning Black

(Updated: 8/3/10)

Following are the salaries of the guaranteed 11 players under contract and the 3 non-guaranteed roster hopefuls. They've been listed in the order they were signed/came to terms in an effort to see what the Spurs' front office saw every step of the way -- the roster's total is shown after each signing to display where the Spurs were in relation to the cap and what moves they made with that knowledge in hand. Also along the way, Richard Jefferson's (RJ) original $15.2 million dollar contract was calculated to show what an opt-in could have meant.(Special thanks to Sham and Bruno for the help and L.J. Ellis for Neal and Jefferson's numbers)

*Note: Matt Bonner's salary has been updated from $3.05M to $3.00M while Neal's salary has been updated from $510K to $525K. Thanks again to Sham for all of his hard work. Please give him a visit if you'd like to know more about full terms and incentives.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Ask And You Shall Receive

Reigning Black

Back in April, Chris Tomasson authored a piece for FanHouse revealing Richard Jefferson was indeed pondering the possibility of opting out of his contract. And as preposterous as it sounded then -- a player deemed to be underachieving and hardly worth the $14.2 million he'd earn for the performance -- Jefferson had his reasons:

"That's a situation I think every player will look at at the end of the season. I probably wouldn't make 15 (million dollars) some place, but you could somehow recoup some of that over a multi-year deal and get some guaranteed money for the next few years."

With the uncertainty of impending CBA negotiations and the very likely prospect the Players' Association will fail to improve upon the players' future contractual earnings -- in fact, it's been widely thought the players could find lower salaries, less guaranteed money and fewer years -- the feeling around free-agency has been, 'Get it while the gettin's good.'

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Jefferson to Re-sign

Reigning Black

According to Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News, Richard Jefferson should be back in San Antonio prepping to sign a new long-term contract with the Spurs on Wednesday.

Jefferson -- a 6-7 small forward and 9-year veteran of the NBA -- left more than a few scratching their heads with his decision to opt out of a final year that would've guaranteed him $15.2 million. But seeking to avoid the uncertainty of free-agency in a post-CBA renegotiation, Jefferson elected for long-term security -- the thinking to give a little now to recoup much more later.

But in one of the stranger free-agent markets in a long time -- one where Johan Petro essentially equals Tiago Splitter and a restricted free-agent in Rudy Gay gets a max contract without creating leverage -- Jefferson found himself standing without a chair when the music had all but stopped.

Terms of the contract have yet to be ascertained but it would be a fair assumption to think that Jefferson's yearly salary will be cut in half -- unlike Rudy Gay, Jefferson was allowed to test his market-value and create whatever leverage he could, only there was no leverage to be found. His stock had never fallen further. The Spurs will gain some much-needed breathing room with regards to the luxury-tax line and for the third time this offseason, they'll have acquired the most talented player available for the role -- Splitter and Bonner preceding. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Part 2: Executing The Plan

Reigning Black


Tiago Splitter is officially a Spur.

Matt Bonner will be a Spur for another 4 years (should he see the end of his new contract).

Richard Jefferson?

They're working on it -- all signs point to Jefferson donning the Black and Silver sometime shortly, but as the saying goes: Don't count your chickens until they've picked up their $15.2 million option.

And with that, we look to what we've learned, what we know, and where the Spurs go from here.

What We've Learned

If you were to ask anyone knowledgeable of the NBA or its finance over recent weeks and months about the going rate of a certain first-class Brazilian bigman, chances are they'd tell you most -- if not all -- of the Spurs' Mid-Level exception would be about right. The Spurs were in dire need of Splitter's services -- a player that was getting paid quite well by his Spanish club -- and being three years removed from his 2007 draft class, Splitter was now eligible to eschew the rookie pay-scale and garner the Mid-Level exception from the team which held his rights. It wasn't a forgone conclusion Splitter would receive the whole Mid-Level exception, but the smart money was on him securing the majority of it and probably winding up at a number around $4 million in his first year.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Tiago Splitter: San Antonio Spur

Reigning Black

Signed, sealed, delivered. Tiago Splitter is officially a Spur.

Taken 28th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft, Splitter's become both the bane and hope of Spurs fans' existence over the years. But now that he's here, that bane seems a distant memory.

The 6-11 forward-center was officially introduced today -- alongside Spurs General Manager, R.C. Buford -- as the 25-year-old Brazilian showed off his new number (22) and expressed his excitement and gratitude for a day he'd always hoped would come.

"I'm very happy to be a San Antonio Spurs," Splitter said. It's been three years for me and San Antonio to wait for this moment. I'm very happy. I knew that I want to be part of the NBA, part of the San Antonio Spurs. You never know when."

Friday, July 9, 2010

Part 1: Executing The Plan

Reigning Black

(Note: The reported Jefferson agreement was -- at best -- premature. The following was posted July, 9 following Ticket 760's report.)

All eyes on the self-proclaimed King as he aired "The Decision," Gregg Popovich, R.C. Buford and Co. awaited the final verdict. The Spurs' front office awaited the biggest and most significant domino to be set into motion, as to reveal the landscape in its wake.

Thanks to Ticket 760 and the Union Leader, we now have an idea as to what this newly found landscape means to the Spurs -- the Spurs have apparently come to agreements with Tiago Splitter, Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner, which would all-but complete their frontline and lock them into a roster with minimal addition, sans a trade.

Splitter -- a 25-year-old Brazilian bigman -- has long been on both the NBA and Spurs' radar. His draft status became a bit of a running joke, as word of his presence in it goes back to as far as 2004. He was thought to finally declare for the 2006 NBA Draft but with teams reluctant to use a high pick on him for fear of a contract buyout, Splitter would remain with his Spanish team. In 2007, at the age of 22, Splitter became automatically eligible for the NBA Draft. Still under contract and overseas with his Saski Baskonia team -- then sponsored by Tau Ceramica -- the Spurs would select him with the 28th overall pick in the NBA Draft.

Knowing full well Splitter was a year away from joining the team, the Spurs simply capitalized on an opportunity to draft a lottery talent that wouldn't otherwise be available to them. They were competing for championships -- just coming off their fourth -- and the value to be had with the 28th pick was just too great to pass on. Splitter would have another year to season his game in one of the finest leagues outside the NBA -- Spanish ACB -- and would seemingly be available to join the Spurs the following year. But confronted with a severely ill sibling and an economic downturn -- one that presented Splitter with an opportunity to sign a contract worth 8-times the rookie pay-scale the NBA had to offer -- the Spurs would have to wait at least another year. Splitter re-signed with his Spanish League team, Caja Laboral (Tau Ceramica sponsored Saski Baskonia before ceding way to Caja Laboral; like billboards... these things change), on a two-year deal that would keep him overseas through the 2009-2010 NBA season.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Death, Taxes and Bruno (Opt-Out Capology)

Reigning Black

Any avid Spurs fan who's frequented a message board over the last handful of years knows the name, "Bruno." He's one of the most respected posters in the Spurs community and he's earned that respect largely for his mastery of NBA finance -- it's safe to say there are a fair amount of front-office types that could learn a thing or two from him.

That's not hyperbole.

Naturally, if you choose to put yourself out there and swim in the Frenchman's waters, you better be on point. You better have a grasp of the subject matter and be mindful to pay attention to detail. Because if you don't, you just might end up getting your feelings hurt (or at least find yourself getting humbled).

Murphy's Law- Options for the Bi-Annual Exception

Reigning Black

If we're to work from the premise of Murphy's law ("Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong."), Richard Jefferson's on his way out the door and the Spurs have nothing to show for it: no cap room, no sign and trade in place, nothing. The Spurs have been left high-and-dry without the means to find or acquire a comparable replacement, at least talent-wise.

If Spurs are left with nothing to show for Jefferson, the Spurs will then be left with the Bi- Annual Exception (roughly $2 million) to find a suitable replacement at the small forward position-- due to Tiago Splitter receiving most, if not all, of the Mid-Level Exception.

Because of how powerful and true Murphy's law can be, Reigning Black will dissect the realistic options that should be available for the LLE (Bi-Annual Exception).

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

That Just Happened

Reigning Black

Yes, Ricky Bobby. ... That, just happened.

After asking aloud to myself if the Spurs were going to be any kind of a player in free-agency earlier today, it would only seem fitting that Richard Jefferson would decide to opt out of a 15.2 million-dollar contract. Suffice it to say, I saw this coming a mile away -- and if you believe that I'd love to sell you your next... anything, really.

Whether this turns out to be a great move on Jefferson's behalf or as poor of a decision as it would seem -- opting out of a final year that would've paid him around two-times his current worth -- is neither here nor there as it pertains to a Spurs fan. So rather than get bogged down in the inconsequential, I think it'd be wise to address what this means. What exactly are the implications and ramifications for the Spurs?

How much money does this save the Spurs?

Had Jefferson exercised his option, the Spurs were looking to be in the neighborhood of $10 million over the luxury tax. Meaning they'd be paying two dollars for every one dollar over the threshold. So with him opting out, the Spurs are likely to now spend up to the threshold without exceeding it. With Jefferson's decision to opt out, Peter Holt's bottom line just improved by $25 million, should the Spurs stay under the tax -- the Spurs were $10 million over the tax, which translates to $20 million (double on every dollar over), and the Spurs would now be in line to collect $5 million in luxury-tax distribution in July, 2011 by simply being under the threshold.

Could Jefferson be re-signed? If so, is it possible that $32-40 million is a better bargain than $15.2 million?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Parker: One More Year (?)

Reigning Black

Thanks to L'Equipe (credit: Sonic21 and Bruno of SpursTalk) we were given some insight into where things stand in regards to Parker's status with the team.

A few thoughts after reading the translated interview:

One More Year.

Coach Pop and Tony have apparently talked and Parker's been made to believe he will not be traded. There were legitimate inquiries into a trade -- with New York and Portland being the major players -- but the Spurs weren't comfortable with the packages and have left them on the table. The Spurs believe they've got one more go of it with the Big Three and that keeping them together for one more year is the most prudent thing to do.

For a Spurs fan, this is the best news possible, all things considered. The likelihood of the Spurs moving Parker for a package that would have made them better in the short-term -- the championship window short-term -- were all but nil. Even if this group's ceiling is seemingly another second-round exit with nothing more than the addition of Splitter, Anderson and a possible low-level vet and/or a LLE-type player, you've got to give it a shot -- Duncan's career is winding to a close, Ginobili's not getting any younger and you can't throw away the opportunity to win a championship when it's in your midst (however small that opportunity it is).

Friday, June 25, 2010

The (15-Million Dollar) Situation - Part 1

Reigning Black

For the past 20 years the small forward position has been a vital component for the San Antonio Spurs success. From Sean Elliott to Bruce Bowen, the Spurs have been fortunate having a versatile and reliable defender manning the small forward position. Luckily enough, these two players were also automatic riflemen from the perimeter (most specifically the short- corner 3) as David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all garnered Wendy Peffercorn-like attention year after year; consequently leaving these two lethal unguarded snipers locked, loaded and ready to fire. Elliott and Bowen's ability to hit their mark enhanced the team's overall efficiency and resulted in a well-oiled offensive machine throughout their successful Spurs tenure.

Unfortunately, as the baton was relayed to Richard Jefferson a year ago, he wasn't the replacement part the Spurs thought they traded in for; which didn't allow the Spurs to shift into fifth-gear and cruise through the regular-season and playoffs to meet their lofty expectations.

When the Spurs acquired Jefferson they thought they had found a decent enough part. Jefferson was coming off a career year in Milwaukee where he shot an astounding 40-percent from the three in a whopping 292 attempts. So when that part didn't manage to fire correctly and allow the rest of the machine to thrive, the Spurs organization and fans alike were left scratching their collective heads.

At the same time, most analysts believed Jefferson's athletic ability would translate well on the defensive end, especially under the tutelage of one of the best defensive coaches in the game. This wasn't the case due to the kind of athlete Jefferson is: a straight-line athlete with significant leaping ability who lacks in the agility and lateral quickness found in the typical defensive stalwart. So after the disappointing year, many questions need to be addressed.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Reigning Black

Reigning Black

It's been a long time coming . . .

The road to Reigning Black was long, winding and anything but predictable. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth -- it's been an interesting journey that's led us to this destination.
But that was then, this is now and... here... we... go!

We're (Eric Salinas and Nick Kapsis) embarking on an endeavor to document, report, analyze and discuss all things San Antonio Spurs and the NBA. Life-long Spurs and NBA fans, our goal is to bring a passion we've cultivated for over 20-years to the fore and to have it put forth in a fashion that is both informative and entertaining.

We're die-hard basketball junkies, Hemingway we ain't.

Born and bred South Texas boys, we were blessed with the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time: David Robinson arrived; Tim Duncan came a decade later; a Big 3 blossomed; and what ensued was a Black Reign of NBA dominance spanning more than a decade.

The San Antonio Spurs aren't new to success, they've been doing it for years. And for the last 20-years they've been one of the preeminent franchises in all of sports, boasting a .700 winning-percentage, reaching 7 conference-finals and going 4-0 in Finals appearances. In 20 seasons they've managed to miss the playoffs once.

As in one.


That's 19-1, folks; truly a testament to their professionalism, basketball acumen and penchant for hard work -- successful longevity in the NBA or any professional sport are all but synonymous with such qualities. Our basketball fandom just happened to coincide with the Golden Age of our hometown's team. Again, right place... right time. `Basketball been very good to me (us),' as the freshly painted spirit of Sammy Sosa is channeled.

But this blog's name was borne from one fateful day in June, 1997:

And the rest, as they say...