Sacramento Kings 95, San Antonio Spurs 92 – Aldridge Struggles in Debut

Game Recaps
LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio Spurs

Oct 8, 2015; Sacramento, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge (12) dribbles the ball as Sacramento Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein (00) defends during the first quarter at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Crafting a post-centric offense requires a highly coordinated attack, which is something these San Antonio Spurs haven’t had time to build this early in the process—especially with key players missing. In LaMarcus Aldridge’s first game, the prize free agent acquisition struggled, scoring just eight points and three rebounds on 3-10 shooting.

Turning a back to the basket also means turning a back to defenses, so it’s imperative to have a read on the floor to know what angles are available to attack, and what room there is to counter. Likewise, passing to a stationary player involves some nuance, and giving defenses a target to hone in on can create turnovers and start such possessions on bad footing.

Without Tim Duncan or Tony Parker in the lineup to help move the pieces and organize such actions, Aldridge looked uncomfortable in his new surroundings—hoisting early shots, spinning into traffic, and missing on a few of his patented turnaround jumpers. Though there were some individual positive tidbits to glean from the starting lineup, as a unit they seemed discombobulated in the Spurs 92-95 loss to the Sacramento Kings.

Kyle Anderson, Spurs

It Begins – What to Keep Track of in the Spurs Preseason Opener

Preview

Any concerns that the San Antonio Spurs might not resemble themselves after an offseason of considerable roster turnover were quickly dispelled when the team announced that Tim Duncan, Boris Diaw, Manu Ginobili, Gregg Popovich and Tony Parker would not make the trip to Sacramento for their preseason opener against the Kings.

After all, there are few things more familiar to San Antonio than a bunch of strangers on the court whilst the elder statesmen get some rest before the first game action of the season.

Disappointing as it might be to delay the public unveiling of the Big Three and LaMarcus Aldridge, there are plenty of questions that need addressing before we can see how it all fits—that in itself is going to take a long, sometimes arduous  process that won’t play out until the team has faced adversity well into the season.

So ahead of tonight’s game against the Sacramento Kings, here are some things to keep track of in the first look at the Spurs this season:

Western Conference Arms Race: The Dallas Mavericks and Rajon Rondo

The Front Office

rondo

The San Antonio Spurs are vulnerable, facing the prospect of expending tightly budgeted energy to dig themselves out of their winter doldrums. The Oklahoma City Thunder are, if only for a little while longer, outside of the playoff picture.

Never before has the Western Conference been so wide open, with legitimate championship aspirations running from playoff seeds one through eight. Golden State, nigh unstoppable under rookie head coach Steve Kerr, has dominated the entire year; yet as ESPN’s Ethan Strauss pointed out, a recent six-game winning streak netted the Warriors only a one-game lead over the Portland Trail Blazers.

With so many powers vying for supremacy, teams have gotten an early start on pushing for roster upgrades. The Western Conference has seen a proliferation of arms in recent weeks, which could continue to reverberate past the trade deadline.

It’s difficult to say how each move will ultimately shape the Western Conference playoff picture, but we can take a look at some of the early returns, speculation, and where it all leaves the Spurs in an ever-changing landscape.

Cory Joseph and the San Antonio Spurs Art of Player Development

Features

Cory Joseph and Andrew Wiggins

The San Antonio Spurs notably returned the entirety of their 2014 NBA Championship roster, adding only rookie Kyle Anderson to shore up lagging doughnut responsibilities. However, that the same cast and crew are back does not mean larger roles aren’t up for grabs.

Last year Cory Joseph was more stunt double than backup, on the court only to spare Tony Parker the most dangerous rigors of an NBA season. But if each season writes a new story, Joseph is the background character the author found a little more time to flesh out in the second book.

Do you see what Manu sees? The Charlotte Euro Step.

Better Basketball

Few things have come easy for the San Antonio Spurs this season, and that held true in their 98-93 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. Clinging to a two-point lead halfway through the fourth quarter, Manu Ginobili found enough lift in his legs to give renewed life to the Spurs, driving baseline and, with two long strides, slithering around the defense with his patented exaggerated Euro Step.

Yes, the physical skills are eroding some, but Ginobili’s athleticism was never elite. The key to Ginobili’s game has always been the ability to see the court two or three plays ahead of everybody else. So how did he find the gaps in the defense to stave off the Hornets?

Manu Ginobili Fuels Spurs’ Engine in Victory over Hornets

Game Recaps

manu ginobiliIn hostile territory with momentum turned and yet another large first half lead having dwindled to a single point in the fourth quarter, the San Antonio Spurs abandoned execution and rode the individual brilliance of Manu Ginobili to a 98-93 victory over the Charlotte Hornets.

Clinging to an 86-85 lead with four minutes remaining, a series of dribble hand-offs failed to gain the Spurs any traction against an active Hornets’ defense. With less than 10 seconds remaining on the shot clock, Matt Bonner flipped the ball back to Ginboili, curling from the top of the key to his right towards the rim.

With Cody Zeller in his path and the ever looming Bismack Biyombo forming a wall behind him, Ginobili lofted a hanging, twisting prayer with his left hand and all momentum fading to his right, salvation found as the ball settled to the bottom of the net.

And so it was that every Hornets run was answered by one of Ginobili’s patented exaggerated Euro steps, knifing drives, or back-breaking three-pointers. In nearly 24 minutes Ginobili provided 27 points on 14 shots, yet it almost wasn’t enough.

Gameday Shoot Around with Truth About Its Kyle Weidie

Gameday Shoot Around

After visiting with the President and exploring our nation’s capital the San Antonio Spurs are set to face the Washington Wizards again. In their previous meeting it was Cory Joseph and Boris Diaw that carried the Spurs to victory. Once again we spoke with Kyle Weidie of the fantastic Washington Wizards blog Truth About It discusses point guards, the last game, and what the Wizards need to break through against the Spurs.

Spurs win over the Timberwolves just one of those Daye(s)

Game Recaps

It’s been some time since Austin Daye played more than cleanup minutes for the San Antonio Spurs, so the Minnesota Timberwolves can be forgiven if they failed to include him in their scouting report.

Still, allowing a player–scouting report or not–to part your defense like Moses in the Red Sea and throw down anf uncontested dunk hardly seems like something that requires spelling out on the white board.

And yet, with a simple kick-out pass from Boris Diaw, Daye gave a shot fake to dismiss a lone rotating defender, driving all the way from the three-point line as the rest of the Timberwolves’ defense stood still and watched.

Spurs Wars Episode IV: A New “NOPE”

Game Recaps

In “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” the entirety of the Rebel Alliance’s attack plan on the Death Star relies on the exploitation of on flaw in the design: a small opening about two meters wide.

Hosting Star Wars night in the AT&T Center against the Detroit Pistons it was the San Antonio Spurs playing the role of the empire, firing away from the free throw line with the accuracy of a Storm Trooper, missing six in the fourth quarter.

With an opportunity to put the Pistons away, Tim Duncan reentered the game to inbound the ball, an errant pass sealing the Spurs fate as Brandon Jennings (13 points, seven assists) picked up the loose ball and ran the length of the court in less than seven parsecs (or, you know, seconds). The 104-105 loss by the San Antonio Spurs continues a search for any semblance of rhythm in a very disjointed season.

“Of all the losses [this season] it seems that there are a lot of minor mistakes here and there. We’re not where we need to be or want to be,” Spurs guard Danny Green said. “We’re not able to close the way we have in the past and that’s uncharacteristic of this team.”

Greater fortunes seemed in store for the Spurs as they jumped out of the gate with a commanding 37-20 lead in the first quarter. Tony Parker made his long awaited return to the starting lineup and the Spurs responded with good ball movement and spacing, which got Tim Duncan going early, scoring nine of his 15 points in the first quarter.

Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich continued to utilize his hockey-line (5-for-5) substitution patterns, prompting the best game from Jeff Ayres this season (16 points, four rebounds) and another solid game from Boris Diaw (10 points on five shots).

The second half proved less fruitful for the struggling Spurs. Duncan played only a little more than seven minutes in the second half while Parker (three points and two assists in roughly 13 minutes) did not return to the court after halftime.

“He wanted to play, but I’m being conservative,” Popovich said. “He had 13 minutes. That’s good after sitting out as long as he did; make sure he doesn’t reinjure the thing.”

While the Spurs are waiting to add players returning from injury to make them whole, the Pistons have benefited from addition by subtraction. Since jettisoning Josh Smith the Pistons are now 6-0, led by their foreboding front line of Greg Monroe (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Andre Drummond (20 points, 17 rebounds) as well as Jennings, their resurgent point guard.

Overpowering the Spurs, the Pistons used a 33-19 third quarter to overtake San Antonio. A flurry of fourth quarter three-pointers from the Spurs helped retake the lead, but five turnovers and missed free throws down the stretch provided the flaw in the design the upstart Pistons were able to exploit.

In the end, Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy didn’t need an elaborate defense or Death Star. With a one point lead and a fraction of a second remaining, Spurs fans hoping for a sequel of the New Year’s Eve victory over the New Orleans Hornets were disappointed by Van Gundy’s brilliant strategy.

“Build a fucking wall,” Van Gundy shouted in his team’s huddle, a rallying cry that will reverberate in even galaxies far, far away. Out of the timeout the Spurs got a one-in-a-million attempts on a Manu Ginobili tip “shot.” But for those looking for a victory, these were not the Pistons you were looking for.