Cory Joseph and the San Antonio Spurs Art of Player Development

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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.

Spurs Wars Episode IV: A New “NOPE”

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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.

Spurs loss to Memphis sheds light on December struggles

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“God gave us memory so that we might have roses in December.”

-James M. Barrie

Grayed and grounded by winter and the Memphis Grizzlies, the San Antonio Spurs continued their stumble through December, securing their first losing month since 1999.

How Patty Mills return stabilizes the Spurs

Game Recaps

A barrage of injuries, losses, and exhausting overtime games has made the harsh cold of December brutal and seemingly never-ending for the San Antonio Spurs. But Sunday night’s surprising return of Patty Mills and a potentially stabilizing 110-106 victory over the Houston Rockets offers some respite for the weary defending champions.

Mills was shaky in his return, as could be expected after months removed from the basketball court following offseason shoulder surgery. A bevy of missed shots (0-4 from three-point territory) and turnovers (five) did little to dissuade his teammates’ enthusiasm for the hyperactive point guard’s return.

“His energy, just his activity was contagious. It brought a huge spark to the team,” Tim Duncan said. “Even he’ll say he didn’t play the greatest, but he made such a huge impact just being back out there.”

The Spurs confidence in Mills paid off down the stretch, with Mills scoring eight points and pressuring James Harden into a decisive turnover in the closing minute while playing almost the entirety of the fourth quarter.

“[It was rough] with the grind that the guys were going through, coming into the locker room knowing that they were tired and that there weren’t that many subs to give them a break,” Mills said. “It was disappointing thing for me because I felt helpless.”

Mills returned to a standing ovation from the San Antonio crowd, infusing the AT&T Center with energy. But perhaps his greatest contribution was some measure of a return to normalcy.

With the celebration over, the San Antonio Spurs go back to work

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Granted a few more moments to savor their 2014 NBA Championship, San Antonio spurs coach Gregg Popovich permitted himself a fist pump, Tim Duncan slid his diamond encrusted ring over his pinky—having now won enough to necessitate a sizing for each finger—and even Kawhi Leonard let loose a smile.

The Spurs sent the summer celebrating what Duncan called his most fulfilling championship, allowing for rare media appearances as the Larry O’Brien trophy ventured on a world tour and teammates took extended vacations across the globe.

And just like that it was over. With the banner unveiled and the rings put away for safekeeping, the Spurs got back to business with an at-times messy 101-100 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.