The Spurs Leading the Pack Debate Verdict

February 10, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

The San Antonio Spurs are off to one of the best starts in NBA history. And when you consider that their historical company has each gone on to win the championship in the respective seasons they started so strongly, it makes you wonder if the Spurs are destined for the same fate.

But we are not trying to gaze into a crystal ball, today.

This debate is not about whether the Spurs will win the NBA Finals, it is about whether they are the best team in the league. And based on what I have read from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer, it seems clear to me that the answer is – Yes, they are (congratulations to Loyal Homer)!

Babe Ruthless does raise some key questions about the Spurs performance to this point in the season. Specifically, he calls into doubt the Spurs record by pointing out that they have what many would consider an easy schedule. And while it is true that they have won the vast majority of those cupcake games, they have faltered when stepping onto the hardwood against steeper competition.

Although I can agree with that assessment, the exact same statement can be made about those other top tier teams that Babe Ruthless points to as challengers to the Spurs. The Boston Celtics have losses to the Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, New Orleans Hornets, and Chicago Bulls, as well as the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors. Likewise, the Heat have lost to the Celtics twice, the Mavs twice, and have also lost to the Magic, as well as Memphis and Indiana.

The same can be illustrated by dissecting the records of the Maverics, Magic, and every other team in the league. Each organization has played more than 50 games, and none are undefeated. And so the fact that the Spurs lost a couple of their 52 games played thus far to other good teams is just not enough evidence to refute their claim as the best in the NBA.

On the flip side, though, Loyal Homer points to some statistics that CANNOT be matched by any other teams in the league.

Only once so far this season have the Spurs lost consecutive games, and that was simply a two-game skid on the road against the Knicks, then in Boston against the Celtics (a very understandable couple of losses). And while those consecutive losses have not been repeated by the Spurs, one feat they have duplicated is following their losses up with a LONG series of consecutive wins.

It should also be noted that their schedule may on the surface appear to be one of the weaker in the league, but the actual average winning percentage of their opponents (.506) has statistically posed a tougher strength of schedule than what the Heat (.477), Celtics (.485), Magic (.493), Lakers (.479), and the Bulls (.482) have each faced.

In all reality, there are still plenty of games left in the season, and the fact that the Spurs have the best record in the NBA right now is no guarantee that they will win the Finals. But teams like the 2007 New England Patriots will tell you that the best team doesn’t always win the championship.

No one can look into a crystal ball and predict which team will win the championship, but you can look at the records and see who has been most dominant – the San Antonio Spurs.

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The Spurs Leading the Pack Debate

February 9, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Loyal Homer and Babe Ruthless.

Well, another NFL season is officially in the books. For those of you now shifting your focus to basketball, let me get you up to speed on how the season has gone thus far…

The Denver Nuggets decided to trade, then not trade, then trade, then not trade Carmelo Anthony.

Cleveland Cavaliers fans were shocked when Zydrunas Ilgauskas and some other guys decided to play ball in Miami with the Heat.

Speaking of the Cavs, that team is plunging the depths of failure to find out just how deep rock-bottom really is. The Cavs are well on the way to becoming the worst team not only in NBA history, but in the entire history of American professional sports with a historic 25-game losing streak.

Finally, with the All-Star break looming on the horizon, the team leading the standings with the best record in the league is… (pause for dramatic effect)… the San Antonio Spurs.

Through the first half of the season, the Spurs have rocketed to an impressive record of 42-8, a full 4.5 games ahead of any other teams in the league. But with the experienced and team-oriented Boston Celtics, the superstar-laden Miami Heat, or the two-time reigning champion Los Angeles Lakers out there – Are the San Antonio Spurs REALLY the best team in basketball at the season midpoint?

According to Loyal Homer, the Spurs record is an indication of the fact that they are the best team in the league while Babe Ruthless feels the Spurs are not the best team, despite their current spot in the standings.

How do you measure the worth of a team? Let the arguments begin!

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The January 2011 Hottest Team in the NBA Debate… Same Old Steady Spurs

January 13, 2011

Read the opposing arguments from Sports Geek and Babe Ruthless.

Every Wednesday on The Sports Fix on WNER 1410, Bleacher Fan and Sports Geek make an appearance with Matt McClusky to discuss our website and talk about hot topics in the world of sports. Two days ago they broke down this weekend’s NFL divisional playoff games. In the breakdowns, Sports Geek referered to the Atlanta Falcons as “solid,” “steady,” and “not spectacular.” Truth be told, it’s kind of hard to argue with those adjectives (Editor’s Note: Duh.). But in context, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

We segue to today’s NBA debate on the hottest NBA team. Now, who gets all the headlines in the NBA? That’s obvious. It’s the Lakers, the Celtics, the Heat, the Magic… blah blah blah. Yes, those teams have all the flash. The pizzazz… or as Sports Geek likes to say, “the flair.” But I challenge you, loyal readers, to take a look at the NBA standings. Which team currently has the best record in the NBA? Not Showtime! Not Beantown! Not South Beach! Not even the home of Disney World, where dreams come true! The best record belongs to a team that resides in the Alamo City!!! How exciting!!!

The San Antonio Spurs currently lead the league, rather comfortably, actually, with an overall record of 33-6. The team is bouncing back from a couple of seasons where, and there’s really no delicate way to put this, many observers believed the players looked old. This is despite the fact that they have won at least 50 games every FULL season (the shortened 1998-1999 season notwithstanding) since 1996-1997, which was pre-Tim Duncan. That’s pretty “solid” and “steady.”

This season the Spurs have been pretty spectacular as we near the halfway point of the season. They are on pace for close to 70 wins. That’s mid-1990’s Bulls territory!

Except, no one’s talking about.

I’d venture to say that the most we’ve heard out of the Spurs this season has revolved around the personal life of point guard Tony Parker. It’s unfortunate that we’ve been caught up in Twitter (see Lebron) and coach/player dispute (see Heat and Lakers) when all along we’ve had the same old steady Spurs.

And yes, it’s still the same old Spurs. Other teams really don’t want to play them. Tim Duncan, who surprisingly is averaging career lows in points, rebounds, and minutes, is still the same guy who needs one more ring to have a hand full, and will still use that backboard to bank a 12 footer. Manu Ginobili is leading the team in scoring as he is averaging a career high in minutes. Of course Parker is still there running the offense. Richard Jefferson brings experience and versatility to the forward position. And DeJuan Blair fills out the starting five. All five of these guys have started the first 39 games, and boy are they on some kind of roll.

I really like the Spurs bench, too. The team has ELEVEN guys on the bench that average at least ten minutes a game. That’s a weapon you know coach Gregg Popovich is glad to have, and hasn’t always had in years past. Some of these guys, like George Hill and Gary Neal, have youth on their side, so they can spell some of the aging veterans. It’s a solid mixture of experience and youth and it’s going to be really tough to beat the boys from the Alamo City. Who cares if maybe they are a little boring?

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The Hate in the NBA Debate

May 6, 2010

Read the opposing arguments from Babe Ruthless and Loyal Homer.

The second round of the NBA playoffs is featuring two matchups which, over recent seasons, have developed into heated and physical rivalries. In the Western Conference it is the San Antonio Spurs versus the Phoenix Suns, and in the East the Boston Celtics versus the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Animosity is shared in both cases, and the games regularly regress into hard fouls, cheap shots, and often blood.

But is this a good thing for the NBA?

Both LeBron James and Doc Rivers have recently commented publicly that they enjoy the heated nature of bitter rivalries. James even references to the 1980s and 1990s when the play between teams like the Celtics and Lakers, or the Pistons and Lakers, was often fierce and physical. According to James and Rivers these very nasty rivalries help drive competition among the teams, and make for a better overall.

The NBA, however, has taken great strides to polish its image in recent years. Heavy emphasis on rivalries for their brutality and (dare I say) violence seems to contradict the image that NBA commissioner David Stern has fought hard to promote.

Is it a good thing for the NBA’s image to have the potential of violence returned to the court with old-fashioned, hate-filled rivalries?

In breaking this question down, Babe Ruthless will argue his belief that these rivalries are good for the NBA, while Loyal Homer will contradict with his own argument that this is not a good thing for the image of the league.

What’s it gonna be? Hugs or haymakers?

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The Hate in the NBA Debate… Throw Them Bows

May 6, 2010

Read the opposing argument from Loyal Homer.

In the style of Justin Timberlake, I’m bringing hatred back.

Where did it go, you ask? I don’t know. But it seems to have been missing in the NBA for a while. The hostile rivalries of the 1980s and 1990s are long gone, and in its place exists a kinder, gentler NBA. Excuse me if I’m not quaking with excitement at the prospect of a neutered NBA. Instead of intense competitions that bring out the best in players, now NBA fans are treated to NBA Lite (“now with fewer calories and less excitement than ever”). As the rivalries died out so did the exhilaration that comes with them. But a glimmer of hope has emerged as of late. A little ruthless aggression has breathed new life into the game, and basketball will be all the better for it.

As Bleacher Fan points out in the introduction to this debate, NBA commissioner David Stern has taken great strides to clean up the tarnished image of the NBA. While I agree that the NBA was in need of commissioner Stern’s image makeover, amidst player-fan riots and players dressing with the flamboyance of Flava Flav, the NBA cannot afford to purge all the edginess from the sport unless he wants to turn the game into a fast paced version of Bocce ball. I maintain that a healthy dose of hostility is exactly what the sport needs to spice up storylines. Plus, commissioner Stern should be happy that NBA headlines are about actual games instead of about where LeBron James will play next season. (Again, for the record I do not think it will be in Cleveland, in spite of this MUST SEE promotional video.)

Bringing a little hate back to basketball is great because it makes the league entertaining again on and off the court. For the casual NBA fan, like myself, it seems that the NBA playoffs last forever, and include practically every team in the league. Don’t get me wrong, they can still be exciting. But just not while teams like the Milwaukee Bucks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Utah Jazz are still in the playoff hunt. The only reason I even knew that the Bucks were in the playoffs was because of the video of Bucks’ mascot’s insane dunk. I actually had to double check to make sure the Thunder was a real team, and, for the record, I am still not convinced (seriously when did that happen?). My attention remains ungrabbed until the NBA Finals, but the heat in the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers matchup has actually made me pay attention. Similarly, things are starting to get interesting between another renewed rivalry between the Spurs and Suns. If this can pique the interest of a non-diehard fan, then it certainly cannot be bad for the sport.

Really and truly it should not even be about what David Stern wants as much as what the people want. I know today’s debate judge, Bleacher Fan, to be a man of the people. Because of that I want to enlist the support of the guys in the cheap seats in my argument. While not a very scientific approach (I apologize to my high school and college statistics teachers), I base this part of my argument off of comments I read left by fans on Web sites discussing the revived rivalries. Because in the end who is better than the fans to determine what they want to see in their sport? For every detractor that wanted to downplay the hate in the game there seemed to be three more that like the excitement and spontaneity that it brought to the game.

To me it just makes sense. Would fans be more entertained by a more reserved game that resembles a tea party, or an all out war on the boards that resembles the Acclaim classic Arch Rivals? I think that is a pretty easy choice.

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The NBA “Too Soon To Sign” Debate – It’s the NBA, Man… Coaches Aren’t Important!

July 8, 2009

Read the debate intro and Bleacher Fan’s argument here.

NBA coaches are as useless as a snooze button on a smoke alarm, right? That’s what some NBA writers would have you believe. No other media covering any other professional league treats coaches with the disrespect NBA media dish out to coaches. You’d think that coaches are a dime a dozen. After all, the NBA is a player’s league, right? That’s why Detroit Pistons General Manager Joe Dumars can sign two free agent players, guard Ben Gordon and power forward Charlie Villanueva, to five year contracts each without having a coach in place. But, Dumars has made a sad, stupid mistake that is going to put the city of Detroit through ever more tough times.

Long-tenured, successful NBA coaches are able to adjust their system and style – slightly – to the talent they have around them. This is due, in large part, to coaches having a close relationship with the General Manager so that the right talent is brought in to fit the coach’s system. That’s why you see coaches like the Utah Jazz’s Jerry Sloan, the San Antonio Spurs’ Gregg Popovich, and the Los Angeles Lakers Phil Jackson become legendary coaches. They are able to influence the personnel decisions and construction of a team so only players suited to their style of coaching become members of their teams.

Dumars has set up his new coach, former Cleveland Cavs assistant John Kuester, for failure. How can Kuester be expected to come into Detroit with no say over the draft or the free agency period? Did Dumars deliberately seek out a coach who was able to manage these two types of players? Was he forced to because he signed them so quickly?

While Dumars has gaffed here, it’s also fair to question the rationale of the players involved. Why would Gordon and Villanueva sign a contract without knowing they’re going to like the man they’ll be playing for in 2009-2010? It’s simple – money. And, that reason isn’t good, it’s dumb. The investment Dumars has made in these two players is considerable compared to the investment in the coach. Which do YOU think is expendable? Yup, it’s the coach, putting the players in a tough spot of coaching change, and further away from what SHOULD be their goal as professional athlete – a championship.

So, why does Dumars not get his coaching situation squared away earlier in the off-season? I have no idea. Do players who are serial money-chasers ever win several championships? Nope (though Latrell Sprewell was able to feed his children). Kind of makes you wonder whether the motivation for Gordon and Villanueva is money, or jewelry. My gut tells me it’s money, which will buy them all the jewelry they want, expect for one ring.

Bottom line, is it easier to find a coach than a player? No. It is MUCH easier to find a player to fit a coach’s system than a coach who can fit a player… let alone TWO players (two players not know for their defense). The timing of Dumars’ coaching hire is as dumb as the player’s decision to sign with a coachless team.