- Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN Staff Writer
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A 12-year-old kid was suspended from school for having Matt Bonner's likeness shaved into his head. Bonner responded by giving him and his folks free tickets to Game 2 of the Spurs-Clippers series at the AT&T Center on Thursday night.
There's a ton of insight to glean from Chris Ballard's tremendous profile on Tim Duncan in Sports Illustrated titled, "21 Shades of Gray." You can read about how Duncan isn't much of a Kevin Garnett fan, how Duncan first bonded with Gregg Popovich on the beach at St. Croix and how Stephen Jackson is "humbled" to count Duncan as a friend. Ballard also offers this very telling portrait of what happens when the Spurs call timeout: "When the Spurs call a timeout and you see the San Antonio coaches huddle a few feet from the bench, it's not to hash out strategy. Rather, Pop is giving Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker time with the team. 'You'll see Timmy over there with a young kid, talking about how he should do this or that or what we meant by such and such,' says Popovich. 'I'll come back to the timeouts sometimes and say, "Are we square?" and Timmy will say, "Yeah, we got 'em."' Popovich pauses. 'He commands that type of respect because he doesn't demand it, if that makes sense.'"
Should Tim Duncan have been a more public celebrity over the course of his legendary career? Would the NBA and the Spurs been enriched had Duncan given us a deeper glimpse of both his interior and external life? Alex Dewey of Gothic Ginobili grapples with these questions and more.
For years, Popovich has rationed the minutes of his most important players, readily sitting Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker during tough stretches of the schedule. In doing so, Popovich has raised eyebrows around the league and the ire of basketball populists who feel that the Spurs owe it to the ticket-paying public to put the best players on the floor. History sides with Popovich and you don't have to look much farther than the Spurs' current series with the Clippers -- a younger, sprightlier team -- to appreciate Popovich's strategy. But there's also an ancillary benefit to sitting Duncan, Parker and Ginobili periodically: It means that secondary guys get the ball in meaningful spots during games that matter.
As Zach Lowe of The Point Forward documents in pictures, the Spurs' ability to stretch the floor, mastery of the misdirection, and constant movement have the Clippers' young big men twisted in knots.
Bill Simmons at Grantland, on the Spurs: "Thank God for the Spurs, an offensive powerhouse that has single-handedly saved the playoffs from turning into a rockfight. They're headed for a second sweep while pacing the league in points per game (103.7), shooting (49.1 percent) and 3-point shooting (42.7 percent). It's the best version of international basketball we've ever seen -- the Spurs might as well be Argentina or Spain, only with superior players. Everything revolves around their slash-and-kick guys (Parker and Ginobili), their 3-point shooters (too many to count) and their versatile big men (Duncan, Diaw and Splitter, all of whom know where to go and what to do). And unlike Nash's high-scoring Suns teams from back in the day, San Antonio can also rebound and protect the rim, which makes them our single most dangerous playoff favorite since the 2001 Lakers. They aren't just beating teams, they're eviscerating them."
Boris Diaw might best illustrate the strength of the Spurs' system and culture. Here's a guy who, as recently as 12 weeks ago, was a punch line for his conditioning and an irritant to Bobcats coach Paul Silas. Now he's the starting center for the title favorites. When you watch Diaw dig in defensively for the Spurs, it’s a reminder of what a dominant role effort plays in defensive makeup. Prior to landing on the Spurs' doorstep, Diaw hadn't played much defense in years, but here he is grinding away for Popovich in May. On the offensive end, Diaw passes with so much confidence, and his high-low deliveries to Duncan are a reminder of his refined skill set as a big man. Yet another instance of the R.C. Buford telling the league, “If you’re not going to use that guy, we’ll take him.” At 48 Minutes of Hell, Jesse Blanchard has more on Diaw.
Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell: "You’ve heard me say it before, but the Spurs’ ability to attract a championship supporting cast was fueled by veterans who signed on for an opportunity to chase a championship alongside Tim Duncan. Duncan was the draw. Not the city of San Antonio. And never the promise of more money. It was always Tim Duncan. Not anymore. The draw is the opportunity to play in Gregg Popovich’s system. It’s Tony Parker. It’s Spurs culture. It’s Pop himself. It’s the confidence that the front office can always shore things up by adding a Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter or Kawhi Leonard. It’s the confidence that the front office will manage its books and never the saddle the team with a cancerous contract. It’s the confidence in the ability to improve through the internal development of guys like Danny Green. The Spurs have it figured out. Players understand this."
Paul Garcia of Project Spurs on the quiet professionalism of rookie Kawhi Leonard, about whom Popovich once said, "He just does his work and goes home."
Steve Perrin of SB Nation on Gregg Popovich, the Alchemist.
Jordan Heimer and I shower the Spurs with much love on the most recent episode of The Clippers Podcast, presented by ESPN LA.
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