Full Court Press: The Inaugural edition

Posted on 06. Oct, 2009 by Kris Kantrud in NBA

What follows is the first installment of The Full Court Press. A weekly column that will cover the past week’s NBA action and news, from the perspective of one humble basketball fan. With Training Camps now open and the pre-season having just begun , the inaugural edition of The Full Court Press will consist of a random look at the eventful summer that was. Today, I’ll talk about early news out of training camp, and a look ahead at the 2009-10 season to be.

New Ingredients’-Same Old Flavour: An aged to perfection bottle of the 2010 San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs for me, are much like wine. It’s taken years of growth, patience, and maturation, but I have finally come to enjoy, understand, and admit, what a great Spurs team offers a basketball fan. This coincidentally enough has taken about the same evolution as my appreciation for a nice merlot.

When Duncan was drafted I was thirteen years old and interested in alley-oops, catchy nicknames, and fancy sneaker commercials. Duncan and the Spurs represented none of that. They had the consummate professional in ‘The Admiral’ David Robinson setting the organization’s tone, a small market, and now a rookie that spent four years in college and was much more likely to execute a flawless defensive slide than an above the rim facial. With the Twin Towers in place the Spurs then built a dynasty by signing the right dimensional role players and drafting several overseas products that lacked hype and built-in marketability.

These Spurs teams were calculating as opposed to attacking. They were suffocating instead of overpowering. Never did they pound on their chests and gloat during winter wins, preferring to save any celebration for trophy ceremonies in June. They were a team of basketball players first, and basketball players on a team second. Ultimately thanks to their team-first, low key, always excellent but never extravagant exploits, the San Antonio Spurs were labelled as boring, and I, for the most part, bought it.

It was over the duration of these years though that a more refined style of basketball started to take hold of me, much like my taste for happy hour preferences. While I went from swiping random brews from my old man’s garage fridge during the first Spurs championship, to Keg stands and shots by their next, it wasn’t until their last one in 2007 that I began to occasionally sip on a glass of red or white. Until that point wine had been a stuffy afterthought to me, reserved for the pretentious and (there’s that word again) boring.

Thanks to the natural progression of time and age, I have now acquired the proper senses to appreciate that both the Spurs and a fine bottle are for purists who truly understand the subtleties that can exist on a basketball court and within a tall slender bottle.
When looking back at the Spurs dynasty it is obvious they were anything but boring. Tony Parker has been an absolute killer in the open court with his blinding speed. Manu Ginobili is a once in a lifetime international talent who has made jaw dropping drives and has hit all kinds of clutch daggers-almost like a broken record. And Duncan is an absolute marvel on both ends of the floor, serving as the leader on some of the best teams in league history. The Spurs may not have had that Showtime LA flavour, Boston’s hall of fame history, or the city of Chicago’s wanting to be like Mike but the Spurs had their MO. First off they won with a face of the franchise who barely wants his face shown, then their French Point Guard marries Hollywood’s least desperate housewife all while finding a way to actually keep Stephen Jackson out of the news and on a championship team. The intrigue was there but you had to find it. Yet it was hard to appreciate these qualities amongst the backdrop of their unfair labels while still searching for my own higher level of sophistication.

Now with Duncan just having just a few elite years left, Tony in his prime, Manu in a contract year, Richard Jefferson coming in to bust the salary cap and opponents defensive schemes wide open, and a stellar supporting cast (the kind that hasn’t been seen in San An for a few years) it seems this may be the Spurs’ last run to keep their dynasty going. Thanks to experience alone, much like a wine, this team is a threat on any given night. If healthy though, and if all the different intangibles fall into place accordingly, this Spurs squad could unleash some more of the incomparable full flavoured splendour that has been seen from them in years past.
I am just glad that I reached a maturation level where I can appreciate their splendour, and only hope that the Spurs have at least one last bottle left to uncork.

Beyond the Arc

I have read that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, I have seen that a zebra never changes its stripes, but somehow the 30 general managers in this league continue to fork out money that most of us will only ever dream about to guys whom they hope can rejuvenate their careers, or be a shade of their old self in a new setting. Whichever animal or cliché is applied, there is no denying the fact that some things never change. Or more appropriately some people never change. Certain aspects and traits are built into one’s personality and generally cannot be altered despite all the intentions of them and those around them. History has proven this fact time and time again. Robert Deniro won’t turn down a paycheque, Oprah can tell you how to lose weight but can’t follow what she preaches, and Brittney Spears will always be a school girl. This fact gives way to the following concerns heading into the new NBA season…

1. Shaquille O’neal is the biggest specimen in Cleveland but can he really handle having the second biggest ego?

Right now the media frenzy during the Cavs’ training camp has been centered on the Big Witness Protection. Seeing as he is the newcomer with four rings, always supplies ample quotes, and naturally alters any atmosphere, this is no surprise. But come the regular season when LeBron is the one winning games and Shaq is just a supporting player it is hard to believe that he won’t have a tough time standing in the shadows answering secondary questions as the reigning MVP gets all the credit and attention. Sure, Shaq is saying publicly that he has accepted the fact that he is no longer the Shaq of old and is willing to be a complimentary player. That may even be true. But on Miami-Shaq was still the city’s biggest star, throwing the south beach parties and doing all the cover shoots. Wade did the damage on the court but let Shaq have the limelight off it. In Phoenix, Shaq had Nash and Amare as NBA superstars but they aren’t the type of guys who need the camera, who have to be introduced into the stadium last. Shaq came in and maintained that role. Now in Cleveland this is all about to change. Shaq is in the King’s Court. When was the last time Shaq wasn’t introduced in the Starting line-up last on his own team? When was the last time Shaq didn’t have the biggest endorsement contracts in his own city?

2. The Magic better be prepared to see their newest act disappear

Vince Carter has all the talent in the world. We know this based on highlight reels, dunk contests, and a decade’s worth of gaudy stat lines. Vince could perfectly and easily carry out any task on a basketball court at any given time. Only thing is he only really does it when he feels like it. Some dump on Vince for not making the most of his abilities and becoming the dominant performer he could be. Such accusations are unfair because he just simply isn’t wired that way. It’s a biological disposition. He’s talented, plays great some of the time and well most of the time, but he just doesn’t have the drive to do it every night and every play. There is no shame in that. Problem is his new coach is Stan Van Gundy, and his new team just lost in the finals. The coach, the team, and the fan base are all hoping that their newly acquired perennial all-star will lift them over that last hurdle with his world-class athleticism and scoring prowess. SVG accepts nothing but max effort and total concentration for every second spent on the court but Vince has never been that guy. Hedo Turkoglu, the man Vince is supposed to be an upgrade for won over the fans with his ability to deliver the clutch shots and leave it all on the court. The Magic traded a guy who fit into the system, did what the coach asked and left it all on the floor for a guys who has never accomplished anything in the postseason and has had his desire questioned since his sophomore year at UNC. Stan Van Gundy might have more talent but is going to have to work harder than ever trying to motivate his new go-to guy. Last I checked the Go-To Scorers on the other teams that go deep in the post season don’t need help being motivated.

Is this my inside voice talking or do I really Believe It

Washington Wizards-55 Wins and top three seed in the East

One of the three superpowers (Boston, Cleveland, and Orlando) in the east will run into some form of trouble and win around 50 games leaving an opening for one team to jump into the elite class of the east. This will be the Wizards’ chance to pounce.

The criticisms are obvious: lack of defence, they had a 45 win ceiling when clicking a few years ago, and Gilbert hasn’t played for practically two years. However, Flip Saunders wins ball games. Regular season ones at least. They have three all-star talents that will all have above average years. Mike Miller will come back strong after a down year, and after a not so thrilling run in Minnesota Randy Foye will flourish with the change of scenery and the title of role player/bench scorer cast upon him.

With the shot-clock winding down some thoughts to ponder…

• How many points per game should we expect from Kevin Durant this year? Is 29.5 too high? It almost feels too low and will he lead the league?
• Hedo Turkoglu is reportedly dead tired and Chris Bosh is hurt. This is a bad start to what could be CB4’s goodbye Canada tour.
• So what teams in the West won’t make the playoffs? Even the Clippers seem to be on the mendoza line.
• I know Stephen Jackson has done the Warriors a disservice by publicly demanding trades, but if you were a contender and looking for that missing spark wouldn’t you want to trade for him?
• A happy Lamar Odom is a valuable Lamar Odom and these days Lamar does seem happy. I mean he married Khloe Kardashian and is on every magazine cover in the country.
• Recent Hall of Fame inductee Jerry Sloan might be facing his toughest coaching task yet with the Boozer trade demands and front court minute distribution. Could be more BS than the no BS legend is willing to deal with.
• The Grizzlies might be the most entertaining on court bottom feeder the NBA has seen since…well, ever.
• Who else can’t wait for the Minnesota Timberwolves? Al Jefferson and Kevin Love might be my favourite young front court duo since Kevin Garnett was lacing up next to whoever Kevin Garnett laced up next to during his first NBA season. Outside of AJ this team should be competing for the NCAA championship in March.


KRIS KANTRUD

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2 Responses to “Full Court Press: The Inaugural edition”

  1. Cory Martin

    07. Oct, 2009

    Great read, I too have come around to the Spurs over time, but the key phrase is “staying healthy”, if not, they don’t stand a chance, and I think your putting too much stock in RJ. I totally agree with you about Stephen Jacks though, after all, he does have a ring that he won with the aforementioned Spurs. I am excited to read more

    Reply to this comment
  2. Nolan Shulman

    07. Oct, 2009

    Great Job Kris…..

    Now quit hating on Jonny Flynn. He’s going to make you rethink your assessment of the Twolves.

    Reply to this comment

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