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alh1020 10-10-12 08:11 AM

Spurs still hunting for Parker’s backup
 
Last offseason, the Spurs tried to do the backup point guard thing right.

Not long after the NBA lockout ended, the team signed T.J. Ford — a veteran, pass-first, traditional point guard straight out of central casting — to play behind All-Star Tony Parker.

And for all 14 games the former University of Texas star appeared in wearing silver and black, it worked.

When a spinal injury nudged Ford into early retirement, coach Gregg Popovich handed the backup job to Gary Neal, a converted shooting guard, and held his breath.

Eight months later, on the cusp of a new season, that’s exactly how the Spurs’ depth chart still stands.

“Somehow or another, we never end up with a pure point to back up,” Popovich said. “We have these guys we sort of push into it somehow or another.”

On a team that returns every major player from a squad that went 50-16 and made the Western Conference finals last season, backup point guard is the one spot that remains unsettled.

Neal would be Parker’s primary backup “if we had a regular-season game tomorrow,”
Popovich said, but fan favorite Patty Mills and second-year player Cory Joseph remain in the mix.

The jockeying for the position continues tonight, as the Spurs play their second preseason game — and first against an NBA opponent — against Atlanta at the AT&T Center.

“It’s a very competitive environment, and that’s what I love about it,” said Mills, an affable 26-year-old Australian who will miss tonight’s game with a sprained right ankle. “We come out here and go at each other really hard and make each other better. Then we go back in the locker room and laugh with each other.”

Neal was the first point guard off the bench in the Spurs’ preseason-opening win over Montepaschi Siena, ending with a team-high 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

He also logged two assists, made only one turnover and earned high marks for keeping the second-unit offense on track.

“He’s significantly better now at doing point guard-type things than he was last year,” Popovich said.

Score-first guards all, none of the candidates for the role of Parker’s backup would pass muster at the Steve Nash School of Pure Point-Guard Playing.

Mills’ claim to fame in his short time with the Spurs: Exploding for 61 points combined in the final two regular-season games last season.

Joseph, a 21-year-old former UT standout, spent much of last season in the Development League but made palpable strides in his shooting and ball-handling over the summer. He had 10 points, two assists and three steals in the preseason opener.

(Another one-time point guard hopeful, French rookie Nando De Colo, has seen most of his playing time so far at off guard.)

“They’re seriously fighting hard,” Parker said. “It’s going to be Pop’s decision, but all of them are working hard.”

Neal, who is entering his third NBA season at age 28, admits it took him awhile to grow comfortable as a point guard last season.

The fact that he had to replace Ford, a more conventional point guard, made the transition more difficult.

“My whole career, I’ve judged my game on how I shoot the ball and the points I score,” Neal said. “When you play the point, it’s not really about that.”

Like a baseball manager who will play a slugger out of position in order to get his bat in the lineup, Popovich used Neal at point to get his scoring in the rotation.

Despite the position change, Neal’s final numbers looked remarkably similar to those he posted during an All-Rookie campaign in 2010-11 — 9.1 points per game, 2.1 assists, 1.1 turnovers.

“For somebody who is such a prolific scorer and is so used to doing just that, it was a tough adjustment for him,” Popovich said.

“Under those circumstances, he did a great job of trying to figure out what we needed him to do.”

Though not quite out of central casting, Neal is doing his best to act the part.

Spurs Nation

spurduncan21 10-10-12 09:15 AM

If Neal's leading in the spot to be the primary backup, boy are we in trouble. Regardless of the significan improvement POp is boasting about, I can't seem to shake the inefficiently displayed during the OLc series. There is a reason we did well when big 3 were oncourt together and why we did terrible when one was out. Not to say TD is the point but man did the offensive efficiency drop off a cliff when Manu or TP went out. I think Anyone other than Neal should be in the running for backup pg. either keep Neal as SG or use him as trade bait along with Blair

JuanCaca 10-10-12 09:51 AM

he is actually playing better point.... OR cia pop is showcasing "the versatile" neal to eventual trade??

Jose_TheGenius 10-10-12 11:13 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JuanCaca (Post 1285448)
he is actually playing better point.... OR cia pop is showcasing "the versatile" neal to eventual trade??

problem is that he's playing preseason and he's decent. once the regular season starts and quick guys like Chris Paul half court press him (like last year), he's likely to turn it over and doesn't have the speed to escape it either. with his low salary, we won't get anything significant in return either.

Rzarector7 11-10-12 03:38 AM

Neal once again sucks at backup PG as we saw again! This is not CIA POP it is just idiot stubborn POP! Mills is far better at that role as I told someone in here to begin with although they said Neal was decent on D and working on backup PG! Most knew he was horrible there, once again it proves we need a backup PG or several to fill the role here or there, surely as hell it is not NEAL. He sucks at D and as a backup PG, he is not a thing but a specialist..

SleepyAdamII 11-10-12 09:00 AM

Neal should not be our PG, thats pretty fair to say. Although early in the season I wasn't impressed with Mills, he had some weird passes, not much playing time, seemed a bit out of control in trying to do too much. I am a proponent of giving Joseph some time, he seems to keep the TOs low, and looks comfortable running 1 or 2 plays. pretty quick cat as well.

Money4Nothing 11-10-12 09:03 AM

Mills making a case for the backup PG spot last night!

$

Jose_TheGenius 11-10-12 12:35 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by JuanCaca (Post 1285448)
he is actually playing better point.... OR cia pop is showcasing "the versatile" neal to eventual trade??

i got nothing but love for you JuanCaca, but Neal's horrendous play shouldn't be justified by any trade speculation.

the guy can't play PG and he's too short to play SG. you can also add "gets burned by SG's" to the resume so far too. i don't want to turn this into a Bonner thread, but how we suffer overall defensively with trying to help Bonner every time he's in there (perimeter or paint), the same goes for Neal in his position.

we need some Peppermint PATTY!

WILLTHETHRILL 11-10-12 02:16 PM

I've said this for years Neal is not an NBA PG period. The guy is a two guard. I don't like him at point. I do not like him on the floor at the same time with SJax either. I think Pop likes him at the one because with Green and Manu when do you play this guy? When do you play Nando? I don't get why they have so many small guards either. It was clear that they needed to address some issues in the off season. All they did is was sign Nando and draft another small guard in Denmon. I don't get the repeditive components of this team. They need size up front. They need more athletic players. Hopefully they re-sign manu for cheap next summer and clear the cap more. Bonner has a million buck buyout so he will be dealt no doubt. Back to the topic though, I think they need to play Neal spot minutes at the two only. Mills should be the primary backup PG.

parkfan 11-10-12 06:58 PM

I am hoping the manu retires at the end of this year.

Dulce 11-10-12 08:26 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by parkfan (Post 1286893)
I am hoping the manu retires at the end of this year.

:shocked why??

Money4Nothing 11-10-12 09:12 PM

Mills starting tonight!

$

Mombear 11-10-12 09:15 PM

Moneyyyyyyyyyyyyy chat!!!!

Rzarector7 11-10-12 10:13 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WILLTHETHRILL (Post 1286889)
I've said this for years Neal is not an NBA PG period. The guy is a two guard. I don't like him at point. I do not like him on the floor at the same time with SJax either. I think Pop likes him at the one because with Green and Manu when do you play this guy? When do you play Nando? I don't get why they have so many small guards either. It was clear that they needed to address some issues in the off season. All they did is was sign Nando and draft another small guard in Denmon. I don't get the repeditive components of this team. They need size up front. They need more athletic players. Hopefully they re-sign manu for cheap next summer and clear the cap more. Bonner has a million buck buyout so he will be dealt no doubt. Back to the topic though, I think they need to play Neal spot minutes at the two only. Mills should be the primary backup PG.

Man this post is dead on!

parkfan 11-10-12 11:11 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Dulce (Post 1286895)
:shocked why??

Unless he is willing to take a significant pay cut I dont want him back on the spurs. I dont want him to go to another team either though so I would rather him retire. He is injured to much and is taking longer after each injury to get back to his speed. This for his sake as well as the spurs I would like to see him retire.

Rzarector7 11-11-12 12:23 AM

Neal with the goods tonight, volume shooter and not a backup PG nor a defender, just a specialist like I told this other guy in the offseason! He fits that role there well, when he is HOT LOOK OUT! He is not the backup PG though. Good game from Neal tonight though he saved us.

Jose_TheGenius 11-11-12 05:14 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Rzarector7 (Post 1286902)
Neal with the goods tonight, volume shooter and not a backup PG nor a defender, just a specialist like I told this other guy in the offseason! He fits that role there well, when he is HOT LOOK OUT! He is not the backup PG though. Good game from Neal tonight though he saved us.

also give into account we were playing the Kings. no way he goes off like that against a veteran playoff team. we'll see how he plays vs. the Lakers next.

Spurd_On 11-11-12 05:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Jose_TheGenius (Post 1286929)
also give into account we were playing the Kings. no way he goes off like that against a veteran playoff team. we'll see how he plays vs. the Lakers next.

Fair enough. But if he is used in the Lakers game in the same capacity (which seems unlikely if Parker is healthy) and performs well, I think Rzarector has a good assessment.

clovisnmspurfan 11-12-12 02:48 PM

Mills.


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