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Old 02-20-07, 05:59 AM
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Spurs Mailbag: Half-full, or half-empty?

Spurs Mailbag: Half-full, or half-empty?

Johnny Ludden
Express-News Staff Writer

Argh, I don't know what to feel after this disappointing(?) road trip.

We proved our ‘D’ could stop the best offense in the league for 43 minutes and even though Howard's buzzer-beater dunk was ridiculous, it shouldn't have even come down to that. We had total control of the game until the fourth quarter. Same with the Heat game, except Wade totally schemed us and went on a tear.

Should I be upset that our record is .500 for the infamous road trip or relieved and hopeful our boys will be able to produce come playoff crunch time? –Kaz, New York

How about a little of both?

If you continue to hold the Spurs to their standards of seasons past – and there’s nothing wrong in doing that – then you’re going to be disappointed. But if you see this season’s team for what it’s been – inconsistent – then the way the trip ended should give you a little optimism.

The Spurs have proven they can compete with anybody, even Dallas. What they have yet to do is show they can consistently beat the elite teams. And, chances are, we probably still won’t know that about them when the playoffs begin.

If Tim, Manu and Tony continue to stay healthy and playing at a high level, the Spurs shouldn’t be completely dismissed as a contender. But they’re going to have to find help from another source and, as of now, I have no clue who’s going to provide it.

We still need a key backup for Tim Duncan. Why not our old friend, Malik Rose? –Deborah O. Stewart, San Antonio

I think the Spurs have bigger needs than a backup for Tim, but you can include me among those longing for a reunion with Malik. And I imagine Malik wouldn’t mind one as well.

But here’s the problem: The Knicks would first have to agree to a buyout with Malik, then the Spurs – as their roster is presently constituted – would have to waive someone to make room for him. And before that happens, Malik and Pop would have to make sure they’re on the same page.

I haven’t seen the Knicks enough to know what kind of shape Malik’s in, but he’s had experience guarding Dirk Nowitzki. And it never hurts to have another defender to throw at Dirk.

Are the Spurs going to make a trade before the trade deadline? Who are they trying to trade away and receive? There is a rumor that Scottie Pippen might join the Spurs. Any comments on that? –Gian, Manila

I still think the Spurs will make another trade prior to the deadline. What do you hear? –Tom, Las Vegas

The Spurs are still looking at possible trades. But considering what they have to offer in return, chances are it would be another small deal.

They wouldn’t mind moving Jackie Butler (nor, I assume, would Jackie mind being moved if it was to a place where he could play) while Beno Udrih probably also would benefit from a change of scenery. Cleveland needs a point guard, and Danny Ferry helped draft Beno, so that’s always a possibility.

But the Spurs aren’t going to move Beno just to move him. If he brings back something that fills a need (and his small contract makes that difficult to do so), that’s one thing. But I’d be a little wary of going into the playoffs with only Jacque backing up Tony.

As for Pippen, he sounds like he would prefer to sign with Miami. The Spurs haven’t ruled out pursuing him, but they’re probably going to wait until after the trade deadline to see who is or isn’t left on their roster.

How many of the Spurs are under contract for next year? –Robby, Longview

Tim, Manu, Tony, Bruce, Francisco, Brent, Beno, Jackie, Robert.

Michael Finley and Fabricio Oberto have player options on their contracts. Bruce’s deal isn’t fully guaranteed. Robert has one more year left, but has talked about retiring.

Matt, Jacque and Melvin Ely will be free agents and the team has an option on James White.

With Tim Duncan winning two MVPs, three Finals victories and three Finals MVPs, is he the best to ever play the game? Meaning better than Jordan. –Reginald Harris, Atlanta

No. But I’d rank him as the best to ever play the game in a Spurs uniform.

When are you going to catch the Mavs? I'm eating crow here. –Angel Lozano, Dallas

I’d say you have at least another two months of crow eating. And, if I were you, I’d also be prepared to continue chowing down long into the summer.

Why isn't Tony playing like he did before he got engaged? I think he has stars in his eyes. –Jean, Schertz

He has a star on his arm, but I don’t know about in his eyes.

Tony averaged 19.8 points and 4.9 assists while shooting 50.6 percent in the 16 games before his engagement. He’s averaging 18.6 points and 5.8 assists while shooting 53.5 percent in the 36 games since.

Why is Manu on the bench? He's the Spurs’ best player on any given night and if your bench sucks then why “promote” them to a starter and put someone who gives it all on the bench?

The first time Pop did this it drove me insane and now he's doing it again. I say get rid of Barry and Finley if they can't deliver, don't sit Manu to Create A Bench and say no trades will be made.

This experiment isn't producing any wins is it? –Jeremy, Baltimore

The “experiment,” as you call it, has produced four wins, as well as four losses. So, record-wise, it’s a wash.

This is what happens all the time in corporate America. You have an employee who sucks at his job, so you promote him to a position where a) he’ll suck less; or b) his suckiness will continue, but in a way that impacts the company less than it previously did.

In either case, the employee gets a better job out of the deal just because he sucked.

Manu’s situation was essentially this, but in reverse. A “promotion by demotion,” so to speak. In other words, he is so good Pop needs him to make up for the poor performance of his co-workers.

I, however, am like you. I would prefer Manu start. (I actually would prefer he start and never come off the court, but have been assured that’s probably not going to happen).

Brent also seemed to be in a good flow coming off the bench before the move, so I don’t think this has benefited him. It was Fin (and basically every other reserve) who was struggling at the time the switch was made.

So here’s what I think is eventually going to happen: Manu will go back to starting (Pop has already started to put him on the floor earlier and earlier); or Fin will replace Brent as the starter. Of course, there’s also the chance everyone settles into their current roles, catches fire and the Spurs steamroll their way to another championship.

Wow, you Spurs fans are worse than Detroit fans. You still have one of the best records in the league and can only complain. –Dan Shere, Detroit

What else is there to do when the rodeo is in town?

Wasn't the acquisition of Chip Engelland supposed to help the Spurs improve their outside shooting and free throws? Have we ever been worse? –Hef, New Braunfels

As a matter of fact, the Spurs have indeed shot worse at the free-throw line. Like, say, from 1993-2006.

The Spurs are shooting 75 percent from the foul line, ranking them 15th in the league, a considerable improvement from last season. If they maintain that pace, it would be the franchise’s highest percentage since the 1992-93 season.

The Spurs’ erratic 3-point shooting has admittedly been a problem in recent weeks, but they still rank fourth in the league at 37.8 percent. Only twice in the previous 10 seasons did they finish with a higher percentage: 2005-06 (.385); and 2000-01 (.407).

But thanks for playing.

Why won't the Spurs trade for Garnett? They should ship Ginobili, Udrih, Butler and a No. 1 and also send Barry to the Clippers to get Maggette. Would that solve the Spurs’ problems? –Dominic, Dallas

Sure it would. There’s just two problems:

1) The deal, as constructed by you, wouldn’t work under the league’s salary-cap rules. 2) The Timberwolves probably would have little interest in trading the cornerstone of their franchise for: a talented, yet 29-year-old shooting guard; a backup point guard who can’t get on the floor for the Spurs; a 21-year-old center who was cut by Minnesota in training camp two years ago; and a first-round pick that likely will fall somewhere in the 20s.

Aside from that, I think it’s a great suggestion.

Johnny, Calcify? You're right ... we should all go the opposite direction that you go!!

Wow! You just mentioned not burying Horry until you see the casket, but you just buried the whole team with your outlook on this season and coming playoffs. Is it asking too much for you sportswriters to actually print something worth reading?

I spend part of my day reading the sports section and hoping to get a little lift for my day. Instead I get more dribble and drab from writers like you who's writing skills are so “calcified” that there is no inspiration or hope within the printed lines.

Why don't you move to L.A. and write for them ... at least they would think you are uplifting and inspiring because of the way you knock our Spurs! Dry, negative columns are all you are able to produce? Maybe the Spurs players have been hanging around you too much!!

I have to stop wasting my 50 cents on the Express-News!! Your column today offered absolutely nothing but depressing thoughts! Don't we get enough of that in the world? A sports column is meant to be entertaining in a world of bleakness ... you only offer more bleakness. Can I get my money back? –Jackson, San Antonio

I would love nothing more than to give you your 50 cents back. There’s just one problem: The column you reference – the very one that failed to be “entertaining in a world of bleakness” – was available only online. Which meant, of course, it was free.

In newspapers, like everything else in life, you get what you pay for.
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Old 02-20-07, 07:35 AM
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They wouldn’t mind moving Jackie Butler (nor, I assume, would Jackie mind being moved if it was to a place where he could play) while Beno Udrih probably also would benefit from a change of scenery. Cleveland needs a point guard, and Danny Ferry helped draft Beno, so that’s always a possibility.
Everyweek Ludden says something bad about Butler. I think he's doing terrible at practices
"We would have two less championships here if it wasn't for Manu Ginobili," Popovich said. "In my book, Manu Ginobili is the stud of the world.
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Old 02-20-07, 08:23 AM
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I see last week's column of suprisingly mediocre questions was just an abnormality and the truly bad ones have returned.
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Old 02-20-07, 08:49 AM
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I hate Spurs fans,
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