20-Second Timeout: April 2012

Follow the team all season long with the 20-Second Timeout blog by Bill Schoening, The Radio Voice of the Spurs for the past 10 years. Bill has over 30 years of play-by-play experience including broadcasting Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA. *Timeout Archive: October 10 | November 10 | December 10 | January 11 | February 11 | March 11 |
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Manu Adds a New Pitch
by Bill Schoening | April 24, 2012

Over the past decade, I have heard many words used to describe Spurs guard Manu Ginobili. Unorthodox, uncanny, and unpredictable are a few that come to mind. Ginobili's fierce competitive nature, passion for the game, and knack for making big plays during crunch time have endeared him to coaches, teammates and fans.

Many of us vividly remember when he dribbled a ball between the legs of Cleveland guard Daniel Gibson during a fastbreak in the '07 finals, or when he somehow stepped in front of a hard driving Carmelo Anthony to take a charge and secure a Spurs road win at Denver. Memories of ten years describing the exploits of Ginobili came rushing at me as I sat down to write this week's timeout, and the list goes on and on, but now Manu has added something new to his game- a fastball that fellow southpaw Randy Johnson would envy.

In last Friday's win over the Lakers, Tiago Splitter chased down a loose ball and got it to Ginobili near court. Without hesitation, Manu whipped a 90 mile per hour strike to a surprised Matt Bonner, who simply caught the pass and converted an easy layup.

For the record, Ginobili is not a big baseball fan. The native of Argentina says, "it moves a little too slow for me." Imagine that! The big question now facing the Spurs is this: if Ginobili has added a blazing fastball to his repertoire, who will want to warm him up in the bullpen?

Spurs Far From Boring
by Bill Schoening | April 16, 2012

I had to laugh out loud in my car last week when I heard someone on a national sports talk show say that they would not pick the Spurs to advance in the playoffs because they didn't want to have to sit through "boring basketball." It made me wonder if this fellow had seen one minute of a Spurs game all season. 

While I will openly admit that I sometimes view the world through Silver and Black glasses, I can honestly say that describing the games played by this team this season has been a real pleasure.  They move and share the ball well (5th in assists), they hit shots (3rd in field goal percentage) and they average 102 points per game (3rd in scoring). While the Spurs are not the defensive juggernaut they once were, they don't slow down the game with a lot of hacking (third fewest fouls committed) and they have shown improvement throughout the season on the defensive end. 

They feature a mix of young players and battle tested veterans, are well coached and they don't make excuses when they do lose. They have been incredibly consistent despite injuries, a retirement, and multiple changes to the roster. (The longest losing streak this season has been two games). 

The Spurs' bench has averaged over 44 points since the All Star break, tops in the league. The Spurs have also maintained their international flavor..with France, Brazil, Australia, and Argentina well represented.  If talk show hosts don't want to pick the Spurs to advance in the playoffs, that's fine with me, but to say the 2011-2012 Spurs play "boring basketball," I will take issue with that! 

Health Trumps Seeding
by Bill Schoening | April 10, 2012

Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images)

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich remembers how difficult recent playoff series have been when he didn't have a healthy and whole team at his disposal. All one has to do is go back to last April, when an elbow injury suffered by Manu Ginobili in the final game of the regular season forced him to miss the opening game against Memphis. It's hard not to forget that bulky blue contraption Manu was forced to wear on his arm during that series. This is why a completely healthy and fresh Spurs' squad is of paramount importance as the playoffs loom in a few weeks.

Sure, it would be nice to get the number one seed and that could still happen, but it's not nearly as important as health, especially when you consider that two of the Spurs' main stalwarts, Ginobili and Tim Duncan, are in their mid 30's. This is where the Spurs can benefit from a deep bench for the stretch run.

It's quite evident the Spurs are a competitive team even when they are missing some of their main weapons. For six weeks in the early part of this season, the Spurs were able to overcome the loss of Ginobili to a broken hand and backup point guard TJ Ford to a nagging hamstring injury. Ford has since retired and has been replaced by Aussie Patty Mills. The additions of Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw, along with Mills, give the Spurs some versatility and flexibility for the April gauntlet. However, when it comes to a tough series against any Western Conference playoff foe, the Spurs will need all hands on deck and and they want to be feeling spry with a bounce in their step when the postseason begins...regardless of who the opponent is and where they are seeded.

The Connection Down Under
by Bill Schoening | April 2, 2012

Manu Ginobili, Stephen Jackson
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty Images)

Patty Mills has only been with the Spurs for about a week, but from all indications, it looks like he will fit right in. The 23 year old native of Canberra, Australia gives the Spurs some quickness, tenacity, and experience at the backup point guard spot, and just as importantly, will add to the chemistry of an already tight locker room. Spurs assistant Brett Brown says he really didn't have to sell Mills to Head Coach Gregg Popovich. "Pop spent some time with us during the summer, and he knows the kind of player and person Patty is," says Brown, who is the head coach of the Australian National Team. When Brown speaks of Mills, he uses terms like "tough" "smart" and "waterbug". He says Mills is good at defending point guards and harassing them length of the floor.

Mills says playing for Brown during the summer will make his transition to the Spurs a lot easier, "I fit in easily I think. The sets and the terms are exactly what we use for the national team", says Mills. "When we first scripted the plays after I signed I was able to fit in and go ahead and run the plays without any teaching or anything, so I think that will be a big advantage for me."

Mills' talent has already caught the attention of his new teammates, including the player who had been filling in some at backup point guard. Gary Neal commented, "Patty brings a lot of energy, especially on the defensive end. In the Phoenix game he was able to come in and pick up Steve Nash full court and kind of disrupt their offense. That was huge and a key to us winning that game, and he can also make shots as he did in Sacramento." Against the Kings, Mills hit a corner 3 pointer and scored seven points in his second game in a Spurs uniform.

Mills is looking forward to playing with the Spurs and making a positive contribution. "It's kind of great when you look at it now and I've got a chance to play with guys like this. For me it's just a great opportunity to be alongside these players."