20 Second Timeout: Bill Schoening Blog: April

Follow the team all season long with the 20-Second Timeout blog by Bill Schoening, The Radio Voice of the Spurs for the past 12 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 | April 11 | December 11 | January 12 | February 12 | March 12 | April 12 | May 12 | October 12 | November 12 | December 12 | January 13 | February 13 | March 13

Pace and Tempo Critical Factors
by Bill Schoening | Apr. 23, 2013
Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty)

One of the most interesting things about basketball to me is how strategies sometimes change according to personnel.

Take the first round series between the Spurs and Lakers for instance. In game one of this series, the Spurs outscored the Lakers 17-2 on fastbreak points.

With Tony Parker's ability to get down the floor quickly, we often see Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, or Tiago Splitter snaring a defensive rebound and immediately looking for a quick outlet pass to Parker or one of the other Spurs' guards. With one of the NBA's top shot blockers manning the paint for LA, the Spurs can benefit from beating Dwight Howard down the floor and getting some points in transition.

Ironically, this strategy is being utilized against the former head coach of the Phoenix Suns, who were famous for trying to get a shot up in seven seconds or less. Without high scoring guard Kobe Bryant, Coach Mike D'Antoni now must try to slow down the game to better suit his two best offensive options, Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.

Hall of Famer Chris Mullin, who now works as an analyst for ESPN, told me before game one, "If Parker and (Manu) Ginobili are healthy, I look for those guys to put a lot of pressure on the Lakers perimeter defense. If the Spurs' guards can put the pressure on the Lakers, we'll see if LA can keep pace."

Coach Pop trying to speed it up and Coach D'Antoni trying to slow it down. I guess it's safe to say times have changed.

Manu the X-Factor
by Bill Schoening | Apr. 18, 2013
Manu Ginobili
(Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty)

It's no big secret that the Spurs did not play their best basketball down the stretch of the regular season. A lack of consistency at both ends of the floor hampered the Spurs, who offered no excuses for their struggles.

Since health was a primary concern, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich opted to be cautious with players who were battling bumps and bruises.

Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker were held out of games to make sure they didn't aggravate a variety of ailments. Guard Manu Ginobili, the prime catalyst for a second unit that is usually very productive, could only sit and wait while rehabilitating a troublesome hamstring strain that had sidelined him from March 29th until Wednesday night's season finale.

Ginobili was encouraged by his 12 minute cameo against Minnesota, as was his head coach. Ginobili said, "I felt very good. I was a little tired because I've been lifting a lot. The point where the tear was felt great. Conditioning wise, I played only 12 minutes, but those 12 minutes felt great."

The highlight of Ginobili's night was a picture perfect bounce pass to a streaking Tim Duncan for a fast break basket. Ginobili says he will use the days prior to the Lakers' series to practice and work futher on conditioning.

A healthy and spry Ginobili could instill confidence in his teammates. Team captain Tim Duncan says, "Obviously, Manu's wind isn't going to be there yet, but he felt good and that was great. We haven't played well in the past couple of games, but we're in the playoffs, and we got some time for Manu (in the Minnesota game) and now we're mostly whole for the first time in a long time. We're ready to go so we'll start from there."

For the Spurs, having their valuable sixth man back in uniform and making plays could make all the difference.

Health #1
by Bill Schoening | Apr. 11, 2013
Manu Ginobili
(D. Clarke Evans/NBAE/Getty)

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich admits he is a bit paranoid about injuries this time of year. All one has to do is look at recent history to understand why.

When guard Manu Ginobili limped through the '08 Western Conference finals, teammate Brent Barry joked that the Spurs only had half a Manu, saying "We have the "Ma" but not the "Nu"."

Three seasons later, Ginobili suffered an ugly elbow injury in the final regular season game at Phoenix. A first round upset at the hands of Memphis followed.

This season, Ginobili is resting a strained hamstring down the stretch, joining forward Boris Diaw on the sidelines. Diaw could miss up to three weeks as he nurses a sore back. The Spurs leading scorer and playmaker Tony Parker missed eight games in March with a sprained ankle and has also had to deal with a sore neck and shin. Pop has understandably been very cautious about Parker's minutes late in the regular season.

There's no question that if the Spurs are to make another deep playoff run this season, health will once again be a primary factor.

Best Varmint in the League
by Bill Schoening | Apr. 3, 2013
(Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty)

I am certain some of it has to do with the Spurs' impressive lengthy run at or near the top of the Western Conference, but I am noticing more and more mascots of opposing teams taking shots at the Spurs famous #2!. That's number 2 with an exclamation point, not #21. That number belongs to some other guy that's also been around for quite some time. The Spur I am talking about is the Coyote, and while I may be looking at the world through Silver and Black glasses, he really IS the best mascot in the NBA.

The evidence is that other league mascots are jealous, always blowing him up or dropping a huge anvil on him, like in the old roadrunner cartoons. They also portray an ugly ,dirty, mean looking Coyote, far from the classy,distinguished and handsome Coyote we all know and love. If the Spurs meet the Lakers in the playoffs, perhaps the Coyote will reprise one of my favorite skits, when he showed up as Jack Nicholson, complete with dark shades, carrying around an Academy Award! Gotta love the Coyote.