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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


Toughness on Display
by Bill Schoening | December 30, 2010

George Hill and Kobe Bryant
(D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)
I remember vividly getting into an on air argument with talk show host and former NFL linebacker Bryan Cox about "toughness". The year was 2005 and the Spurs were about to play the Pistons in the NBA finals. Cox asserted that the Spurs were soft, Detroit was tougher and the Spurs had no chance in the series. This was a Spurs team that routinely shut down opponents that season with aggressive man to man defense. Few teams were able to get offensive rebounds and second chance points against the Spurs, yet there was this perception out there that was clearly inaccurate.

That brings me to Tuesday night's win over the Lakers, which was all about "toughness". DeJuan Blair was the most effective big man on the floor, yet he was giving up at least six inches in most of his matchups. Third year guard George Hill admitted after the game that he has long admired Kobe Bryant as a player, but he wasn't about to back down when he and Bryant got their arms tangled while boxing out.

Playing with toughness doesn't mean beating your chest or talking smack. It means sticking your nose in for a loose ball, sliding over to take a charge, or setting a physical screen to free a teammate, and we've seen all of the above so far this season from the Spurs.




Depth Pays Dividends
by Bill Schoening | December 21, 2010

Chris Quinn & Gary Neal
(D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)
During the course of an 82-game NBA season, very few teams are fortunate enough to escape without an injury or two that can sometimes result in a slump or loss of confidence. Teams that have reliable players on the bench with a team first attitude are more likely to weather those storms.

The 2010-11 Spurs are a good example.

While there are other teams around the league with much more serious injury problems, the Spurs haven't completely escaped the medical list. In November the Spurs lost promising rookie swingman James Anderson to a foot injury that will keep him out until next month. That setback provided an opportunity for fellow rookie Gary Neal to log more time, and Neal has steadily improved at both ends of the floor.

He says his aggressiveness is directly linked to confidence, which was evident on Monday night against Phoenix when he scored a career-high 22 points in a 118-110 win. Although he is known primarily as an outside shooter, Neal was just 1-for-6 beyond the arc Monday, so he decided to drive the ball more. He hit some runners and floaters, and drew some fouls, connecting on 7-of-8 from the free throw line.

A recent toe injury to George Hill affords an opportunity for five year veteran point guard Chris Quinn. Although he spent his first five weeks with the Spurs as the 12th man getting mostly just limited minutes at the end of games, Quinn stayed mentally and physically sharp and was ready when his number was called. He hit 4-of-7 shots and helped run the offense in a recent home win over the Memphis Grizzlies. Quinn says he has worked with the coaching staff to make sure he has a grasp of the Spurs system and has spent some extra time in the gym and weight room to be ready just in case he needs to play extra minutes.

It's guys like Neal and Quinn that help make the Spurs a complete team.




Sage Wisdom From the Vets
by Bill Schoening | December 14, 2010

DeJuan Blair
(D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)
Recent games have shown a definite uptick in DeJuan Blair's game. After struggling with his shooting early in the season, he is now approaching the 50% mark in field goal percentage.

He has been much more aggressive around the basket, and in running the floor. His quick hands have allowed him to knock away or swipe opponent's entry passes into the post.

In a recent two game stretch against Golden State and Atlanta, he recorded seven steals. Those are impressive numbers for a low post player. Blair says some of the credit to his better play belongs to veterans Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess, who have offered encouragement.

McDyess said this week that he has tried to keep Blair's spirits up. "You know how it is is with young players sometimes", McDyess said, "They may get down on themselves if they have a bad game. What I told DeJuan is that when you play 82 games, you're not always going to have a great one. It's a long season, and you have to stay with it. I like what I've seen from him. He's been active. He's been shooting better and playing well at both ends of the floor now."

It may seem like a small thing, but veteran leadership is invaluable on a team.

Rookie guard Gary Neal admits he is still learning the nuances of the Spurs' system, but he says Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are always there to answer questions about a particular play or specifics about an opponent that Neal may be required to guard.

Yes, there are some young guys on this team that have made the roster more athletic, but there's also something to be said about the older guys who provide knowledge garnered from years of experience.




Indy G. Finding His Groove
by Bill Schoening | December 7, 2010

George Hill
(D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)
A young George Hill didn't really like cold weather too much (neither does the older version) so instead of spending cold autumn days and nights on the rather chilly gridirons of Indianapolis, he could be found in the much warmer environment of a high school gym.

If I was a football coach at Broad Ripple High School about a decade ago, I would've been disappointed that young George wanted to concentrate on hoops. With his long arms, lateral quickness, sense of anticipation, and toughness Hill could have made a splendid cover corner or free safety. The Spurs are happy he chose the indoor sport.

Hill has been an integral part of the Spurs success in recent weeks. After a bit of a slow start, Hill has come on strong of late. Over his last six games, he is averaging 16 points and hitting better than 50% from the field. On the defensive end he has shown his versatility with his ability to guard point guards, shooting guards and small forwards.

He was one of the main catalysts when the Spurs came back from 15 down in the fourth quarter to beat the Timberwolves last Friday.

His renewed confidence is evidenced by his willingness to drive inside, take a hit from an opponent, and go to the line, where he is hitting close to 90%. Because of his conditioning, Hill has no problem playing 30 minutes or more, which saves some wear and tear for both Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.

There are many reasons the Spurs are off to such a good start, and George Hill's play is certainly one of them.