20-Second Timeout: January 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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Neal and Green Earn Their Stripes
by Bill Schoening | Jan. 31, 2012

Gary Neal
( Layne Murdoch/Getty Images)

Last week the Spurs announced they are honoring former defensive stalwart Bruce Bowen by retiring his #12 jersey. While it's great news for Bowen personally, it can also be considered a victory for anyone who was told they weren't good enough to make it.

It's a testament to perseverance because Bowen logged lots of time in the CBA and in Europe before finally catching on in the NBA. Spurs' reserves Gary Neal and Danny Green are now making key contributions despite the fact that they have also had to pay their share of dues before getting an opportunity.

Neal had an outstanding senior season at Towson (Maryland), averaging 25 points per game. When he wasn't drafted, he didn't sulk or give up. He took his talents to Pinar Karsiyaka of the Turkish League. From there it was a series of stints in Spain and Italy. After three seasons overseas, he got invited to play in the Vegas Summer League. He torched the nets in Vegas and the Spurs quickly signed him before any other team could swoop in.

Danny Green's path had a few more spotlights than Neal's. Afterall, Green played four years on Tobacco Road in Chapel Hill for the North Carolina Tar Heels. He played on the '09 National Championship team and won more games than any player to ever wear a Carolina uniform. That's pretty impressive stuff, but Green didn't get picked until the 46th selection of the '09 draft by Cleveland. He played just 20 games with the Cavs and was waived during the training camp of his second season. He endured the bus rides and relatively lower pay in the D League to work his way back to the NBA and the Spurs signed him on March 6th.

His value to the team increased with the hand injury sustained by Manu Ginobili in early January. His ability to play different positions, willingness to defend, and basketball IQ have all been evident as Green has gotten an opportunity to show what he can do.

It might be considered old fashioned or perhaps a cliche' but Green and Neal (like Bowen before them) are prime examples of the value of hard work and sticking with it.

Tiago Coming On
by Bill Schoening | Jan. 24, 2012

Tiago Splitter
(Bill Baptist/Getty Images)

It often takes former Euroleague players a while to get adjusted to the NBA. Everything suddenly gets amped up from the volume of games to the level of competition. Spurs second year center Tiago Splitter is still learning the NBA game but it's quite evident that he has become a lot more comfortable and confident this season.

In a road game at Houston on January 21st, Splitter was a force down low, scoring a career high 25 points, hitting 11 of 13 from the floor. Splitter credits point guard Tony Parker, saying "TP has been giving me good looks. He's a great pick and roll player. I try to roll to find spaces to be open and that makes it harder for the defense and gives more room to our outside shooters".

Splitter is making the most of his shots, hitting a team best 62% from the floor. While Splitter has been efficient on offense, he says defense is the key to success. Splitter, a solid low post defender, says "We have some details on defense we have to improve a little bit because at the end of the day that's how you win games and that is why we must work to get better every day."

For Tiago Splitter, it appears that he is practicing what he preaching.

Danny Green Steps Up
by Bill Schoening | Jan. 17, 2012

Danny Green
(D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)

Some in the national media continue to call the San Antonio Spurs an old team.

While it's true Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are in their mid-thirties, the Spurs are relying more and more on the contributions of players who have no more than two or three seasons of NBA experience.

Danny Green is a primary example. Pressed into extra duty because of the broken bone in the left hand of Ginobili, Green has taken advantage of the situation. He has been instrumental in several Spurs' wins, showing a knack for being in the right place at the right time and coming up with a key block, steal, deflection or basket.

Green is happy to be a Spur, and is appreciative of this chance. "We all wish Manu a speedy recovery but this has opened up an opportunity for me to play a little bit and now I am starting to get into a rhythm and I am gaining confidence with each game. I just want to be more consistent", said Green, who has drawn praise from his coaches and older teammates for his basketball IQ, team first attitude and work ethic.

Green may not be a household word around San Antonio just yet, but his spirited play is just one of the reasons the Spurs are hanging in there despite the loss of their leading scorer and playmaker until mid February.

RJ's Solid Start a Boost for Spurs
by Bill Schoening | Jan. 9, 2012

Richard Jefferson
(D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)

It's still early in the NBA season and some players are looking for a rhythm after a lengthy offseason, accelerated training camp and just two preseason games. Spurs small forward Richard Jefferson is one player who has hit the ground running.

Through nine games, Jefferson is among the NBA leaders in three point shooting and has tried to mix in some midrange and pull up jumpers to his game.

"I work hard every summer trying to add to my game. Last year I focused on shooting 3's because of my role in the Spurs offense" says Jefferson, who now appears comfortable shooting from the wings, straightaway, and from the baseline and corner.

He added, "We are all still trying to get in a groove. Now with Manu (Ginobili) out we all have to work harder because we have less room for error. Manu does so many things for us that it is now up to everybody to step up, whether it's Danny Green coming in and playing tough defense or Gary Neal shooting the ball well, we all need to help out."

Parker's Experience Paying Off
by Bill Schoening | Jan. 2, 2012

Tony Parker
(D. Clarke Evans/Getty Images)

For those of us who vividly remember him as a teenager who came to the Spurs from the French league, it's hard to fathom that this is Tony Parker's 11th season in a Spurs uniform.

Even though there have been three NBA titles, three appearances in the All-Star Game and a Finals MVP award, Parker still looks young and fit, but clearly has become one of the team's elder statesmen.

"I felt great coming into this season", says Parker, who won't turn 30 until May,"Right now I am focused on the Spurs and trying to get all of our young guys to know what we're doing. We will have to be patient because these guys did not have summer league. If our young guys can step up and play well, then we will be fine." 

Parker likes his new backup, eight year veteran TJ Ford. "TJ is a solid point guard and a good locker room guy. He is like insurance for us".

Parker and his longtime backcourt partner Manu Ginobili have exhibited the benefits of having played together for 10 seasons now. "Manu is playing great and is in a good rhythm", says Parker, who currently ranks second all time on the Spurs assist list, trailing only Avery Johnson.

Parker needs just 163 more assists to become the Spurs franchise leader in that department.