We’re counting down the days till the start of the new season, and it’s about time for everyone to be making predictions. This year, instead of just doing one prediction, I decided to go out and interview one blogger for every NBA team.
The bloggers whose opinions we will be graced with over the next few weeks are the best of the best, as all of them have featured in Yahoos Ball Don’t Lie basketball blog’s Blog Association, where Kelly Dwyer has been profiling the best team-centric NBA blogs out there. If you have any inclination of increasing your knowledge about the NBA, these are the blogs you need to read and subscribe to. (I know I will be!)
Today, we are honored to interview Michael from Project Spurs, without a doubt the best Spurs blog out there. Michael was was gracious enough to give up some of his time to answer some questions regarding the Lakers and the Spurs, and even about blogging itself.
Jonny: Out on a limb, although backing it up with solid reasoning would be cool too, what do you think the ball park for the Spurs’ 08-09 regular season record will be, and do you think it will be enough to make the playoffs in the East?
Michael: 50-32. I see a slight decrease from 56 wins last year for a few reasons. First, The front office didn’t do much to address the areas that needed improvement this offseason. They really needed to target a center that knows how to rebound and one who doesn’t think he’s playing volleyball. They brought back Kurt Thomas, but I was hoping for a 10 and 12 guy. A few blocks would be nice too.
The Spurs also need to get younger at the 2 and 3 position. I was hoping for an athletic 2-3 like Maggette or J.R. Smith. I like Mason, but as a backup. The Spurs needed a 2-3 that could step in and start if Manu is injured. Finley and Mason can be thrown in the starting line-up, but with Manu out, the offense becomes less dynamic and more predictable.
Backup point guard was the third position othat needed improvement. Jacque Vaughn is a savvy vet who can set up the offense and defend well, but he is a major drop off from Tony Parker. The offense becomes stagnant, defenders leave Vaughn and will double Manu or Tim and you’ll see more shot clock violations. Vaughn also is not getting any younger, so while the did address that with the drafting of George Hill, at the time I felt it was the wrong move with Arthur, CDR, Chalmers etc.. still available.
I’m not giving up on Hill, but I can’t understand why they chose to draft a guy who has played shooting guard his entire collegiate career to be the backup point guard. It’s hard enough for players who come in from college playing point guard to be able to play the point in the NBA. The summer league showed that Hill has a long way to go before he is a reliable backup to Parker.
That’s probably more answer than you wanted but I definitely see them dropping a few more games because they didn’t improve while plenty of other Western Conference teams did. They are another year older and Manu will be out of commission for a while, but you still can’t count them out. I think they’ll end up finishing 4th or 5th in the West.
Jonny: Again, out on the said limb, what do you think the ball park for the Laker’s 08-09 regular season record will be, and do you think it will be enough to win the West?
Michael: Luckily I just wrote a Pacific division preview, so I got to think about this a bit. I think the Lakers will finish the season around 57-25 and it’ll be a tough race to the finish between the Lakers and
Hornets for first in the West.
Jonny: how do you feel the Spurs match up with the Lakers over a 7-game series?
Michael: That’s a bit of a loaded question. I said a few times this summer and last season that with a healthy Manu Ginobili, I thought the Spurs would have been in the finals. Unfortunately everyone missed out of what could have been a hell of a series and one of the best Western Conference battles with Ginobili at 100%. Ginobili had a career year and had been playing extremely well in the playoffs before the injury. He was our MVP and I think it would have been much closer with Manu healthy. It probably would have gone to 7 games, but I think the Spurs would have gone on to play the Celtics.Andrew Bynum was also out, but while I really like Andrew and think he has a lot of potential, you can’t really make that comparison. This season, if both teams are healthy, I would have to give the edge to the Lakers.
Jonny: Lakers fans are split down the middle on Odom; some love his versatility, others hate his inconsistency. As an opposing fan, how do you rate Odom?
Michael: I respect Odom and what he does, but I think he’s a little too comfortable in the sidekick role. He is capable of much more than he does. Maybe not stat-wise, but I think he defers to Kobe way too much and is not aggressive enough, and that’s where some of the inconsistency comes from.
Jonny: What do you think of Kobe’s decisions to put-off surgery on his injured pinky?
Michael: I think that could be very dangerous. I can understand that he wants to go through training camp with his teammates and bond with them, but if I’m his teammate and a large percentage of my team;s success rests on Kobe’s shoulder, I’d rather have him out the first few weeks when the games don’t matter than to have the pinky bothering him as the Lakers are trying to make another run at the Finals.
Jonny:. What is your perception on Bynum? Lakers fans have him pegged as the next *insert hall-of-fame center*, yet the rest of the league doesn’t seem to hold him in such a high regard.
Michael: I think people get too carried away with Bynum. Again, he’s got great tools and so much potential, but he’s still a kid. People are putting too much pressure on him. I remember reading countless times last season that when Bynum came back, the Lakers were going to run over the league and win the title. My thinking was, how about we let him get healthy first. To me, I can see him becoming a great center, I see the blueprints in place, but he needs to have the time to continue to learn and grow and not be rushed into it.
Jonny: Every year people say “the Spurs are too old.” what is your take on that? how many more years do you see the “Big Three” being worthy of building around?
Michael: As Pop says, the Spurs are ancient, but I remind people that I was hearing the same words and reading the same articles in 1999, 2005 and 2007. 2003 was the rare year where they had a good mix of young and older players. In 1999, the starters were Avery Johnson, Mario Elie, Sean Elliott, Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Aside from Duncan, that was a pretty old lineup. Even at Duncan’s age, he can still play with and dominate younger players and I think he still will for a few years. I don’t even think Tony Parker has reached his prime yet and if Manu can come back from this injury and stay healthy, I think he’ll still be a handful.
At this point, age isn’t the biggest issue, it’s probably a combination of age and the quality of talent around the big three. Why tv and radio guys said the Spurs had a great bench last season is beyond me. It was pretty much Manu and that was it. I think now, Pop and the front office need to start thinking about building around Tony. Udoka will likely be Bowen’s successor, but they need to start planning for Duncan and Manu’s positions as well.
Jonny: Roger Mason JR. New addition to the squad. do you think his addition is a step in the right direction? what do you see his role as?
Michael: I watch the Wizards a lot because I’ve been an Antonio Daniels fan since he came through San Antonio, so I saw a lot of Mason before he was signed. I was hoping they would sign him to replace Finley. They signed him, but they brought back Finley. I like that he can flat out score the ball. He can shot from deep and he isn’t your usual spot-up shooter. I’ve seen him plenty of times handling the ball at the point and pulling up to shoot. I think he can contribute if he gets enough playing time. He’s done very well when he gets 20+ minutes.
While I’m glad the Spurs made a move and I like Mason, as I said earlier, I would have preferred someone athletic that attacks the basket, creates his own shot and can keep defenses guessing even when Manu is on the bench. As far as his role, it’ll be very similar to Brent Barry’s the last couple of years.
Jonny: What are your thoughts on the “player exodus” from the NBA to Europe? do you think a Kobe or a Lebron would ever seriously consider leaving the NBA?
Michael: I never expected this and it’s been crazy. The Spurs were probably the first to be bitten by it when Tiago Splitter decided to stay in Spain and then again when Jannero Pargo decided to go to europe instead of taking a contract he was being offered by the Spurs. If you thought free agency was tough as it was, having to compete with several teams for the services of a free agent, it’s going to be that much harder with european teams who are eager to overpay for a player. As far as Kobe or Lebron, I do think they’d consider it. I’ve heard one thing this summer from NBA players over and over, that it’s not about money and they’d prefer to play for a contender. Then guys like Corey Maggette turned down a chance to play for a perennial championship contender and instead went for the payday for a team that won’t even make the playoffs. This has been the summer of overpaying, from Diop to Maggette to Arenas and I think Monta Ellis as well. Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I’ve come to the realization that to many players, money is still more important than winning. A lot of people I’ve talked to say they (Kobe and Lebron) will only play in the NBA because it’s the best and most popular league, but you get a Kobe or Lebron or both and how long do you think it takes before the euroleague is THE league?
Jonny: Manu Ginobili’s health status. does it concern you? do you feel he has peaked already, or is he just hampered by injuries?
Michael: I am concerned by his health and I was hoping he would not play on the Argentine Olympic team, but I don’t blame him one bit. I would havedone the exact same thing. I predicted that last year would be his career year and that he would start on a slow decline after that. Manu ended up having a great year, probably his best since 2005. It’s just unfortunate that it didn’t end with him being healthy enough to help the Spurs get back in the finals. I still think he’ll start on a slow decline, and although several Spurs fans think Manu is damaged goods, I think otherwise.
I’m really hoping Pop will just keep him out the first few months and let guys like Roger Mason and Ime Udoka get more playing time until Manu heals completely. He’ll come back and be the same Manu this season. The wear and tear he’s put on his body will start to affect him in the next couple of years, but I think the one thing people don’t understand about Manu’s game is that it comes more from desire, will, passion, fearlessness and knowledge of the game. Speed and athleticism are important, but I can show you several guards who are faster and can jump out of the gym, but can’t get to the basket like Manu does.
Jonny: What got you into blogging? how do you feel about it as a news medium?
Michael: You’re really asking for it on this one. I love blogging and it’s something I plan on doing in some form or another as long as I can type. I actually started off as a journalist. When I ended up being assigned the Spurs beat, it was everything I hoped it would be and there’s absolutely nothing like being courtside on press row during all home games and during the playoffs. Access to the lockerroom after the games was also great.
Anyway, I was writing game recaps, and a weekly column, and after about a year, a friend of mine I met covering the games recruited me to write on his site, Spurs Report. That’s probably when I was first introduced to writing online. I loved how instant it was and the interaction with other fans. I decided to toy around with building a site so I could write about the Spurs. I could’ve written for several other Spurs sites, but I wanted to offer more. I felt like I could offer Spurs fans more than what was currently available and I wanted something of my own, so I started working on Project Spurs.
I’m really proud of where we are right now. I believe in 100% original content through blogs and our weekly podcasts. I’ve got a good group of writers who I couldn’t run Project Spurs without, including one guy, my Spurscast co-host, who does great work on the podcast, blog and his series of “On Location” coverage. As far as a news medium, it is what it is. Everyone sees things different. I think most of the better, dedicated team bloggers out there do a better job than their counterparts at the dailies. I’m a blogger, but I’ve been a credentialed journalist and I can tell you that I’m more proud of the work I’ve done on my blog than I am of the work I did at the paper I worked at.
I’ll get off my soapbox here, but it also cracks me up when people say that you can’t trust what is written by bloggers because they are fans. I’m gonna take a guess that about 95 percent of sportswriters get into writing sports because they liked sports and were fans. So because I yell and scream at a game and most of the stiffs on press row have to keep their emotions in check so they look professional means we didn’t see the same game. I remember in the 99 playoffs being on press row and jumping up to my feet like my entire row did when Sean Elliott hit the Memorial Day Miracle. I’m a fan and I’ll always be a fan and I’ll never forget that shot. It didn’t matter to me that some of the reps from major networks and the bigger papers may have looked at me as being unprofessional. There is no way you can witness that shot and not jump up when he hits that improbable shot for the win unless you’re a robot or a Blazers fan, but even then, you can recognize how great and rare a moment it was.
So again, it is what it is. We break a lot of news or may be the first site to post about a reported trade, but we aren’t just a news site. I love that blogs don’t have to just be just news and that you can mix in just about anything related to the team.
Thanks again to Michael for his time and Insights.. Please DO NOT troll Project Spurs, even if you think his ideas are totally off base (which you shouldn’t). Remember, on the Internet, you and I represent Lakers fans everywhere. Lets try to give ourselves a good name.