With seven new players to teach, coach Gregg Popovich tore entire chapters out of one of the league's thickest playbooks before opening training camp. Then he entrusted point guard Tony Parker with more offensive leadership than at any time in his career, an act of faith for someone not easily given to ceding control.Specifically, Tony Parker has seen more free reign than he's used to:
The results bear out both the simplification and forbearance. The Spurs are averaging 101.1 points per game, up from the 97.0 they averaged last season. Through Monday's game, that ranked them 12th in the NBA, a big jump from last season, when they were No. 23 in scoring. It is an even bigger increase over 2007-08, when they were No. 28, at 95.4 points per game.
"I'm really trying to make an effort to call fewer and fewer plays and let Tony run the show and let the flow of the motion and the reads they make dictate most of the offense,” Popovich said. “I get more involved after timeouts, and that kind of thing, but I'd really like them to read the situations on the court and play without my orchestrating much of anything.”While their offense has operated so well, the Spurs defense wasn't performing admirably, at all... until, that is, their recent five-game winning streak:
“Some guys are playing better defense than others, so we're making sure they're on the court at critical times,” Popovich said. “Some guys are just starting to figure out the program, what to do in reaction to their teammates. It's an on-going process, but they're getting it and going in the right direction.”As usual, the Spurs are rounding into a more than formidable opponent. Is anyone surprised? They made a lot of additions over the offseason, and it isn't surprising it took this group a little time to gel. I know they haven't beaten any team of real significance during their streak but, then again, neither have the Celtics during their's.
With their recent defensive muscle-flexing, the Spurs have risen to seventh in the league in field-goal percentage defense (44.1 percent) and 10th in points allowed (96.5 per game). As recently as two weeks ago, they were in the bottom half of the league in both categories.
When it comes down to it, Tim Duncan is still Tim Duncan, Gregg Popovich is still Gregg Popovich, and the Spurs are still the Spurs.