News » Spurs try out own familiar formula

Spurs try out own familiar formula

Spurs try out own familiar formula
DALLAS - The Spurs arrived here Tuesday afternoon in advance of tonight's game against the Dallas Mavericks with a new wrinkle to their offense and a new player in the offing.

After a blowout victory Monday night over the Clippers, Roger Mason Jr. returned to his early season role as Tony Parker's backup at point guard.

And now the Spurs are awaiting the arrival, later this week, of free agent Drew Gooden, the power forward who gave up nearly $2 million to get out of his contract with the Sacramento Kings. Gooden's express purpose: signing with a championship contender.

The Spurs have been seeking a veteran big man for the stretch run and playoffs. In Gooden, they landed a key member of the Cleveland Cavaliers team that met the Spurs in the 2007 Finals.

Gooden left the Kings on the final day he could do so and still be eligible to play for another NBA team in the playoffs. He is not the first experienced player to join the Spurs after that deadline.

In 2005, they added veteran forward Glen "Big Dog" Robinson on April 4. Robinson, who had been released by the Hornets on March 1 of that year, played only nine regular-season games, but saw action in 13 postseason games in a run that resulted in the Spurs' third NBA championship.

Asked Monday night about the possibility of adding a player, Spurs captain Tim Duncan said he likes the idea of adding any player who might make the Spurs better as the playoffs approach.

"It's always difficult to add someone, but it's always great, too," Duncan said. "If we can add someone who can help us, absolutely, that's a good thing.

"We've added Nick Van Exel and Glen Robinson, and a few other guys throughout the years. But if we can add somebody who can help us, we're always happy to do that."

It is Duncan's presence, said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, that eases the transition any player has to make when joining the Spurs, a team with a thick playbook and a defensive scheme with a non-traditional approach.

In Gooden's case, he would have less to learn than most late-season additions. That's because of his experience under Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, a former Popovich assistant whose defensive scheme is the same program the Spurs coach borrowed from one of his mentors, former Spurs assistant Hank Egan.

When Brown got the Cleveland job, he made Egan his defensive coach, just as Popovich had done when he began coaching the Spurs.

Any player who joins the Spurs as the playoff push arrives had better be able to adhere to the basics of the Spurs' defensive approach. Popovich has renewed his call for improvement in defensive execution. He has seen improvement over the past two months, but stresses that it must continue if the Spurs are to be legitimate title contenders.

"We're definitely better than we were last time we talked about it (in early January)," he said. "On a scale of one to 10, we were maybe a four or five then. Now, we've gotten to seven, seven-and-a-half, maybe eight. But we need to be nine or nine-and-a-half by playoff time to be able to compete with the best, especially the Lakers, who are the best."

Holding the Clippers to 36.8 percent shooting in Monday night's blowout victory at Staples Center lowered the opponent field goal percentage allowed by the Spurs to 45.1, 10th best in the 30-team NBA.

The goal, Popovich stresses, is to be one of the three best in field goal percentage defense, the statistic he believes most accurately reflects defensive execution.

"We're a team that understands we've got to be one of the two or three best defensive teams in the league to win a championship, or it won't happen," Popovich said.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: March 5, 2009


Copyright ©, Inc. All rights reserved 2018.