People Sayin' Pop Fell Off

John Hollinger agrees with me. It's an insider only item, but let me summarize the key points:

  • "You'd be surprised to learn that San Antonio, not Dallas, has the best point differential in the league, at +7.9 points per game. (Actually, Dallas is third at +7.7 -- Phoenix also noses in ahead of them)."
  • "San Antonio won a team-record 63 games a year ago with a point differential of +6.8. This year they're more than a point per game better (They need to be, too: Those 63 wins didn't do them any good in the playoffs); they just haven't been as fortunate in close games."
  • "And while the Spurs are disappointed because they're "only" third in Defensive Efficiency instead of their usual perch at No. 1 (they've been there five of the past six seasons), this is the best offensive team of the Popovich Era. San Antonio ranks sixth in the league in Offensive Efficiency, just 2.8 points per 100 possessions behind the Mavs."
  • "They're doing this while playing their scrubs for much of the game. No Spur is playing more than 35 minutes per game; Tim Duncan leads the team at 34.6. Tony Parker is only playing 33.0 minutes, Manu Ginobili a measly 27.8. No team is playing their starters less, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the Spurs' big three will see a lot more action during the playoffs."
  • "The Spurs' problem isn't age or a lack of fire or any of the other ideas trotted out in recent weeks. It's that they're 5-10 in games decided by five points or less, while the Mavs are 12-2."

I concur. The story people should be writing isn't "what's wrong with the Spurs" but why is Gregg Popovich giving so unconcerned about the regular season that he's giving his stars so little playing time. That's an actual reportable factual issue, and if we knew more about his thinking then maybe we could say something about whether or not it's a good idea.