It's great to have Manu Ginobili playing again. He made his regular season debut for the San Antonio Spurs last night and scored 12 points in about 12 minutes of action. The Spurs easily accounted for Memphis Grizzlies 94-81.
Manu is one of the top FIVE players in the league (behind Chris Paul, Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade) and he is always great to watch. He is so tough and never gives up. He is the ultimate team player and the type that gets people (especially me !) through the turnstiles. Bienvenido Manu !
The Spurs win put them at 7-6, the first time they have been over .500 this season. Numbers and wins are funny things. While San Antonio sit just one win better off than the Toronto Raptors, there is absolutely no talk about firings or chemistry problems. The Raptors on the other hand are in disarray. Coach Sam Mitchell is hanging on to his job by a thread and once again the Raptors flimsy defense is being exposed by any and every team that they face.
After an unusually slow start, Gregg Popovich kept the Spurs competitive even with a roster made up of unlikely star players such as journeyman Roger Mason and rookie George Hill. He still had Tim Duncan of course and typically Duncan put up his usual numbers and solid game but still, after losing Tony Parker to an ankle injury, the Spurs didn't make up excuses and allow losses.
That's what makes Popovich such a special coach. Players know what is expected and they perform. Losing happens, but never for extended periods. The Spurs are consistent and epitomize what professionalism is all about.
The Raptors either get smoked by their opponent or cling on for dear life when they win. Mitchell certainly doesn't have the same calibre players as Popovich but in his fifth season as head coach, Smitch has established absolutely no consistency other than total unpredictability and it reflects in so many of his players.
Jamario Moon, Andrea Bargnani and Jason Kapono have all had periods of looking like All-Stars followed almost immediately by extended stretches of looking like they've never played a competitive game of basketball in their lives.
Popovich's Spurs all work hard and get respect even if their name is Matt Bonner ! In Toronto, Bonner was a bit of joke, a burly redhead who could knock down the 3-ball. In San Antonio, he's picked up a championship ring and is in the second year into a 3-year, $9m contract. Who's laughing now ?
The Dallas Mavericks have quietly strung together four wins in a row, including three on the road. They sit at 6-7 but Rick Carlisle is going to have a lot of trouble getting this team anywhere beyond the first round of the playoffs though. They have suffered too many crushing playoff defeats in the three seasons and the Western Conference is stronger now than it was when the Mavs blew their best chance at a championship.
They'll still be competitive though, but really, they are only going to make up the numbers this year.
New Orleans Hornets Chris Paul must win the MVP award this year. He is so dominant it is scary. When you look at the impact Dwight Howard has on a game, a large part of that is because Howard is just so freakin' massive. Chris Paul is barely 6-feet tall yet casts a shadow larger than D-12.
Paul and the Hornets are finding teams gunning for them this year more than they did last year, but after an adjustment period and back-to-back triple-doubles from Paul, the Hornets have won three straight and are looking good.