Tag Archives: Manu Ginobili

The “Ginobili rules” of the West don’t put the Spurs in title contention

He took the ball on a bounce after a sloppy, tipped inbound.  He held it too long, allowing precious seconds tick away, robbing his team of any chance for an offensive rebound if his final shot missed.  He advanced then toward Luc Mbah a Moute, one of the best defenders — if not the best defender — in basketball.  He drove hard left but Mbah a Moute was there first.  He pushed Luc off with his right arm but not far enough — Mbah a Moute stayed right on him as he planted a pivot foot.  He had no time and no choice but to jump full back, with both feet — traveling — and tossed up a 20-footer that barely lofted over Mbah a Moute’s outstretched hand.

No whistles.  The jumper poured through the hoop at the buzzer, giving the Spurs a 92-90 win over the Bucks.

“He” is Manu Ginobili, Charles Barkley’s second favorite player.  How about Charles’ boy this week?

“You mean that he travelled?” – Sir Charles doth speaketh.  “… That’s a travel. In all 50 states, that’s a travel.”

Not in San Antonio, Texas, on a Wednesday night in December — and not when the 10-13 Milwaukee Bucks were on the verge of pulling off a Texas sweep of the teams with the best records in the West.  Are the Spurs and Mavs truly title contenders?   Maybe.  But no, not if Boston and Miami continue playing the way they’re playing, not really.  Not if they’re struggling — and the Mavs failing — to beat the Bucks in Texas.

It’s been two-plus seasons since Ginobili, Parker and Duncan made the West Finals but the story seems to be that this summer they “banded together” for a title run in 2011. It’s an improbable story when you consider that they haven’t really been close to a title since 2007 when they last won; and it’s not a story everybody’s buying into — the Denver Nuggets certainly didn’t on Thursday night.  FoxSports “In the Paint” NBA analyst Marques Johnson this week qualified  his take on the Spurs and Mavs as “the best in the West” with a telling … “for now.” And he says it twice for emphasis.

Marques (1977-1984) was the greatest forward to ever wear a Bucks uniform, the only Buck not named Kareem or Sidney to be a 1st team All-Pro.   It’s always strange to see Junior Bridgeman‘s #2 up in the BC rafters (though they on the court together for roughly half the game, Bridgeman was Marques’ backup) while Marques’ #8 is still in circulation, worn by rookie Larry Sanders (heck, I’d wear it too if I were a Bucks rookie).  Like Barkley, Marques is more keen on the Mavs chances — probably figuring that Dirk Nowitzki is the one player whom none of his contending Bucks teams would have had a defense for.  The Spurs?  “The Spurs are the Spurs,” Johnson shrugged.

But the thing that’s going unmentioned in the NBA this week by Marques, Barkley or anybody is that neither the Spurs or Mavs looked like championship contenders against the Bucks — a concession perhaps to the idea that the Bucks have the unluckiest 10-14 record in basketball and are so-under-the-radar in terms of contention that you need sonar to track them.  The Bucks haven’t backed away from any challenges since Andrew Bogut came back into the lineup, including the Heat, but that’s not the point — nobody’s going to talk about the Bucks until they start putting the ball in the basket with more regularity, go on a winning streak and actually beat the Heat, which they’ll get two chances to do the first week of January.

The point is, the Bucks were screwed in San Antonio — no other way to put it.  The refs didn’t just eat their whistles on Ginobili’s buzzer beater, they were loathe the entire game to call fouls on the Spurs starting five.  That isn’t going to happen if and when the Spurs meet Kobe, Gasol and the Lakers in the playoffs.

Here’s the foul story: One on Manu, one on Parker, one on DeJuan Blair and three on Tim Duncan, who was guarding Bogut most of the night and basically humped his arm with the score tied 90-90 and the Bucks trying to feed their All-Star center in the post.   No fouls on Richard Jefferson.  That’s six fouls in 150 minutes played by the Spurs starters — or an astounding one foul per 25 minutes played, which means the refs were not about to whistle even 5 fouls on the Spurs starters per 120 mins of available PT in a half.

Brandon Jennings was hacked all night by Tony Parker and battered to a 4-18 shooting night.  Yet the Bucks, with John Salmons and Corey Maggette all but benched for the game and Carlos Delfino still recovering from a head injury, had the ball with the score tied at 90 and 30 seconds to play.

The following night in Denver it was more of the same for the Spurs, playing at full strength against the Chauncey-less Nuggets.  Duncan fouled out two or three times by my count but was only whistled for four, even as his counterpart, Nene Hilario, was fouled out.  Parker — who fouls everybody in sight — was caught for all of one foul playing 37 minutes.  In the end it was Manu twisting for a layup to give the Spurs the lead and then saving the game by leaping into Carmelo Anthony‘s path to draw a charge as time expired — taking the winning points off the Denver scoreboard.

Was Ginobili there, planted in position in time?   It was close, too close not to question — but it was Manu.  Of course the call went his way, whether or not what he did was to jump — leap, literally, both feet in the air from the weakside — under Carmelo as Carmelo (31 pts in the game) was gathering to lift to the rim.

But hey — it was Manu.  Tough luck, Carmelo.  “Bullshit,” said Nuggets coach George Karl.  The Spurs are now 22-3, the best record in basketball and they’re playing at full strength in December. It’s the fastest start in Spurs history.  But I watched the Spurs lose twice this week, and so did you — only to see the refs award them the wins.  No, the Spurs are no title contender — they don’t have the muscle in the paint to help Duncan and truly contend, and no amount of magical refereeing will allow the Manu and Parker and RJ show to carry them to the finals.

Call the Spurs a lucky 22-3, as lucky as the Bucks 10-14 mark has been unlucky and injury riddled.  As lucky as the Bears 9-4 record atop the NFC North (oh, that’s probably stretching it).  The luck of things in the NBA have a tendency to even out over the grueling 82-game schedule — let’s not go ahead and crown their asses yet.   Remember, against the Bucks, the Spurs were posterized in the 4th quarter by, of all people, Drew Gooden.

********************************

“I still don’t think he’s a center” — Kevin McHale on the Hawks Al Horford — who is not a center despite the Hawks insistence (under Mike Woodson anyway) that Horford is a 6’11″center.   In Boston, Horford had just hit an early 18-footer against the Celtics, and McHale noted that Horford’s improving 18-footer was the thing that “separates him from other big forwards.”  Al Horford, power forward.  Too small to start against Andrew Bogut and other centers (that task goes to Hawks big man Jason Collins), and too small at 6’9 to appear on center ranking lists.  Hopefully, commentary like McHale’s is a sign that Bogut will be making his All-Star game debut in Los Angeles in February.

*************************

Bogut since his return against the Magic Dec. 4:  19.8 pts – 14.2 rebs – 4 blks – 1 steal – 2.3 assists per game.  Add in the possessions that he turns over by taking charges and the result is a center playing better now than Dwight Howard.  Overall, Bogut leads the NBA in blocks per game (3.1) and has the 3rd-best defensive rating in the league (96.5 pts allowed per 100 possessions when he’s on the court) behind Kevin Garnett and Howard.  That’s the sort of company AB keeps these days.

If Bogut keeps it up and continues hitting 55% of his shots (50 of 89 since tipping it off against the Magic), the Bucks should weather the current scheduling nightmare (and AB’s horrendous free throw shooting) by earning a few tough road wins in the West — and be right on the Bulls’ tails by late January.

***************************

Speaking of centers and the Bulls, Joakim Noah will be out nursing a broken right thumb until after the All-Star break.  With the Bucks in the middle of the toughest stretch of basketball in the league this season, fate (or Bulls management) has conspired to make sure the Bulls don’t run away with the Central.  The Bulls can’t and won’t keep up their 16-8 pace (and 3rd-ranked defense) without their defensive anchor in the paint having the All-Star season he was having — but the Bucks have a six game hole to climb out of while playing the toughest December-early January schedule in the league.

The Bucks play Dec. 28 and Jan. 24 in Chicago.  Noah will miss both of those, which means the Bucks won’t get a chance to see the Rose-Noah-Boozer Bulls until Feb. 26 in Milwaukee.  That’s too bad, because a Bucks-Bulls game without Joakim Noah is like playing the Celtics without Kevin Garnett — it takes the fun out of the battle for the paint.  I wonder if Bogut will miss him.

I can’t help but wonder, though, given that 2-handed push shot that Noah throws up at the rim,  what he needs his right thumb for?

Ten things you should know about Olympic basketball

Bogut mugging Yao last weekOlympic basketball kicks off this weekend, the men’s tournament Sunday morning, Aug. 10. The USA “Redeem Team” and Michael Redd begin Group B play against Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian and China. Andrew Bogut and his Australia Boomers open against Croatia in Group A.

Here’s the game schedule. Click here for NBC’s broadcast schedule. NBC will have a few of the US games live, including Sunday’s opener, but you know how NBC is, jumping in and out of the action. If it’s not on the toob (NBC or USA Network), it can be viewed live online, a great opportunity for American hoops fans to see for ourselves how the rest of the world is doing. It’s creative loafing time.

Team USA with Kobe and Lebron is a heavy favorite to bring the gold home after finishing 3rd in Athens 2004, no matter how cynical the press row has been. But let’s not get cocky. This is arguably the strongest field in Olympic basketball history. Spain, Greece, Argentina, Russia and Lithuania are expected to be in the medal running. Watch out for Bogut and Australia, and Germany. Croatia’s a sleeper. China, Iran and Angola are the also-rans.

That’s the conventional media wisdom, which might be half right. (Count how many times you hear an announcer apply the “arguably best player in the world not in the NBA” tag to different players.) I haven’t seen most of these teams play yet, so prognostications will have to wait. Instead, let’s examine the weirdness that is international basketball with a trusty ten-point Olympic primer.

1) The time shift will take some getting used to: Beijing is on the other side of the world, 13 hours ahead of Milwaukee. Group play begins at 9AM [I’ve corrected this] each morning in China, seen live in Milwaukee at 8PM and continues through the night until about 11AM the next morning — six men’s or women’s games daily Aug. 9-18. All of the U.S. men’s games, however, are prime time and night cap games in China, which means 7AM and 9:15AM tip-offs here for Team Redeem (can we come up with a better nickname?). Hoops with early ayem coffee instead of beer, plenty of time to get caught up with work in the afternoon.

Here’s NBC’s basketball broadcast schedule again, online games included. Bogut’s first game Sunday 7AM vs. Croatia can be viewed online. USA-China tips off Sunday at 9:15AM, live on NBC.


Dirk will lead Germany2) The Olympic tournament features 12 teams divided into two groups of six, A and B. After a five-game round-robin within the groups, four teams from each advance to the quarter finals Aug. 20, where the stakes are do or die, one game elimination. The team finishing 1st in its group plays the 4th place team from the other group; the 2nd place team plays the 3rd place team from the other group and so on. For example, If Australia and Bogut finish 4th in Group A, the Aussies would likely play Group B U.S. in the quarterfinals and be sent Down Under without a medal — although it would be a good game if the refs let the rough stuff go, which they won’t (see #10). The semifinals are Aug. 22, the medal games cap the Olympics Sunday, Aug. 24.

GROUP A: Argentina (full line-up of NBA experience led by the Suprs All-NBA guard Manu Ginobili, and forwards Luis Scola of the Rockets and the Bulls’ Andres Nocioni), Australia (Bogut), Russia (Jazz forward Andrei Kirilenko), Lithuania (no Cavs center Zydrunas Ilgauskas this time), Croatia and Iran.

GROUP B: Spain (Lakers all-star Pau Gasol and brother Marc of the Grizzlies; shooting guard Juan Carlos Navarro, Wizards draftee), Germany (Mavs All-NBAer Dirk Nowitzki, Clippers center Chris Kaman), Greece (a few guys who didn’t stick in the NBA), China (Yao and Yi), Angola and Team USA.

3) No matter how much it appears to be smaller, the international (FIBA) ball is, in fact, the same size as the NBA ball (size 7, 22 inches diameter). It is not, however, the same ball. The NBA ball – “the one ball” – is a Spalding. The international ball can be made by any manufacturer that pays the licensing fees and certifies the rigorously zany process that the offical FIBA ball must undergo, including refrigeration and other laboratory processes, and a goofy paint job.


The Manu Ginobili factor4) The international three-point line looks to be about the same as the college three-point line but is 9.1 inches further out at 20′ 6.1″ (6.25 meters) from the hoop. The NBA arc is three feet-plus further out (23′ 9″ – except at the baseline where the line tapers to 22 feet). There was really no excuse for the U.S. shooting 3-18 behind the arc the other day in its tuneup game against the Aussies — though the reason may be that NBA players don’t shoot as well as players a generation ago. In 2010, FIBA will move its arc back about a foot-and-a-half. Apparently, the rest of the world still thinks the NBA three line is too far away from the hole.

5) The lane, that trapezoidal lane, wider near the hoop. It looks just as weird as it always has, and there’s no good reason for it. What’s the purpose? To keep big men away from the basket and make post play more difficult, of course, and to equalize height advantage. That’s not a good reason. I’ve also suspected the trapezoid was designed “just to be different” from the American game, less squarish and not unlike the goofy paint job on the ball. But not for long. The trapezoids will be peeled off the world’s hardwood in 2010 as FIBA has come to its senses and will paint the standard American lane, which you already know if you hit the link in #3.


Redd from three - 20076) Zone defense is allowed, anything goes, no defensive three seconds for guarding no one. A team can clog the lane all it wants on D, which gets back to the questions in #4 about the trapezoidal weirdness. The zones will impact Team Redeem. NBA players are used to clear-out, one-on-one basketball and post offense against man-to-man D, and generally run two root plays — pick-and-roll and give-and-go. The off-the-ball cuts that free shooters against zones are not ingrained in their offensive styles, and Lebron and Kobe never played a second of college ball where zones are allowed. Neither did center Dwight Howard. If anything is the premium in international ball, it’s zone-beating outside shooting. Many teams (Spain, Argentina, Lithuania, Greece) are stacked with great shooters, while Team USA came to China with one fewer than it probably should have. The Olympics would be a bad time for Michael Redd to start forcing offense and fall into one of his bad streaks, those slumps that for the Milwaukee Bucks have often come at the worst possible times.

7) The court is 2′ 2″ shorter and nearly a foot narrower at an even 28 meters by 15 meters, something that only the great, idiosyncratic shooters of the era, Ray Allen and Reggie Miller, probably ever paid any attention to. The three point line is already much shorter, so trimming five inches left and right along the baseline is negligible for most players. I do foresee Redd finding his heels on the out-of-bounds line a time or two if he’s running the baseline and setting up for corner threes.


Kobe and Lebron resting Tuesday vs. Australia8) Forty minute games just like in college, 5 fouls to foul out. Unlike college, however, there are four periods, with a two-minute break at the end of the first and third quarters (the NBA break is only 90 seconds). Much like the trapezoidal lane, there seems no good reason that this should be different from both the NBA and NCAA, other than being different for the sake of being different. This one, though, heavily favors NBA stars used to playing a grueling 36-40 minutes a game. Imagine the never-tiring Lebron James, Kobe Bryant and Chris Paul.

9) Fewer timeouts. In the NBA, teams get six plus a 20-second timeout. In FIBA ball, it’s one time out per period until the 4th quarter, when teams get two — five altogether plus the longer quarter breaks. No 20-second timeout. This shouldn’t matter, right?  Watch various Redeem Team players try to save possession by calling 20-second timeouts when falling out of bounds or scrambling for the ball. Ahh, it’s the little things in life, good for shits and giggles.


10)  International refs are tehrrr-rrible (that’s Bill Waltonese) a-trohh-shuss even, always a source of frustration worse than college refs and far less respectful of game flow than NBA refs. This, along with the zone D, will cause some trouble for Team Redeem. The refs don’t like tough, physical defense; they don’t do make up calls (one of the most equitably sane things about NBA refs); they don’t let big men play; there are only two of them — not the NBA three; and ref nationalism brings a paranoia factor into the mix (the 1972 travesty vs. the Soviets was only the most blatant refereeing debacle). As much as the Chinese fans love them, much of the rest of basketball world is rooting against the Redeem Team. (Ed. note – FIBA’s decided to go with three refs. Nope, they don’t all have to have a common language.)

In the “friendly” games over the last ten days, the refs made it clear that they’ll be whistle-happy on Australia and its hammerlock defense. Lebron, who plays a similar style under Mike Brown in Cleveland, fouled out of a tuneup game. US center Howard, a Stan Van Gundy player in Orlando, has had a difficult time in general. Carlos Boozer, from the Jerry Sloan school of defense in Utah, has yet to find a role or playing time. In a way it’s a good thing for the U.S. that there are no Celtics, Spurs or 76ers on Team Redeem, and only one Detroit Piston, Tayshaun Prince. Clawing NBA defense is expressly illegal by international refereeing standards. (Mo Williams would love Beijing.)

Also note that many international refs seem to have a man-crush on Argentina’s shooting guard, a phenomenon heretofore known as “the Manu Ginobili factor” (Manoo factor for short).

Links: A comprehensive preview of Team USA from Inside Hoops.  From a Russian basketball junkie, a “general questions about international ball” page at ballineurope.com. Here’s the rules comparison sheet again from USA basketball. 

An official FIBA preview. Dirk Nowitzki (Germany), Manu Ginobili (Argentina), Andrei Kirilenko (Russia), Sarunas Jasikevicius (Lithuania) and Yao Ming for host China were the flagbearers for their countriesin the opening ceremony — a pretty good indication of how important Olympic basketball is around the world. Heavy gravitas for the basketball stars in Beijing.

Draft Express.com has some conventional power rankings that should be read with skepticism. Celtics blogger Green Bandwagon has better insight. Chris Sheridan’s China archive at ESPN is an excellent resource. NBA.com is also on the beat.  I’ll be keeping track of Aussie basketball and Bogut here and here. You won’t have to look hard for the Lauren Jackson photos on those Aussie sites.

Here are those broadcast listings from NBC, one more time.


Let the games begin!

“The clock was on valium”… Ankle injury limits Bogut… USA 3’s bomb Lithuania

Because the Journal Sentinel hasn’t come through with much Andrew Bogut in China coverage, you can always check here (and probably find it) at the Bob Boozer Jinx.

With Bogut used sparingly due to what was described as a minor ankle injury, his Australia Boomers blew a 19-point 3rd Quarter lead and fell to Argentina in the finals of the Diamond Ball tournament in Nanjing, China. Argentina, the defending gold medalists, features the Spurs’ All-NBA guard Manu Ginobili, forward-center Luis Scola of the Rockets and Bulls forward Andres Nocioni.

With the paint Bogut-less for most of the game, Scola led all scorers with 32. Ginobili added 24 and Nocioni 20. And they got some help from the refs. In my last post, I noted that the Aussies, who play a rough, aggressive Detroit-style defense might have trouble with the international referees, who’ll “call a foul if a defender so much as breathes on Manu Ginobili.”

Sure enough, with Australia leading 54-35 early in the 3rd, Ginobili hit a three to close it to 16, and then the whistles started blowing. The Aussie were called for six fouls in three minutes, sending three of its starting five to the bench with foul trouble. Ginobili took over and suddenly the lead was nine and the crowd was going nuts. The fans, the refs, even the waterboys — Argentina has it all in international ball.

Bogut’s ankle injury doesn’t sound serious, and he probably would’ve played more if it was an Olympic game. As it was, why give Argentina a free look at a full strength team with its center? Australia and Argentina are in Group A of the Olympic tournament, so they’ll meet again in group play.

I’ve gotta clip some more Aussie sports writing: In the 4th quarter, “The clock was on valium for the Aussies and the clearly pro-Argentina crowd was in a frenzy when Ginobili shot 2-of-2 from the line to reduce the margin to just three points with 6:26 remaining.”

The clock was on valium! 

You can follow Bogut and Australia here at the Australia Basketball site.

Team USA blew out Lithuania 120-84 on Friday, with Michael Redd scoring 16 and shooting 4-8 from behind the arc in 14 minutes. Redd, D-Wade, Kobe, Lebron and gang shot a barrage of threes over Lithuania’s zone, 23 in all, hitting 11.

When Redd started dialing in, Lebron took to yelling “bang bang!” when it went up. Settle down Lebron, you know the trade to Cleveland can’t go down unless Bucks GM Hammond works something out with Anderson Varejao and his agent, Dan Fegan. … and you know what Fegan’s like.