Jesse Blanchard from 48 Minutes of Hell answers some questions prior to Pistons-Spurs

Essentials

Teams: Detroit Pistons at San Antonio Spurs

Date: March 9,  2011

Time: 8:30 p.m.

Television: Fox Sports Detroit

Records

Pistons: 23-41

Spurs: 51-12

Probable starters

Pistons:

Spurs:

  • Tony Parker
  • Manu Ginobili
  • Richard Jefferson
  • Tim Duncan
  • DeJuan Blair

Las Vegas projection

Spread: Pistons +12

Over/under: 199

Score: Spurs win, 105.5-93.5

Three Five things to watch

Rather than list our traditional three points of interest for the game, we’ll change things up a bit. Jesse Blanchard from the fantastic Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell was kind enough to answer a few questions before the game.

1. Pistons.com writer Keith Langlois recently compared Greg Monroe‘s work ethic and demeanor (not talent level) to Tim Duncan. Duncan was obviously a special player from the second he stepped on a NBA court, but what clues were there early that he had the self-motivation and maturity to succeed in the NBA?

One of the first impressions Tim Duncan made in the NBA was not a very good one. In the summer league of his rookie season he went out against Utah and, as legend has it, was owned by Utah Jazz center Greg Ostertag. The thing to watch for, if you are trying to compare demeanors between Monroe and Duncan, is how he handles success and failures.

The thing with Tim Duncan, going back to his summer league debut, is that his highs never got too high, his lows never too low. He was neither overly impressed with himself or his success, nor was he deterred by critics. It was all about the process of getting better. Greg Monroe had a rough start to his rookie season, but to his credit, seems to have figured some things out and recovered reasonably well. If he is truly comparable to Duncan in demeanor, he should have a nice career ahead of him.

2. Of all the Pistons who have left the team over the last four or five years, Antonio McDyess is by far the most popular. In fact, many Pistons fans freely admit to rooting for a Spurs title simply so McDyess can finally get the ring he just missed getting in Detroit. Have Spurs fans grown as fond of him over the last couple of seasons?

You will be happy to learn that we are taking quite good care of McDyess here in San Antonio. He is quietly appreciated by the fans, gets to take however many days off he chooses, and in fact has reconsidered his retirement after this season.

Though he rarely plays during the regular season as Popovich tries to save him for the playoffs, Antonio McDyess has put in some crucial minutes in big games. Last year he was invaluable against the Dallas Mavericks in the playoffs. It takes a lot of professionalism to be put on an island against a guy like Dirk Nowitzki and get torched, but that’s essentially what Popovich did to McDyess. The key was McDyess was able to make Dirk work just enough for his points that the Spurs defense could key in and shut down the rest of the team.

If the Spurs, and McDyess, are going to win a championship this year—and they have a legitimate shot—it will be because their defense falls into place over the rest of the season. Like Michael Finley before him, the role McDyess plays on a contending team is probably not what they envisioned for their NBA careers, but if the Spurs win it will be because McDyess had an important say in the matter.

3. The Spurs weren’t very competitive in Sunday’s loss to the Lakers. How badly are they going to take that loss out on Detroit tonight?

Before the Miami Heat game I went into the visitor’s locker room and was struck by two of the keys to that night’s game that head coach Erik Spoelstra had written on his game board: Enthusiasm and Resolve. It caught my attention because I’m almost certain that Gregg Popovich has never had to write or emphasize those points to any of his teams.

In Popovich’s pre-game interview one of the reporters asked him about the Heat’s motivation coming off of their embarrassing loss to Orlando. He responded by pointing out that the Heat were grown men that knew they got embarrassed and a head coach probably shouldn’t have to say anything to muster the appropriate motivation. Of course, Spoelstra did have to mention those things and his team still came out flat. The Spurs were embarrassed by the Lakers, I doubt you will see them suffer the same problem.

4. From afar, I know Dan Feldman and I enjoy the many, many instances of Gregg Popovich making people who ask him questions feel really dumb. You’ve covered Pop, have you ever been a victim of his love of being condescending?

This has been a fascination of mine since the day I got my media credential, to the point that I’ve spent part of this season collecting highlights for a piece over the summer. I consider getting blasted by Popovich to be almost a rite of passage for journalists. Sam Smith, who seems to be one of Pop’s favorites, put it best:

Gregg Popovich demands the best from all people at all times, and the media are no different than his players. If he perceives a lazy or poorly constructed question, he will not tolerate it. After the Lakers game a female reporter, probably an intern, asked if the large Lakers crowd in attendance at a Spurs home game had any effect. Needless to say, it didn’t go over very well.

As for me, I’ve been “Pop”-ped twice. Last year I made the mistake of asking about Duncan’s minutes and late season wear and tear (not something I recommend any blogger do for future reference). Before the Lakers game I meant to ask about the strides Bonner and Blair have made on the defensive end since coming to the Spurs, given their matchups that game. But instead of asking about the “growth of their game” I left it at the “growth of Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair”.

Of course he knew what I meant, but his response was something along the lines of “I’m pretty sure they’re the same size since the start of the season, I don’t know that they’ve had any growth spurts or anything like that,” before he proceeded to answer the question.

5. In the 2009 draft, when the Pistons were using the first of their second round picks, most every Piston fan reacted excitedly when they heard, ” … Pistons select DeJuan …” thinking ‘Blair’ would be the next word, only to get tricked with the old ‘DaJuan Summers’ gag. Watching Blair’s progression over the last two years, how badly did the Pistons (and several other teams) miss by not taking this guy?

Before getting too excited about DeJuan Blair, there are some things to take into consideration. Yes, he is a steal by the Spurs, but will he be an All-Star? Probably not. Blair is one of those players whose true value is probably best appreciated in a specific role on a good team. He’s a subpar defender whose primary value on that end are steals, he is not overly athletic, and he has no identifiable offensive skill set outside of rebounding.

That being said, that the rest of the league passed on this guy through the first round shows why the Spurs have outlasted every team in the NBA. Imagine how much better the Memphis Grizzlies would be if they had just taken Blair with the no. 2 overall pick. Some guys just know how to play, and Blair is one of them. From day one he has had an instant connection with Manu Ginobili running the pick and roll (sort of like a mini Fabricio Oberto with better rebounding) and playing off teammates. His lack of shooting and height mean he’ll probably never be a future All-Star, but every championship team needs a guy like Blair.

Pregame Reading

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