Amid all the talk of a potential third straight Cavaliers-Warriors Finals matchup and a statistically historic MVP race between Russell Westbrook and James Harden, the San Antonio Spurs have quietly continued their dominance, on pace for 64 wins in the first season of the post-Tim Duncan era. Jeff Garcia, lead Spurs writer for News 4 San Antonio and Fox 29 San Antonio, as well as the host of the Locked on Spurs podcast, joins us to explain why the Spurs, as always, are perfectly content to stay below the national radar until the playoffs, and how their quiet, humble star, Kawhi Leonard, embodies that mentality. He also takes us through how, in recent years, the team has been able to transition seamlessly from a slow, grinding offense to the faster-paced, efficient one we’re seeing now. Among additional fascinating topics, Jeff tackles impressive backup point guard Patrick Mills’ impending unrestricted free agency. Particularly, will the Spurs pay to keep Mills in town and/or make him the starter over Tony Parker? Read more for our favorite excerpts from Jeff:
3:31-4:35: Despite their recent success, the Spurs are perennially ignored by the national media. Jeff explains why and if it matters:
“They just get the job done, and that can get boring at times. It’s like they say: ‘death, taxes, and Spurs’…They’re sitting at 32-9. They are a defensive animal. They’re an offensive animal. But yet, overlooked…Does it really matter? Because as long as this team is jiving at the right point [and] is heading into the postseason on the right foot, has a good rhythm, they’re going to get their national media attention, and hopefully that’s going to come late June when they’re hoisting up another trophy.”
11:00–12:42: Our guest then stands up for Kawhi Leonard as a legitimate darkhorse MVP candidate:
“Lurking in the shadows is a Kawhi Leonard…Maybe he’s also a product of the Spurs being overlooked. He’s become the new Tim Duncan. You expect these kinds of numbers from Kawhi…He’s very low key, he’s not a screamer. He’s not like Westbrook charging down the court, jamming it with ferocity and then thumping his chest. He’s not like Harden stirring the pot…or putting the three fingers up in the air and kissing the sky. Kawhi’s not that. He’s quite the opposite. And if he was that type of player, I would not be surprised to see him in the top three as an MVP candidate.”
16:34-17:08: Approaching 68 years old, what does legendary Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich’s future look like? Jeff has the scoop.
“I don’t see him stepping away from the game for quite some time. Let’s not forget that he is the new Team USA Olympic men’s national team coach for 2020. He’s also mentioned in the offseason he’s being a little bit more physically fit and trying to stay in more shape now. He’s seeing himself here for the long haul patrolling the sidelines for the Spurs and obviously Team USA years from now. I don’t see him slowing down. You’re seeing him enjoying the new-look Spurs.”
19:45-21:04: Next, the Spurs expert highlights the position that the team most needs to address:
“[Tony] Parker, obviously he’s making me eat my words right now, but his better years are behind him…You have Patty Mills. What are they going to do with him after this season? He’s in a contract year…He’s producing numbers this year [and] he’s upped them almost across the board, so he’s going to be getting looks in the offseason. I think point guard is a position this team really needs to look at heading forward. I think that’s where Dejounte Murray comes in. I’m not totally sold on him as of now. He’s still a fairly large project to work on. I know the Spurs are high on him…He’s been in and out of the D-League with the Austin Spurs, where he showed glaring weaknesses with them. In the games he played with Austin, he shot 10 percent from the 3-point line and had 5.4 turnovers per game.”
24:53 –25:33: LaMarcus Aldridge is a key cog in the San Antonio machine, but how can his contributions become even more impactful? Jeff?
“He needs to become more selfish. I know that’s weird to say on a Spurs team that doesn’t preach selfishness, but I think he needs to start looking to be more shot-first than pass-first. If he does that, then everyone else benefits, because then he becomes a threat in the middle a la Tim Duncan. And if he does become a threat in the middle, and more so than what he is in recent games, then that just frees up everybody else…clean looks for Danny Green and Patty Mills, opens up the lane for Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, and allows Kawhi Leonard to just simply be Kawhi Leonard and dominate that much more.”
Music: “We Like to Party” by Kevin MacLeod