The Lone Star Advocate

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Archive for the month “December, 2011”

New Look; Same Result

Almost seemingly doomed to forever be the other team in Los Angeles, the Clippers shocked the basketball world as they acquired New Orléans Hornets’ guard, Chris Paul, the same player whose trade NBA Commissioner David Stern halted when Paul was to be dealt to the Lakers. In a game that would be a litmus test for the Spurs team as they tested this newly formed threat in the conference, the Clippers’ powerhouse Blake Griffin had a good team behind him to help take some of the focus from him, with Paul and fellow new arrival Chauncey Billups, some of the focus taken off Griffin as Paul and Billups can light up the scoreboard.

Not at all phased by the Clipper’s daunting new line-up, the Spurs took the challenge head on and came out victorious as Manu Ginobili and DeJuan Blair toasted the Clipper defense, Ginobili, scoring 24 points including five 3-pointers to propel, and the first eleven points for the Spurs who started the game very sluggish. Blair, who had the opportunity to guard and go against Griffin, lit him up for 20 points and managed to snag away a total of six rebounds, four of those six offensive rebounds.

The defense of the Spurs held the Clippers to just below 40% shooting, despite allowing Griffin to rack up 28 points, Paul was held to a meager 3-10 only scoring 10 points. Aside from Griffin’s 28, none of the Clippers managed to score more than 12 points, effectively held in check by the tight Spurs’ defense. Forfeiting three steals, and committing 12 turnovers to the Spurs defense, all three steals ended up as points for the Spurs.

Many Spurs fans felt so against having Richard Jefferson on the team and celebrating when early news came about during the off-season that he was to be released and amnestied, I was one of those people who was anti-Jefferson, but after the effort put forth tonight and the game against Memphis, i have since recanted my statements and love what Richard Jefferson has done. On a little hot streak these past few games and making me a believer in him.

Although I do have my doubts of him, but Jefferson has convinced me to believe in him, sinking 8-9 shots from the field, and 3-4 from three-point range, ranking up 19 total points. He played the game with a sense of urgency, as if somebody had lit a fire under him, I seriously doubt it, but maybe he was tipped off about a non-believer being in attendance at the AT&T Center, and he wanted to convert me, and he certainly has converted me. I firmly believe that Jefferson will have a career year this season, and earn his pay check, showing exactly why we are paying him $30 million dollars.

With two great wins under them, the Spurs hit the road, bound for Houston to take on the Rockets in the Toyota Center, a team that the Spurs played against and split the two preseason games between them, but now with the Big Three playing more minutes and team chemistry higher than in the preseason, the game against the Rockets is a should win for this team and will prove to be a good game as the Rockets are not the pushovers they’ve been in recent years.

– Richard Perez

Bonus Picture, I thought this was pretty funny!

Young Body, Veteran Effort

In his first ever NBA Regular Season game, Kawhi Leonard played with the heart and presence of a seasoned veteran on the court. Although he did make a few rookie mistakes, he played his heart out. Leonard, picked 15th overall by the Indiana Pacer’s first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, was traded along with two other players for George Hill – a move that turned many Spurs fans into skeptics. However, after last night’s performance, Leonard has shown the potential to be a powerhouse in the years to come

Playing smart and going after loose balls, making second efforts on a busted play, or doing something any other rookie might not have done or even thought of in the situation, but Leonard did, the amazing three-point shot he made after Manu Ginobili’s stellar behind-the-back pass to him capped off his hot start to his inaugural NBA season, and summarized the theme of the night for the gifted, young, and talented Leonard.

Leonard is showing exactly why the Spur’s front office traded for him by coming up with two major steals and going the length of the court on one. This man has great presence of mind and knows how to react in certain situations. Leonard can shoot, play amazing defense, and fight for rebounds. At this time, Leonard is the total package. Yet, one question for Leonard remains; can he be consistent and continue to play like this throughout the year?

Tiago Splitter is another young player, who although he did not have as great a night as Leonard, he still played to the best of his abilities. In only his second year in the league, the experience of having his first NBA season under his belt shown through the entire game. However, Splitter passed up shots he could have taken, in addition to missing a rebound. Yet, despite the errors, he made the best of it and put forth the effort of a player who is well versed in the league.

Splitter played in other professional leagues in the years past, the result being his creation of an astounding résumé. Regardless of his training the Spanish and European leagues, nothing can quite compare to the stiff, elite competition that the NBA is known for. However, let’s not look past his professional basketball history. Splitter has won numerous gold medals with the Brazilian national team, and his global training shows in his play. Drawing from this, Splitter utilizes what he has learned in the past and contributes a great team effort, eventhough he may not present an astounding individual effort.

His help in getting the Spurs to conquer the Memphis Grizzlies is to be commended. Splitter walked off the court in the fourth quarter to a standing ovation in the AT&T Center, no doubt basking in the love pouring forth from the Spurs’ fans.

Third year player DeJuan Blair, had a positive and productive night as well, contributing to the Spurs’ win, not anything to gloat about statistically, but made his presence felt on the court, and got points when needed, coming up in a must score situation. Blair, who has had a decorated tenure in the NBA thus far, earning Co-MVP in the NBA Rookie Challenge, and making the Second NBA All-Rookie Team.

Only playing two years in college at the University of Pittsburgh, he entered the NBA Draft after his sophomore year, a talented young player despite being so young, he has proved his worth and has exceeded expectations, drafted in the second round, 37th overall by the Spurs, Blair is making a home for himself in San Antonio, and is becoming a fixture in the Spurs lineup, and will hopefully stay there for many seasons to come.

With the aid of Leonard, Splitter, and Blair, it was an excellent opening night for the entire Spurs team. Led by Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, also known as the Big Three of San Antonio, last night’s game is a great indication of what is to come this season. The Spurs were once thought to be too old, and were seen as declining in their performance. However, last night has put to rest those statements and the Spurs have yet again utilized their small market and have gotten younger under the radar of the league’s watchful eye. The Spurs’ front office is certainly one of the best in the league by prospecting foreign talent and showing how valuable these new players are to success.

The Spurs have high expectations this year, not just from themselves but from their fans and the city of San Antonio. After last night’s success, the Spurs look willing and able to take the league by storm and raise another banner in the Alamo City

– Richard Perez

High Expectations

With winning many championships in recent memory, the San Antonio Spurs have once been considered a dynasty by some in the NBA, always a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference, and a dominant force in the playoffs.

Despite in recent years making unceremonious playoff exits, after capturing their most recent title in 2007 by sweeping Lebron James and his former Cleveland Cavaliers, San Antonio struggled to make it back to the finals regressing in the post season one level at a time, having being beat in 2008 by the Lakers in the Western Conference Final, 2009 being swept by Phoenix in the semi-finals, and capped off their amazing 2010 season by getting upset by an upstart Memphis team in the first round.

Spurs fans have always held high expectations for their team, and this year is no different than years past, thanks to the lockout and labor disputes, the season is going to be severely shortened, the older veterans will benefit from the shortened scheduled, but the schedule is going to be brutal as multiple games are scheduled in a row, the major question surrounding San Antonio is: Can the Spurs’ vets handle it?

Tim Duncan is essentially the lone seasoned “big man” on the squad, the Spurs need another respectable, decent player to full in for Duncan when he needs his rest. Acknowledgement of Duncan’s age, and he not being the young and stout man he was in the last decade, is the only way for the Spurs to find the solution, because quite frankly, Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair do not match the demands of the grueling centers of the Western Conference. Bonner is near Duncan in height, but simply is better as a center than a forward, but against a smaller team, Bonner and Blair can fit the suit.

The Spurs have a chip on their shoulder after their premature exit of the playoffs after reaching their climax in the regular season, and lesson learned for Coach Gregg Poppovich and company, a lesson that is: it does not matters how you start, yet how you finish, and the Spurs are not at all content with last season’s finish. Relying on Manu Ginobili’s last second herorics in a number of games towards the end of last year, and resting the final games of the year, going in to the first round agaisnt the rambuctious and resillient Memphis Grizzlies, ultimately losing to the Grizzlies in 6 games.

With time winding down till tip-off, the Spurs are as ready as they’ll ever be, being rushed through an abbreviated training camp and preseason, finally, the 2011-2012 NBA Season is upon us and basketball never stops in San Antonio, Spurs fever spreads like wildfire as their fans unite to cheer them on in their Drive for Five NBA Championships

-Richard Perez

Another “Injury”

Another member of the Houston Texans goes down today, but it is not a player. It is defensive coordinator Wade Phillips, and no, he is not injured. Coach Phillips is just taking a 7-10 day medical leave to deal with a kidney issue that he will have surgically dealt with. Phillips said it is not life threatening and that he feels fine and, according to him, it is not cancerous. He said he will feel better after the procedure.

“I feel good,” Phillips said in an Associated Press interview. “I don’t have any physical problems right now, so if I get this done, this procedure that I’m doing, then I’ll be fine.”

As usual in a “next man up” type of order, Phillips’ absence leaves fans to wonder who is next in command, the man who take over during Wade’s absence, and that man is no other than Coach Phillips’ right hand man, linebackers coach Reggie Herring. Herring was Phillips’ coach back when he was the head coach in Dallas, Phillips brought him aboard the Texans’ staff back in January, so Coach Herring is more than qualified to take over now that he’s been brought along with Phillips from his former staff in Dallas.

Head coach Gary Kubiak said that Herring is ready to take over, he has called plays before and knows exactly what to do in Phillips’ absence, nothing will change as far as the system goes,

“At the end of the day I’m not Wade Phillips,” Herring said in the AP interview, “but it’s Wade Phillips’ system. It’s our calls. It’s what the players know.”

Despite the week to ten-day range of absence, Phillips will miss both the game versus Carolina and the Thursday night game versus Indianapolis, but hopefully return in time for the last game against Tennessee, and the playoffs. In his absence, a north and south transition for the players will take place, Phillips, a cool and calm coach is the antithesis of Herring who works up a sweat and is usually barking orders, but hopefully this  late in the season, the players have adjusted to his coaching style.

“I feel very confident about this,” Herring said. “We’re all in a good frame of mind right now. We have a lot of things to finish, home-field advantage. We have a lot to play for right now.

“Players have shown a lot of character and pride,” he said. “I don’t see any letdown in these guys. At the end of the day, Wade will be with us every snap. This is his system, his defense and we’ll move on.”

– Richard Perez

Uncharted Territory

Houston is ecstatic and the Texans are all smiles, as they are newly crowned AFC South champions and have punched their ticket to the postseason, both feats are franchise firsts, now as the Texans venture into the unknown, posting ten wins already, beating the franchise best nines. Fans gave the team a warm reception as they triumphantly returned home from Cincinnati, packing the Bud Light Pavilion at Reliant Stadium, a party and vivid celebration from fans and players alike as the players thanked the fans for their support and promised further success. With only three games remaining: Carolina, Indianapolis, and Tennessee; the games are not important,  essentially blow off games and have no meaning, now had the Saints not won, the final game versus Tennessee might have actually meant something, or possibly even the AFC South, but thankfully, that is not the situation, although, the game is in Houston and the home field advantage is undeniable in Reliant as we’ve seen throughout the year, the twelfth man makes his presence known against opposing offenses.

These Texans have multiple chips on their shoulders for being blown off and underrated, a few select people were smart enough to even forecast the Texans to make the playoffs, let alone post a winning season, now that they have, what can they do with it? Many hope for a first round bye, a number one seed, and the weaker team from the Wild Card, the possibilities of running the table and finishing the year 13-3 is very likely and certainly in reach for the team. If the season ended today, the Broncos and Steelers would play and the Patriots and Jets would play against one another, a likely opponent could either be the Broncos or the Jets, should they win, both are teams the Texans are capable of beating. An AFC title game berth in the first time of making the playoffs sounds sweet to me, the Texans are a powerful team that takes each opponent seriously and go on a game to game basis, if the Texans can buckle down and stay healthy, well, using the loosest form of healthy as they are already banged up, and play to their fullest ability, who says they cannot make the Super Bowl. A bold prediction indeed, but when you have a powerhouse defense, and an offense that can light up the scoreboard, there are endless possibilities.

– Richard Perez

Do Not Panic! Keep Calm and Carry On.

Houston remained calm when Matt Leinart made his highly anticipated return to starting in the NFL, but it was cut short as the injury bug sunk his fangs back into the Houston Texans, Leinart injured his collarbone in the game, his first start since 2009. Now, like many dedicated Texans fans, I watched the draft this year and thought it silly that we drafted another quarterback in TJ Yates from the University of North Carolina, now that we are scrapping the bottom of the barrel by signing Jake Delhomme. I told myself that the Texans had an amazing running game that would compensate for the lack of passing, but when a running team cannot run the ball, there is a huge problem, but Texans fans should rest assured in that TJ Yates comes from the UNC offensive system that is dashingly similar to Houston’s. He was drafted to the team for a reason, so to those of you that hit the panic button and are screaming that our hopes and dreams of a franchise first playoff birth,calm down! Yates has been learning from Schaub in his short tenure with the team and the theme of the season is showing that rookies can play, 2011 is year of the rookie quarterback, from Cam Newton in Carolina, and Andy Dalton in Cincinnati, fate is on the side of Yates, with the knowledge gained from coaches and players alike, Yates can utilize the knowledge and hopefully can lead these Texans to victory, with interceptasaurus, Jake Delhomme and former Jets’ back up Kellen Clemens behind him, Yates is likely the last bastion of hope for Houston.

Brett Favre’s name has indeed been tossed around but he claims to be out of shape, and not ready to play football anytime soon, despite his greatness, I’d prefer not to see Favre in a Texan uniform, and as Toby Keith once sang, Brett Favre is not as good as he once was. Dismal seasons outside of Green Bay, and an unceremonious exit form the league in 2010 from Minnesota, Farve is not, and should not be in Houston. With Tennessee creeping on us in the rear view mirror, the Texans need to put the pedal to the metal and continue trucking along, with obstacles in clear sight, the only way to find out if we are truly deserving of a playoff slot is to overcome this adversity, after not having Arian for the beginning of the year, losing  Mario Williams, arguably the defensive player on the team, and league. A last resort, hasty move like this would certainly not be good for the team, if Brett Favre came to Houston, the media circus would certainly follow, disrupting the team, and thus causing more harm than good.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, no team has ever been successful without facing adversity, Houston cannot allow Tennessee to snag the AFC South lead away, we have Atlanta at home and go to Cincinnati to face the Bungles led by Andy Dalton, possibly two losses, but a close game it will be, we will see just how TJ Yates can do. The scary fact standing out to me is that he was blanked the entire second half in Jacksonville, but in his defense, the Jacksonville defense played better in the second half and the game was in Jacksonville, but he did complete great passes, and played very smart for is first NFL start. A bode of confidence for the young man, and the expirence in Jacksonville gives him an idea of what to expect in the National Football League, now that he’s got his feet wet after his first game, it is only a matter of time before we see him display his talent. The reps he got against the Jaguars will only help him against Atlanta, practicing his timing and learning more of the playbook this week will only help him more, thus preparing him more and making his start just a little less stressful on the young quarterback.

With AFC defensive player of the month and arguably one of the top tier defenses in the league in his back pocket to keep the game within reach, Yates has a plethora of talent surrounding him and can get the job done, have faith in the young man, my fellow Texans and hope that  he will lead this team to greatness, and live up  to the hype that the people on twitter have given him, dubbing him the next Tom Brady, although it is a very generous thing to bestow upon him, I believe it’s best everything is taken one smooth step at a time, Rome was not built in one day, and patience is a virtue. and very much indeed is the key to the success of the team.

– Richard Perez

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