The San Antonio Spurs are the first team to reach 40 wins after edging the Houston Rockets last Saturday. The game also happens to be the Spurs’ 18th straight home stand win, giving them just enough momentum before they take on the nine-game Rodeo Road Trip on Tuesday against Portland.
Being the number one team in the standings have earned the Spurs a target on their backs. And the truth is, any team who gets to beat San Antonio in the next three weeks will be doing a favor to the other teams near the top half of the standings to inch their way closer to San Antonio one game at a time. And while San Antonio is ahead of the next best team by seven games, the games away from home will test how much of a true championship contender the Spurs really are.
Here are some stats for the Spurs to consider as they take on the nine-game road trip:
– The Spurs have defeated six of the nine teams they are facing on the road (Portland, LA, Toronto, Philadelphia, Washington, and Chicago).
– The other three teams in line for this road trip (Sacramento, Detroit, and New Jersey), are facing San Antonio for the first time this season. In other words, the Spurs doesn’t have any losing records to any of the nine teams they’re facing the next three weeks. Yet.
– The Spurs’ last five losses were all on the road.
– The last five teams that defeated San Antonio (LA Clippers, Orlando, Boston, New York, and New Orleans) won by an average margin of 13 points. Three of the five games were blow-out victories over the Spurs (Orlando by 22, New York by 13, and the largest, New Orleans by 24).
– The Spurs enter the Rodeo Road trip with a 75% winning percentage (15 wins in 20 road games).
– The Spurs’ winning percentage away from home is better than seven of the nine teams’ winning percentage in their own home court. Only LA (also with a 75% winning percentage at home) and Chicago (83% winning percentage at home) have equal or better percentages than San Antonio.
– Even if San Antonio dropped all of its nine road games, they’ll still be number two in the standings in the Western Conference, and still number one in the Southwest Division.
Coach Greg Popovich doesn’t fret much about the challenges of the Rodeo trip. In fact, he considers it as a distraction-free training for the team. If ever they do land on the top spot by the end of the season, they’ll be mentally and physically adjusted even as they take on the playoff contenders on the road.
Go, Spurs, Go!
The Charlotte Bobcats are just hanging on to the final spot of the top half in the Eastern Conference, with only two wins ahead of the trailing Indiana Pacers. And they are the only other team on the top half, aside from the number seven Philadelphia 76’ers to have below .500 in games won.
But that’s just fine.
Fact is, the Bobcats would have been on a much lower spot than where they are right now. During the first 28 games of the season, they were only 9-19. And then Larry Brown was fired, after only a season of leading the newest NBA franchise to its first playoff appearance. The dismal start was just enough pressure to kick out a Hall of Fame coach. And did I mention this team is owned by Michael Jordan?
Enter Paul Silas, who was incidentally, asked to coach for a previous franchise in Charlotte, the Hornets, way back. His job back then didn’t have any difference from what he has right now–as interim coach. The role was simple–try to plug the holes before the boat fully sinks.
Seventeen games later, it seems the boat is cruising along just fine.
The Bobcats just earned their 19th win, courtesy of a 121-113 overtime victory over the Golden State Warriors. Since Silas took over, the Bobcats have been 11-6. They’ve won six of the last ten games, and what used to be a ten-game win-loss differential has been halved. The ‘Cats are now just five games away from getting to the .500 mark.
Stephen Jackson best described this sudden turn-around.
“We are a confident team right now, and we credit that to coach Silas. He gives us confidence and lets us play and it is starting to show.”
The win over the Warriors was also somewhat a sweet revenge, after the latter edged them by one point last December 31, 96-95. More personally, it was of the same sort for Jackson, who previously suited up for Golden State, but eventually took off in what was dubbed as an “ugly divorce” last season. A three pointer at the dying seconds of regulation pushed the game into overtime, and along with it Charlotte’s chances of escaping a season sweep. The rest of the game in overtime was history.
If there is anything that Silas did to restore Charlotte to its winning ways, it was simply to let the players do what they do best–play. No doubt, he still inks that whiteboard with drawings, reminders, and motivating quotes. But out in the open floor, the players are instructed to just cruise along and play smart. Silas seems to know when to let instincts rule the game, and when to let his perspective take lead. The good balance in both strategy and spontaniety by Silas seems to be the key that has given Charlotte a spot in the top half of the standings.
And a spot in the hearts of his players as well.
Before, whenever I would watch tragic news stories on TV, my heart usually goes out to the victims. And along with the pity comes the feeling of fear–the dread that usually comes from the thought that I could have easily taken that person’s place. Right in the middle of watching the news I often find myself drifting to an imagined world, with me taking the shoes of the person who lost his life, and from the closed coffin I stare back at my friends and loved ones lamenting my sudden demise. And if not for the TV commercial, I would have wandered long enough to being buried.
But with a daughter who, at two months and seventeen days, is now smiling at will, making those nonsensical ga-gas and goo-goos, and staring lovingly back at you when you take a walk, my heart has suddenly metamorphosed into something else. Just now, hearing all the news about the recent bus bombing tragedy in Buendia, Makati last Tuesday, and watching the interviews on the loved ones of the victims, I realized I’m no longer imagining myself as the corpse inside the glass box. The feeling was still the same–of pity and fear. What’s different is that my heart doesn’t feel as much for the victim now than before.
My heart goes out to the parents of the victims now.
Before you go rabid about my seeming insensitivity, hear me out first. Yes, I still feel for the victims. But now that I am a parent myself, I have taken on a whole new perspective on looking at things around me. Before, I cannot understand the grief, loss, and burden that a father feels when they lose a daughter or a son to a heartless act of violence. Before, my clamor for justice usually goes out first in behalf of the victims. Before, my eyes and ears are focused on what the parents say about their child.
I find myself captured not anymore by the testimonials of the parents, but of the parents themselves. I’m glued right on to reality unfolding before my eyes through the parent’s expressions. Her breaking voice as she speaks of the tragic ending of her son’s life. The river of tears falling from her eyes that now has to endure life without seeing the daughter that she loved so dear. The trembling hands of father clasping his daughter’s necklace, the last remaining memory of someone that, perhaps early that morning, kissed his dad goodbye to go to office to take one step closer to fulfilling her dream–her dad’s dream.Hurtfully, indeed, I feel the pain.
And I’m just a viewer at that.
Walking today from our house going to the parking area, I saw Chelsey looking at me sweetly from her mother’s arms. I looked back at her, and smiled. She smiled even more sweetly.
I know my daughter only knows the smile on my face. Someday, when she’s old enough to make sense of life’s beauties and tragedies, I will let her know my heart.
The heart of a father.
Papunta sa isang outing ang isang mag-anak. Handa na sanang aalis ang pamilya, nang aksidenteng makandado ng yaya ang pinto, at ang susi ay naiwan.
Saglit na inasikaso ng ama ang problema.
Tinungkab, sinungkit, inalambre… lahat na ata ng pwedeng gawin para lang mabuksan ang pinto. Sa inis ng ama, sinipa na lamang niya ang pinto.
Nabuksan ang pinto.
Parang natanggalan ng tinik ang yaya ng sabihin niyang, “Ang galing mo talaga kuya! Buti na lang nabuksan mo, at least HINDI NA NATIN GINAMIT PA ITONG SPARE KEY KO!”
I’ve been traveling more frequently these last two months up north of Metro Manila. Since December last year, I was tasked to look over one of our congregations in Angeles City, as well as travel to Morong, Bataan to make arrangements for our family camp there. We also went up Baguio early this year for a preacher’s camp. If I’m not mistaken, 8 times I traveled north in the last two months.
Can you blame me if, among the so many positive moments I can cite during these trips, I’m ranting over the absurd diesel and toll gate prices?
Just three years ago, whenever I would gas up for a road trip, I would still find a gasoline station that serves diesel at 21 pesos minimum and 23 maximum. And the rates at the toll gate usually ranged between 100 and 150 back then. And I can still remember back then that a thousand pesos worth of diesel could almost fill up the car’s tanks by three-fourths already, and I’d still have enough lose change to give the toll gate attendant the exact amount.
But that was three years ago.
Tomorrow (since my car’s barred by coding today), I’ll be gassing up diesel that’s already 40 per liter. Three year’s ago, I can travel from Manila to Imus with just 250 bucks, and I’d still have enough left in the tank to go around the community and get back to Manila that same day. These days, unfortunately, 250 pesos worth of diesel can only take you as far as Taguig one way.
So what’s my problem really? For me, I think gas prices are beyond anyone’s control. After all, it is a commodity that is fast becoming scarce in the world. But what I can’t take is why the toll companies jacked up the rates on their gates so high, the entrance and exit rates could pass for another ten liters of diesel. I was thinking that with the volume of cars taking the usual northern routes, a relatively lower collection rate would suffice. But at almost 200 pesos every time you enter NLEX, the toll gate collection is more of a highway robbery than “for the improvement of our road conditions.”
Let me end my rant here with a fictional satire from a comic strip 6 years ago. An infuriated driver was madly harping against the toll collector on why their prices are so high. The toll collector answered him back, “Ser, pasensya na kayo, ha… binabawi lang namin yung mga kinick-back ng mga investors namin sa project na ‘to.”
The driver went down his car in the middle of the portals, went up the teller’s room, and smacked him with a punch right into the middle of his two eyes.
This joke was six years ago.
I’d dare any teller say those words again this time. If they love their lives and limbs, they better not dare say it.
A born-again pastor was actually elected as the PTA president of a sectarian school. Walking out of the room, one of the more bigoted parents caught up with the rector and asked rather cynically…
“I’m quite surprised that our PTA president is a pastor!” complained the mom. The rector, objective, witty and quick as he usually was, gave the calmest answer.
“Well, it’d be more of a surprise if our PTA president was a priest!.”
The NBA is just about to wrap up the first half of the season, and it has become a story of different sorts so far. Some teams are ending the grind of the last 40+ games on a high note, while some are just lucky to hang on to where they are so far. The stats of the season so far for team performances will help us figure out how these franchises are setting up to regroup and reprogram their game plan as the second half opens after All-Star break. Here are the stats so far:
The San Antonio Spurs are leading the pack with a 35-6 record, their best start ever in recent years, and the third best in NBA history. They have defended their home court 15 straight times, and are poised to add one more successful defense unless the Toronto Raptors end that streak. Thus far they have won the last six games, and 8 of the last ten games. They are the only team with an .800+ percentage of wins and losses, and are ahead of both Boston (the leading team in the East) and Los Angeles (the next best team to them) by 5 games.
On the other side of the conference, the Boston Celtics are leading the East, 31-9, with the last win coming along with the return of Kevin Garnett from injury. His arrival came in time just when the Miami Heat are on a three-game skid, after losing their own version of the Big Three (James, Wade and Bosh). But the skid has only distanced Miami one game from Boston. That means, if things went the other way (James, Wade and Bosh not injured, and KG still out), it would have been Miami on top of the East. And with the Chicago Bulls on spot number three, and with a three-game rampage (28-13), they’re fast going up the stats, and are expected to rise up some more, the highest ever they’ve gone up since Michael Jordan was a Chicago Bull. The usually soaring Atlanta Hawks have become inconsistent as far as winning games are concerned compared from last season. But they sit at a comfortable position at number 4 (27-15), and have taken over the Orlando Magic (26-15). The Magic was already streaking, thanks to a blockbuster trade that brought them Gilbert Arenas, but it wasn’t long before the other teams figured out their magic and started handing them their losses, the most recent courtesy of Boston. The New York Knicks (22-18) are once again legitimate playoff contenders this season, but is barely hanging on above the .500 mark. The last two teams for the East’s top 8, the Philadelphia 76’ers and the Indiana Pacers don’t have much to brag about, especially with a percentage of just a little above .400.
As for the defending champs, the LA Lakers are just playing their usual steady game, keeping a strong hold on to spot number 2 in the Western conference. Their rise came at the expense of the former number 2, the Dallas Mavericks, who, since the injury of Dirk Nowitzki, have dropped 6 straight games, including the last one when Dirk returned to play for Dallas after being sidelined with an injury. And with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Utah Jazz surging up the standings just before each incurred a loss that snapped both their six-game winning streak, the Mavs have dropped to spot number five, and might not stay there for long, especially with the New Orleans Hornets threatening them with a five-game winning streak. The bottom two teams that comprise the upper half of the West are the Denver Nuggets (23-17) and the Portland Trailblazers (22-20), both barely above the .500 mark.
Teams will be carrying a lot of either momentum or burden by the time All-Star Break is over. This is the part where everybody will be chasing on the top teams, try to topple them off the standings, and make a run to lift themselves up the totem pole. In the East, Boston is leading by 15 games from the number eight team Indiana, while San Antonio is ahead by 13 from last-seeded Portland. Anything can change in just three weeks of game time.
Everybody is keeping their fingers crossed.
When the San Antonio Spurs first beat the Denver Nuggets 113-112, everybody was saying it should have gone Denver’s way if not for the foul call, and had Chauncey Billups not missed that game. And when the Spurs, again, beat the Nuggets, 109-103, they were blaming it on Carmelo Anthony’s absence.
For the third time now, the Spurs have beaten the Nuggets 110-97, with both Anthony and Billups starting and playing for the team.
Any more excuses?
Just only goes to show that the Spurs did not fluke their way to the top of the standings with a 35-6 win-loss card, the third best first half in NBA history. They’ve stayed healthy and intact for the last 41 games, and the dividends are just tremendous–something that nobody talked about when the season was beginning. After all, they were dubbed as the ‘aging, rusting, and left-behind San Antonio Spurs.’
Turns out this bunch of aging, rusting, and left-behind players are leading the league, with the next best team behind by 5 wins, from both conferences. Even the defending champs, the LA Lakers, are trailing the Spurs by five wins, and have twice as much losses as the Spurs. The Spurs are the only team with .800+ in their winning percentage, and they’ve only encountered one back-to-back defeats so far. They’ve won their 15th straight home game, and are running a third six-game streak so far. All this, while their franchise player Tim Duncan is averaging his lowest ever in points per game, and even minutes per game.
But Spurs coach Greeg Popovich knows its way to early to rest on what the team has achieved so far. Things, in fact, get a whole lot tougher after all-star break, when everybody starts revving up their engines to catch up with the teams leading the pack.
And the Spurs are leading the pack. All the packs.
The vicious atmosphere of the second half is not something new to San Antonio. 13 straight playoff appearances and four championships under their belt tell you they’ve squared with such a grueling segment of the season, and prevailed. The pace they’ve made so far into the season might not be translated in the same fashion when they take on the next half of the season. But so far, the Spurs look like the second half is a given one. Of course, the Spurs don’t believe this look at all. Nonetheless, the Spurs cannot be denied the recognition they have earned for themselves these last 41 games.
And they cannot be denied the number one spot in the standings.