Before the NBA All-Star break we caught up with fellow NBA blogger & Bloguin member Michael De Leon, who is a co-founder of the San Antonio Spurs' blog Project Spurs, to get his thoughts on impressive season of the league leading San Antonio Spurs, their thoughts on the Toronto Raptors and other NBA topics including Jerry Sloan's departure from the Utah Jazz.
Hoop Heads North: Even though the Spurs have the leagues best record, do you feel like they're the underdog and are seemingly flying under the radar?
Michael De Leon (Project Spurs): I don't think they are flying under the radar anymore, but they certainly are not getting the respect they deserve. However, if you ask any Spurs player, they wouldn't have it any other way. Respect is earned in the postseason.
HHN: In one of your recent posts, you linked to a quote of Kobe's where he stated that he believes the Celtics are the Lakers biggest threat. Do you agree or disagree?
MD: The Celtics are on a bit of a skid lately, but before that, they were playing as well as anyone. While the Spurs have beaten the Lakers twice this season, the Celtics pro bably match up better with the Lakers, but a seven game series is not always about matchups, and I think the Spurs have the shooters and a superior bench to be a threat..
HHN: As a Raptors follower & supporter, it's easy for me to become jaded watching the team night in and night out. What is your perspective on the Toronto Raptors' play this season.
MD: The Raptors, unfortunately just don't have the pieces to compete. It's a very young roster and they could really use an infusion of some veterans that have championship experience. I loved the Barbosa trade in the offseason because it's a step in the right direction and Barbosa pairs nicely with Calderon in the backcourt. I'm a fan of DeRozan's, but he just needs more experience and he would benefit greatly from having a veteran that's been there who could take him under his wing. DeRozan has so much potential, but as we saw from the first Spurs game, when he gets double, he gets flustered and turns the ball over. I also liked the draft pick of Ed Davis and I think he will do good things in Toronto, but just needs time. This roster is also completely different from last year's so it's going to take time.
HHN: What do you attribute to the Spurs' incredible success so far this season?
MD: I wish I could say it was just one thing, but it's been a few things.Manu and Tony came into this season in great shape and neither played overseas this summer. Gary Neal was a great offseason acquisition, George Hill and DeJuan Blair are improving more and more by the day and Richard Jefferson took some time this summer to get back to basics.
HHN: Do you feel the Spurs team this year is as good as any of the previous 4 Spurs' championship rosters?
MD: The 2003 roster was very talented, but this year's roster is looking great. Pop has everyone on the same page and working towards the same goal. Once James Anderson is back, it gives them another weapon so while this year's squad may not be as deep as the 2003 squad, they may be just as good.
HHN: Gregg Popovich is now one of the longest tenured coaches in the NBA, with the now that Jerry Sloan has stepped down. What are your thoughts on this legendary and hall of fame head coach, of 23 years, stepping away from the game so abrubtly.
MD: I was shocked to hear about it. I've always had a lot of respect for Sloan so it was surprising to see him walk away like that and not just leave at the end of the season. I'll miss seeing him on the sidelines at Jazz games and the NBA is losing one of the greatest coaches the league has ever seen.
You can check out Michael De Leon & Jeff Garcia's very insightful and informative San Antonio Spurs' blog at http://www.projectspurs.com