Neal, Manu earn highest grades in Spurs Nation’s yearly report card

The Spurs’ stunning exit from the playoffs came much sooner than anybody in Spurs Nation ever would have expected.

And in the end, the struggles in the playoffs against Memphis will stick with them much longer than their unexpected sprint to 61 victories where they were on the cusp of notching the league’s best regular-season record.

The Spurs will have a long time to stew on the quick playoff departure that likely will be exascerbated by an off-season likely lengthened by a players’ lockout. It’s a recipe that will make their disappointment even more intense if they can’t play with a normal schedule.

After having several days to ponder the final grades for the playoffs and the season, here’s a look at the report cards for the playoffs and a final grade for the season for each player and their coaching staff.

Gary Neal – A-minus in playoffs (A-minus, A-minus, A on his earlier cards) We saw an evolution in his game  throughout the season and he made the Spurs’ most memorable shot of the season with his game-tying 3-pointer to help win Game 5. Over the final third of the season and the playoffs, he was the team’s most consistent perimeter threat. Those three seasons in Europe obviously helped his maturity as he had an unexpectedly strong rookie season.


Manu Ginobili – B (A-plus, B, B-plus on his earlier cards) – Despite playing with basically with one good arm in the series, he never relented despite the immense challenge of facing off with junkyard dog Tony Allen throughout the playoffs. He had a fast start early in the season, tailed off and was poised to rebound before the sprained elbow occurred in the final regular-season game. He remains the Spurs’ top offensive weapon and a centerpiece in the team — rebuilding or not. He will turn 34 in July, but showed little signs of tailing off despite playing more minutes in the regular season than any previous season.


Tony Parker – B-minus (A, A A-minus on his earlier cards) – His surge in overtime in Game 5 sparked  the Spurs to a quick start that boosted them to a clutch victory. But he struggled in the early playoff games and was outplayed by Mike Conley during much of the series. Parker quietly played like the Spurs’ most valuable player for much of the season, but couldn’t maintain that production when his team could  have used it during the playoffs.


Tim Duncan – C (A-minus on all of his earlier cards) – The greatest power forward in NBA history looked mortal in the Memphis series as he struggled without much help to contain Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. We saw only flashes of his remarkable production. The most notable game was in Game 5 where he scored 11 points in the first quarter and two points during the rest of the game. His scoring average for the playoffs was the lowest in his career, although Duncan did post double-doubles in five of the six games. He remains the focal point of the Spurs’ franchise and will be given the opportunity to leave when he wants to.


George Hill – C (A-minus on all of his earlier cards) – Never became a threat in the playoffs after showing flashes of becoming a dominant offensive player late in the season. Hill was active in the playoffs (at least five rebounds in five of the six games) but struggled to find his touch as he shot 40 percent from the field and 26.7 percent from beyond the arc. Despite those offensive struggles when his team really needed a boost, he played like one of the league’s best sixth men during most of the regular season.


Antonio McDyess – B-minus  (B-plus, A-minus and B-plus) His career apparently will end without a championship ring. He was the Spurs’ most determined player during the playoffs, but the tricks that worked when he was in his 20s no longer had much effect on Randolph in these playoffs at the age of 36. The Spurs will miss their spiritual leader, whose stinging blast after Game 4 seemed to roust the team from its lethargy to help spark a victory in the next game.


Matt Bonner – C (B-plus, B-plus, C on his earlier cards) – His big shots at the end of Game 1 appeared ready to turn him into the next Robert Horry before Shane Battier trumped him. His defensive struggles were a liability against Memphis’ strength in the paint and he was forced inside more against Lionel Hollins’ suffocating defensive pressure at the 3-point line. It was a disappointing end after a strong early start sparked him to leading the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage at 45.7 during the regular season. He shot 33.3 percent from beyond the arc  in the playoffs.


Tiago Splitter – C (C, C, B on his earlier cards) – Provided a strong game with 10 points and nine rebounds to help spark the Game 4 victory. But his defensive liabilities, youth and Memphis’ interior strength were exposed as the series progressed. But his big early start made Spurs Nation wonder what he could have accomplished if he hadn’t been injured earlier in the season and slow to return to Gregg Popovich’s rotation.


DeJuan Blair – D (C, A-minus, B-minus on his earlier cards) The playoffs were a crashing end to a disappointing season with much early promise during the preseason. He registered his first playoff DNPs of his career in the final two playoff games as Popovich chose to use bigger defenders to try to neutralize the Grizzlies inside. Blair struggled with his conditioning and defensive breakdowns during the season. But the summer will be critical  as he will try to get back in Popovich’s good graces when the lockout ends. A suggestion: no Whataburgers chased by Strawberry Fanta this summer.


Richard Jefferson – F (B, B-plus, C on his earlier cards) – Had two strong games to start the series before collapsing in the final four games, hitting 17.5 percent from the field and averaging 2.5 points. He logged only 10:13 of playing time — the shortest playing stint in his Spurs’ tenure — as he failed to season action in the second half in Game 6. He will be a handy scapegoat of the team’s playoff collapse, despite having a strong start earlier in the season. 


The rest of the team played little in the playoffs and will receive incomplete grades. We’ll determine their grades based on the regular season.

Danny Green – (B on his earlier card) — His confidence caught Popovich’s attention late in the season as he received more playing time and did more with it (five points in seven playoff minutes) than the rest of players deep on the bench. Look for him to get a legitimate shot to make next season’s roster after the lockout ends.


Steve Novak – (B-plus, B-minus on his earlier card) – Likely won’t be on the roster next season, but his outside shooting should have caught the attention of another NBA team.


James Anderson – (C-minus, incomplete, incomplete) – Was inactive for the final five games of the playoffs. Still could be an answer to the team’s concerns at small forward if he reports in shape after the lockout and provides the defensive acumen and shooting that caught the Spurs’ attention while playing at Oklahoma State.

FINAL GRADE – C-minus  

Chris Quinn – (A, B, B-minus on his earlier cards) – Was inactive for each playoff game, meaning his role is tenuous as far as sticking with the team. But he showed enough in his limited playing time that he could still get another opportunity somewhere if he leaves the Spurs.  


Coaching – C (A, A, B-plus on earlier cards) – Popovich was facing a difficult challenge against a Memphis team that was hungry, focused and wanted the Spurs in the playoffs. Not  having Ginobili for the first game was another disadvantage as the Spurs played much tighter than the Grizzlies, who gained confidence in that game to set the tone for the series. The Spurs had trouble adjusting in the third quarter during most of the series, rare for a Popovich-coached team. Despite the playoff collapse — San Antonio’s second first-round elimination in the last three seasons — Popovich insists he’s not ready to give up on this core yet.

Final grade – A-minus

As always, I’m curious about how Spurs Nation would grade this team for their 2010-11 season.

Feel free to break out the red pencils and let us know.

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