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Other People on Michael Finley: 48 Minutes of Hell

Since the C’s are reportedly interested in signing Michael Finley (who turns 37 on Saturday), I figured I’d check in with the boys at the outstanding Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell to see what Finley’s been up to this season. I watch pieces of Spurs games when I can, and I barely saw Finley on the court this year

That does not make me much different than the average Spurs fan. Finley’s appeared in just 25 games this season and played a total of just 395 minutes.

This is a rather sudden drop-off for Finley. He played more than 2,300 minutes for a good (if aging and injury-riddled) Spurs team last season—almost 60 percent of all available minutes, according to 82games.com. Only Tim Duncan, Roger Mason Jr. and Tony Parker played more.

A year later? Finley’s a bench-warmer, and now he’s no longer a Spur.

Graydon Gordian of 48MoH was kind enough to answer three very quick questions on short notice for us. (Thanks, Graydon).

CelticsHub: Finley has barely played this season after playing 81 games last season and more than half of San Antonio’s minutes. Have his physical skills declined that much, or is the lack of PT more about the emergence of George Hill and the trade for Richard Jefferson?

48 Minutes of Hell: Although we do have some new faces in the backcourt, I think the biggest factor in Finley’s decreased minutes is his physical decline. Popovich has nothing but glowing things to say about Finley and is well known for sticking with veteran guys who have mastered this system (which Finley has) for longer than he arguably should. If Popovich thought Finley still had it in him, he’d have seen meaningful minutes.
CH: Finley’s raw plus/minus numbers don’t paint a pretty picture of his defensive contributions in recent seasons. Can he contribute anything defensively? And he is more adept (or, I guess, less un-adept) at guarding shooting guards or small forwards?

48MoH: It’s certainly a question of which position he is “less un-adept” at defending. In the winter of his career Finley has blossomed into a smart defender, but against an opposing player with any amount of quickness he is a liability. For that reason, and because Popovich uses him at the small forward in the small ball sets we’ve increasingly seen over the last two seasons, most of his recent defensive assignments have been small forwards.

CH: Tell C’s fans one thing we don’t know about Finley’s game—anything at all.

48MoH: What the hell, I’ll tell you two things you may not know about Finley’s game. First, Finley is a leader in the locker room. Earlier this season I asked Gregg Popovich who, aside from Duncan, provides leadership for the team. Without hesitation he answered, “Michael Finley.” He said he didn’t expect him to play that role when they signed him, but he emerged as a vocal and thoughtful mentor for the team’s younger players. I don’t think that’s the kind of contribution the Celtics need, but it’s worth mentioning.

Second, and I’ll readily admit I have no statistical evidence to back this up, I swear Finley’s field goal percentage does not change a single percentage point whether he is fading away with a hand in his face or has a wide open jumper. If there was ever a player whose style can somehow be described as both sophisticated and junk, it’s Michael Finley. Despite the Spurs’ disciplined approach, he’s still got a bit of that Don Nelson/Mavs-era gunner in him.

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