Updated: November 30, 2012, 1:44 AM ET

Around The Association

Spurs-Heat: Far From Finished Products

By John Hollinger
ESPN.com



The nice thing about being a bona fide contender is that you can try more stuff. When you know you're going to be winning 55 to 60 games pretty much no matter what, the regular season can be more an experimental lab to learn new things about your team and try difference concepts, and see what works.

Right now, no two teams are more emblematic of that than the Miami Heat and the San Antonio Spurs. My preseason picks to win the East and West respectively, these clubs are a combined 23-6; Miami owns the best record in the East, and San Antonio is nearly the best in the West. (Although San Antonio trails in its own division, and Miami leads its division by only a game now that the Atlanta Hawks are working on the least impressive six-game winning streak in sports history.)

Yet subjectively, it seems neither team has played anywhere close to its peak. The Spurs and Heat are just fourth and fifth in the Power Rankings, for instance, and each has had a few red-flag games. San Antonio was crushed by the Clippers -- in fact these two teams are a combined 0-3 against the Clips -- while Miami has had one-sided losses to both the Grizzlies and Knicks.

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Rookie Watch: November's Best

By David Thorpe
Scouts Inc.

Damian Lillard has been the best rookie who has played full-time since Day 1. Sure, he was awful in a recent outing in Detroit in which he missed his first 11 shots. But those 11 attempts were mostly good or great looks that he just didn't finish.

Blazers fans and execs have to be smiling after watching him respond to such a poor start in that game. Lillard, who is making 56 percent of his driving shots when he ends up in the paint, kept attacking.

He also poured in a relatively quick seven points in the fourth quarter when the game was still in question. He did not let the bad start affect his future decisions, which is a very veteran thing to do.

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