Season Preview: San Antonio Spurs

Team History:

The Spurs have a long and illustrious history dating back to the ABA, unapologetic Afros, short shorts, and a style of playing basketball built to purely entertain. This is of course in reference to George Gervin and his gorgeous finger roll that has since inspired a new generation of flair, much like Kareem’s sky hook or Dr. J’s gliding through the air.

The most successful part of the Spurs’ history has been its most recent. David Robinson, the recently Hall-of-Fame inducted center, carried San Antonio for a healthy portion of two decades, ultimately failing to capture a championship by his lonesome.

Then, out of some weird combination of fate, luck, and injury, the Spurs were handed an ultra talented big man out of Wake Forest like a newborn baby from the delivery doctor. Who was that big man? It was none other than Tim Duncan.

With the newly formed duo of Robinson and Duncan, the Spurs would go back onto their quest for Western domination. With Michael Jordan retiring from the league the second time in 1998, the Spurs would go on to defeat the New York Knicks in the Finals.

Since then the Spurs have routinely been a competitor for the top spot in the league, winning three more championships in 2003, 2005, and finally in 2007. In fact, it was surprising that the Spurs didn’t continue this trend of winning every other year when they lost in the playoffs this most recent season.

2008-09 Record: 54-28 (1-4 in playoffs), 1st place in Southwest Division, 3rd place in the Western Conference.

Coach: Gregg Popovich

Projected Lineup:

  • PG: Tony Parker – Mr. Eva Longoria is one of the top point guards in the NBA (duh). The Frenchman has routinely been a top performer at the point guard spot, only bettered by Paul, Williams, Nash, and Billups on a handful of nights. His quick cuts to the basket carried the Spurs last year when Duncan and Ginobili were hurt, which was a long period of the season.
  • SG: Manu Ginobili/Anthony Mason – I don’t know why or how Popovich does these things, but they seem to work. He doesn’t start Ginobili, preferring to have Manu provide a spark off of the bench. Mason isn’t without his talents, as was displayed with his numerous game winning buzzer beaters. Either way, with Mason or Ginobili starting the Spurs are solid at the shooting guard spot.
  • SF: Richard Jefferson – The move to trade for Jefferson has been widely hailed as a brilliant coup by mastermind Popovich. He is seen as the player who makes the Spurs younger, more athletic, and all around better. He certainly has enough offensive skills to help take the load off of Parker, Duncan and Ginobili. Given all of that, he will be expected to fill the defensive shoes of Bruce Bowen, which in recent years were based more on reputation than by actual skill.
  • PF: Tim Duncan – The greatest power forward of all time. There, I said it. Now I can’t argue against Karl Malone or Bill Russell as the best, but you can’t argue against Timmy as the best. He is simply perfect, in all aspects that one could expect from a power forward. He rebounds, defends, scores, passes, and leads as well as anyone else in the league. He is superhuman with the modesty you would expect from a player with much less skill.
  • C: Antonio McDyess – Will he continually play the center for the Spurs? Probably not. More likely than not he will shift to the power forward slot with either Duncan or the rookie Dejuan Blair filling the center spot. He is a solid player who played a significant role in the recent Pistons teams, even though they were annually disappointing.

Key Gains:

  • Antonio McDyess – see above. He figures to play a significant role for the Spurs, why else would he go there?
  • Dejuan Blair – It is universally believed he will be the player that every other team will regret passing on when they think of the 2009 NBA draft. He is a bruising, physically punishing forward/center who has a tendency to dominate opponents who are not as physically suited as he is.
  • Richard Jefferson – see above. Jefferson is viewed as the missing piece that the Spurs needed last year, which is kind of false. They needed to be healthy, but this addition wont hurt.

Key Losses:

  • Bruce Bowen – The veteran forward was a defensive menace, even if he played a little dirty. Since being traded to the Bucks, he has retired. His presence will surely be missed on the Spurs, who have been attached to Bowen at the hip for a long time.
  • Fabricio Oberto – This shifty big man might not be great, but he filled a role. At times I get his play confused with Luis Scola. Oberto was an agile big man who could pass excellently, which was a tremendous complement to Parker, Ginobili and Duncan.

Season Preview:

I am high on the Spurs this year. But, so is everyone else, which makes me regret my fascination because I think that I am just another person on the bandwagon instead of a trailblazer. It isn’t unique to think the Spurs are going to have a successful season, but seeing as how they haven’t won a championship in all of two years, they seem to be due for one.

The key to the Spurs’ season is the same as every other team: staying healthy. If Duncan can overcome his injury problems he had the last couple of years, and if Ginobili can manage to not get hurt, and Parker stays the same, and Blair becomes the player everyone envisions him being, then the Spurs are a lock to win it all.

I have predicted in the recent past that the Spurs will be going to the Finals this year. I will stand by that prediction because I can’t envision the Lakers maintaining their dominance another year. That is not entirely true, I can envision it, but I can just as easily envision the Lakers suffering an injury or experience inner turmoil with the addition of Ron Artest. Beyond that, Artest seems no longer capable of being the lockdown defender of wing players like he used to be, which would relegate Kobe to the opponent’s best offensive player. The wear and tear can only benefit the Spurs who will do as they always do, which is win a lot of games.

What does that ultimately mean? I would guess near 60 wins, as was the case last year. Only this year, the Spurs’ playoff chances will be significantly increased, and I would say a visit to the Finals should be nothing less than expected for this team comprised of veterans and at least one Hall of Fame caliber player.

Quote This:

“TD [Tim Duncan] is healthy and Tony [Parker] is in good shape”

-Manu Ginobili

Bonus Quote:

“If you think Tony Parker is better than Manu Ginobili, you need to stop drinking before you come in here.”

-Pounding the Rock

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