Swept by the Suns in the second round of the 2009-2010 NBA playoffs, many concerns remain for the Spurs. First and foremost are the big three. In all likelihood, this may be the last year of the big three. Tony Parker will probably end up next year in the Big Apple. Timmy D is in the twilight of his career..... Manu's ankle is always a mystery. Of course the age argument will always be a hot topic. The collapse of Richard Jefferson this past year raised big concerns amongst the Spur faithful. As for me the Spurs can go only as far as the big three can take them. How far is that, here is my take.
For starters they have to be healthy come playoff time. Last year TP was injured most of the final stretch and into the playoffs. TP was not the same when he was on the court. His magnificent drives to the basket were about a step slower. The defense had time to react and force a bad pass or create an errant shot. TP has got to return to his NBA finals MVP caliber of play, bottom line. George Hill is about two years away from being a really standout point guard. I really like Derrick Temple. He showed real promise for being a great backup when Hill comes of age. Still TP has got to excorcise the demons of last year and take over the floor.
Manu, well what can I say? Manu is the best player the Spurs have. With his ankle healed, his contract intact, Manu was his usual havoc creator on the court. Manu hit big three's, stole passes, and disrupted opponents court rhythm night after night. Manu did it all. He needed help and did not get the quality of help he needed. For the Spurs to have any chance, Manus' ankle has to be healthy. Without Manu, they have little chance of making the playoffs.
When I think back on Timmy D's career, images of him abusing a young Kevin Garnett dance in my head. I felt sorry for Kevin. It was ugly. But then again Timmy D did that to plenty of other NBA players....that was then this is now. For Timmy D we can begin to lower the curtain on a Hall of Fame career. Without Timmy D, there are no championship trophies in the Alamo city. Timmy D is what I call a tier one NBA player. He is the one that will get you the ring. He joins Jordan, Bird, Magic, Koby, Olajuwon, Jabbar, Russell, as one of the few players who can put a team on their back and carry them to the championship---the guy you want with the ball when the game is on the line. This year I think Timmy D needs to be consistent. The Spurs don't need big numbers from him, but they do need consistent ones... a reasonable ten to fourteen points and double digit rebounds. Pop has to be very strategic at managing his playing time.
In the off season the Spurs acquired Tiago Splitter. Untested and young, Splitter may be a disappointment in this his first 82 game NBA season. If he proves to be able to make the transition from European ball to NBA ball quickly, then the contributing youth the Spurs are needing may come sooner than expected. First round draft pick James Anderson, has to come off the bench and hit the three ball consistently. Last year, Roger Mason was hot and cold, cold more often than hot. Which brings me to Richard Jefferson.......the good news is, he has dedicated himself to becoming a student of Pops game.....the bad news, can he adapt to it. Jefferson was used to being the first or second offensive option at Milwaukee and New Jersey....in San Antonio, he was neither. More bad news. Jefferson at times was lost defensively. Everyone knows Pop runs great defensive schemes. Each member of a Pop run team must know the defensive rotations, Jefferson did not. What I like about Jefferson is that by redoing his contract, he has clearly sent a message that he is ready to learn Spurs basketball. Meanwhile rookie sensation Dejuan Blair got a good dose of an 82 game season with playoffs.....not the same as a 33 game NCAA season.
So do I think they have enough gas left.... yes they do. The problem is the intact Lakers are still in the West------so are the Suns, Blazers, Nuggets and watch out for Utah and be very leery of mighty Thunder.