The Same things get said every year about the “oldies” down in San Antonio.
They “fly under the radar”, “they are too old”, “the big three can’t stay healthy for a full season”, “Duncan’s championship window has closed shut.”
Well they might fly under the radar, but have they ever been a franchise known for hogging the spot light?
Their core might be older than most in the league but has that really stopped teams from competing? Garnett, Pierce, and Allen are not exactly spring chickens.
The Spurs have also injected their roster with some young talent to compliment their savvy vets with Hill, Blair, Splitter, and Anderson.
Injuries happen throughout the season and no one can really predict what is going to happen.
But one thing is for sure. Poppovich knows how to manage his players minutes and get his team ready for a playoff run late in the season.
The new youngsters will also help the old-timers get some rest throughout the season.
The Duncan era might be winding down but the window for a championship is wide open for the upcoming 2010-2011 season.
These are the reasons why:
Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili have not started a season together completely healthy since their last championship run in 2007.
The Big Three all choose to take the summer off and not play for their respective countries which also has not happened. EVER.
Duncan continued to prepare his body like a true professional this summer and looks to have major front count help this season which will lighten his load on both sides of the ball.
Ginobili is coming off a second half of the season in which he played the best basketball of his career. He was the best SG in the league behind Bryant and Wade and literally carried the Spurs through a very tough late season schedule.
Tony Parker looked like a top five PG in the league two years ago but took a step back last year due to a injury riddled season.
Parker is in a contract year, he is healthy, and has something to prove. He is going to come out with a vengeance this season and return to All-Star form. You can count on that.
Manu was in the same situation that Parker is this upcoming season. Coming off an injury plagued season looking to prove that he deserves a contract. Parker like Ginobili has made it very clear that he wants to stay in San Antonio despite all the trade rumors.
Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker are smart players and know that this next year might be their last chance to play together with a legitimate chance at another title.
Outside of the Big Three the Spurs roster is better than it has been in years. Last year it was obvious that the Big Three needed some help especially since they were not all healthy.
Take a look at some of the other Players outside the Big Three and you might understand why they will be one of the few teams competing with the Lakers out west.
George HIll took leaps and bounds last year and finished second in the most improved player votes. It looks like he is ready to contribute on a regular basis.
Imagine if this guy was not playing behind two All-Star players in Parker and Ginobili.
Dejuan Blair had very limited minutes as a rookie as most rooks do under Poppovich. But when he got his chances he had flashes of brilliance posting two 20-20 games.
Like Hill imagine if he was not playing behind The Big Fundamental.
If Blair continues to improve like his teammate George Hill and earns more minuets you better believe he is going to turn a lot of heads this season. This will also give Duncan some nights off when needed.
Tiago Splitter has quietly made his long awaited transition to the NBA.
For those that do not know Splitter is the best big man that was not playing in the NBA last year. He is a 7 foot Brazilian with a high basketball IQ. He is 25 years old just like Ginobili when he decided to play in the states.
Much like Ginobili he has played in big games and achieved everything he can outside the NBA. He has won championships in Spain, been a league MVP, and a finals MVP.
Splitter is known for his defense, rebounding, and passing abilities. Three things the Spurs desperately needed to add to their roster. He is not going to be asked to score 20 points a game and frankly he does not need to.
Splitter is NBA ready and should be able to jump right into Pop’s rotation. If this reminds you of anything it is very similar to when Duncan joined the Spurs to help The Admiral as his career was winding down.
Splitter is no Duncan by any means but his unique skill set is going to surprise a lot of people across the league.
The Spurs system requires two very important things for their team to be successful.
Three point shooting and a lock down perimeter defender.
Both of these key attributes were missing last year in part due to the departure of Bruce Bowen as well as the lack of reliable three point shooters on the roster.
Both of these things look to be upgraded going into the 2010-2011 season.
The Spurs as they always do made a great draft pick in Oklahoma State’s James Anderson.
Anderson was described as the most NBA ready guard going into the draft.
He was an elite scorer in college and a lights out shooter from beyond the arc. You better believe he is going to see a lot of open looks especially in the corner.
With the offense running through Duncan and Ginobili/Parker handling the ball on offense he will just be asked to shoot when open which he can definitely do.
His defense is a question mark which might be an issue for Pop but he has the athletic ability. If is willing to work and learn he will be very valuable.
Pop is known to limit rookies minutes but due to the lack of back court depth on the roster he might have to force the issue here and give Anderson some minutes.
Especially if he proves himself early in the season.
Does this mean he is going to step in and contribute immediately? Not necessarily but it is very possible.
Is he going to have some growing pains and some rookie mistakes? Probably.
But another thing that is for sure is that Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker are always there to answer questions and help young players improve and thrive in the system.
Richard Jefferson is the ultimate question mark on this team. Can he be an elite perimeter defender? History says probably not.
Can he improve his defense and become a serviceable perimeter defender? Way more likely.
Jefferson has played one style of basketball most of his career. He runs the floor and uses his athletic ability in transition to get to the rim.
Unfortunately that is not the way the Spurs play basketball. They like to control the game and play half court offense and defense.
Jefferson knows he does not need to score 20 points a game with the Spurs. He has been working all off-season with Pop to better understand how he can contribute.
Most players struggle their first year in the Spurs system given that it is very complicated. I believe that Jefferson will have a much better season this year.
He now knows how he can contribute now. He has watched film and seen where he needs to be in certain situations. He does not have all the high expectations he had coming in last year and he has a multi-year contract. He should feel a lot more comfortable.
Jefferson spent all off-season playing with the young guys on the roster. Look for him to play a lot with the younger guys when the Spurs want to run the floor.
The rest of the Spurs roster is a mix of solid vets and young talents that need some time to develop.
Antonio Mcdyess has a year in the system and is a reliable vet that is willing to take any role that Pop wants to give him.
I think last year he had bigger role then most would have wanted but that was because of the lack of front-court depth.
That being said he had a phenomenal defensive performance in the first round of playoffs versus Dallas Mavericks when he matched up against Dirk Nowitzki.
Dice can still play when needed. He has a very reliable mid-range jumper next to Duncan and is a savvy vet for the locker room. His role should diminish quite a bit this year but he will still contribute.
Matt Bonner rounds out the bigs on the roster. Everyone knows what he does and what he is used for. He knows the system and the team.
Bonner is actually very important to the Spurs. He spreads the floor and allows Duncan to man up down low and is a very solid three point shooter.
The Spurs also signed Gary Neal who has been playing oversees. He is another good three point shooter that the Spurs need. He will likely spot up and shoot the lights out when needed.
The final two roster spots will likely be filled with either Garret Temple, Alonzo Gee, or Bobby Simmons.
Garret Temple was thrown into the lineup last year due to Tony Parker’s injury. He actually played very well and showed that he is a solid defender and can handle the back up PG position. Also like Parker he is very very fast to the rim.
Alonzo Gee is a young talent that will likely not see anytime but is good project for the Spurs.
Bobby Simmons has been in the league 8 years and actually looks like a good fit for the Spurs.
He is an above average three point shoot which gives him the opportunity to see some playing time. Especially since the Spurs are still searching for a back up SF.
The Spurs are going to be way better than last year. They did not land any big name free agents like Miami, Chicago, and New York but they have a team with its on big names that have proven they can win.
The Spurs had a really slow start last year which was unfortunate because that was the easy part of their schedule. The second half of the season they saw a brutal lineup of the NBA’s elite teams.
They rolled through those teams riding the back of Manu Ginobili.
If they played that well without Parker, a hobbled Duncan, Jefferson no where to be found, and a lack luster bench, how good do you think they could be if those things were all changed.
Well they have.
The Spurs started the 2009-2010 season with Manu coming off of injury. He was not the same Manu. It took a while to get his legs and confidence back.
Unfortunately around that time is when Parker went out with injuries.
The Spurs ended up the 7th seed and an underdog going into the first round against the Mavs. Yet they still won the series.
San Antonio knows they need home-court advantage or at least a better seed to make a deep run.
This year everyone is healthy. Look for them to come out of the gate running and ready to improve their record.
In the second round the Spurs saw the Suns. Parker was still not himself and Manu hurt his nose in the series before and wasn’t the same.
The Suns were a tough match up because of their unbelievable three point shooting and the way they matched up with the Spurs.
They forced Duncan out of the lane to cover the three point shooters and that created major problems because the Spurs were lacking another big presence down low.
That problem is now fixed with the seven foot Brazilian Tiago Splitter.
They also could not match the three point fire power of the Suns.
That problem is now fixed with Anderson/Neal/Simmons and George Hill improving his three point shot.
If the Spurs roster as it stands as is completely healthy come playoff time. Watch out.
The problem is that is a big IF on the health issue. But that could be said for any team.
The Spurs are definitely going into the season under the radar as they always do.
They are going to be overshadowed by the defending NBA champion Lakers, the All-Star team down in South Beach, the big three and the Diesel in bean town, and the young gun Thunder and Trailblazers.
That is OK with the Spurs team. They have never been a team that wants the spotlight on them.
The Spurs are in win now mode. They know Duncan only has a few more years left in the tank.
Luckily, the Spurs are great at developing their young talent without getting high draft picks. Even after Duncan says his good bye’s and Manu hangs it up the Spurs are still going to be OK.
They did an amazing job building on the fly. George Hill has shown that his future is very bright. Dejuan “The Beast” Blair showed that despite his height and lack of ACL’s he can be a dominated player in the league.
Spitter hasn’t set foot on the court but everyone outside of the U.S. has seen what this guy can do on the basketball court.
I am confident that Tony Parker will be a Spur after this season and he has been around for a while but is only 28 and starting the second part of his career.
James Anderson has not done anything yet but he has a lot more prestige coming into the league than guys like George Hill. There are not many arguments saying that he will not be a solid player.
This year could not look any better for the San Antonio Spurs. In Three weeks they will start their Drive for Five and we will see just what they have left in the tank.
At the start of this years training camp Tim Duncan was asked in an interview when he was he thought he was done playing basketball.
His reply was simply “Until the wheels fall off.”
Duncan is not going to be Shaq and jump from team to team in hopes of squeaking out one more ring.
The San Antonio Spurs are his team and he lead them to four championships. He is going to push it out down in Texas “Until the wheels fall off.”
That is what the season is going to be about for the Spurs.
So for all the non-believers out there and all the critics that are sure the Spurs Championship runs are in the past I would say it is a little premature to slam the championship window shut on this Spurs team.