“They are too old” seemed to be the most popular claim against the San Antonio Spurs as to why they are no longer good enough to be considered in the elite of the NBA. You could not fault the critics for saying this over and over again, for when you say something such as that on a consistent basis, maybe one year it actually will come true.
The fact of the matter is that the Spurs are off to a league best 29-4 start, so maybe it is finally time to put the ever so popular “too old” cry to death, seeing that for well over a decade the Spurs have remained one of the best teams in the NBA. This year they have started the year off with a bang, showing the rest of the league that they are not ready to go into nursing homes just quite yet. There are a couple reasons as to why the Spurs have started out so hot, and why they will be a favorite to take home the title once again this year.
First off, they helped Richard Jefferson rediscover his confidence. Everybody thought that the Spurs had gone nuts giving RJ an extension after his disappointing first year with the team. While in fact, it has been documented that Richard Jefferson reshaped his game with Coach Gregg Popovich over the summer, and it has paid off tremendously, as Jefferson is one of the most lethal three-point shooters in the league. RJ also kept the same explosiveness that made him such a special player to begin with, as evidenced by the number of alley oops he has converted so far this year. By helping Jefferson find himself again, it has made the Spurs almost impossible to cover.
This leads into the second reason why the Spurs have become one of the most dangerous squads in the NBA. Instead of focusing in on the half-court offense that won them four championships, the Spurs have shifted gears quite dramatically, realizing their strengths lie on the open court now. It makes all the sense in the world to become more up-tempo, seeing a back court of Jefferson, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili is an absolutely deadly one that many have trouble keeping up with. As a result, not only are guys like Jefferson benefiting, but Ginobili is on the outside looking in at “MVP” discussions while Parker’s ridiculous floater has reappeared on a consistent basis.
Another secret that many do not realize as much is that the team has kept persistent in their overseas scouting approach. Everybody knew that this team had found some rare foreign talent before, but some were not aware that the Spurs were still heavily benefiting from looking at guys outside of the USA. The Spurs found another gem in Gary Neal, who has the shooting touch of a 2008 version of Roger Mason Jr., but also has the ability to dip into the lane for a mid-range jumper or floater. Most importantly, he’s a solid defensive player, and you know Pop loves those kinds of guys.
Perhaps most importantly, the team learned a lot from the Luis Scola fiasco in which they made the decision to trade a now prized power forward in the league to the Houston Rockets. They were not about to let Tiago Splitter become another star they would eventually lose out on, as they inked him to a very modest deal this past summer. While Splitter has not had the impact many anticipated he would initially, another secret that many do not realize is that Popovich is very cautious with how he plays his rookies. DeJuan Blair learned about it last year, and Splitter is no exception.
The Spurs have also done the right thing in not listening to the common cry that they will inevitably become horrible once players like Tim Duncan and Ginobili retire. R.C. Buford, who in my opinion is the best general manager in all of sports, has done a phenomenal job shaping his team for the future as well. By bringing in players like DeJuan Blair and Splitter, while also improving his guard-play by signing Neal and drafting James Anderson, not to mention how well George Hill is looking to start the year, the Spurs are in great shape for the future.
In conclusion, the Spurs have to be the number one favorite to win the NBA title as of right now. Granted, the season is young and there is still a lot of basketball to be played, but the fact that the Spurs do not really jell until the “Rodeo Road Trip” has to at least scare some teams in the NBA. If the Spurs can only get better from this point on, it is going to be tough to stop them. The fact that they have not completely integrated Tiago Splitter into their rotation yet, plus the issue of James Anderson not playing due to injury, has to be given careful consideration, since it is evident that there is still more work to be done on this team.
Flying under the radar will be near impossible due to the start this year, which is what the Spurs generally like doing. Although the argument that the Spurs are wearing themselves out too early into the season exists amongst the critics, it is hard to make a case given that the team has also done a fantastic job managing Duncan’s minutes. If the Spurs can continue to do this as well as successfully implement guys like Splitter and Anderson into their rotation, you will be hard-pressed to find a better looking championship contender out there this year.