30 Teams, 30 Days
San Antonio Spurs Season Preview.
We conclude the Southwest Division previews with the San Antonio Spurs. You can read past previews here.
by Ryan Desmarais
The San Antonio Spurs might be the most boring team in the NBA.
I mean, there’s nothing exciting about the way they play. They want a slow tempo to all of their games. It seems like they want their offense to be as methodical as possible in order to put opposing teams to sleep, while they’re defense takes advantage of the mistakes made by their groggy opponents.
Their superstar’s nickname is “The Big Fundamental.” That might be the most boring, bland nickname I’ve ever heard in the history of sports.
NBA fans can thank Gregg Popovich for this “style” of play. He likes to keep a controlled tempo and make sure his team doesn’t get into shootouts with some of the run-and-gun teams in the West like Phoenix and Golden State. In fact, the Spurs haven’t averaged 100 points a game over a season this decade.
But something tells me that Popovich couldn’t care less about entertaining us.
Actually, a few things tell me that: his three four championship rings.
The Spurs played as their extremely boring selves last season and, once again, made the postseason. But something was different about this team. They seemed even more boring than before. One thing after another went wrong for a team that seemingly has yearly title aspirations.
Injuries and age appeared to catch up to the core of the Spurs. Manu Ginobili, their most exciting player (which is kind of like being the MVP of the Beer League), was injured during the Olympics, appeared in only 44 games and clearly wasn’t completely right. Tony Parker suffered a sprained ankle early in the season while Ginobili was recovering and missed a couple of weeks. Tim Duncan would miss a few games later in the season, as well.
They also suffered from very little depth. Aside from a good year from Roger Mason, Jr., the Spurs had to rely on the recently retired Bruce Bowen, 36-year-old Michael Finley, 37-year-old Kurt Thomas, and Matt Bonner, one of the greatest basketball players to ever come out of the state of New Hampshire (once again, see the Beer League analogy). While offering great experience, they’re far from in their prime and couldn’t offer everything the depleted Spurs needed to pick up the slack.
The end result? Gettting blown out of the playoffs by their in-state rivals, the Dallas Mavericks.
Fast forward to this season and everyone who talks about San Antonio talks about the steal of the offseason: Richard Jefferson. The Spurs traded a bag of basketballs and some Gatorade to the Bucks for the Jefferson, who immediately bolsters their offense and gives them a deeper roster. RJ has the ability to both move without the ball as well as create his own shot, allowing the floor to open up for Parker and Ginobili to penetrate.
They took their thieving momentum into the NBA Draft and kidnapped Pittsburgh power forward DeJuan Blair in the second round, as I still question how he was passed over time after time. Blair gives the Spurs another wide body that can work well in the post and he is an excellent rebounder on both ends of the floor, which was possibly his strongest asset in college.
They added another veteran in Antonio McDyess, a guy who has been able to resurrect his career after a solid first few years in the League were tarnished by numerous injury-plagued seasons. He gives the Spurs another big that can play inside and collect boards as well as hit the mid-range jumper when left open. At 35, he’s long past his prime, but San Antonio won’t be asking him to be the franchise savior. He’ll just be another weapon that can play 15 to 20 minutes a night and contribute.
But the biggest assets for the Spurs continue to be their mainstays. Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker are still three of the best players in the League and are needed to perform at a high level on a nightly basis in order for this team to have a chance to reach their goal. Duncan has been one of the most consistent players in the NBA over his career as you can pretty much mark him down to average 20 and 10 every season. Ginobili continues to be a dangerous threat offensively with his ability to penetrate as well as knock down outside shots. He is also a pesky defender who will get his steals and take charges. Parker, who is amazingly only 27, is just coming into his prime years and has become both a fantastic scorer and a very good facilitator.
And Popovich will still lead this team into battle every night. He’s arguably a top-three coach in the League and a future Hall of Famer and his players continue to buy into his coaching style, regardless of how boring we may think it is.
So what can we expect from the Spurs this season? Pretty much what we’ve seen from them all decade. They’ll win 55 to 60 games during the regular season and make a deep playoff run.
But how far will they go? If healthy, they’ll be right there with the Lakers as one of the teams to represent the West in the Finals. If they’re walking wounded, there’s a good chance they’ll be playing golf in May and June.
Either way, don’t expect any high-scoring affairs this season with the Spurs.
Or any other season, for that matter.
Don’t forget to grab your pillow.