Spur of the Moment
Weren’t they supposed to be here?
by Jonathan Santiago / @ITSjonsantiago
The San Antonio Spurs are in the Western Conference Semifinals for the ninth time in 10 seasons.
Is it surprising? Eh, somewhat. One could easily argue based on the way the season played out, with the injuries and lack of cohesion between new and old parts that this Spurs team was in line for a consecutive first round boot.
But on the other hand, weren’t the Spurs pegged in this position during the pre-season hype? After the acquisitions of Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and the second-round steal of DeJuan Blair, weren’t they the consensus favorite behind the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference?
With the way things are shaping up in the Playoffs, the Spurs might be second best in the West again. It’s just taken them longer than usual to realize it.
Instead of getting into the groove on their usual rodeo road trip (they recorded a subpar 4-4 record this season), the Spurs picked up their play in the final month and a half of the regular season, finishing 17-8.
Their effort leading up to the Playoffs could be credited to the steadiness provided by their head coach. Gregg Popovich, never one to waiver in light of tough decisions, faced a difficult situation as the season came to a close. Either place Tony Parker, who returned from missing a month due to a broken right hand, back in the Spurs starting lineup or go with what had been working — a Manu Ginobili and George Hill backcourt.
He opted for the latter and it wasn’t a decision questioned by Parker, even when he made his initial return.
“Whatever Pop wants,” Parker said regarding his role, in his first game back from the injury. “Whatever. He’s the boss.”
On any other team, a quote like that could be construed as despondent or sarcastic. But there was no such tone in Parker’s voice. Like the rest of the Spurs, Parker has had no problem following the law of the land in San Antonio, especially since he’s witnessed championship results. Now filling the sixth man role once held by Ginobili, Parker thrived in the first round off the bench, leading the team in distributing with 5.7 apg.
Parker’s injury in April paved the way for the Spurs current backcourt to find their rhythm, especially the veteran Ginobili. The Argentinean had his best month of the season in Parker’s absence, averaging 22.1 points and 5.8 assists per game in just 31 minutes of action. But for Ginobili, Parker’s injury was not the only factor that led to his improved play.
“After the (All-Star) break, I started attacking the rim better,” Ginobili said two weeks prior to the start of the Playoffs. “And when they started guarding my penetrations, I started making my shots.”
Now the Spurs are set to take on the Phoenix Suns in a Playoff series…again. Will the results be the same as the previous three second-season meetings between these two?
The Spurs hope so.
Jonathan Santiago also co-hosts the weekly Davis Sports Deli Podcast, which can be found here.