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When last we left the Spurs, they were swept out of the Western Conference Semi-Finals by Steve Nash and his Phoenix Suns. Much of their energy was worn out by a knockdown drag out series against the Dallas Mavericks in the first round. The Suns, and their speed, took full advantage and ran the silver and black attack into the ground. The same Suns team that the Spurs had eviscerated regularly over the last few seasons.
Q: So where does that put them this year?
A: In the same spot as last year. Almost.
Like recent seasons before, the analysts will continue to highlight their age and health. If this weren’t true, everyone wouldn’t be shouting it from the rooftops. So, essentially, this is nothing new. Tim Duncan is knee deep in his 34th year. Manu Ginobili is a year behind. And Antonio McDyess is bringing his 36 years on to the hardwood. If you’ve learned anything from Indiana Jones, you know “It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage." Both Duncan & Ginobili have got tons of miles. They’ve also got a few rings to go with those miles. Oh, and let’s not forget, they also have the Wizard at the helm of the ship.
Now, age & health isn’t something that can really be helped. Duncan can’t turn back the years without fracturing the space time continuum. You could try to tell Obi-Wan Ginobili to take it easy when he drives the lane, but his game would suffer severely and what who would we dress up as for Halloween?
So we go to the tangible problem areas that can actually be worked on. Mainly, outside shooting and defense. How can you forget the Spurs’ explosive defense and textbook gameplay? What was that? You never watched their games, except when you wanted to take a nap? Oh. Well then, just imagine their games got even less interesting with the deterioration of their defense due to, you guessed it, age & health! Will these bros ever get over the loss of Bruce Bowen?
How about that shooting beyond the arc? It’s a good sign when you’re relying on Matt Bonner to handle your culinary tastes and your threes right?
Key Additions: James Anderson & Tiago Splitter
Anderson is the definition of “killing two birds with one stone.” He’s got the youth and he was the Big 12 player of the year, which means, he’s a shooter. 21 years may be a little too young, but he’s got some excellent vets to take notes from.
At 25 years, Splitter is ready to leave Brazil and try on the real deal NBA, as soon as his calf and foot heal. The Spurs have got some pretty high expectations of this guy, but don’t be surprised if his biggest contribution comes, not from his stats, but his ability to compliment Duncan and give him some decent rest throughout the season.
Fun Fact! - Splitter’s birthday is on New Years Day!
Key Losses: Roger Mason & Bruce Bowen
Yes Bowen retired over a year ago, but don’t think that his lockdown defense isn’t still missed. Mason was a part of the supporting cast, that supported the teams outside shooting. His role diminished last season and this season, it’s non-existent. I’m thinking, maybe you don’t want to make your weakness even weaker? I don’t know, maybe its just me?
Let’s start with those we’ve not mentioned. George Hill, DeJuan Blair and Richard Jefferson need to step it up big this year. Jefferson moreso than Blair. After making that trade and going outside the cap space, Jefferson didn’t come close to making the necessary impact that was expected of him. The dude is out of excuses. Blair just needs to get better. McDyess shouldn’t be starting over him and he needs to be competent enough to supplant Duncan down low. Hill has been involved for a few seasons now, so he should be hitting his stride this year. Depending on the health of Parker, he could be in for some major playing time, so he needs to be ready.
Manu “The Nose”, Parker & Duncan are looking good coming out of the offseason. The key for them is to last as long as possible and help to develop their counterparts. The Spurs have addressed their age problems, but they haven’t become answers yet. Anderson & Splitter need experience in the first place, but you knew that, because I just said that earlier.
A Championship isn’t impossible, but it’s highly doubtful. Both the Lakers and the Thunder are looking far and away like more complete teams, whereas the Spurs are plugging leaks on the ship and waiting to see if they hold. That said, anything less than the playoffs would be a surprise.