COACH: Gregg Popovich | 2006-07: 58-24
San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs have won four NBA titles in nine years, and will try for their first repeat in 2008.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
They're deep, they're talented, and they're the champs. The San Antonio Spurs celebrated another NBA title with a parade on the Riverwalk last summer after sweeping aside the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, 4-0. The Spurs immediately dismissed talk of a dynasty, but with their fourth championship in nine years, about the only thing they haven't done is win in consecutive seasons. Translation: Watch out other teams, the Spurs are on a mission.

In fact, the Spurs appear poised to contend for NBA titles for several years to come. This season, they will return 12 of their 15 players from the 2006-07 championship team, including every player that played in the 2007 NBA Playoffs. Their big three -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili -- are under contract until at least 2010. In addition, San Antonio convinced seven-time champion Robert Horry to play one more season, and picked up a Bruce Bowen clone in Ime Udoka from Portland.

Perhaps the most significant offseason changes to the team came in the front office, where former Spurs Assistant GM Sam Presti took over in Seattle as GM and then hired former Spurs assistant coach P.J. Carlesimo as the Sonics' new head coach.

While their aging group of veterans could be cause for concern (S.A. was the oldest team in the league last year with an average age of 30.37), look for the Spurs to be the odds-on favorites to win another championship this season.


Backcourt
Finals MVP Tony Parker is still only 25 years old and seems to improve an aspect of his game every year. His outside shot was vastly more accurate last year, but defenses rarely covered him tightly, preferring to live with his jumper as opposed to his lightning quick darts to the basket. One of the best finishers in traffic and a master at the pick-and-roll with Tim Duncan, Parker is making a case to be one of the top three point guards in the league.

Manu Ginobili is one of the most exciting and unpredictable players in the NBA. His presence immediately impacts the game, whether it be reckless drives to the basket, timely steals, precision passing, or hustle plays. As unselfish a player as you'll ever find, Ginobili coolly accepted a reserve role when Popovich inserted Michael Finley in the starting lineup to help the offensive flow.

Jacque Vaughn proved himself to be a steady backup at the point, and with Finley and Brent Barry stretching defenses out to the three point line, the Spurs' backcourt is an extremely formidable group.


Frontcourt
Without question, Tim Duncan is the heart and soul of the Spurs franchise. A nine-time All-Star, 10-time All-Defensive team member, two-time NBA MVP, and three-time Finals MVP, Duncan is arguably the most dominant power forward in a generation. Duncan's footwork, silky smooth post moves, and tough defense are matched by his mental strength and quiet leadership. Yet Duncan remains one of the most relaxed, unassuming players in the league.

At the center position, Popovich employed a center-by-committee template to great success last season, alternating Fabricio Oberto and Francisco Elson, depending on the matchup. Oberto is a fine passer who has an uncanny knack for being in the right position, while Elson is an athletic gazelle who can rebound and defend.

"Big Shot" Robert Horry, who had a reduced role last season, still can provide a dagger with his outside shot, and contributes bench rebounding and timely blocked shots. Newcomer Ime Udoka could turn into a great pickup for this team as a backup to Bruce Bowen. Like Bowen, Udoka plays solid defense and is known as a solid three-point shooter.
-- Jeff Brody
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Bowen
Perhaps one of the most underrated and least appreciated players in the league is Spurs forward Bruce Bowen. Designated as the Spurs' stopper on defense, Bowen's value to the Spurs is unquestioned. Night after night, the Spurs rely on Bowen to guard and contain the opponent's best perimeter players, whether it's Tracy McGrady, Kobe Bryant, or LeBron James.

From 2001-2007, Bowen earned seven consecutive spots on the NBA All-Defensive First or Second Teams. And despite his age (36), Bowen has played in 536 consecutive games including playoffs, prompting Sports Illustrated to name him the "Iron Man" of the NBA in 2007.

Bowen's work ethic and physical fitness are a testament to his commitment to the team's defense-first philosophy. While his irritating style of defense has at times drawn the ire of a few players in the league, many contend Bowen is the best individual defender in the NBA. "I don't take pride in being a villain," Bowen told ESPN.com. "I wish it was more or less a situation of people saying, 'He's a competitor.' When people go to the basket and make layups and things of that nature, they talk about what a warrior they are...How come it can't be that way for defenders?"

As a team that has been at or near the top of the league in opponent's field goal percentage and points allowed for several years, the Spurs know their entire team defense starts with Bruce Bowen.
-- Jeff Brody
THE STAT
53 Forward Robert Horry holds the record for most three-pointers made all-time in the NBA Finals, with 53.
Popovich
GREGG POPOVICH
Twelfth Season
Career Record: 576-276 (.676)
Playoff Record: Ten times, 92-51 (.643)

Popovich has spent his entire Spurs career deflecting credit to his players. "When David Robinson was followed by Tim Duncan, your major job is not to screw that up," Popovich recently said of his duties as coach.

That no-fuss, "get over yourself" attitude transcends the entire team from "Pop" to laid-back superstar Tim Duncan, a native of tropical island St. Croix. Duncan, who was asked how he'd like to be remembered as a player after he retires, told Stack Magazine: "I hope (people) would describe me as someone who played hard, loved to play and won a lot of games. That's the extent of it, nothing more."

Certainly, the Spurs performance over the last decade puts them in some rarified air, and Popovich deserves much of the credit. With his fourth title in 2007, he is one of only five coaches in NBA history to have won at least four championships (Phil Jackson (9), Red Auerbach (9), John Kundla (5), Pat Riley (5)).

When asked about those comparisons, Popovich deadpanned "I don't care." And the truth is, he means it.
-- Jeff Brody
KNOW YOUR SPURS
Manu Ginobili lists The Sixth Sense and Forest Gump as his favorite movies.
They are at the point now where age starts becoming a factor.
Splitter was a good draft pick but he has another year playing overseas.
When you have a veteran team like that, it gets you in small doses when those guys get hurt. Their bodies start breaking down and guys end up being out and missing games and it messes up the team's flow. That's what can catch them.
Duncan is motivated by being the best. The guy's demonstrated time and time again that he's one of the best players to ever play the game. He and Popovich have really taken that franchise to another level. I didn't think he could win a championship without David Robinson and he's won two, so, he's really just great.
There are some similarities between Udoka and Bowen, but really, they're obsessed with finding the next Bowen. The mentality that Bowen has is second to none, that's what's hard to replicate. It's like trying to find the next Scottie Pippen. It's tough to find another guy like that.
-- Western Conference Scout
PG - Tony Parker: As Tim Duncan ages, Parker will be asked to take on a greater scoring role.
SG - Michael Finley: His scoring numbers have dipped for seven straight seasons.
SF - Bruce Bowen: It's no secret. Bowen's value doesn't show up in the stat sheet.
PF - Tim Duncan: He will probably go too early in your draft, but Duncan is still a top PF.
C - Fabricio Oberto: Time share with Francisco Elson won't help his fantasy numbers.
Spurs Fantasy Preview | Fantasy Home
Record: 55-27, 3rd in Western Conf.
Playoffs: Lost in Conf. Finals to Phoenix, 4-3
Scoring Leader: T. Duncan, 23.5 PPG
Rebounding Leader: T. Duncan, 10.6 RPG
Assist Leader: T. Parker, 6.0 APG

Simulated Season Details
PLAYER/2006-07 STATS PPG RPG APG
PG Tony Parker 18.6 3.2 5.5
SG Michael Finley 9.0 2.7 1.3
SF Bruce Bowen 6.2 2.7 1.4
PF Tim Duncan 20.0 10.6 3.4
C Fabricio Oberto 4.4 4.7 0.9

PG Jacque Vaughn 3.0 1.1 2.0
SG Manu Ginobili 16.5 4.4 3.5
SF Ime Udoka 8.4 3.7 1.5
PF Robert Horry 3.9 3.4 1.1
C Francisco Elson 5.0 4.8 0.8
F Tim Duncan St. Croix
C Francisco Elson Netherlands
G Manu Ginobili Argentina
C Ian Mahinmi France
C Fabricio Oberto Argentina
G Tony Parker France
F Ime Udoka Nigeria
G Beno Udrih Slovenia
F Ime Udoka Free Agent
F Marcus Williams Draft
C Ian Mahinmi Previous Draft
C Jackie Butler Trade
F Melvin Ely Free Agent
PPG Tim Duncan 20.0
RPG Tim Duncan 10.6
APG Tony Parker 5.5
SPG Manu Ginobili 1.5
BPG Tim Duncan 2.4
Points Scored 98.5 (14th)
Points Allowed 90.1 (1st)
Field-Goal Percentage .474 (2nd)
Opponents' FG% .443 (4th)
Rebounding Diff. +1.6 (10th)
NBA Seasons: 29
Playoff Appearances: 25
NBA Finals Appearances: 4
Championships: 4 | Last Title: 2006-07
Best Season: 2005-06, 63-19
Season/Home Opener:
Oct. 30 vs. Portland (8:00 p.m. ET)
Longest Road Trip(s):
9 games in 17 days: January 28 February 13
@ UTA, @ SEA, @ PHX, @ IND, @ WAS, @ NYK, @ BOS, @ TOR, @ CLE
Longest Home Stand(s):
4 games in 9 days: December 22-30
LAC, CHI, TOR, MEM
4 games in 8 days: January 10-17
DET, MIN, PHI, CLE
4 games in 7 days: March 26 April 1
LAC, MIN, HOU, GSW
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Radio: 1200 AM, 1350 AM
Web: Official site
Local Coverage: San Antonio Express-News