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
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.
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.
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
-- Jeff Brody
Have you thought about becoming a Spurs Season Ticket Holder? By purchasing tickets for the 2007-08 season you can get PLAYOFF PRIORITY and other great benefits of being part of the team!
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
||Forward Robert Horry holds the record for most three-pointers made all-time
in the NBA Finals, with 53.
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,
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
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