COACH: Gregg Popovich | 2007-08: 56-26
San Antonio Spurs

Odd years treat these two well.
Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE/Getty Images
You can’t write a San Antonio Spurs season preview article on an odd year without making note that the Spurs’ four rings have all come on years that can’t be divided by two without there being a fraction involved: 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

Failing to acknowledge the superstitious streak would be like neglecting to wish your buddy who is visiting Ireland good luck in meeting a leprechaun. It might be hogwash, but it’s necessary.

Last year San Antonio won 56 games in the regular season and dispatched the veteran Suns and the youthful Hornets from the playoffs before being completely exposed by the Lakers in the Conference Finals en route to losing 4-1.

The Spurs looked old, the Spurs looked slow, but did the Spurs look … over?

Of course not. Over? Get out of here. This team has a longer shelf life than SPAM. It was just a combination of Manu Ginobili’s bum ankle and Kobe Bryant playing the best basketball of his career.

So San Antonio was the victim of injury and bad timing, right? Not exactly. The Spurs have reached their zenith. Allow me to liken them to a movie for a moment, and what better classic film can there be to choose than Cool Runnings?

The Spurs are sort of like Cool Runnings with about 10 minutes left to go in the movie. They’ve already been through all the best scenes. The Knicks series in ’99 was like the thoroughly enjoyable sequence of Sanka trying to raise money singing on the streets of Jamaica. That makes ’03 against New Jersey the scene where John Candy begs his old buddy for a $5,000 sled once him and the guys made it from Jamaica to Montreal. Then of course ’05 vs. Detroit is first time Sanka breaks out the “feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme” cheer and the climax, the best scene of the movie and the most dominant point in the Spurs’ run, is the ’07 sweep of the Cavs that falls in line with the “I see pride, I see power” pep talk that Malik Yoba gives Junior in the bathroom before they get in a bar fight with the Swiss.

They’re past their prime, no doubt, but there could be one more classic moment in their future. Everybody knows that Cool Runnings got worse after the bar fight, but you had to get goosebumps when the normally stoic TV announcer says, “Ah, what the heck, go Jam!” during the broadcast of their last race with a medal on the line, followed by Junior’s dad initiating the greatest “slow clap” of all time after they crash and decide to lift the sled and carry it across the finish line.

The Spurs still have that “slow clap” scene in them. Tim Duncan can vault from one of the top 10 big men of all time to a no-doubt-about-it top five if he gets a fifth ring; Tony Parker, who has always been just a no-nonsense ballplayer and has reaped the benefits of the Desperate Housewife and NBA LIVE 09 cover that’s come from it, wants nothing more than to keep playing well into June; Manu Ginobili still has three or four 15-point fourth-quarter outbursts in the clinching game of a series left in him; and Gregg Popovich is too good of a coach not to find the way to win another one with this collection of players.

What did the Spurs do to fight the aging process this offseason? Nothing, really. They drafted George Hill, who is slated to take some of the backup point guard minutes away from Jacque Vaughn; They brought in Roger Mason as their “high-profile” free agent to plug him in where the deterioration of Michael Finley and Robert Horry was starting to show; and they gave Salim Stoudamire the chance to fill the shooter role that’s been lacking since Brent Barry left town.

There’s always a chance that 2009 will be the last great scene before the credits roll on the Spurs’ dynasty.

-- Dave McMenamin

Due to overwhelming demand, fans are strongly encouraged to order early to increase their chances of securing tickets.

Ginobili
There are only a handful of players in the league who can do what Manu Ginobili does on offense. Not to sound like John Madden, but here's a guy who can spot up or shoot off the dribble from the perimeter, can use his lefty dribble to dance into the lane whenever he wants, can float, layup, fadeaway or draw fouls in the lane and even will throw down a dunk on somebody once in a while.

Read that skillset (minus the part about being a lefty) and you think Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Tracy McGrady. What you should do is read that skillset and realize that Tim Duncan isn't the only one responsible for all the Riverwalk parades that have gone off in San Antonio.

Gregg Popovich once described Ginobili as being "hell bent for leather." Without even knowing what that means, you know what that means. It means sub Manu into the game against some poor second unit and the reigning Sixth Man of the Year is going to run roughshod all over the court and get what's rightfully his.

But there's a catch. In order to go all out, you have to have something left in you and that's where Ginobili's left ankle comes into play. After having nothing left against the Lakers in last year's playoffs and trying to give it a go for Argentina in the Beijing Olympics, Ginobili finally elected to have surgery in September and is expected to miss the first two months of the season. Can he return to be the menace he once was or will that handful of uniquely skilled players be reduced to just a few?

-- Dave McMenamin

THE STAT
8 The number of blocks Tim Duncan needs to reach 2,000 for his career.
It’s an odd numbered season so that means the Spurs will be back in the hunt for the NBA championship.
When you bring a guy off the bench who would be a high-level starter on almost any other team in the NBA you know you have depth. Manu Ginobili has been one of the steadiest players in the NBA since he arrived on the scene. How fast will he come back from his ankle injury? The Spurs hope he's a quick healer.
And of course Tim Duncan is one of those superstars who lead by example so everyone of his teammates fall in line.
Gregg Popovich is arguably the best coach in the NBA and has a roster that is the envy of every other coach in the NBA.
Bruce Bowen’s steady defense, Michael Finley’s ability to score and defend, and Tony Parker’s ability to get anywhere he wants on the court makes the Spurs the best balanced basketball team on the planet.
Throw in guys like Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto you see little if any drop-off when Pop has to go to his bench. If they're free of injuries -- and if Ginobili can get healthy quickly -- they will win the NBA championship this year.
-- NBA Scout
Tim Duncan is one of those players who are better in real life than in fantasy. On the actual hardwood, he’s an MVP-caliber player, but for our purposes, he’s merely good. Duncan still puts up great numbers in most categories, but he only plays about 34 minutes per night.

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NBA.com Fantasy Index

Record: 50-32, T-5th in Western Conf.
Playoffs: Lost in Conf. Semi Finals to Houston, 4-3
Scoring Leader: M. Ginobili, 20.9 PPG
Rebounding Leader: T. Duncan, 10.6 RPG
Assist Leader: T. Parker, 8.4 APG

Simulated Season Details
PLAYER/2007-08 STATS PPG RPG APG
PG Tony Parker 18.8 3.2 6.0
SG Michael Finley 10.1 3.1 1.4
SF Bruce Bowen 6.0 2.9 1.1
PF Tim Duncan 19.3 11.3 2.8
C Fabricio Oberto 4.8 5.2 1.2

C-F Matt Bonner 4.8 2.8 0.5
G Manu Ginobili 19.5 4.8 4.5
G George Hill -- -- --
G Roger Mason 9.1 1.6 1.7
G Salim Stoudamire 5.7 0.7 0.8
C-F Kurt Thomas 6.3 7.2 1.0
F Ime Udoka 5.8 3.1 0.9
G George Hill Draft
G Roger Mason Free agent
G Salim Stoudamire Free agent
F Robert Horry Free agent
G Damon Stoudamire Free agent
PPG Manu Ginobili 19.5
RPG Tim Duncan 11.3
APG Tony Parker 6.0
SPG Manu Ginobili 1.47
BPG Tim Duncan 1.95
Points Scored 95.4 (28th)
Points Allowed 90.6 (3rd)
Field-Goal Percentage .457 (14th)
Opponents' FG% .444 (5th)
Rebounding Diff. +.97 (12th)
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Radio: 1200 AM, 1350 AM
Web: Official site
Local Coverage: San Antonio Express-News