Follow the team all season long with the 20-Second Timeout blog by Bill Schoening, The Radio Voice of the Spurs for the past nine years. Bill has over 30 years of play-by-play experience including broadcasting Major League Baseball, the NFL and the NBA.

Help for Tony
by Bill Schoening | October 19, 2009

This past summer was a long one for Spurs players and coaches. Too long for a team used to deep postseason runs.

One player who kept busy with basketball was point guard Tony Parker, as his French National Team participated in Eurobasket in Gdansk, Poland. Head Coach Gregg Popovich vowed to keep Tony's workload fairly light during training camp and the early preseason games since he had been so busy in August and September.

As his minutes slowly increase in the preseason, Parker is showing signs that he is ready to go for the start of the regular season. In his most extensive preseason action yet, Parker looked sharp, distributed the ball well and shot with confidence in the Spurs win last Friday night over the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The good news for Parker is that he might not have to carry as heavy a burden as last season, with the upgrade in depth and scoring during the offseason, and the blossoming of second year guard George Hill. Hill had an extremely productive summer, working on his ballhandling, decision making, conditioning, and outside shot. Hill's development will give Pop some added flexibility in the backcourt during the season and that's good news for all the Spurs, especially Tony.

Theo Ready to Contribute
by Bill Schoening | October 13, 2009

Throughout their history, the Spurs have developed a knack for attracting veteran players with a specific skill set that can help a championship caliber team. Whether it's been the toughness of a Mario Elie or the outside shooting touch of a Steve Kerr, savvy veteran leadership can help on the court and in the locker room.

This is, perhaps, where Theo Ratliff comes in.

Ratliff is starting his 15th season in the NBA, and has made it clear why he chose San Antonio when he had other options in free agency. "There were several things, but the chance to play for a championship and the opportunity to play for a coach like Gregg Popovich, that was important", says Ratliff, who has led the NBA in blocked shots in three different seasons. The 6'11" center added, "This is also a very detail oriented system, and I like that. It's also great to see the way Tim Duncan works and prepares."

While frontcourt depth was a problem last season for the Spurs, the addition of Ratliff, Antonio McDyess and rookie DeJuan Blair should help take some of the pressure off of Duncan. Frenchman Ian Mahinmi, beset with a variety of injuries early in his career, is also getting an opportunity to crack the rotation with a long look during the preseason.

While Ratliff won't likely produce eye-popping numbers at the offensive end, his ability to clog the paint, block and alter shots, and grab defensive rebounds could come in handy as the Spurs get set for some top notch competition in the Western Conference.

Blair's Work Ethic Shines Through
by Bill Schoening | October 8, 2009

It was a good half hour after a morning training camp practice had concluded, and Spurs rookie forward DeJuan Blair was still on the court, working on pick and roll manuevers and short jumpers around the basket with assistant coach Chad Forcier. With sweat pouring from his brow, Blair pressed on. It's the type of work ethic that has endeared Blair to his coaches and teammates.

It's not taking fans long to embrace the burly rookie. He was a big hit in the Spurs preseason debut on Tuesday night at the AT&T Center, pacing the team with 16 points and 19 rebounds. Similar performances were common during Blair's stellar two year career at Pitt. Following Tuesday's game, the softspoken Blair said, "It was fun. I just did what they asked me to do and that's rebound. Everything else came off of that."

While there's room for improvement in all phases of the 20 year old's game, his hard work, energy, and positive attitude could very well earn him a spot in the Spurs frontcourt rotation.

Spurs Rested and Ready For 2009-10
by Bill Schoening | October 1, 2009

The most highly anticipated Spurs preseason in recent memory is now underway. Even though it was the infusion of talented new blood that had most Spurs fans counting the days until training camp, the return of two key players who had very different summers should also be cause for optimism.

After an injury plagued and frequently interrupted 2008-09 campaign, Manu Ginobili appears well rested, hungry and eager to return to the level that has made him a crowd favorite not only at the AT&T Center but also around the league. Ginobili is at his happiest when he is active and after a summer of doing very little, he is showing signs of the old Manu in the early days of camp. After a morning scrimmage on Wednesday, head coach Gregg Popovich said "Manu arguably was the best player on the floor today."

As Ginobili took it easy this summer, George Hill was working out religously, and looks to have added confidence that comes from having a year under his belt. Tony Parker's primary backup looks comfortable running the offense, and that's good news for Coach Pop, who says, "George has really matured. He put in a lot of hard work this summer with (assistant coach) Chad Forcier. I'm pleased to have George as our backup point."

With Parker's work load eased for the early preseason games, Hill will have ample opportunity to work with the first unit and perhaps build even more confidence as the season quickly approaches.