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Popovich says don't leave Spurs out of title mix

Sep 16, 2010, 10:25 PM EDT

gpopovich.jpgThe Spurs won 50 games last season, something you barely noticed because it’s expected of them, and they should be better this season. Tony Parker should be healthy, George Hill’s game should take another stride forward, Tiago Splitter will be a boost.

Yet you do not hear “San Antonio Spurs, Western Conference contenders.” In part because it’s hard to put any name but “Los Angeles Lakers” in that sentence, but in part because people are looking past the Spurs.

In a conversation with reporters today, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says the Spurs should be in that conversation. Here are some tweets from Jeff McDonald, San Antonio News Express Spurs reporter.

More Pop on offseason: “We think they have the potential to be fantastic – and fantastic means have an opportunity to win a championship.”

Pop worked out RJ individually this summer: “His dedication and development are going to be one of the most important things for our success

Pop on Tim Duncan’s shape: “I think he’s even slimmer than he was last year. He’s serious about this.”

Pop on Splitter: “He’s a really, solid player who’s going to have a great NBA career, but he’s not going to lead us in scoring.”

I am high on Tiago Splitter, but with this roster he should not be leading them in scoring, or anywhere close. Around 7 points a game, 8 or more rebounds, solid defense and just some smart play and he’ll be an upgrade for them as a guy they can stick along side Tim Duncan on the front line.

And Popovich is right, Richard Jefferson will be a key. But winning a championship… well he kind of have to say that right now, doesn’t he? Doesn’t mean we have to believe it either. But they will be good, and overlooked.

  1. Drew - Sep 17, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    It’s not so much the talent and chemistry of the Spurs roster I’m doubting, it’s that they’re old. Tim Duncan, while solid, has to be a big force c. 2007 for San Antonio to go deep. I think his best days are behind him. Parker and Ginobili are injuries waiting to happen. Jefferson is a mismatch on this team. Good enough for the second round, not enough to beat LA, Houston, Dallas, and possibly Portland, Phoenix, and Utah.

  2. davidly - Sep 17, 2010 at 12:56 PM

    The Thunder will be in the finals versus the Lakers.

  3. Anthony Soliz - Sep 17, 2010 at 1:53 PM

    The Spurs in The past decade have been title contenders. That is due to “POP” and the coaching staff. We need to understand that the spurs are goin through a rebuilding process. This is not the 99′ or 03′ team that had Savy veterans. This new players have not been battle tested the way the big 3 have. One upside that is evident, is that the big 3 are finally healthy and rested going into this season. Jefferson will be more productive. splitter will bring a great defensive presence. Hill and the other role players must produce. If they do, bet on the Spurs to bring home a 5th title. If not, Lakers will again 3peat. Spurs should be humble as the always have and be happy they fly under the radar. gives them more time to build chemisty and not get caught up in the hype!!

  4. JRB1359 - Sep 20, 2010 at 1:45 PM

    DREW DISAGREE the Spurs have 7+ players 25 and under and while you say TD is on the decline he still is the best low post player in the game offensively and was 5th in PER last year. As far as your assertion about RJ, I also disagree. When RJ was involved earlier in the game the Spurs won more. Look for more plays for RJ this year and for him to be more actively involved earlier in the game. And remember, RJ isn’t the 1st, 2nd or 3rd option on this team. However, he’ll likely score more a bit more this year.

  5. md - Sep 20, 2010 at 3:01 PM

    Davidly, they’re both in the same conference and cannot possibly meet in the finals!

  6. Drew - Sep 21, 2010 at 12:28 AM

    JRB1359, of the 7 players under 25 on the Spurs, 4 don’t or will not play and another (Anderson) is a rookie. DeJuan Blair is one of those 7 and he gives them a lift, but he also has shaky knees. Tony Parker is only 28, but has a lot of mileage already and injuries are starting to catch up. Duncan is still a great player, but is now one teams are content to let him get his at the expense of wearing him out. He doesn’t go for nearly as many explosive scoring games as he once did and his defensive presence has fallen off some, as evidenced by his declining block average.
    I still disagree about Jefferson. Yeah, when he’s involved in the offense they’re a better team. But, getting him involved comes at the expense of Parker, Ginobili, Duncan, or even George Hill not getting their’s. I also forgot to mention the Thunder as a Western contender, an emerging team of young, talented, and athletic players and the league’s leading scorer which is an awful matchup for the Spurs if they should see each other in the playoffs. On the plus side, Splitter should help them and James Anderson might be able to give them some scoring punch off the bench.

  7. Karran - Sep 21, 2010 at 9:45 AM

    Richard Jefferson is a mismatch? For who? The only downside he has in this offense is hes not a spot up shooter. Hes never going to score more than 12 ppg in this offense no matter how he plays. They just need him to be consistent. And you basically saying that every “playoff” team in the west can just man handle the spurs is comical to me. The only team that has clear cut shot to beating them is LA, period. The spurs embarrased dallas last year without splitter, and phoenix may not even make the playoffs. You obviously dont know basketball homie.

  8. Drew - Sep 21, 2010 at 3:38 PM

    Karran, maybe I should re-phrase. The Spurs are CAPABLE of beating a lot of teams – maybe most – in the West. But, I don’t see that happening. I don’t see them ahead of LA, Dallas, Houston, or Oklahoma City. Utah will be strong again. Phoenix remains to be seen what they can do, but they have a lot of talent on their roster. I believe if Portland is healthy, they are better than the Spurs. Remember, the Spurs were a 7 seed in last year’s playoffs. They beat a Dallas team who has gotten better. I expect LA, Dallas, Houston, OKC, Portland, Utah (and maybe Phoenix) to finish ahead of them in the standings.
    You are saying I don’t know basketball by reminding me how they “embarrassed” Dallas last year. First of all, that was a competitive 6-game series in which a lot of the games were decided in the last few minutes. Second of all, they were SWEPT by Phoenix in the following round. I don’t think the addition of Splitter makes them THAT much better.
    Jefferson is a great third option player where he can use his athleticism and slashing ability. As a fourth option, he’s the odd man out, left alone to make jump shots which is not his strength. But, then again, “I don’t know basketball.”

  9. Drew - Sep 21, 2010 at 3:42 PM

    Karran, maybe I should re-phrase. The Spurs are CAPABLE of beating a lot of teams – maybe most – in the West. But, I don’t see that happening. I don’t see them ahead of LA, Dallas, Houston, or Oklahoma City. Utah will be strong again. Phoenix remains to be seen what they can do, but they have a lot of talent on their roster. I believe if Portland is healthy, they are better than the Spurs. Remember, the Spurs were a 7 seed in last year’s playoffs. They beat a Dallas team who has gotten better. I expect LA, Dallas, Houston, OKC, Portland, Utah (and maybe Phoenix) to finish ahead of them in the standings.
    You are saying I don’t know basketball by reminding me how they “embarrassed” Dallas last year. First of all, that was a competitive 6-game series in which a lot of the games were decided in the last few minutes. Second of all, they were SWEPT by Phoenix in the following round. I don’t think the addition of Splitter makes them THAT much better.
    Jefferson is a great third option player where he can use his athleticism and slashing ability. As a fourth option, he’s the odd man out, left alone to make jump shots which is not his strength. But, then again, “I don’t know basketball.”

  10. sean - Sep 21, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    DREW,give up on basketball and maybe try another sport you know more about.First spurs are younger than laker’s,Dallas.Laker’s starting 5 is all 30 and above with Odom replacing Bynum who has been more injured prone in his short career than both Ginobilli and Parker ever has been, and he getting paid ridicious sum of 13 million per year.Kobe(LA) Nowinski(DALL)is around same age as Duncan and Ginobilli,so don’t tell me age is factor.For Parker at (28)is in his prime,He came in to the NBA at (19) same age as Kobe,K.Garnett and others and i dont remember they milege declining at 28 period.If you want talk about injured prone players,tracy mCRADY,kenyon martin,nene,bynum,g.olden,stodmire and i can go on!!Who are on playoff teams and no championships to show,Believe me bro if GINOBILLI and PARKER are that injured prone,they wouldn’t have (3)championships and amazing run of 50+ wins every year since 1999.If you look at spurs run last 11 years it is very hard to make it to western coference finals ,even harder to nba finals so what makes you think, young Portland,Oklahoma can be better,they just starting learn playoff basketball,Dallas been there once finals,we beat them first round and they have exact same team comming back.phoenix will hurt with out stodmire big time.Denver will be there as long as Anthony is on team.Bro TIAGO SPLITTER will average double-bouble,points and rebounds,the last 2 european MVP was ginobilli and luis scholer SPURS DRAFTED so how they turn out (hahaha)SPLITTER is going to be as good as paul gasal in 3 yrs but all they need from him now is rebounding and defense,shot blocking to get to another finals.Time will tell with this spurs team 2010 because its youngest they have had they bench in last 10yrs because they feel youth key and its time these guys get experience to replace Duncan and Ginibolli in 3yrs.They relying on JEFFERSON TO IMPROVE or Splitter,ANDERSON or NEAL to have breakout rookie year to help them to a 5th title

  11. SEAN - Sep 22, 2010 at 10:06 AM

    DREW,give up on basketball and maybe try another sport you know more about.First spurs are younger than laker’s,Dallas.Laker’s starting 5 is all 30 and above with Odom replacing Bynum who has been more injured prone in his short career than both Ginobilli and Parker ever has been, and he getting paid ridicious sum of 13 million per year.Kobe(LA) Nowinski(DALL)is around same age as Duncan and Ginobilli,so don’t tell me age is factor.For Parker at (28)is in his prime,He came in to the NBA at (19) same age as Kobe,K.Garnett and others and i dont remember they milege declining at 28 period.If you want talk about injured prone players,tracy mCRADY,kenyon martin,nene,bynum,g.olden,stodmire and i can go on!!Who are on playoff teams and no championships to show,Believe me bro if GINOBILLI and PARKER are that injured prone,they wouldn’t have (3)championships and amazing run of 50+ wins every year since 1999.If you look at spurs run last 11 years it is very hard to make it to western coference finals ,even harder to nba finals so what makes you think, young Portland,Oklahoma can be better,they just starting learn playoff basketball,Dallas been there once finals,we beat them first round and they have exact same team comming back.phoenix will hurt with out stodmire big time.Denver will be there as long as Anthony is on team.Bro TIAGO SPLITTER will average double-bouble,points and rebounds,the last 2 european MVP was ginobilli and luis scholer SPURS DRAFTED so how they turn out (hahaha)SPLITTER is going to be as good as paul gasal in 3 yrs but all they need from him now is rebounding and defense,shot blocking to get to another finals.Time will tell with this spurs team 2010 because its youngest they have had they bench in last 10yrs because they feel youth key and its time these guys get experience to replace Duncan and Ginibolli in 3yrs.They relying on JEFFERSON TO IMPROVE or Splitter,ANDERSON or NEAL to have breakout rookie year to help them to a 5th title

  12. dos - Sep 22, 2010 at 11:04 PM

    Firstly, I have to say that the Spurs will be better than last year if they stay healthy. A big if sure…
    A few obervations:
    Duncan may be declining as so many people like to focus on but how many other power forwards avg 18ppg, 10rpg and can pass and play defense. Lots also gets made of his declining ability to guard pick and rolls. Have a look around at the other ‘contenders’… Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, Al Jefferson, Gooden – pretty rubbish defensively.
    Kevin Garnett – great but declining faster than Duncan.
    Smith and Horford at both good at gaurding the 4 but for them to even be legitimately in the conversation they need a point guard that doesn’t move like a center and a center who is actually a center (and maybe for Johnson to show up for the playoffs). Rashard Lewis, Lamarcus Aldridge, Jeff Green – how many frontline 4s are they stopping on the block (noting that they do have Howard/Oden for help).
    Alot of these teams rely on putting a good defensive big on the floor with them to nullify their weaknesses. This is where Splitter comes in. His play this year on the defensive end is crucial to their chances. Pop will be going blue in the face preaching this to him no doubt.
    The one outlier is the Lakers. If Bynum plays healthy for the second half of the season, they will be hard to topple because it’s near on impossible for any team to match both Gasol and Bynum down low. Celtics may be best equipped for that. I don’t see Miami knocking off Lakers.
    RJ needs to improve big time on the defensive end more than anything. He needs to use his athleticism to affect passing lanes and play more physically on the opposing teams best wing because Hill, while a good defender – cannot guard 3′s and alot of 2′s size wise and Ginobili’s body would be best saved for when it is all on the line.
    Contract year for Parker, who is healthy (something he wasn’t last year)… expect him to return to the form of 2 seasons ago – he will want a contract before any lockout (even if he doesn’t want to committ long term to the Spurs.
    Lastly, Blair may have no ACL’s (something that still astonishes me) but have a look at his record. Played 82 games last year and didn’t miss many games (or any?) in college. Durability later in his career may certainly be a problem, but it doesn’t appear to be at this point in time.
    My prediction – Spurs lose to Lakers in 6 in the conference finals.
    ps. Phoenix are not going out of the 1st round (may not even make playoffs if Hornets return to form and/or Clipps finally produce something)

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