Oct 22, 2012, 11:00 AM EDT
Last Season: A classic, and what we’ve largely come to expect from these Spurs over the last five years — achieving regular season success, making a dent in the playoffs, but ultimately falling short of a title.
San Antonio finished tied for the league’s best record, then swept its way through the first two rounds of the playoffs — building an 18-game winning streak in the process — before being dropped by the Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.
Key Departures: None.
Key Additions: The Spurs continue to be the model franchise in terms of bringing in international players, and French guard Nando de Colo — who the team actually drafted back in 2009 — is already paying dividends in the preseason.
Three keys to the Spurs season:
1) The San Antonio Spurs are now known for their offense: It’s true. The Spurs led the league in offensive efficiency last season at a blistering 108.5 points per 100 possessions — and 1.4 points ahead of the team in second in that category, the explosive Oklahoma City Thunder. Even more surprising was how they did it — without a 20 points per game scorer, and with just four players averaging in double figures. No regression can be tolerated if the expectation is to remain in the top tier of the Western Conference.
2) Is Kawhi Leonard as good as Gregg Popovich thinks he is? Popovich is one of the best coaches in the league, but one with a hard-nosed reputation that doesn’t include a history of heaping undeserved praise on his players. When it comes to Leonard, however, Pop had no problem telling the world he believes that the player entering just his second NBA season will be the face of the team and a star in the future.
Leonard played well for the Spurs in his rookie season, but did his damage on the defensive end of the floor; 10 of his teammates posted higher points-per-game scoring averages than Leonard’s 7.9, in a balanced San Antonio offense that was the league’s best. If Leonard progresses toward showing the rest of us the star potential that Popovich already sees in him, the Spurs could be even better than last year.
3) Championship or bust: This may seem like an unfair expectation to place on San Antonio, especially when you consider they’re playing in a conference that features a newly-stacked Lakers team, along with a Thunder squad that had little trouble with them in the playoffs a season ago. But when you look at just how consistently Gregg Popovich is able to put together a team that competes near the top of the standings, it’s only natural to want to see them progress to the next level.
What Spurs fans should fear: That the team is already squeezing as much as it can out of its existing roster of talent. If that’s the case, that’s fine — there’s nothing wrong with being one of the top four teams in the entire league. But if the ceiling has been hit, there’s no room there for the team to make that leap back into the championship conversation.
Prediction: It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the Spurs at or very near the top of the regular season standings once again. All the key rotation players are back, and Popovich should have them playing to potential earlier than a Lakers team with large new pieces to try to fit together. San Antonio is going to be very tough to deal with all year long, and if there’s something left once the postseason begins — along with a renewed commitment to defense — the Spurs could be right there at the end, playing for a spot in the Finals once again.
Mar 14, 2014, 9:31 PM EDT
Pau Gasol believes that Kobe had every right to demand the Lakers put together a team capable of winning immediately.
Mar 14, 2014, 8:03 PM EDT
Paul Pierce continues to play up his hatred of the Knicks.
Jermaine O’Neal explains his reasoning for confronting Blake Griffin outside locker room following loss to Clippers
Mar 14, 2014, 6:36 PM EDT
Blake Griffin apparently did something on the court that, at least in Jermaine O’Neal’s eyes, crossed the line.
Mar 14, 2014, 5:35 PM EDT
After a disaster of a season in New York, Knicks owner James Dolan has made his bold move to save face. Now we will see if it actually turns the franchise around. The Knicks have announced they will “hold a press conference on Tuesday, March 18 to make a major announcement.” That would be the…
Mar 14, 2014, 4:59 PM EDT
For the big Thursday night game where the Bulls showed up ready to play and the Rockets just showed up, TNT mic’d up Carlos Boozer for the game. And he talked. And talked. And yelled “and one” at the top of his lungs. And talked. Tomike Shengelia doesn’t want to listen and Boozer keeps talking.…
Mar 14, 2014, 3:55 PM EDT
By the time Phil Jackson signs with the Knicks it feels like Ted Mosby will have met the mother of his children. Finally. Pretty much every source in the universe says a deal is close, that includes Ramona Shelburne and Chris Broussard of ESPN. Todd Musburger, Jackson’s Chicago-based agent, is in Los Angeles to finalize…
Mar 14, 2014, 2:58 PM EDT
Mike Woodson knows what is coming. It is expected that some time in the next 72 hours Phil Jackson will put pen to paper and become the president of basketball operations for the Knicks. When the season ends he’s going to clean house (CAA is not going to enjoy the experience), bringing in his people…
Mar 14, 2014, 2:08 PM EDT
Jimmy Fallon has been looking into buying a truck, this is the one he needs. Tim Duncan teamed up with Gunn Chevrolet in the San Antonio area to customize a 2014 Silverado for a giveaway. If you didn’t know, Duncan is a bit of a car nut and owns Blackjack Speed Shop, a customizing shop…
Mar 14, 2014, 1:22 PM EDT
Phoenix has to turn things around. Fast. The team is 3-7 in their last 10 and in the deep Western Conference that spells trouble — they have tumbled out of the playoffs and now are two games back of Memphis and Dallas in trying to get the last ticket to the postseason dance. Jeff Hornacek…
Mar 14, 2014, 12:44 PM EDT
The Boston Celtics and Rajon Rondo have had better days behind them. In front of them too, they hope. Boston will miss the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons, and Rondo missed the All-Star Game for the first time in four years. To avoid repeating either outcome, Rondo must get fully healthy. That’s…
Mar 14, 2014, 12:12 PM EDT
This is what makes Inside the NBA on TNT great. You can be sure some star almost fell asleep on the set of a Sunday morning football show this year, but they got him some coffee and kept it off the air. Not Inside the NBA. They show Charles Barkley nodding off and the guys…
Mar 14, 2014, 12:00 PM EDT
Terrence Ross has won a Dunk Contest. He scored 51 points in a game. He starts for the Eastern Conference’s third-best team. But he still has to take out the trash when he goes to his mom’s house. Raptors.com interviewed Ross with his mom, Marcine Ross, when Toronto played in his hometown of Portland last…
Mar 14, 2014, 11:30 AM EDT
Michael Jordan is commonly accepted as the best NBA player of all time, though occasionally someone else believes a different player belongs No. 1. Consider Kevin Durant among those dissenters. At least partially Durant on Kobe Bryant, via Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News (hat tip: Matt Moore of Eye on Basketball): “He’s…
Mar 14, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT
In ESPN’s Fab Five documentary, Jalen Rose discussed how he felt about Duke while playing at Michigan. Rose: I hated Duke, and I hated everything I felt Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms. To many, that’s still the…
Mar 14, 2014, 10:30 AM EDT
Royce White, the former first-round pick whose anxiety issues have kept him from playing in the NBA, is one step closer to making his NBA debut. The Sacramento Kings signed White to a 10-day contract, immediately assigning him to the D-League. After posting 8.8 points on 37 percent shooting, 4.3 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.5…
Mar 14, 2014, 10:00 AM EDT
President Obama has ramped up his efforts to promote the Affordable Care Act, even appearing on “Between Two Ferns” with Zach Galifianakis. With only mild offense intended for Galifianakis (in the spirit of his episode with the president), Obama has enlisted a much bigger celebrity to help with the cause – LeBron James. In the…
Mar 14, 2014, 9:30 AM EDT
At a panel during the Sloan Conference, Golden State Warriors general manager Bob Myers described the arduous process of acquiring Andre Iguodala. The Warriors had no cap room last summer, so Myers faced a two-sided task to land the free agent. Not only did he negotiate with Iguodala, Myers discussed trades with other teams to…
Mar 14, 2014, 8:45 AM EDT
This was expected when Atlanta Hawks big man Al Horford tore his pectoral muscle, he had to have surgery and was done for the season. But with the Hawks playing better than expected for rookie coach Mike Budenholzer — thanks to an All-Star year from Paul Millsap — Atlanta is going to be a playoff…
Mar 14, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT
I’m a big fan of the NFL/HBO series “Hard Knocks,” which each year follows a team through training camp and the drama of season-ending injuries and the cut downs — guys are playing for their livelihood and there is inherent drama in that. It’s great television. But thanks to guaranteed contracts you can’t do the…
Mar 14, 2014, 3:16 AM EDT
Our quick look around the NBA, or what you missed while applying for maybe the best journalism job out there…. Mike Dunleavy, Chicago Bulls. Don’t make Mike Dunleavy angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry. Dunleavy had no points in the first half before Chandler Parsons caught Dunleavy just above the eye with an…
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