Popovich and ‘Big Three’ are back again as they look to win a sixth championship…
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The San Antonio Spurs won the fifth NBA championship of the Tim Duncan era last season, but can the defending champions go again this year and defend their title?
“Men lie, women lie. Buckets don’t”. Hat-tip to Dion Waiters for that little saying, but it couldn’t apply any better than describing the Spurs last season. After their heartbreaking loss in the Finals the previous year, many wrote San Antonio and their ageing roster off before the season had even started.
Do Duncan and Ginobili have enough left to go again? Can Parker carry them? Does Pop still want it? So many questions and so many emphatic answers as the Spurs finished the regular season with a 62-20 record, before battling through every obstacle in the playoffs in their usual entertaining fashion.
The Dallas Mavericks took them the distance but they couldn’t stop them, nor could the Portland Trail Blazers or Oklahoma City Thunder. In the end, who better to gain revenge against than the heart-breakers themselves, the Heat, and they looked superb and timeless in the process.
If the Spurs can maintain last year’s quality, another championship is well within their grasp
Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili still form the core of the team, but it is the Spurs system under Popovich which is undoubtedly the secret to their success. The system seamlessly allows for changes in personnel when required, and no other team can execute it like San Antonio with their vision and shooting ability.
Team chemistry, team basketball and quality in depth perhaps sum them up best, and individual talent undoubtedly makes it all easier. Parker averaged 16.7 points and 5.7 assists per game last season, Duncan had 15.1 points and 9.7 rebounds while Ginobili added 12.3 points and 4.3 assists per game with all three being rotated and rested by Popovich through the year.
Parker opted against playing in the FIBA World Cup this summer and so he will be well rested ahead of the new campaign, and then you can factor in Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard who will look to take a bigger role this season. In addition, the likes of Patty Mills, Tiago Splitter, Boris Diaw, Danny Green and Marco Belinelli to name but a few will have significant roles too.
Inevitably, the question of age will come up again and whether or not this team has the hunger to go again and take on their more athletic rivals in the Western Conference. They answered it brilliantly last season, but time will tell if they are capable of maintaining that level of performance.
There aren’t many better than Popovich in the business with his in-game adjustments and ability to mesh together his passers and shooters, and while I don’t expect them to be as prolific as last season, it would be foolish to suggest that they aren’t going to be involved at the business end of the season.
Had Duncan or Popovich walked away this summer, predictions across the board would have been completely different. However, both remained while Parker and Ginobili signed new deals and here we are again with the great San Antonio Spurs.
What makes them so special is their chemistry and unselfishness. There are no ‘superstars’ here, just team-work. As they have proved over the years, stability and familiarity breed success, and with the core still in tact and a great support cast around them that only look to be improving, the Spurs will be back in the post-season mix without doubt.
Health will be a key part of how far they go thereafter, but based on last season and Parker’s rest over the summer, I expect them to be representing the West again when the NBA Finals 2015 come around.
PG: Tony Parker
SG: Danny Green
SF: Kawhi Leonard
PF: Tim Duncan
C: Tiago Splitter
Sixth Man: Boris Diaw/Manu Ginobili (or anyone on the roster on any given night in truth).