Let’s face it, if you are taking your time to read this, or any other blog, at the beginning of training camp you are undoubtedly a devoted Spurs fan. As a devoted Spurs fan, it’s a pretty safe bet to say you teeter between thinking that the Spurs can do no wrong and thinking that they screwed the pooch with this or that move. Of course, when we step back and take a breath it becomes clear that the truth lies somewhere in between those poles. What I’d like to do here today is help us all get to that more rational and peaceful place as we get fired up for the 2010-2011 season.
Any time the Spurs reach out into the ether an find some player or other that the NBA has forgotten about or never noticed in the first place it is tempting to think that Manu Ginobili 2.0 is on his way. Needless to say, there will only ever be one Manu, and thinking that anyone could ever be what he is does a disservice to both Manu and the player in question. What I find to be more helpful is to take a look back and find a previous Spur player that fits the known skill set of any new player in the Black-n-Silver and work from there.
When I’m looking for comparisons I do two things. First I look at the four championship teams the Spurs have put on the court, and then I look at the season prior. That helps me to narrow the scope of my mental search and focus on both what has worked for the Spurs and as well as what just happened to them to see where improvements can be made.
If you are anything like me, I know that you are anxious to understand where Gary Neal, James Anderson, and Tiago Splitter fit and what we can expect from them in 2010-2011. Most people know that Tiago Splitter once swam the English Channel while towing a tugboat with a rope in his teeth, so it’s tempting to think that he’ll tear the hell out of the NBA. You didn’t know that about the Big Brasilian? Hmmm…maybe I’m mixing my dreams up with reality again (I have got to stop eating all of the jalapenos before bed time, and yes I know that I spelled Brasil with an‘s’).
Additionally, we know that Arthur “Chip” Engelland believed Gary Neal to be one of the best shooters he’s ever seen (you didn’t know that Arthur was Chip’s first name? Maybe you aren’t such a die-hard after all); however, we have no idea what the fuck that means as it relates to an actual NBA game. And what about Mr. Anderson? What position will he play? How many minutes? Is he the next coming of “The One?” (pssst…I’m focusing on these dudes because they have guaranteed contracts)
Let’s take a walk down memory lane to discover what roles these new Spurs will occupy as the drive for five continues.
Looking back at the four championship teams, the one that in my opinion most closely matches the mix of youth, experience, role players is the 2003 team. And it is there that I see the most to work with in terms of making valid comparisons to set what I hope to be the expectations of the three new players mentioned above.
For my money, if Tiago Splitter can perform better for the Spurs than Francisco Elson did in 2007 (5pts, 5reb, 1blk) and match what David Robinson put up in 2003 (8.5pts, 8reb, 2blks) that would be his best case scenario. I also don’t thing that is an unreasonable expectation for Spanish-seasoned Rookie. When you think about what the Admiral provided for the Silver-n-Black in 2003, it’s a lot like what we are all hoping that Splitter can do this year. That being provide solid interior defense both team and man-to-man, hit the boards, and score when possible without forcing the issue. All of that seems right up Tiago’s alley. If he does that and does it to the level that DRob did at the end of his career, Splitter will be the best partner Timmy’s had in a long, long time.
I see the other two additions as combinations of some of the lesser role players of the 2003 team, or at least what I hope they become. I’d like to see Gary Neal fall somewhere between Steve Kerr (13mins, 4 pts, 40% on 3’s) and Devin Brown (3mins, 2pts, and youthful energy) and James Anderson as a mix of Danny Ferry (9 mins, 2 pts, good team D) and Devin Brown. Again, my thinking is that these are reasonable targets for these players to aim for in their first year with the Spurs. Bringing a mix of traits attributed to lesser role players from the 2003 team is nothing to scoff at, as that was probably the most stacked of all of the Championship teams from both a major talent standpoint and a cohesive mix of role players.
The new season will be starting soon and we will all get a chance to see where these three players in fact “Suxors the Big One” or “Rock-out with their jocks out”, but going back to my opening argument I think we’ll all see the truth lies somewhere between those two poles.