Season Preview

Where do we place our expectations as fans? For the last decade we’ve thought of the Spurs as perennial title challengers and top five finishers. It was reasonable to be let down if we lost to a non-Laker team and even then, we had reason to believe we could beat some of those squads.

The Spurs fortune and canny has been written about and hashed to death over this decade. The one year we didn’t challenge for at least a division championship David Robinson sat for all but 17 games. We only had to deal with that blip of a season and landed a Hall-of-Fame big man. It was perfect timing. David’s back and age were lining up to limit the number if Spurs he could carry in his back.

Late 90s Robinson wasn’t good enough to carry San Antonio any further than he could as his peak from ’93-’95.

Similarly, this Tim Duncan can’t carry these Spurs anymore. Management has done an excellent job surrounding Timmy with seemingly interchangeable veterans mixed with complementary players that ultimately rely on Timmy to make them great team.

Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker aren’t going to lift us to a championship in their current form no matter how much heart and grit they have.

Last season I had no hopes for a title. It wasn’t a bitter, sports-radio guy style indifference or anything. Can you be mad at the Spurs for not being young anymore? If you are then you probably are reading this at your local plastic surgery center trying to undo time’s work on your skin.

From 2001-2008 we could be upset and feel unfulfilled if we dropped lost a first-round matchup. During that time the Spurs won three titles and went only lost to Finals winner (Lakers, Lakers) or the Finals participant (Lakers, Mavs, Lakers). In the years after that we were more concerned with preserving our legs to weather the playoffs. We haven’t been in the Western Finals since. Our age and lack of depth was exposed by younger, more hungry guys.

Looking back, I don’t know if we could have hung with the Thunder or the Heat. I postulated that the only reason that Dallas was able to overcome Miami was that they survived the initial Kameameah. The were unfazed by it. Dirk had been critized and ridiculed and experienced the lowest shame he could as a player. The other guys on the team had similar tales of playoff failure. Jason Kidd ran into the buzz-saw Shaq Lakers and Pinacle Duncan. Shawn Marion had the shame of thinking he was a franchise guy and leaving the two-time MVP to become a journeyman role player.

Getting dunked on wasn’t going to make them lose their likely last shot at championship/redemption/validation.

Do we have that type of motivation that can overcome old and achy knees and inexperienced talent? Probably not. We have a choice, then. We can either be mad and angry when we drop two out of three on those back-to-back-to-backs or just enjoy the challenge of the last ride of Timothy Duncan’s band of Spurs.

This is the part where we would break down the rest of the league. The problem? Well that is changing daily. The Lakers gave up what made them champions for and all-world point guard then traded some of that length when David Stern decided to play God Of Vagueness. (Basketball Reasons?). The Mavericks are firing up their time machine and setting the date for November 2001 while signing Vinsanity, Lamar Odom and running out a presumably unmotivated Shawn Marion and Jason Kidd. There is some speculation that Cubes is gunning for a one-year dice roll while setting up the payroll to allow Deron Williams and Dwight Howard to fit in next year. It is an interesting and shrewd move. Now that Dallas has a ring to lend its roster moves some credibility, Donnie Nelson and Co. might actually pull this one off, instead of just teasing their fan base like they did with Shaq, Kobe, and Lebron.

Memphis should be young and hungry but probably will be fat and contented. I am witholding judgement on Zach Randolph until he shows he can break the Contract Year Wonder trend. The rest? Well, I’ll just say that New Orleans had the mantle of Young Next Big Things for a while there until they didn’t. So did Golden State. They both shocked the world by kicking the Dallas Mavericks’ ass and getting lots of headlines. They came back lackadaisical and unable to replicate the magic. For the Spurs’ sake, let us hope something similar happens.

Oklahoma City, on the other hand, is the real deal. They are going to have to sort out their point guard situation and get Westbrook to take a secondary role to Durant when he is supposed to if they want to do something big. Whereas Kobe and Shaq could overcome that largely because of the positions they play, Kevin and Russell both need the ball in similar spots in crunch time and do not compliment each other. There are some rumblings that Sam Presti is thinking about making a move here.

Houston is in flux. They nearly traded for Gasol but now are floating in no-man’s land after Stern nixed the original Chris Paul trade. Now, they are involved in nearly every rumor and there really is no telling what they’ll look like in the coming weeks. If you believe Kevin Garnett, they probably won’t be contenders because you can’t create chemistry with bacon (or something like that).

He’s right. That is the great thing about being stoic and not overreacting to a playoff loss. The Spurs know that changing up the entire team will only introduce a new set of problems that may result in the same result.

As it is, we have a Tim who showed up to camp in great shape. Pop is planning to cut minutes and manage the season like he always does.

Prediction:

3rd in the Division, 5th in the conference. Lose in the second round to the Thunder in five games.

Tags: 2011-2012 Season Previews

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