May 27, 2013; Memphis, TN, USA; Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol (33) hugs San Antonio Spurs power forward Tim Duncan after game four of the Western Conference finals of the 2013 NBA Playoffs at FedEx Forum. The Spurs won 93-86. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports
Tim Duncan is still donning a Spur’s jersey, Manu Ginobili was re-signed in the off-season, and Tony Parker believes their core still has a contending-bone or two in them. For the season opener tonight, the San Antonio Spurs play Marc Gasol and the “grit and grind” Grizzlies team they eliminated in the Western Conference finals last season.
The Spurs have basically been destroying the western conference ever since Tim Duncan was drafted to San Antonio. Popovich and Duncan have 4 titles under their belts, and have won 5o games every season except for the lockout seasons. So, uh, needless to say… I think they know how to win some damn basketball.
San Antonio went 58-24 last season, and made it all the way to the NBA Finals (you probably know this, though). Ray Allen ripped your heart out, and then everyone started to question if that was it for the Spurs core. Luckily for the Spurs, their prospect wing from San Diego State Kawhi Leonard has proven himself to Pop and the rest of the league that he’s ready to do whatever it takes to keep this team competitive. With the addition of Marco Belinelli, the improved play of Splitter, and countless other weapons in Pop’s arsenal, this season seems to be shaping up to be just like previous ones… Successful.
So, let’s recap.
The Spurs tried to keep their core together by signing Ginobili to a two-year, $14.5 million deal. They also signed Splitter to a four-year, $36 million deal, and they picked up Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph’s fourth-year options earlier this week.
Will it be enough for them to win their fourth straight Southwest Division title? Well… The Grizzlies, Mavericks, and the completely-reloaded Houston Rockets are gonna sure test them on it. The west is no joke this season, and even the worst teams can beat you on any given night (Lakers-Clippers last night is a good example). It’s definitely not going to be easy to win 50+ games in the west this season, but the Spurs have the capabilities.
Those Grizzlies, though?
Memphis went a franchise-best 56-26 in 2012-13, and finished two games behind San Antonio in the division. They then advanced to the conference finals for the first time. Then the Spurs brought out the brooms.
After the sweep, Memphis ditched Lionel Hollins and decided to go with former assistant Dave Joerger. The Grizzlies then made a few moves like signing the defensive-maniac Tony Allen to a four-year contract worth $20 million. Marc Gasol (defensive player of the year) and Conley (all-defensive team) are also still in Memphis, and I’d be willing to bet they improved their game after the sweep. The Grizzlies also added Mike Miller’s corpse to the roster, which was part of two title-winning teams in Miami. If he’s able to move around on the court, he should help fix some of their spacing issues that hindered them last season. Their top scorer and rebounder Zach Randolph also returns for the Grizzlies, who will try to snap an eight-game losing streak in San Antonio. Randolph got worked by the San Antonio defense last season, and was limited to 11.0 points per game on 30.2 percent shooting in the conference finals.
The Spurs split four regular-season matchups with Memphis in 2012-13. Memphis only won two less games. These two teams are solid all around, so who’s winning tonight? And how?
I gotta go with the Spurs. It’s going to be sloppy, but I’m picking the Spurs. I think Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter are going to be the biggest factors. Tony Parker will get his numbers, Danny Green is going to space the floor, and we’re going to see a first glimpse at Popovich’s game plan for this season. What are the negatives to that, though? TURNOVERS. They had a ton in the finals and a ton in the preseason. With great ball movement comes great responsibility, or something, and if the Spurs want to win… they. must. take. care. of. the. ball. ESPECIALLY against a team like the Grizzlies. They will capitalize on every chance they get. If San Antonio wants to win, they’ll limit the turnovers, have a high team-assist ratio, and spread the floor and knock down the outside shot. All of which is doable, of course, because the Spurs are… the Spurs. They’ve done it forever. It’s really all they know. So here’s to a new season, and just remember… Go Spurs Go!