With the famed Dallas Mavericks attempting to re-enter the 2007 NBA Finals after losing to the Miami Heat in the championship series the previous year, much of the attention was paid to that sole Texas team. It seemed as if most people forgot that the San Antonio Spurs had won the previous two championships in the prior three years.
The perception was that the Spurs were a little softer, a little older; wise maybe, but not wise enough to conjure up a title against a Dallas team that had all the momentum in the world and the league’s MVP for the 2006-2007 season. Duncan seemed a little slower, a little more injury-prone in the past two years. Emmanuel Ginobili wouldn’t persist through the season at such a high level; he was prone to injury with his mix-it-up style. Tony Parker still couldn’t shoot consistently enough, and Bruce Bowen was losing his defensive touch and giving more cheap shots in compensation. These were the arguments made against the Spurs. Then they won the 2007 title versus the Cleveland Cavaliers.
For the 2007-08 season, San Antonio has looked to sure up its weaker points.
While the core is still rock-steady in Duncan, Ginobili and 2007 Finals MVP Parker, the supporting cast of players has been slightly altered. Yes, Robert Horry is available and looking to breeze through the regular season before making his presence known in the playoffs; Francisco Elson and Fabricio Oberto are still going to man the center position next to Duncan, but new faces may make San Antonio a consecutive championship winner for the first time in its franchise history.
Former Portland castoff Ime Udoka will help fill the role of Bruce Bowen 2.0 off of the bench, and French project Ian Mahinmi will look to develop under the Spurs’ auspices, having been selected as a San Antonio first-round pick in 2005. While the changes are small, the benefits can be huge, because of the organization’s continuity in keeping consistency among its prime objectives, and the Spurs are consistently good, if not great.
While Duncan is aging, his skills are still intact, and for a player that never lived off of his athleticism, his prime is extended-the important role of Duncan is to continue to guide his teammates defensively, as he has become a much stronger defender, both individually and team-wise.
Parker will continue to get better, as he is a six-year veteran while only being 25-he must not be content to simply be one of the best young guards, while instead prove to himself that he is one of the best guards in the league, regardless of age.
As long as the Spurs continue to use Ginobili as a sixth man for the better part of the season, he will continue to do damage-though he is only 29, which is during the peak years of a NBA player’s prime, his long-time international experience with Argentina and Italy have potentially aged him to the degree of a normal NBA player age of 31-32. That the Spurs keep a solid shooting guard in the starting lineup is tantamount to their need in preserving Ginobili’s effectiveness in the future.
So the old, creaky Spurs want to defend their title; they’ve failed in 2000, 2004 and 2006, following championships in 1999, 2003 and 2005.
But who still wants to bet against them this time?