While the Spurs season ended in dissapointment, I thought it would be good to take a look back at some of the awesome moments there were and to also look to the future. For the last 13 yrs the Spurs have won at least 50 games a season, surpassing a streak held by that of the showtime Los Angeles Lakers of the 1980s (12 straight seasons). Add to that, the Spurs accomplished this feat in a fast paced 66-game season (which included many back to backs and two back to back to backs).
The Young Guys
The Spurs got to see the exciting development of a few young players. Kawhi Leonard ( 7.9 pts 5 rbs ) emerged at the Small forward spot with a dedication to rebounding and defense. He also added the 3 pt shot ( 37%) to what was said to be a limited offensive arsenal. Danny Green ( 9 pts 43% 3 pt fg) had his best season as a pro. Last season Green was a bench warmer and played what I call the Malik Hairston role. Come in for one play and put forth a Bowen-like defensive effort. As a dark horse this year, Green snuck in and grabbed the starting spot at shooting guard for the injured Ginobili and gave the Spurs some shooting and intense defense with Leonard. Tiago Splitter (9.3 pts 5 rbs) gave the Spurs a solid back up to Duncan. At 6-11 he gave the Spurs some length and some ability to score in the low-block. Although not a shotblocker, he did a great job of protecting the rim. His free throw shooting for the season was an amazing improvement. Last year Splitter was at 54%, this past season Splitter raised his average to 69%. Dejuan Blair (9.5 pts 5.5 rbs) again started most of the season for the Spurs. He didnt rebound as well he did last year, but did manage to add to his offensive game with the “floater”. What most impressed me was how mature and professional Blair was when he lost his starting spot to the newly acquired Boris Diaw. He didn’t complain but came in and gave the Spurs good minutes when called on in the Western Conference Finals.
Stephen Jackson ( 8.9 pts ) claimed he started tearing up when Pop talked to him about coming back to SA. What Jackson did for the Spurs was no crying matter. The grit, patience and heart that Jackson brought to the Spurs was a big reason why they got so far in the Playoffs. His timely plays in the fourth quarters on both ends reminded Spurs fans why they loved him. Boris Diaw ( 4.7 pts 4.3 rbs) while not the tall, shotblocking presence that Spurs fans hoped for, Diaw could be compared to a Fabricio Oberto with handles and a 3 pt shot. Physically, Diaw was not the ideal starter for many teams (including the Bobcats), but from an IQ standpoint he was just what the doctor ordered. He was obviously able to handle opposing players in the post with his “girth”, but he also was able to move his feet and stay in front of quicker power forwards. Add to that his ability to make plays off the dribble like a guard and you had the perfect compliment to the Spurs offense and defense.
Gary Neal ( 9.9 pts) as usual lit it up from 3 pt range (41%) along with his bigger counterpart Matt Bonner (6.6pts) who shot 42% from downtown. With Bonner there never is too much to say, during the regular season he knocks down 3 after 3. And after playing for years and getting lots of playing time off the bench it’s safe to say he is vital to what the Spurs do offensively despite his occasional troubles on the other end. Gary Neal had a rough start. His health wasn’t all to great, but once he got back in the swing of things he did what he usually does, score and hit timely baskets late in the game. All was well until Spurs backup TJ Ford went down for the season. The Spurs moved Neal to the backup point guard spot. Lets just say it was an adjustment for both sides, but judging from their 50-16 record it worked out somehow.
THE BIG 3
Tim Duncan (15.4 pts/9 rbs) Manu Ginobili (12.9 pts/4.4 ast) and Tony Parker (18.3 pts/7.7 ast) have played the last ten seasons together. Tim Duncan was finishing around the rim with authority and wasn’t constantly dragging that leg around. He managed to stay heathly all season. Manu Ginobili was at 100% went it mattered, the Playoffs. Tony Parker took his game to the next level and finished in the top 10 for MVP voting. The season did end in dissapointment but all 3 players got to make history in some way, and we all got a chance to witness it.
May 31, 2012 – Tim Duncan becomes the alltime playoff blocks leader passing Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Hakeem Olajuwon.
April 12, 2012 – Manu Ginobili becomes the fifth Spur to reach 10,000 points.
February 4, 2012 – Tony Parker passes Avery Johnson as the Spurs alltime assist leader.
April 17 an April 20, 2012 – Bringing back the Twin Towers. Gregg Popovich starts Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan together against the rival Lakers enroute to a 112-91 win on april 17th in LA and a 121-97 win back home on April 20th.
February 18, 2012 – Gary Neal steals the ball from Chris Paul and knocks down a 3 to tie and send the game into overtime and eventually give the Spurs an overtime win.
April 26, 2012 – The Spurs had 12 straight seasons of 50 wins or more, and that streak looked to be in trouble. At a 49-16 record with the Big 3 resting and playing on the road, the Spurs get their 50th win against the Warriors and extend their streak to 13 seasons. Patty Mills put in a game high 27 pts with 12 ast along with Blair who gave the Spurs 22 pts and 13 rbs.
May 19, 2012 – Being down 24 to the Clippers in game 3, it seemed as if the Spurs win streak would come to an end. But with a collective calm and a surgical run the Spurs worked their way back and took a commanding 3-0 series lead behind a 96-86 victory in Los Angeles.
Their were several memorable moments this season and hopefully their will continue to be some in the near future. As we did last season, we will next take a look at the Spurs roster situation and look at what moves they can make to win the West and get that elusive 5th ring.