And We're Off - One Lunatic's Spurs Preview

(Ed.: See below for Portland game thread.)

My life sucks. My car is out of commission, I'm too poor to pay my rent, I have a cold and even though it's November now, The Sickness is still not in my life. It's not fair.

So Tuesday afternoon Manolis and I decided to go to the Sharks-Pens game. We figured, two good, offensive, great skating, great passing, high volume shooting teams, we might see a 5-4 game. Of course it ends 2-1. 2-1 for $60 nosebleed seats. Grumble. And on the ride home my car's gear shift locks up on me. For 30 solid seconds I was stuck at a light and not able to shift into any gear before it loosened up and I was able to drive us back to the bar. Howevuh, after dropping Manolis off, the shit happened again, and this time I couldn't get it to loosen off. The best I could manage was to get the car in second gear, and I had to drive 35 mph on the highway for seven miles to get home. Good times. In fact, it was so much fun, I repeated the feat Wednesday morning. For 30 miles. On several highways. You have no idea how slow 35 mph is until you're on the highway being flipped off by Asian grandmothers.

Why had my car come to such a state? Because I'm the kind of badass rebel who doesn't play by the rules, man. I saw that yellow "check engine" sign on my display for a month and just ignored it because I'm not some square who freaks out over the tiniest thing. I make my own rules, you dig? Oh who am I kidding. I am the lamest of the lame (with the possible exception of Powell). I'm a bartender who doesn't drink, just like Sam "Mayday" Malone, except I didn't use to pitch for the Sox and I don't have a crazy waitress girlfriend. Right, I'm back with Amanda now. And she works with us. Awesome!

Manolis told me my problem was I probably destroyed my car's transmission and it would take two grand to fix which would mean I'm completely broke. Thankfully my mechanic said it's just my clutch that's messed up, something called "The Slave Cylinder" which sounds like some gay club in the city but is actually the part of the engine that makes the clutch respond. If it's just that, it's $200 to fix. If it's the whole clutch mechanism, more like $1,000.

The good news is (if we can even call it good news) is that I'll be able to watch the Spurs again. Oct. 28 was supposed to be the deadline for Dish Network to tell me if they got the NBA package or not, but when I called they said they were "still in negotiations." Now ol' Michael might not be the savviest businessman around (but I have much better hair), but I'm smart enough to figure out that "still in negotiations" once the season has already started translates to, "We're not getting it, it's not going to happen, but we think if we keep giving you false hope you'll be stupid enough to believe it and won't dump us for DirecTV."

So instead I just ordered NBA Broadband from my computer. It's only half as expensive, which is sweet, but we just got this kickass HD TV and now I won't hardly be able to use it for more than a handful of Spurs games. Get fucked, Dish Network.

I do have some thoughts on the Suns game, a surprisingly entertaining affair considering Manu wasn't involved, but first I thought I'd analyze and project the Spurs roster, hombre by hombre, just so we could arrive at the sobering realization of the futility of it all together!

# 33 Shooting Guard Desmon Farmer

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Look at him, all athletic and purposeful looking. It's like he thinks he has a future.

A.K.A.: Not Malik Hairston

Vital Information: Not to be confused with Jordan Farmar of the Lakers. You know it's a sad day to be a Spurs fan when we are actively pining for Jordan Farmar.

Key Stats: I got this from an article on his acquisition by the Spurs

The former USC Trojan started 2006-07 season with the Seattle Sonics seeing action in eight games and averaging 1.6 points and 1.1 assists in 4.0 minutes before being waived in January.

Farmer spent the rest of the season with the Tulsa 66ers of the D-League, averaging 19.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 32.8 minutes in 32 games.

He spent all of the 2005-06 season with the 66ers. For his career Farmer has played in 88 D-League games, averaging 16.3 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 29.8 minutes.

What This Means: If this hobo can put up solid numbers in the D-League and can't even get on the court for an awful Sonics team, then how relevant could've Mahinmi's All-Star season for the Toros been? Thanks for trampling on my one last vestige of hope, Clay Williams!

08-09 Projected Stats: 6 games, 13 minutes, 1.0 pts, 0.4 assists, 1.3 turnovers, 0 protests by Spurs fans over his inevitable dismissal.

#35 Center Anthony Tolliver

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It's not often you find college centers whose defensive role model is Fabricio Oberto.

A.K.A.: The Black Matt Bonner

Vital Information: The Spurs found this "diamond in the rough" in the Summer League, so you know he'll be a stud. He's first in line to replace RoHo... after Matt Bonner makes his annual pilgrimage to Pop's dog house for being Matt Bonner. The thing is, even at 23 years old he'll be a much poorer defender than the 48 year old or whatever he was last season Horry and he'll shoot higher than 26% from the floor, so really I have no idea how there could even be a comparison between the two. They're different guys.

Key Stats: (From ESPN.com)

Age: 23

Position: C

College : Creighton

Salary 2009: $711,517

What This Means: If this biographical information doesn't scream "dominant NBA player" to you, I don't know what could. John Hollinger wrote "I'm not sure he's really an NBA player" so basically he'll fit in well with the rest of our bench.

08-09 Projected Stats: 22 games, 9.2 mpg, 5.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 0.1 bpg, 38.5 FG%, 39.5 3 PT %.

#28 Center Ian Mahinmi

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I hate you and your drool-inducing athleticism Ian, I hate you.

A.K.A.: The New Beno Udrih

Vital Information: An ankle sprain in a pickup game caused him to miss the entire training camp and pre-season. Thankfully, Pop is not the kind of coach who punishes young unproven players for such indiscretions.

Key Stats: (From his NBA.com D-League Player Bio)

PPG: 17.1

, RPG: 8.2,

APG: 1.4,

BPG: 1.7

Born: Nov 5, 1986

Height: 6’9"

Weight: 230 lbs.

College: France

What This Means: There's only two noteworthy pieces of information here. One, under "college" it lists France, which means he's a soft, mentally weak, fromage binging disappointment waiting to happen. I'm highly suspicious of the intestinal fortitude of any foreigner who's not Argentine, because Argentines are crazy. Despite all that, I am still aroused intrigued by his potential. Two, he was born on "Guy Fawkes" day, which makes him even cooler to me. If you didn't like V for Vandetta, I don't want to know you, to borrow a Simmons line. P.S. Can you imagine if there was a University of France? Holy shit. Even the Princeton team would intimidate them.

08-09 Projected Stats: 30 Games, 9.6 mpg, 5.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 1.0 bpg, 45.0 FG %, 87.5 FT %, 4.2 Fouls Per Game. The last two stats will guarantee he's banished from the playoff rotation.

#3 Point Guard George Hill

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Ooooooooooooooooooh fancy!

A.K.A.: Scrappy McGee

Vital Information: He's nursing a sprained right thumb, which might affect his otherwise flawless dead-eye shooting stroke.

Key Stats: GEORGE MOTHERFUCKIN' HILL DON'T NEED NO STATS, BITCH! My boy is here to LOCK DOWN A MOTHERFUCKER, ya heard? He's going to be all up in yo shit, son. ALL. UP. IN. YO. SHIT. What, you thinkin' he's all goin' to politely ask you to give him the rock, some some civilized an' shit punk bitch wearin' a FEDORA AND A MONACLE? Man, fuck that shit. I'm here to tell you that George Hill will CUT YOU UP AND WATCH YOU BLEED. Then, he'll take the ball from your cold, twitchy, RIGOR MORTIFYING ASS and be on his marry way.

Whas that? Refs? I knew you'd ask that, YA PUNK. You think my man's afraid of some FUCKIN' ZEBRAS? You think they can PROTECT YOUR BITCH ASS? Listen up motherfucker, cos I WILL NOT tell you this shit again, if Joey Crawford SO MUCH AS LOOKS IN MY BOY'S DIRECTION, I guar-an-FUCKIN'-tee you he'll get his big ugly head ripped clean off, CLEAN OFF, and crazy ass George'll replace it with a pumpkin. A PUMPKIN! George'll just slam a pumpkin right on Joey's bloody stump of a neck and there'll go ol' Joey Pumpkinhead runnin' around the court in circles like a chicken on crack.

You want some advice son? Four words: Take. The. Night. Off. Tell yo coach your ankle hurts or your grandmama passed or some other BULLSHIT cos my boy ain't right in the head, you follow? If I was you, I wouldn't even be in the arena. You're on the floor wit him I can't be responsible for whas gon' happen, you dig? George might jus (Ed: I cut two words here) YOU ON THE COURT in front of the fans, and your baby momma and your bastard childrens and everybody.

HE JUS' DON' GIVE A FUCK, SON. BOY'S CRAZY!

What this means: The Spurs are, uh, rather enthused about Hill's defensive potential.

08-09 Projected Stats: 40 games, 9.3 mpg, 2.8 ppg, 1.4 apg, 1.9 spg, 32.3 FG %, potential playoff rotation player, depending on matchup (yes for Hornets, Jazz, and Suns, no for everyone else).

#11 Point Guard Jacque Vaughn

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If I ran the Spurs, this would be Vaughn's nightly uniform. Alas.

A.K.A.: The JV.

Vital Information: Despite his stats seemingly improving across the board from 06-07 to 07-08, his PER sunk from 11.00 to 9.08. Udrih's PER, incidentally, was 13.71.

Key Stats:

Times Pop Called Vaughn "The Prototypical Backup Point Guard" Last Season: 4

Times He Meant It: 0

What this means: Usually, if your coach refers to you as the prototypical anything (unless it's prototypical worthless asshole), the team doesn't draft your replacement the following season. Also you might remember that Pop thought so much of Jacque's prototypical backup-ness that he used one Manu Ginobili, a man who usually had two turnovers on his stat line just taking off his warm-up pants, as the backup point in the playoffs.

08-09 Projected Stats: 61 games, 11.3 mpg, 3.2 ppg, 2.2 apg, 43 times praised by Pop for his professionalism, 59 times caught "mentoring" George Hill on camera, 172 times crossovered onto his keister by opposing point guards.

#15 Power Forward Matt Bonner

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He's available to sign autographs all day. Or the next day. Or any day. Whenever works best for you.

A.K.A.: Ginger.

Vital Information: I personally witnessed his 25 point, 17 rebound bitchslap of the Warriors. I'm fairly confident that will go down in the anals of history as his career game. I feel like I should've saved the ticket stub or something.

Key Stats: Bonner's overall FG% and 3 PT % have gone down every season he's been in the league. But his likability continues to rise. He's such a good teammate!

What This Means: His defense, or lack thereof, will slowly sap our collective will to live, as evidenced by last night's Suns game. Bonner's a great guy to have on your team as a 12th man, but if you're actually depending on him, then it's a foregone conclusion that you will sour on him, which is kind of one of the crappy things about liking pro sports. The best people usually stink.

08-09 Projected Stats: 53 games, 10.2 mpg, 6.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 1.8 turnovers per game, 43.2% FG, 37.5% 3 PT, 103 times posterized by opposing power forward, 115 times screamed at by Pop. If that number seems excessive, remember, Bones Barry is no longer on the team, so coach's gonna have to chew out somebody.

#4 Shooting Guard Michael Finley

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Did you know Findog was in the Slam Dunk Contest once? How depressing is that? The only way he can stuff two balls into a hole these days is if (Ed: I cut a bunch of words here.)

A.K.A.: Billy Ocean

Vital Information: Finley lost 15 pounds in the off-season. See that was the problem, everybody. Last year Finley sucked not because he was a one-dimensional 34 year old shooting guard, but because he was a big fatty. Now, as a skinny 35 year old shooting guard, he'll totally kick ass.

Key Stats: 1) Last year's 26.9 minutes per game were the highest of Fin's three year career. 2) Finley is the 10th oldest player in the NBA, but just the third oldest Spur.

What this means: 1) That Pop is batshit insane. The worse Findog plays, the more minutes he gets. 2) Seriously, just kill me now.

08-09 Projected Stats: 73 games, 22.3 mpg, 8.1 ppg, 2.0 rpg, 1.1 apg, 49 times worst +/- on the team, 281 times provoked me into a loud vocal profanity, 37,104 times mocked on PtR.

#5 Small Forward Ime Udoka

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"So Tim, you want me to yank Kobe's heart out of his chest and eat it in front of their bench?" "Um... no... that's alright Ime. How 'bout we just try and play good D on him, okay?"

A.K.A.: Blotch

Vital Information: (per 82games.com) At +5.9, Udoka had the highest net48 plus/minus of any Spur outside of the Big Three. Also, he killed eight people in the offseason, but they all totally had it coming.

Key Stats: Udoka averaged 12.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per 40 minutes last season.

What this means: Those numbers might seem crappy on the surface (because they are) but one has to realize that they're almost double of the Spurs nominal starting small forward.

08-09 Projected Stats: 77 games, 18.3 mpg, 5.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 43.5 FG%, 37.2 3 PT%, 97 terrifying glares toward press row, preventing the fellas from the San Antonio Express News from ever writing something negative about him.

#40 Center Kurt Thomas

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Any closer views of Kurt Thomas are not recommended.

A.K.A.: The Hooligan

Vital Information: (per HoopsHype.com) After signing a two year, eight million contract extension, Thomas is now the fourth highest paid Spur, pulling down 4.2M this year. So basically, once Corey Maggette rejected their contract offer, the team shrugged its shoulders and said, "Oh well." Also, it would make him the 10th highest paid Knick.

Key Stats: The Spurs averaged only 90.2 points per 48 minutes with Thomas on the floor in the regular season and those numbers sagged further to 85.1 per 48 minutes in the playoffs.

What this means: You seriously need me to explain this to you? He's an offensive albatross and we already have one too many of those at small forward. Also, I find him rather unpleasant looking. Is it me or is this the ugliest Spurs team ever? Even Manu is getting less attractive by the year.

08-09 Projected Stats: 73 games, 22.8 mpg, 6.9 ppg, 6.3 rbg, 0.8 bpg, 99 close ups that will make me involuntarily recoil from my laptop, 56 instances where I will wonder to myself if the Admiral is still the most athletic center affiliated with the Spurs.

#8 Shooting Guard Roger Mason

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Stylin'. Awwww yeah.

A.K.A.: Our only hope.

Vital Information: (From a Sept. 30 article by Buck Harvey)

This summer, Mason took it further. Connelly says Mason missed only two days; the day Mason signed his contract with the Spurs, he flew back to the Washington area and was in the gym that night.

"He's no longer just a spot-up shooter," Connelly said Monday. "He's revolutionized his game, and here's my prediction. He will be a candidate for the league's most-improved player award.

That quote was from Joe Connelly, Mason's trainer. I mean, why would he exaggerate or use excessive hyperbole? The article also mentions that during a summer workout Mason made 101 of 109 unguarded pressure free three pointers in an empty gym. Fuckin' sweet.

Key Stats: Shot 83% from two and 94% from three point land during the preseason. Also, went the entire month without a turnover or a missed defensive assignment.

What this means: Okay, I made that stuff up. But what if they were true. I mean, think about it, what if? Wouldn't it blow your mind?

08-09 Projected Stats: 81 games, 24.3 mpg, 12.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg, 2.9 apg, 44.3 FG%, 41.2 3PT%, 148 times I ask no one in particular why he's sitting the bench and Finley's playing, 234 times I fantasize about a playoff lineup of Fab-Tim-Rog-Manu-and Tony, completely ignoring the catastrophic defensive implications.

#7 Center Fabricio Oberto

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Sadly, I fear we may never see Oberto's infamous "Chicken Dance" again

A.K.A.: The Spurs' other shameless Argentine flopper.

Vital Information: Missed the season opener with a heart, as Al Michaels would say. Seriously, since I have nothing interesting to add about Fab-O, this seems like a good space to mention that I was in the room when 49ers' rookie coach Mike Singletary lost his shit in the postgame press conference. Seriously, he was basically looking right at me in the second row. It was by far the coolest thing that's happened to me so far in my media career. The YouTube clip is a lie though, that definitely wasn't the full press conference. The full thing lasted like 15 minutes. I even asked a question in my nasally professional voice that was quickly dismissed by the coach. Today I found out that Singletary was even crazier in private with his players, mooning them at halftime to show them what he thought of their performance, a move right out of the Bob Knight playbook.

"I used my pants to illustrate that we were getting our tails whipped on Sunday and how humiliating that should feel for all of us," Singletary confirmed in a blog post on the 49ers' Web site. "I needed to do something to dramatize my point; there were other ways I could have done it but I think this got the message across."

Anytime a man attempts to dignify his actions by beginning with, "I used my pants..." you know it's not going to go well. It needs to be mentioned that Knight had like 600 NCAA wins and a couple of championships under his belt before he used this gimmick. I fear the Mike Singletary Era won't last too long in San Francisco.

Key Stats: 07-08 Made Field Goals: 180. Field goals assisted by T. Duncan: 41. Field Goals assisted by M. Ginobili: 103. Put back field goals: 36. Other: 0.

What this means: November and December might not be a great time to have Mr. Oberto on your fantasy team. Then again, January through May won't be either.

08-09 Projected Stats: 73 games, 21.4 mpg, 4.4 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 1.4 apg, 0.1 bpg, 39 questionable flops, 57 egregious flops, 81 technical-inducing flops.

#12 Small Forward Bruce Bowen

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At this point, I think the guy on the right would be more helpful for us than Bruce at small forward.

A.K.A.: The Single Biggest Reason The Spurs Won't Win Another Title.

Vital Information: Did you know Bruce has his own website? He doesn't have a blog or a fan forum or you know, anything fun, but it does have a badass ninja motif (with trippy music), so that's cool. Plus in the "art" section he has all these cool motivational slogans and pro tips like an old quote where he said

"When I started playing pro ball I wanted to make sure that if I got cut, it wasn't going to be because I was out of shape..."

I'm sure if they used the rest of the quote, past the ellipses, it would've read, "... but because I can't do rudimentary basketball things such as dribble, shoot, make lay-ups, make free throws or rebound."

Bruce also says that we should replace our junk food and candy with delicious fruit snacks and vegetables.

Key Stats: In 07-08 Bruce had 174 made field goals, 234 rebounds, 87 foot stomps, 113 trips, 351 grabs, 289 pulls, 92 undercuts, and was a -30 in the playoffs, the worst of any Spurs regular. Well done, Bruce, well done.

What this means: Yeah, Bruce only averages two made baskets a game, but you see he allows opponents two less baskets than they usually average, so it totally evens out... right?

08-09 Projected Stats: 82 games, made baskets, rebounds, assists, frustrated opponents and far more frustrated Spurs bloggers.

#9 Point Guard Tony Parker

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Ironically, a guy who doesn't shoot threes is posing for his rap album with what appears to be the "Money Ball."

A.K.A.: Frenchy McWonderbutt

Vital Information: Top Secret Transcript of Training Camp Meeting Between Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich:

Coach Pop: Hey Tony, thanks for coming in, sit down.

Tony: 'Ello Pop, eez nice to see you again.

Pop: So, Tony, I'm going to get right to it. Did you watch those DVDs of Chris Paul we sent to you?

Tony: Of course Pop! They were unbelievable!

Pop: Er, yes. He's pretty good. So what'd you think of them?

Tony: You're a pretty smart guy, Pop. I definitely understand why you sent dem to me.

Pop: Oh?

Tony: Yes. You are trying to send me a message. You're so unbelievable, Pop.

Pop: Well, yeah, that was the idea. I'm glad you underst-

Tony: You vant me to be more confident and shoot more.

Pop: Yes! Wait, what?

Tony: O yes. I watched ze videos vehhhhry carefully Pop and I learned so much. It was unbelievable. I had no idea Chris Paul was so overrated!

Pop: Overrated?

Tony: Yes. I mean, I finally understand now why you tell us all ze time to eegnore ze meedia. Eeespn and all zose magazines say Chris Paul is so good and he's not zat good at all. It's unbelievable!

Pop: Chris Paul's not good?

Tony: He eez terrible, Pop! He can't eeven score. I watch and I count and I tink like 80% of ze time he had to give ze ball to somebody else. Ha!

Pop: Yes, he was passing.

Tony: Eggs Zactly!

Pop: (Stunned silence).

Tony: And zat's not all, Pop. Eeven when he does shoot, he eez terrible, shooting airballs all ze time. Every game I watch, he shoots like six, seven, eight airballs, but he always gets lucky zat Tyson Chandler catches dem and dunks ze ball! Always right guy at the right place, huh Pop? Like me in ze locker room ven Eva vas visiting zat day. Zat worked out good, eh, Pop? (chuckles to self).

Pop: You think all those lobs to Chandler were shots?

Tony: Of course, Pop. Vat else would dey bee? And every time Chandler vas dare to dunk ze ball. He eez a very smart player, I tink, Pop. Maybe we should try to get heem on our team, no?

Pop: Tony, you don't understand, those were passes. You've never heard of an alley-oop before?

Tony: El-lay oop? Eat sounds like zomething Eva says in ze bedroom, you know Pop? (chuckles to self).

Pop: (Stunned silence).

Tony: But don't worry, Pop. I got ze message, loud and clear. I vill shoot more and play wheat more confidence. I know now I'm way better zan Paul, and everyone tinks he eez so great, so zat means I must be unbelievable, no?

Pop: Oh, you're unbelievable all right. Anyway, shit... if this conversation lasts any longer I'm going to have a brain hemorrhage. I'll tell you what, Tony. We're kind of shorthanded these days. Fin and Bruce are getting up there in age, Mason's new, and Tim is gonna get doubled like crazy. You go ahead and shoot all you want. Just remember, when Manu gets back, you'll have to pass the ball more.

(five minutes of silence pass)

Tony: Pass... ze... ball?

Pop: (screaming) GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE!

Key Stats: The last three seasons, Tony has averaged between 18.6 and 18.9 points, 5.5 to 6.0 assists, and 3.2 to 3.3 rebounds. I think it's safe to say that he's hit a plateau here.

What this means: Those waiting for that one 24 ppg, 8 apg monster year are shouldn't hold their breath. He eez what he eez.

Projected Stats: 78 games, 19.8 ppg, 5.6 apg, 3.2 rpg, 50.3 FG%, 26.3% 3PT FGs, 73.4% FTs, 326 "unbelievable"s uttered during interviews. I gave him a slight points bump because of Manu's November absence.

#20 Shooting Guard Manu Ginobili

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I miss this... and I don't mean Robert Horry.

A.K.A.: El Dios de Baloncesto

Vital Information: Something I saw the other day:

You've been Ginobili'd! (via EvilTedBasketbawful)

First off, all of those were totally fouls. Manu's getting hacked. Secondly, the coffee cup was planted and drew a textbook charge from the guy's hand. Finally, if Manu was as bad an actor as this clown, he'd never get any calls.

Key Stats: Led Spurs in points per game (19.5), steals (109), steals per game (1.47), free throw percentage (86.0%), three pointers made (156), free throws made (380), plus/minus (+426), YouTube highlight videos, and women aroused.

What this means: In his absence, the Spurs might suffer somewhat. This is what you come to me for, deep penetrating analysis.

08-09 Projected Stats: 61 games, 27.8 mpg, 18.8 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 4.2 apg, 1.6 spg, 44.8 FG%, 41.1 3PT%, 18 dunks, infinity plus seven level of awesomeness.

#21 Power Forward Tim Duncan

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Uh, you can tell him he looks goofy if you want. I'm good.

A.K.A.: The Man

Vital Information: Did you know that Timmy was the best player on four separate championship winning Spurs teams? You did? Then maybe you should shut the fuck up about free throws or defensive rotations or whatever the hell you're whining about then. Also, Timmy has his own chapter in this book by blogger FreeDarko, and while it wasn't my cup of tea, you might dig it.

Key Stats: While Tim's numbers dropped in several categories, he did have his best rebounding season since 03-04, and his best free throw shooting year since 01-02.

What this means: Nothing really, but I had to put something there. The truth of the matter is the guy still has plenty in the tank and there's still no player in the NBA I'd rather have for the playoffs. He remains the key to everything, and if there's a bright side to Manu's injury, it's that Duncan will come in focused and ready right off the bat. It's going to be weird to see him taking November seriously.

08-09 Projected Stats: 76 games, 20.3 ppg, 10.9 rpg, 2.6 apg, 1.8 bpg, 169 incredulous faces made, 66 arguments with the refs, 236 instances of negative body language, 0 times any of us should care, because Tim Duncan is the Golden God.

Head Coach Gregg Popovich

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You look at the beard, it hypnotizes you, and all of a sudden you forget all about the team's age, bench, and lack of athleticism. It's magic.

A.K.A.: Gandalf

Vital Information: He grew a beard, and this year, instead of having the usual one or two youngsters (defined here as anyone under 30) on the roster he won't play, he'll have as many as five or six to ignore this time around. Usually you have to watch American Idol to see such an ornery, arrogant, flippant bastard crush the dreams of so many untalented youths.

Key Stats: 93 quips, 148 eye-rolls, 231 sneers, 351 sarcastic comments, 39 slams of the scorer's table, 1,047 coaching decisions questioned on PtR, 0 coaching decisions questioned by local media.

What this means: It's must be pretty neat to be Gregg Popovich these days. He might as well wear Jonathan Stark's Iron Man getup he's so bulletproof. He's like the anti-Mike Singletary.

Projected Stats: 82 games, 12 declarations of "soft," 28 profanity-laced film sessions, 18 times calling the players out in the media, 43 defenses of the team's age and athleticism, 31 assurances that anything can happen once the team makes the playoffs.

Prediction:

So yeah, anyway, I don't think I'll be quite as doom and gloom as Matthew and Wayne (and seemingly everyone else), but it's gonna be a tough year for the Spurs. Wins will be scarce in November sans Manu. I don't think I'm being too much of a Ginobili-homer saying that. But I still think the big three will be dominant enough and that the spare parts (particularly Mason) will be competent enough to get the team to 51 or so wins. I'm not sold on Portland yet, hell Oden's already hurt. The Warriors will stink without Monta Ellis and Baron Davis. Denver will probably trade Allen Iverson in mid-season. Dallas and Phoenix have their age issues just like we do. You never know if Tracy McGrady or Yao Ming will stay healthy in Houston. Who can you say are playoff locks outside of the Lakers, Hornets and Jazz? It's not going to take 49 wins to make the playoffs this year, I'm positive of that.

I think the rest has the potential to be a boon for Manu and the Spurs, if he can return like nothing happened and stay healthy the rest of the way. A major "if." Mason will be an upgrade over Barry, if for no other reason than he won't be hurt all the time. Thomas for a full season won't hurt and there is the odd chance that the youth of Mahinmi and Hill can contribute. I don't think it'll be fair to really evaluate the potential of the team until we see everybody fit and playing together for a bit. Maybe January or February. Until then, just sit back and enjoy each game in its own vacuum, ignoring the big picture implications.

All that being said... I don't know how anybody can beat the Lakers this year. They're fucking loaded. New Orleans and Utah and Houston will also be tough, but LA is on another level. It's sick. At this point, anyone beating them in the playoffs would have to be considered a major upset, no matter how healthy Manu might be.

Game 1: Vs. Phoenix: Suns 103, Spurs 98 Record: 0-1

What I Liked:

1. The black shoes with the white unis. I fucking love this. I wish they always did this. The Buddy Ryan Philadelphia Eagles did this and I'm still upset they stopped when Rich Kotite took over. Every pair of shoes I own is black, all three of them. Let's hope this continues all year and beyond.

2. Pop messing with Shaq five seconds in. Talk about a coach with job security. What other man would do something like this to open a season? Sure, it's all happy and jokey and Pop had the big smile and the thumbs up and it looked all cute. But think about it further. There was actual motive behind the move. Pop knew the team was shorthanded on bigs. Mahinmi and Oberto were out and Tolliver was mourning his mother's passing. He needed to play against gentle, fun-loving Shaq, not angry "Must. Crush. Everything." Shaq. What better way to get the big fella to let his guard down? I truly believe it took him out of his game for a good quarter and a half before he got his big fat head back in it.

3. Duncan's shot. Looked pretty smooth, didn't it? If Timmy can knock 'em down regularly from 18 feet, he can average 30 a night, easy. Methinks he's been practicing the J in the offseason because he realizes he can't jump over a phone book any longer. Even the land-anchored O'Neal swatted him twice.

4. Tony Parker's cojones. Boy did he man up in the second half, particularly the fourth quarter. We're gonna need a lot of that this season, especially the first two months.

5. Roger Mason's stroke. I like this new toy, I like it a lot. Now if we can just get him to shoot more often...

What I Didn't Like:

1. The defense the last three quarters. How pathetic was that? We let the Suns pick and roll us to death and they got way, way, way too many open three point looks. Bruce played 21 ineffective minutes and everyone else followed suit. Letting Nash and Amare get off is one thing, but you can't allow Barbosa and the fossilized remains of Grant Hill to play that well.

2. The Crappy Rebounding. I'm looking at you two, Duncan and Bonner. A lot of the Suns' offensive rebounds were preventable, effort-related stuff, like nobody boxing out a free throw or reacting to a loose ball. Finley and Bruce combining for two defensive pulls in 52 minutes didn't help.

3. Tim and Tony shooting three pointers. We had five gentlemen on the floor and the two least qualified to shoot that shot shot that shot. It wasn't a last second situation. The team needs to be more poised there and it's disappointing the most seasoned players lost their cool.

Ah well, it's just one game, and like I said, we were missing some bigs, in addition to Manu. Let's see how tomorrow goes at Portland.

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