The strive for five in 2010 will start and end with the Spurs calling card, defense. This is my observation on moves by the team and a few random thoughts.
As we all know, the Spurs are having one of the most active off-seasons in recent memory, and that includes all other NBA teams. This is not your typical Spurs off-season where we only make one or two under the radar moves, nope, not this time. This year we came out fighting and throwing the first punch by landing Richard Jefferson. We also acquired what we hope will be the steal of the draft in Mr. Windex himself, DeJuan Blair, aka Blair Force One. We have a much improved George Hill and Malik Hairston. We hope to have a healthy Manu and Ian for the season and also added a couple of solid veterans in Antonio McDyess and Theo Ratlif. Finally, we have a couple of unknowns in Jack McClinton and Marcus Haislip.
So what does this mean for the Spurs? Well, it means that they addressed all the team needs. They got younger, more athletic, tougher inside with shot blockers and rebounders and see to have found a backup point guard in the summer league. So are the Spurs the favorite to win it next year? They are definitely one of the favorites without a doubt, but they have to make sure that they didn’t get too young too fast and that team chemistry did not get affected too much.
I’m sure the fact that they acquired a number of high character players will mitigate some of the "chemistry" concerns, but the Rodeo trip will also go a long ways this year to make sure the players gel both on and off the court.
The key for the Spurs will need to be their team defense. Please, stop calling RJ the second coming of Bowen, that’s an insult to the man. If you need proof, please take a look at this:
Richard Jefferson is a very capable defender who will hopefully adopt the team defense concept. All the team needs out of him, and every other wing player is to challenge shots, funnel their players towards the bigs and to get their defensive rotations correct. I miss those days of seeing opposing teams swing the ball around and struggle to find an open shot. I miss those good old days when a player would drive to the hole only to have their shot contested or blocked, the days when the Spurs would stay in games even after shooting 35% and always having a chance to win at the end. I think back to last season and I shudder at some of the defensive play. While the Spurs had some decent games, I don’t remember too many where they would suffocate with their defensive play and have it turn out into a blow out by the end of the 3rd quarter. I REALLY MISS THAT! Even Duncan had some lapses last year where he wouldn’t come out of the paint to challenge shots. While some of that can be attributed to his health, I did notice some complacency to only trying most of the time, not all the time.
Here’s to hoping that the new guys bring the energy and the hunger on the defensive side of the ball that made the Spurs into one of the top two or three defensive teams in the league year after year. Duncan finally has a rebounder and shot blocker who will help take some of that burden off of him. Ratliff and McDyess will allow him to roam around a bit and not always have to guard the toughest matchup when it comes to the post. I’m sure this will not only make him more active on offense but will help keep him healthier during the season.
I have no doubt that the team has addressed their glaring needs and improved the team in every facet, but from this fan’s perspective, the old adage of "Defense wins Championships" is what will take for the Spurs to win their fifth NBA title.