I had a big decision to make this week; should I renew my 25 game season ticket package or take this year off? It's an expensive, time consuming commitment, after all. Parking, beer, nachos, and more beer over 25 games quickly adds up. It basically came down to one question, what can we expect from the Spurs next season? I put a lot of thought into this decision and debated with Wayne as I attempted to predict how the Spurs will fare in 2011. I took so many factors into consideration that I decided to type them out. The following is a summary of everything I considered, as well as "Fred's Decision."
What do we make of last season?
In my opinion, last season seems a lot worse than it really was, mostly thanks to the exclamation point that Phoenix put on us to end it. I thought a few unfortunate factors enabled the Suns to sweep us.
First, we limped into the post season without a set rotation. This is never a good thing for the Spurs. In our championship years, Pop normally has the rotation cemented right around the All Star break. This allows the players to get comfortable with their roles and the lineups that will be used in the post season. Last year, injuries did not allow this critical gelling stage to take place.
Against Dallas and Phoenix, we still had lineup questions. How much should RJ play? If Hill is rolling, do we play him more at the expense of Parker's minutes? How many minutes should Bonner play and which lineup should he be playing with? How good is DeJuan and how does that translate into playoff minutes? These are just a few of the issues that Pop would normally have worked out well before the playoffs.
Second, our three point shooters all slumped at the most critical time. Mason, Hill, Manu, and RJ, all capable of shooting 40%+ from range, could not make a shot. Bonner kept us afloat, but just barely. Without a three point threat, the Suns were able to pack the paint thereby negating the effectiveness of Tony, Manu, and Tim.
Third, the Suns just had an unbelievable series. I know calling it fluky is not fair, given that we were swept. But I can say with certainty that Phoenix won games in that series because guys that they did not count on the entire regular season stepped up in a huge way. So calling it fluky may be unfair, but calling it unexpected is accurate.
The 2010 season was a disappointment because of our expectations going in. However, if we were able to play that season 100 times, I would wager that the outcome would have been better than the one we ended up with 80% of the time.
In the draft, the Spurs selected Oklahoma State's James Anderson with the 20th pick. As I noted above, our poor three point shooting severely cost us in the playoffs. Anderson was the Big 12 Player of the Year and has been called the best shooter in the draft. It would appear that the Spurs' Front Office is hoping that Anderson can help spread the floor and keep defenders honest. However, shooting is a difficult art and rookies are always vulnerable to slumps. Anderson has the opportunity to make an immediate impact next year because we do need shooters, but this is a classic 'remains to be seen' type of scenario. I would advise employing extremely cautious optimism.
Obviously, the Spurs were finally able to seal the deal with Tiago Splitter this summer. Splitter is a 6'11" big man out of Brazil who is a winner and knows how to play the game. I think of him as an Oberto 2.0, again being as cautious as possible. He's younger and more athletic than the Oberto we remember, but relative to the bigs in the NBA, his athleticism will be mediocre. Like Oberto, he has a very high basketball IQ and will greatly function as a garbage man. Look for him to play sound defense, clean up messes, and hustle. He does have a back to the basket game and can hit the short jumper, but I would like to see how he reacts to the NBA's defenders before giving him the green light as a scorer.
Tiago is an extremely important acquisition for the Spurs. Last season, the Spurs had the following options when it came to our 4 and 5 positions: we could play a conventional lineup, Duncan and McDyess, a smaller lineup, Duncan with Blair or Bonner, a short lineup, Bonner and Blair, or we could go small with RJ at the 4. (I realize that Bonner is taller than McDyess, but he plays much smaller, hangs around the three point line on offense, and really is more of a hybrid forward that anything.) Tiago will allow the Spurs to go big, once again. I am as excited about this prospect as anything for next season.
Most of the rumors I have come across claim that we will resign RJ and we still have enough money to add another James Jones type piece. So there's that. The 2011 season will feature our 2010 squad with the addition of Tiago and one other free agent. I'm optimistic about the outcome.
Something we need to take into consideration when evaluating the 2011 Spurs is that it's Tony Parkers' contract year. Everyone plays better when playing for a contract, so I can only assume Parker is going to have a great year. In addition, he took the summer off to heal. So we should expect to see a motivated, healthy Tony next year and that has to make us better overall.
An often overlooked upgrade is simply the impact of an additional year of experience. Remember, last year we essentially had a brand new squad. RJ, McDyess, Bogans and Blair were new to the team, and last season was only Hill's second year in the league. Do not underestimate the value of one year. With this year of experience, you can expect our players to feel more comfortable with each other, which will positively affect their confidence and unity. Everyone should now have a better understanding of what their roles are on the team and the coaches should have a better idea of how to maximize this squad's potential.
To my knowledge, this is the first summer that each of the Big Three took off. We only played 10 playoff games last year and although the early exit stung, it will give them an extended period to heal. Health is really my only concern for the Spurs next season and by taking the summer off, the Spurs have put themselves in the best possible position to avoid injuries.
Stuart Scott's messed up eyeball: Tonight, the focus of the sports world will focus on a decision to be made by Fred Silva that will impact his life for months to come! Last season, Fred left Faulkers distraught as he ripped off his Manu jersey in disgust after the Suns swept the Spurs. Will this be our final image of Fred as a season ticket holder? Fred's decision is coming up next!
Fred: I'm just trying to keep Fred Silva's options open because at the end of the day, we all know this is a business. I understand that me going down as one of the season ticket holder greats will not happen until the Spurs win another championship.
Movie Guy's Voice as they show highlights of me furiously typing mean things to Olf, screaming at the TV, and pulling my hair out as Bonner once again forgets to show up for the playoffs: At last, the time has arrived. The most coveted season ticket holder in the history of the game will make his decision, Fred Silva, next.
Jim Gray with the King: Alright Fred, let's go. Where's the powder?
Fred: The powder is in Artest's locker. You didn't really think anyone could be that insane naturally, did you?
Jim Gray: What did you expect from this process?
Fred: The process was everything I expected and more. I just want to thank all the PtR'ers for helping me make my decision with all their wonderful comments. It was everything I expected and more.
Jim Gray: How many people know your decision right now?
Fred: Um, I only told a very select few. I can count them on my fingers.
Jim Gray: One hand or two?
Fred: Let's say one.
Jim Gray: When did you decide?
Fred: I decided this morning. I wake up and one morning it's 'yes' and the next it's 'no.' I woke up this morning and had a great conversation with my mom. It really has nothing to do with anything but I just wanted to throw that out there.
Jim Gray: So, the last time you changed your mind was yesterday?
Fred: No, damn it. Fred Silva just explained that it was this morning. Are you not listening to what the King is saying? Fred Silva is getting angry!
Jim Gray: Does the team you chose know about your decision?
Jim Gray: So all the teams you haven't spoken to can now deduce that you didn't choose them?
Fred: Crap, I should have thought about that before I said anything. Is this live?
Jim Gray: Would you like to sleep on this a little longer?
Fred: Damn it, Jim. Stop treating Fred Silva like a child. Do you know who I am? This is MY one-hour special and you're really screwing it up for the King. All the props behind me, errr, kids, are not going to be happy with this. This is for charity, after all.
Jim Gray: The answer to the question everyone wants to know. What's your decision?
Fred: I decided to take my talents to 6th Street and renew my season tickets.
Jim Gray: What does 6th street have to do with it?
Fred: Oh, that's just where I plan on getting laid.
Jim Gray: Fair enough, back to you, Stuart.
Stuart Scott: What a dick.