With the regular season opener only days away and the only training camp battle left being a competition between Josh Powell and an empty roster spot (which he lost shortly after the game ended), the San Antonio Spurs had a chance to work with the closest thing to a normal rotation as they've used over the last several weeks. The result, as one might expect against a Washington Wizards team without John Wall, was a pretty easy 100-85 win.
Tim Duncan and Stephen Jackson led the way for San Antonio with 16 points apiece, and the Spurs overcame an early Wizards surge to win another game that didn't matter. But the best news to come out of San Antonio on Friday night: the preseason is over.
But in all somewhat seriousness, the Spurs put together their most complete game of said preseason. Then again, I guess that's what happens when you use a rotation not unlike what we'll see come Wednesday night in New Orleans. There was a level of intensity evident on Friday night we had yet to see during the month of October, especially out of Tony Parker. The Spurs' point guard had an element of seriousness about him: diving for loose balls, driving hard to the rim and busting out regular-season-type moves on fools. At least that's what Jack said.
"When Tony drove and made that spin move, you can tell he's getting ready to turn it up because these games count," Jackson said of a Parker move that split the Wizards' interior defense. "To see guys giving that effort to get ready is what we need. (We've got to) go into this season with that same attitude."
Most of training camp was devoted to giving time to invitees trying to make the team, but with most of them dropping left and right prior to Friday's game, this was a chance for the regulars to prepare for opening night. Josh Powell saw limited minutes late in the game but his departure now leaves the Spurs with just 14 bodies.
This was going to be a difficult roster to crack despite promising play from several of the invitees involved in recent games, so Pop decided it was time to turn his attention to his known entities. The preseason has been a progression from the beginning until now, ending in a focused effort to return to the wave this team rode most of last season.
"Each game we want to step it up a notch. Obviously it's the last preseason game so we were trying to get ready for the real thing. So we approached it like it was a regular-season game," Danny Green said. "We wanted to get the rust off, the tweaks out and get the chemistry going back to where it was last year."
From Green's point of view, even the old guys are back in the swing of things.
"Tony is looking good, Timmy is looking good and there are things here and there that we need to work on that are missing. But I think we are going to be ready opening night," he said. "It is a long season so we have a ways to go, but the goal is to get to where we want to be at the end of the season."
For the 15th consecutive year, much of that will once again depend on Duncan. His 16 points and 13 rebounds on 7-for-13 shooting came on yet another productive night. Despite his ever-advancing age he looks absolutely no worse for the wear.
"Tim always looks ready. (He's) the ultimate professional; the captain of this team," Jack said. "You know what to expect from him."
It's like, to steal a line from Charles Barkley, Groundhog Day. Year after year it's the same old Timmy, and once again there is nothing but success expected. And that's something we can finally look forward to now that there's nothing but the regular season on the horizon.
The common sentiment in the locker room was, "thank goodness the preseason's over." Or was that the media workroom? Either way, the feeling is mutual. The preseason is over, the regular season is here and the Spurs are ready to make another run. Manu Ginobili didn't play Friday due to back spasms, but Gregg Popovich said he wasn't too concerned. After all, it was just a preseason game.
I'm just glad I don't have to type 'preseason game' anymore after tonight.