Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire
Training camp is here and in my non-football watching eyes, that means the NBA is back. Since we won't have actual games for a while, it's time to start reading too much into how Pop answers a question and how well someone does in a scrimmage.
Now that training camp is here, excitement is starting to mount. If you are a healthy, reasonable person you'll wait until there is actual news before starting to worry or get psyched. If you are like me though, you already have a lot of questions about how things are in Spurs-land right now. Questions like:
1 - Is everyone healthy?
This one is always the most important one for us Spurs fans. Fortunately, it seems everybody is OK. The Olympics were done over a month ago and no Spur was hurt. Tony Parker's eye is fully healed and he won't need goggles. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are both fine. The young guys have been working out. Blair lost weight, which can only help those knees. Neal's appendix is already out, so that can't be an issue again this year. The Spurs seemingly head into camp healthy and that's a blessing. Can it last?
2 - Has anyone improved?
This is impossible to answer just yet. Last season James Anderson looked great in camp only to see his option declined. What we do know is that DeJuan Blair and Kawhi Leonard played against the absolute best with the US Select team. Cory Joseph was top-notch in Summer League. Patty Mills had a good Olympics. And Danny Green strikes me as the kind of guy that would spend a summer quietly working on his weaknesses. A healthy core plus improved youngsters makes the Spurs really dangerous. But we get reports every off-season claiming everyone has gained muscle and has taken a million jumpers. Will all the off-season work translate to the court? We just have to wait and see.
3 - How committed is Boris Diaw?
Boris had a great second half of the 2011/12 season with the Spurs, but if his past is any indication, it may be hard for him to stay focused after his first year. It's unlikely that Boris will ever get in tip-top shape, but shedding a few pounds would certainly help his quickness. As for his game, is he ready to start pulling the trigger when he has an open shot? It sometimes seems to go against his instincts to shoot instead of pass, but that's what the Spurs will need him to do. Can he change this late in his career?
4 - What will happen to DeJuan Blair?
Like I mentioned, Blair lost some weight and looks to be in great shape. This is the last year of his contract and, while he didn't ask to be traded, he made it known in the off-season that he was open to it. His contract becomes guaranteed in November, but I highly doubt the Spurs will let him go before that date. Could this be the year he starts putting it all together and earns the trust of the coaching staff? Will this training camp give us any indication of how much Pop values DeJuan? Or will it become clear that he is on his way out?
5- Is Curry a camp body or does PATFO believe he can contribute?
The surprise of camp was seeing Eddy Curry with the Spurs. Is his addition just a way of adding competitiveness to camp? Curry was a gifted offensive player in the past, but it seems those days have been over for a while. Can the Spurs find a scheme to use Curry in a way that hides his deficiencies and magnifies his potential strengths? Or is he, along with all other non-guaranteed invitees, only here to push the guys already under contract, and possibly earn their own spot elsewhere?
6- Who leads the race to be back up point guard?
Gary Neal played back up point for most of last season and, if his minutes are any indication, Pop liked what he saw. His shooting certainly is an asset. Mills had a great Olympics in which he showed he can play off the ball and still score; having a good ball handler in the 2nd unit to ease pressure off Manu would be great. Nando De Colo is an enigma right now. The Olympics didn't show us what he can really do, but he certainly has the skills to create off the pick and roll. Can he guard point guards? And what about Cory Joseph? After a disappointing rookie season, Joseph showed his potential by doing what he was supposed to do as he dominated his Summer League games. Can he translate that into another shot with the big boys or will Austin his home for most of this year?
7 - Where in the world is Ryan Richards?
You can extend the same question to include Adam Hanga and Davis Bertans. After inviting the British big man to Summer League and checking up on Hanga and Bertans, the Spurs didn't extend an invitation to any of them. It's not exactly strange for the Hungarian and the Latvian to not be in camp since they are under contract overseas (and the Spurs already have 14 players on their roster) but Richards has been clear in his desire to make the jump. Are the Spurs bearish on their stashed prospects, or this a simple case of bad timing?
8 - Is Stephen Jackson in shape?
Jackson has never sustained a serious injury and he takes good care of himself, but he admitted to not working out all summer, as he was busy with his musical projects. Can Jackson get in game shape in time or is he going to play himself into shape as the season progresses? And if Kawhi Leonard takes the next step, does it really matter what Capt. Jack does? This being the last year of Jackson's contract, the Spurs could use him to make a move but a slow start could lower his trade value. Can Jax make an impact right away and either solidify his place on the team or mark himself as a great trade asset? With the size of his contact and the cap flexibility it could offer other teams, does any of the above even matter?
9 - Who will be the surprise of camp?
Last season it was James Anderson, and we all know how that turned out. But who will be turning heads this time by exceeding expectations and giving us hope for a big step forward? Joseph? Blair? De Colo? Or could it be one of the veteran invitees like Josh Powell or Eddy Curry?
10 - Can Gregg Popovich use camp to surprise everyone when the season starts?
At the opening of camp, every coach says their team is going to run more, but the Spurs actually did it the last couple of seasons. Suddenly the boring, old Spurs transformed into an offensive juggernaut that pushed the tempo when they could and looked to score as soon as a good shot was available. They ran far fewer "4-downs" and transitioned to more ball movement in the perimeter, with Parker and Ginobili calling the shots. Can Pop find a way to improve the defense like he did the offense? The Spurs won't likely return to defensive dominance, but maybe some system changes (a zone, perhaps?) can hide some of the individual deficiencies and make the Spurs an even more balanced and scary team. Will Pop prove once again why his name belongs next to Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson by making adjustments to the defensive game plan?
So there you have it Pounders. Those are my 10 question for camp. Let the wild speculation begin in the comments. And if you have your own questions, feel free the share them with us.