1 - Are the Spurs in danger of falling too far back in the Western Conference to finish with a top-four seed? And can the Spurs win a championship without one of the top-four seeds?
Michael Erler: I think the only team they're unlikely to catch is the Warriors. The others are all within hailing distance and eventually the Spurs will make an 18-2 run once the schedule gets easier and the guys get healthy. Really, they just need Kawhi Leonard back. He's their most indispensable player, with Duncan a close second. Tony and Manu are a level below that and at this point Green might be right there with him. As to your second question, I'd have to think the answer is "yes" because worse teams than the Spurs have done it (the '95 Rockets, anyone?) but it certainly lowers your margin of error. When you don't have home court advantage it basically puts the onus on you to win all of your home games because it's unrealistic to beat a great team twice on the road.
Taylor Young: I don't think they are in danger yet, but they need to start racking up some victories. I still expect a signature 15 game win streak this year too. That being said, I don't think they can win a championship without a top four seed, unless they can somehow avoid the Mavs, Rockets and Thunder. I'd love for them to at least get the three seed. This year is so competitive that I think a 2 could beat a 7, a 4 could beat a 1 and the three or four seed could be hosting the WCF Finals.
Jesus Gomez: I remain surprisingly optimistic still. I can see the teams ahead of the Spurs crumbling and San Antonio going on a big streak. So I don't think they are out of the race for home court advantage in the first round yet. If they finish out of the top four, that would definitely mean trouble, but if there's one team out there with the coaching and the on-court leadership to win on the road, that's the Spurs.
Bruno Passos: The danger's always there if they can't slap enough mortar on their wounds over the next few months, but the Western Conference contenders will cannibalize themselves over the next few months, and the opportunity to rise will be there. I think they'll end up among the top four. Can they win a championship if they don't? Sure, but I'd rather not see them heading to, say, Oracle Arena in Game 1 of the first round.
J.R. Wilco: I think the Spurs are too good to be considered in danger of losing touch with the West's leaders because as tough as December's schedule has been, that's how easy it gets for them in the coming months. As far as the all-important Home Court goes, it's a concern, sure. But it means less to this team than being healthy does. A fully operational Spurs squad with the 5 seed is far more dangerous than a hobbled San Antonio with the 1 seed.
2 - It was a tough week to be a Spurs fan. Did you find any silver linings in the four-game losing streak or was it all negative?
Erler: The silver-lining was that even without two of their best four players they were in position to beat the Grizzlies and Blazers if not for some bad luck. The other two you throw out because they didn't even have Duncan or Ginobili. At least more guys didn't get hurt.
Young: I was at the Grizzlies thriller and I can honestly say I would have passed out if that had been a playoff game. I still think there's a ton of silver linings. All of those games have given me the same hope that Restgate gave us in 2012-2013. With Baynes, Joseph and Anderson playing so well, the Spurs will be even deeper this year than they were in 2014 if everyone is healthy.
Gomez: I don't see many silver linings to be honest. At the end of the day, those are losses. I doubt Baynes and even Cory Joseph will be counted on to contribute in the postseason so, while fun to watch, the minutes they are getting won't make a difference for the Spurs.
Passos: Some strong play from the reserves aside, I'm just happy it's over.
Wilco: The silver linings are all on the fan's side, not necessarily the team's -- here's what I mean. A fan is constantly evaluating the team and looking for signs of hope, and that was the best 4-game losing streak possible. The Spurs weren't at full strength for any of the games, had multiple freakish improbable occurrences go against them, played 4 straight games against the league's elite, and still nearly made it 3-1 instead of 0-4. Sure, it was disappointing, but to me it proved that the team just needs to get healthy to be all we're hoping they'll be.
3 - Southwest division teams are making moves. Everyone has talked about the Rondo trade already. Does the trade for Corey Brewer move the needle for the Rockets?
Erler: Not too much because he can't shoot and he's good for two bonehead mistakes a night. The move for Shved I think was a better one. He gives them a third guard. They have somewhat of a bench now, but I have noticed the Rockets have dropped more games with Howard back than they did without him (hmmm).
Young: Rockets Shmockets. Rockets games bore me so much I can't even talk about them. THREES!!! FREE THROWS!!!
Gomez: I usually hate it when people resort to this justification to assess flawed players highgly but Brewer is a veteran and that has an impact on how well playoff teams do. There's a case to be made that Kostas Papanikolaou has more upside than Brewer even for this season but he has looked out of his depth at times as he finds his place in the league. The move doesn't turn the Rockets into contenders but it sure doesn't hurt them.
Passos: Brewer can spell Trevor Ariza at times -- and he's better than Jason Terry -- but I don't think he puts them over the top. Now, it could get interesting if they snag Josh Smith.
Wilco: The Rockets continue to strike me as the Western Conference's answer to the 1990's Buffalo Bills: good enough to always be relevant, but not good enough to ever win it all. (I'm sorry Scott Norwood, it wasn't your fault. The offense was moving the ball far too well for Levy to have played it safe as soon as they got into field goal range.)
4 - Speaking of trades, the Kings are rumored to be interested in Deron Williams.Could a change of scenery help Williams return to the elite? And even if it does, can the Kings compete with the Thunder for the eight seed?
Erler: Collison might be a better player than Williams at this point. He plays defense at least and knows where he is in the pecking order. The Kings need backcourt depth so I guess in theory acquiring Williams would move Collison to the bench and deepen the roster, but I think it's unlikely they go on a run, especially with Ty Corbin on the bench.
Young: The Kings lost too much ground in Boogie's absence and seem to have some other issues. I don't think adding a player who was last great in 2010 is the answer. It's also time to accept the fact that the Thunder will make the playoffs.
Gomez: I'm probably the last Williams believer. I think the guy could be a very good player -- not a superstar, but very good -- on a different team. Alas, he's probably not getting moved because of his contract. Even if he does, it shouldn't be to the Kings, who seem unaware that what they need is a stretch four, not a ball-dominant point guard to complement Gay and Cousins. Until they find that player, I think they will be in the lottery.
Passos: Putting a disruptive presence in a dysfunctional environment doesn't seem to spell anything but more trouble. The Kings are already getting more than they expected out of Darren Collison; I don't see Williams as a big upgrade. And all this instability can't be good for the development of the already-unstable Boogie. If the Thunder remain healthy, I don't think Williams' addition would worry them too much.
Wilco: As soon as the Kings started to look like playoff contenders, they fire their coach and replace him with just about the most laughable head coach possible. You can't overestimate how poorly he coached in his Utah stint, and now he's at the helm of a roster that's still trying to figure out who they are. I'm sorry for the long-suffering Kings fans, but I don't see this ending well.
5 - With his play as of late, Kyle Anderson has gotten the hopes of many fans up earlier than anyone expected. But so did the early play of James Anderson, and we know how that ended. The biggest pleasant surprise of the past 10 years was obviously Kawhi Leonard. What was the biggest non-RJ related disappointment?
Erler: Trading the rights to Luis Scola for basically nothing was the biggest non-RJ disappointment, and in that vein it was embarrassing how thin the roster was around the big three from 2008-2010. They pretty much wasted Ginobili and Parker's primes with the likes of Ime Udoka, Roger Mason, Keith Bogans, Antonio McDyess et al.
Young: I think it's disappointing that Ian Mahinmi didn't ever find a spot in the rotation. He contributed well on the Mavs championship team and in playoff minutes for the Pacers. The Spurs needed an athletic big for a long time and I am not sure why it never worked out.
Gomez: I'm torn between my man Nando De Colo (still miss you, you terrible, fascinating NBA player, you!) and DeJuan Blair. Since I'm assuming more Spurs fans were expecting great things from Blair, I'll go with him. How some of us convinced ourselves that Blair was special is beyond me. At one point the guy had an entire section devoted to him. I think the track record of the front office (and frankly a bit of desperation after some bad years) definitely were major factors. Blair proved to be more durable than expected but turned out to be the good-rebounder-but-limited player every expert predicted he would be.
Passos: Anderson was a disappointment, but I think suffering through the T.J. Ford era was a bigger struggle for me. The offense with the ball in his hands was the antithesis of the kinetic beauty the Spurs achieved last year.
Wilco: The biggest disappointment was the way the Spurs went all of those years without ever finding another Ginobili or Parker at the end of the 2nd round. Of course, its nearly impossible to do, but once you've done it multiple times, a fan's expectations are set too high, almost impossibly so. We had no reason to expect that they've strike gold again, but it always seemed to be a possibility even as it continued to not happen. That was disappointing, even if it wasn't PATFO's fault.