The 2008-2009 Spurs Season Review and 2009-2010 Outlook.
Title: Southwest Division Champs
Playoff Result: 4-1 loss to Dallas Mavericks in Round 1.
Three years ago, the Dallas Mavericks went into San Antonio and won a series thanks to an ill-timed Manu Ginobili foul. This time, the Mavericks didn’t need a foul from Manu or seven games to prove they were better; they just needed five.
After losing in the first round for the first time in the Tim Duncan era, many questions now surround the Spurs. Columnists like Bill Simmons and Howard Beck believe their championship days are over. Others like Spurs bloggers Timothy Varner and Graydon Gordian, ESPN’s Marc Stein, and fans on popular Spurs site, Pounding The Rock, see loads of cap room in the future to help surround the big 3 for one last run.
But who’s right and wrong about the Spurs? Should we expect more out of the tank of three stars who are running on their last bits of gas after 389 combined playoff games? Or are we selling short the most dominant trio since Jordan, Pippen and Rodman?
When the Spurs lost this past Tuesday night, many fans weren’t as disappointed as you’d expect. Many felt this was a breakthrough moment for the franchise. For many, this was the franchise’s Obama moment – but will the change really come?
For years, the complaints of many Spurs fans was the lack of emphasis placed on the draft and the recycling of older players to surround the big 3. But residing in a small market and having minimal salary cap room, has proved hard for those arguments to hold water.
After a career year from 26 year-old Tony Parker, a steal signing in Roger Mason, and the development of George Hill, the Spurs have pieces in place. But with a core that revolved around veterans in Ime, Finley, Bowen, and Jacque Vaughn, their must be changes for the Spurs to keep up with a fast paced, younger Western Conference.
The average age on the Spurs is 30. Currently, six of their players are over 30 and the regular playoff rotation rounded out to 31 years of age. Throw in Bonner and Mason, who are both barely under thirty, and you have two players that are key components to your success, yet unable to create their own shots.
With the Rockets, Lakers, Denver, Utah and Portland all at or under a 28 year old average, many feel the time to infuse the team with youth, but still keep it competitive is now.
That is a difficult line to toe, but if anyone can accomplish it, it’s the team of R.C Buford and Coach Popovich.
These are the players who are under contract and you can expect in a Spurs uniform towards the end of next year:
C Oberto Miahmini
PF Duncan Bonner Thomas
SG Manu Mason Finley
PG Parker Hill
Below are the Spurs free agents:
Once Drew was signed, a player fans normally bashed through the 2007 Finals, became a savior at a time when our front-court was porous.
Drew came in and produced from the beginning. Fans on forums argued that he should receive the bulk of minutes over Kurt Thomas and Matt Bonner. But, deep-down inside we all knew he didn’t fit. We always knew that Drew had an eccentric personality; his multiple stops and the piece of hair on the back of his bald head could’ve told us that.
As the Dallas series progressed, his minutes decreased. No matter how bad he may be defensively, its fair to say that he would’ve been a better lateral option than Thomas on some of the Mavericks agile big men. But we figured out why his minutes decreased – in Game 5 he received a “DNP-CD” which sealed his fate as a Spur.
Expect a return to defensive principles for the Spurs, especially in the front court, as well as quality individuals both on and off the court. Drew doesn’t fill those any of those requirements and may be too immature to handle Popovich’s rotations and criticism.
Suggestion: Do not re-sign.
An honorable member of the Spurs for years and may have received playing time he shouldn’t have at certain points in his stint in South Texas.
But, even if Jacque is gone, don’t be shocked to see him back with the Spurs someday as a coach. He is just like Eric Snow; he may not play the game well, but he sure does know it and that gives him a coaching slot very soon.
Suggestion: With Hill’s development, there’s no room for Jacque anymore.
He came here as the successor to Bruce Bowen. But in his three year stint, he didn’t match Bruce’s three-point prowess or defensive ability. He also loses his composure easily.
In Game 5, his constant turnovers got him a seat on the bench towards the end of the game to a dismayed Popovich.
Result: The experiment is over.
Spurs holes to fill:
We have a hole at SF entering the 2009 season, as well as a need for either a Center or wing player.
Let’s take a look at the market and who can help us next season:
Unrestricted Centers and Power Forwards:
Mikki Moore: Could be a valuable addition with his length and size. Playing with Tony Parker can be a boon for him and his energy would be greatly welcomed to our franchise.
He seems to be handling not playing a lot in Boston well. He has shown flashes that if playing with the right PG, he can produce. Mikki can be a cheap, high-energy signing for us.
Suggestion: 1 year deal.
Just say no:
Rasheed Wallace and Antonio McDyess: One fits the Spurs personality and the other doesn’t. Both don’t belong. Neither can block shots and both are long in the tooth.
Signing either of these players shows that the front-office still may not get it. Rasheed isn’t known for his shot-blocking abilities and camps out at the 3 point line. We have Bonner for that.
As for McDyess, he’s injury prone and has a lot of miles on him with the Pistons. There’s no need to bring in another old forward.
Suggestion: Don’t bring them aboard.
Sign him now:
Etan Thomas: I love this guy. He’s a character individual and even though he’s had his share of health issues, if he can stay healthy, he’s a grinder and can block shots for us. I compare him to a young Kurt Thomas (not as good) with the ability to block shots. If we can lock him in a few years, I wouldn’t have a problem with that.
Suggestion: Sign to a 1 year deal with a team option.
Restricted Centers and Power Forwards:
If you have a shot:
Ryan Hollins: Yes, he pissed us off throughout the series with his antics. But he’s long and can block shots and is still young. Will he even be available? I doubt it. But if he is – why not?
Suggestion: Multi-year deal (3 year range)
Just Say No:
Zaza Pauchulia: Another Rasho if he even considered us and we even thought about it.
Suggestion: Don’t even ponder the idea.
Unrestricted Small Forwards and Guards:
Sign him now:
Dahntay Jones: If he’s available, which I doubt after his strong performance against Paul; I think this could be our successor to Bruce Bowen. He’s a great defender with speed and a great Duke pedigree. If there’s any player discipline wise who fits our organization, it’s a Duke player.
Suggestion: Sign to a 3-4 year deal.
Rodney Carney: A backup option if Dahntay isn’t available. He is 6’7 and has long arms; is a decent defender, but can’t score (better than Jones) well.
Carney has trouble creating his own shot, but does he have to do much with a healthy big 3 around? If he can be a defensive stopper for us with his Pippen-esque arms, we may have found a cheap alternative to replace Bruce for the future.
Suggestion: 1 year contract with a team option.
On the fence:
Grant Hill and Matt Barnes: One is a professional and can still produce. The other works best in an up-tempo style and plays no defense. I’m torn about this one. I know we shouldn’t sign Barnes, but I have a soft spot for Hill.
I think if we ration him, he can be a great addition. But is it worth risking multi-year money to bring him in? With all the running he’s been doing in Phoenix, does he still have anything left?
Suggestion: 1 year at best for Hill with a team option at the MLE which is all he’ll probably accept.
Restricted Small Forwards and Guards:
Don’t even think about it:
Jamario Moon: Doesn’t fill our SF must shoot threes mandate. Works best in an up-tempo style; a poor-mans Shawn Marion. Don’t forget he’s injury prone.
Suggestion: Stay away.
Carlos Delfino: Add another Argentenian to the group? Many would disagree with me on this, but if I we’re going to sign an immobile SF for 1 year, we might as well just keep someone athletic from the Toros like Marcus Williams and take our chances.
There have also been whispers of him being a complainer in Detroit and Toronto. We don’t need any of that on our team.
What will Pop and RC do with our free agents?
Of the three players mentioned from our free agents, you can expect Pop and RC to bring back one of them on a 1 year deal. It’s just what we have come to expect as Spurs fans.
Even if they may be on the road to changing their philosophies, one thing is for sure – the Spurs don’t let too many veterans loose at one time.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Jacque back in a Spurs uniform and Ime/Drew getting their pink slips.
In regards to free agent signings on the market, what should Pop and RC do?
Be patient. That’s the motto for next season. Pop is a realist; he said that ‘No Ginobili means no title.’ If he’s a realist about that, he would also understand that with limited cap room and the same roster, 2010 is not our year.
Instead, he should look forward to the next three years of his campaign which will be prime years to win a title. Those are the last three years of the Duncan era.
Suggestion #1 Sign Manu Ginobili to a deal extending him through the end of Duncan’s contract.
The idea of trading the heart and soul of this team is not one I agree with. We give Manu the benefit of the doubt; he will work hard and get back.
Personally, I suggest we sign Manu to an extension before training camp instead of waiting for him to destroy the league as he did two seasons ago and clean us out come free agency.
Whether you are a small market or big market team, sometimes you have to take risks. Signing Manu for the players, our franchise and our community who loves him is one of them.
Suggestion #2 Lock up TP for the rest of his playing days.
Tony is one person who worries me. With a Hollywood wife, a marketable personality and the ladies loving him, he can easily be the biggest bolt of next years class.
If LeBron stays in Cleveland, Parker will be a bigger coup than Bosh because he has rings and is getting better. No one knows if they can trust Bosh yet.
Plus, seeing TP in a Laker or Knick uniform isn’t far from reality. His personality can easily shift into a diva. I really believe that though I love the kid.
Suggestion #3 Who cares about 2009? Look at 2010.
If we can win another title, don’t you think Manu or even Timmy will re-structure or take less money to get another title? It’s not like were talking about Terrell Owens here who would never do that.
All these guy care about is titles. If you look at the free agent class of 2010, you’ll understand why our championship years aren’t over:
Horford, Perkins, Prince, Landry, DeAndre , Thornton (who we should’ve drafted), Gasol, Redd, Chandler, Butler, Bosh, Joe Johnson, Salmons, Howard, McGrady, etc.
On that note, I will say farewell for the rest of the season. As a Spurs fan, I could care less about any other team. I’m no bandwagon. I’ve been with the team since I was 7 and Rod Strickland was around in 91. But…there’s one Spur left in this whole ordeal; the slick haired Spur legend Vinny Del Negro.
With that, I leave you with: “Go Bulls!”
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