Spurs Must Use Age to Advantage in Quest for First Title in Four Years

Spurs Must Use Age to Advantage in Quest for First Title in Four Years It seems like
forever ago that the San Antonio Spurs were on top of the basketball
world, cranking out titles like an assembly line. But it’s been just
three years since they last reached Finals glory, and the Spurs’
nucleus of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili is still there,
still intact and still fighting to return to championship form. Can
they do it? There are a lot of obstacles in their way, but there’s just as much talent and hunger on that San Antonio roster. Don’t
rule them out.

2009-10 Record: 50-32 (second in Southwest Division, seventh in Western Conference, lost to Suns in second round)

Celtics’ record vs. Spurs: 36-40 all time, 1-1 last season

Familiar faces: Matt Bonner (grew up in Concord, N.H.)

Key additions: James Anderson (draft), Ryan Richards (draft), Gary Neal (undrafted free agent)

Key
losses:
Roger Mason (signed with Knicks), Keith Bogans (signed with
Bulls), Ian Mahinmi (signed with Mavericks), Malik Hairston (now
playing in Italy)

Burning question: How long will the window stay open?

The
Spurs have won four titles over the course of the Duncan era in San
Antonio. How many more chances will they get to win another?

Duncan
is 34 years old. Ginobili is 33, Richard Jefferson is 30 and Antonio
McDyess
is about to turn 36. They won’t have their youth forever, and
they’re running out of time to make a stand in the competitive West.

They’re
not the only ones. L.A., Phoenix, Dallas and Denver all have aging
stars as well, meaning everyone in the Western Conference will be
playing with a renewed sense of urgency every night.

We
shall see if the Spurs can keep up. Duncan clearly isn’t the same
player he once was — he doesn’t demand a double-team in the post on every
possession, he doesn’t keep up with quicker opposing big men, he
doesn’t play the same minutes he used to.

But for the Spurs,
the challenge isn’t to win in spite of their age. It’s to win because
of it. They have to hope experience can guide them to another title
before they ride off into the sunset.

2010-11 outlook: The
Spurs have seen a steady decline in their win totals over the last five
years — 63, 58, 56, 54 and finally 50 this past season. In order to buck
that trend, they need a lot of things to go right this season. They
need Duncan to be effective every night, they need Parker and Ginobili
to stay healthy, and they need their younger role players — George Hill,
DeJuan Blair and the rookie James Anderson — to have a huge impact. It’s
asking a lot, but it’s not impossible. You’d be a fool to write the
Spurs off just yet.

Did you know? The Celtics’ 36-40 record against the Spurs is their worst against any currently active NBA
franchise. Against San Antonio, the C’s winning percentage is a sub-par
.474; their second-worst matchup historically has been the New Orleans
Hornets, against whom they’re 36-37 (.493).

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