During the San Antonio Spurs championship reign, the franchise captured four NBA titles predicated on stellar defense. The Spurs would defy any team from scoring and their defense was the epitome of the saying, "Offense wins games but defense wins championships."
However, that was then, this is now.
The Spurs haven't won a title since 2007 and it coincides with not only the loss of key defensive players (Bruce Bowen and David Robinson) but a shift to more of an offensive game.
But if the Spurs want to keep their championship form and remain one of the NBA's elite, Manu Ginobili says the team must improve on defense this season.
"If we want to be one of the best five teams in the league, we got to improve our defense compared to last year," he said. "We can't rely on our offense, where we're going to shoot forty-plus percent from three and stuff like that. We got to get better defensively and we have not yet."
And with training camp ending and tipoff of the Spurs' regular season right around the corner, Ginobili has not seen much improvement on defense.
"For brief periods, we do play good defense and then we kind of slow down. Sometimes preseason is hard because you got on the court, groups that haven't played together before. That's why the last game is going to be very important for us."
So with this focus on defense, Manu points out exactly what the team is focusing on the defensive end.
"Transition 'D' mainly. But then rotations, contesting shooters, chasing better. There's plenty of things we got to get better."
Indeed the Spurs have slipped much defensively since their last title in 2007. That season, the Spurs ranked second in the NBA in defensive rating at 99.9 points allowed per 100 possessions. They also were first in holding teams to only 90.1 points per game. Since then, its been a slippery slope.
In 2007-08 the team dropped a bit holding teams to 90.6 points per game (3rd in the league) and had a defensive rating of 101.8 (3rd in the league). In 2008-09, the team had a spike holding teams to 93.3 points per game good for 2nd in the NBA but the team's defensive rating spiked to 104.3 points allowed per 100 possessions. In the 2009-10 season, San Antonio finished 8th in points allowed at 96.3 (defensive rating at 104.5 points). In 2010-11 the Spurs allowed 98 points good for 14th place in the NBA (defensive rating at 105.6 points) and last season the team allowed 96.5 points per game placing them 16th in the league (defensive rating at 103.2 points).
If defense wins championships, then perhaps Manu is right. The team must go back to their defensive roots, but do they have a roster to do so?
What do you think Spurs fans? Do you agree with Manu? Let's hear what you have to say.