The Spurs’ young guns

Don’t let people tell you that the San Antonio Spurs are old.previewjazz

It’s a wives tale, urban legend, a myth. Sure, the perennial leaders of our team, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, are seeing the sun approach the horizon of their respective careers.  But the Spurs are not old. With an average age of 27.29 the Spurs are the thirteenth oldest (and the eighteenth YOUNGEST) team in the NBA.  Middle of the pack. Average. Perhaps you know some of the more elderly teams who the Spurs on that list:  the Miami Heat.  Los Angeles Lakers.  Boston Celtics (Duh). Chicago Bulls. Los Angeles Clippers. And (drum roll please) THE DALLAS MAVERICKS, are the oldest team in the NBA.  

Don’t let them tell you that we are old.

We used to be old. We used to be slow. It was palpable – you could see it on the court. I don’t want to be responsible for any PTSD episodes, but I’m sure we all remember the trauma that was sustained at the hands of the Grizzlies only a year ago. What changed?

Kawhi Leonard. Danny Green. Tiago Splitter. James Anderson. Corey Joseph. Some new faces this season, some not.  But, with an average age of 23.4, together they have brought energy and grit to a Spurs team that has lacked such traits over recent years. Some of the new faces have contributed more than others, but together their athleticism has been a proverbial fountain of youth.

It is a well accepted law of physics that energy cannot be created or destroyed – only transferred.  

In other words, energy is contagious.

That is about the extent of my scientific knowledge, but I bet if we asked Tim Duncan he could confirm the veracity of that statement. Tim is playing like the Tim of old (no pun intended). It is like he suddenly has a pair of 22 year old legs. Why? Undoubtedly, he feels the energy of a revamped San Antonio team full of young role players, like Leonard. Tim has been refreshing and exciting this season – a Tim we haven’t seen much of in recent memory. 

But it isn’t just intangibles like “energy” and “athleticism” that the young guys have brought to the table. They are making a real difference on the court as well.

Leonard in his rookie season out of San Diego State has exceeded all expectations. Averaging five rebounds and nearly eight points per game is impressive enough for the 21 year old who left the college ranks early, but his toughness on the defensive end and his tireless hustle on both ends fit right in to what the Spurs are trying to do. All of this a huge and welcome relief for Spurs fans who were skeptical of an offseason trade that sent a fan favorite, George Hill packing for merely a draft pick. Once again the brilliance of the Spurs front office proves trustworthy.

Splitter and Green are not new faces, but in their second season with the Spurs they have been nothing less than remarkable. Splitter came to the Spurs in 2010 with a lot of hype and promise, without fulfilling much of it. His improvement from season one to season two is almost literally 100%. From four points per game to nearly 10, three rebounds to five, 52% from the field to 62%, 54% from the free throw line to 70% and he’s done this while increasing his minutes from twelve to almost twenty per game.

Green is another enigma. Like Splitter, Danny has also nearly doubled his points per game while doubling his minutes. And in a season where he attempted many more three’s, his percentage from beyond the arc has gone from an adequate 36% to an impressive 43%.

These guys aren’t just trash time bench players. They are playing real minutes and making substantive contributions. The difference is clear – instead of limping into the playoffs with the number one seed, this Spurs team confidently rides into the playoffs on a ten game winning streak in which they are not only beating their opponents, but are absolutely manhandling talented basketball teams.  

What this all means for the playoffs and the first round opponent Utah Jazz is anybody’s guess. But it is hard not to get excited by the energy and confidence of this team of youngsters.  It’s contagious.