As last season came to a crashing end with the Oklahoma Thunder winning the last four games in a row, the San Antonio Spurs were left looking for answers. What happened to the bench? What happen to the stellar three-point shooters that complimented the "Big Three” of Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker?
Once again, the Spurs are in possession of the best record in the NBA and look like they will have that coveted number one seed in the Western Conference and possibly the NBA Finals. So the question arises, as discussed on ESPN, are this season’s Spurs better equipped than last season’s Spurs?
Unlike the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Lakers and other contenders in the Western Conference, the Spurs are not looking to figure out ways to make the newly acquired pieces fit in to the existing offensive/defensive system or having to adjust to a complete new offensive system.
The Spurs brought back the same team with the exception of Nando de Colo, and Aaron Baynes. As a result, the Spurs' players get another season to get comfortable in their roles and with the way each other play.
The Spurs have been among the best teams in the NBA over the past. But unlike Bill Simmons, I don’t think people have slept on the Spurs because San Antonio was rebuilding the team to fix the chinks in the armor that were exposed during the Memphis Grizzlies playoff series in 2011. It just takes new players a couple of seasons to grasp the Spurs' offense as the big men (Splitter and Diaw) got accustom to the team's offense.
Magic is accurate when he says Green, Splitter and Leonard need to become equal partners with the "Big 3”. They exhibited they were equals during the 2011-2012 regular season, but seemed to forget that as they turned in to struggling role players when the Thunder completed the four game dismantling.
During the Western Conference Finals, they were, as Magic said, “looking over their shoulder” waiting for Duncan, Parker or Ginobili to bail them out. As a result the trio were responsible for not only bringing the Spurs back but also making the plays that got them over the hump.
These players have shown they can handle the pressure and responsibility in the regular season as was shown during the game versus the Miami Heat without Parker, Duncan, Green and Ginobili.
By having Green, Splitter and Leonard take on bigger roles, Coach Gregg Popovich can rest the "Big 3” during the course of the regular season. These fewer minutes logged, means the fresher they will be come playoff time.
Now the question becomes can they maintain this confidence in the playoffs and knock down the big shots to push the Spurs over the hump and on the path to embracing the Larry O’Brien trophy once again.