Today we bring you some more Q&A action in order to gain better perspective about the playoff contenders in the Western Conference. To the surprise of many, the San Antonio Spurs did not succumb to their predicted demise and put forth a remarkable season. While their stalwarts Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili were still the main contributors, the Spurs reinvented themselves to adapt to an influx of new talent to meet this season's challenges.
We're checking in today with SB Nation's Spurs blog, Pounding the Rock. While I am hesitant to look too far ahead in this year's playoffs, it is still easy to see that the Spurs are on a potential collision course with the Thunder.
If you would like to see the questions that PTR posed to us and how I answered, you can read those here:
On to the questions.
1. Can you offer us an assessment of how you and the Spurs fans feel about the 2010-2011 season? Regardless of how the playoffs turn out, how do you think this past season will be remembered?
Honestly, it's been a great season, but it's impossible to say how we feel about the season until it's over. We really are "championship or bust". We don't have the time left with Tim Duncan to settle for anything less. I know that's not really what you're looking for with that question, but it's the only honest answer I could give you. So far, so good, but incomplete. It could be remembered as Duncan's last (or second to last) title, as proof that whenever our big 3 has been healthy they've been unstoppable. Or, it could be remembered as when we passed the torch from Manu, Duncan, Pop and Buford to Westbrook, Durant, Brooks and Sam Presti. Or, (and this is my least favorite of the options) we could run into Kobe, Gasol, and Bynum and we will remember this season as proof that Kobe, and not Tim, was the greatest player of this generation.
2. From the outside looking in, this version of the Spurs seemed like such a departure from past teams; do you feel that this is purely a cosmetic difference, or was there a more fundamental shift as well?
This has been a topic of great debate on PtR so far this season. While the mainstream media likes to talk about the Spurs quickening the pace and focusing more on offense, those claims are greatly exaggerated. We started the season playing at a very quick pace, but the last time I checked we around 15th in the league- so average. ESPN, of course, doesn't bother to refresh their headlines on small market teams more than once a year. I'm sure you've noticed that too with all the coverage on how "playing international ball over the summer" with "some of the other best players in the league" has done wonders for Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. And while that's certainly accurate, I haven't heard them say much else specific about the Thunder (except for things Kendrick Perkins related) all season. Anyway, there was a slight fundamental shift and a big cosmetic difference. Our defense isn't as solid as it used to be, but we also no longer have Bruce Bowen or a second 7 footer next to Tim Duncan. That being said, DeJuan Blair is one of the top 5 bigs in the league in steals. If he was a bit better at playing defense when he's not causing turnovers, I doubt that this would be a question at all. We've also been limiting both Duncan's and McDyess' minutes so far, and they are our two best defensive bigs- so I guess unfortunately this is a "wait til the playoffs are over" type of question too. Our defense is, on average, 6 points better with Duncan on the floor, so him getting probably 5 minutes more a game in the playoffs is going to make a big difference.
3. Heading into the 1st round of the playoffs, what do you think the greatest challenges the Spurs will face against the Grizzlies, and what do the Spurs need to do to advance?
We need to rebound as a team on the defensive end- there is not a player in the league good enough to keep Zach Randolph off the offensive glass by himself. We need to force Memphis to shoot 3's, because they are horrible at it, and we need to not turn the ball over on offense. Memphis is the best in the league (at least among the playoff teams) at causing turnovers, and at times our offense can get a bit...lackadaisical. We're hoping, though, that the sloppiness was just a byproduct of regular season boredom (likely) and not a serious flaw. Honestly, I've predicted a sweep, even with Manu not 100%, because we're deeper, more talented, and more experienced. We've got too many weapons and Tony Allen and Shane Battier can't guard everyone.
A great many thanks to the great bloggers at Pounding the Rock. Be sure to check in with their site throughout the playoffs to fully found our your consumption of what should be a tremendous NBA experience.