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SOUTHWEST

Dec. 05, 2011
Dec. 05, 2011

Table of Contents
Dec. 5, 2011

LEADING OFF
Inside: THE WEEK IN SPORTS
NBA PREVIEW 2011-12
COLLEGE FOOTBALL
PRO FOOTBALL
  • A first-ever postseason berth is the righteous cause in Houston—but with two QBs already lost to injury, the Texans will need hard-charging, deep-thinking feature back Arian Foster to lead the way

COLLEGE BASKETBALL
SPECIAL REPORT
Departments

SOUTHWEST

SAN ANTONIO SPURS(61--21)

This is an article from the Dec. 5, 2011 issue

What they've got

San Antonio is hoping to get one more ring out of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginóbili and Tony Parker. While they looked like eventual world champs during a 57--13 start last season, their six-game upset at the hands of the Grizzlies in the first round might have marked the end of an era.

What they need

The Spurs need to figure out the fate of small forward Richard Jefferson and power forward Antonio McDyess. Even if they don't use the amnesty provision on Jefferson (three years and $30.5 million remaining), the clause makes it easier to move him; his contract would be seen as an expiring one. McDyess hinted at retirement at the end of last season but has not said definitely what he will do. Rookie forward Kawhi Leonard, out of San Diego State, will help but not enough to offset the loss of guard George Hill, who was traded to the Pacers in June.

Bottom line

The Spurs will win on most nights, but they won't win it all.

DALLAS MAVERICKS(57--25)

What they've got

Core players Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Jason Terry and Brendan Haywood will be back, but a few of their running mates are unlikely to be on hand to collect their rings on opening day.

What they need

The Mavs have a starting five of free agents: center Tyson Chandler, guards J.J. Barea and DeShawn Stevenson and forwards Caron Butler and Peja Stojakovic. They must re-sign Chandler. He was a culture changer last season, providing a defensive identity and locker room leadership. Because the harsher luxury tax isn't supposed to begin until the third year of the new CBA, owner Mark Cuban has a chance to keep this group together despite being over the salary cap.

Bottom line

Cuban will spend to make a title run as long as Nowitzki is a premier player, but Dallas's defense is already looking tenuous.

NEW ORLEANS HORNETS(46--36)

What they've got

The chaotic beginning to the NBA season will be tough on the Hornets. If, as expected, training camp and free agency both begin on Dec. 9, then second-year coach Monty Williams might be greeting just five players on his first day of camp: Chris Paul, Emeka Okafor, Trevor Ariza, Jarrett Jack and Quincy Pondexter.

What they need

First, they've got to fill out the roster so they can practice five-on-five. But the most serious long-term issue is Paul. It's widely believed that he wants to join Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire in New York, either as a free agent in 2012 or in a trade-and-extend this season, but G.M. Dell Demps will seek the best deal possible if he's not certain Paul will re-sign. And free-agent forward David West may be reluctant to return if he's not convinced his point guard will be there for long.

Bottom line

The Hornets' future is inextricably linked to that of Paul's, and it seems inevitable that he'll be dealt. Then New Orleans will be—like the post-LeBron Cavs—in full-on rebuilding mode.

MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES(46--36)

What they've got

Momentum. The eighth-seeded Grizzlies' defeat of the top-seeded Spurs in the first round signaled the arrival of the playoff party crashers. The six-game upset, of course, took place with small forward Rudy Gay (19.8 ppg) watching with a left shoulder injury. Power forward Zach Randolph returns to extend his revival, as do lockdown perimeter defender Tony Allen and point guard Mike Conley.

What they need

Memphis is making it a priority to re-sign restricted free-agent center Marc Gasol, 26, who averaged a double double in the postseason. Priority No. 2: bringing back veteran small forward Shane Battier. Gay's return should be a boon to a team that gained valuable experience last spring, although he'll need to defend more to fit in with the team-first personality forged during the playoffs.

Bottom line

As if the Western Conference weren't stacked enough. The Grizzlies aren't going away anytime soon.

HOUSTON ROCKETS(43--39)

What they've got

Blend the scoring of guard Kevin Martin, the deft inside game of forward Luis Scola and the emerging floor leadership of point guard Kyle Lowry, and Houston has all the makings of a playoff team. There's an undeniable downgrade in going from Rick Adelman to Kevin McHale in the coach's seat, though.

What they need

With Yao Ming retired and underrated big man Chuck Hayes a free agent, the Rockets are expected to offer big money to center Nenê (Nuggets), while Samuel Dalembert (Kings) and Tyson Chandler (Mavericks) are also options. G.M. Daryl Morey, who has been trying to add star power for years, will be going hard to sell the merits of Clutch City.

Bottom line

The Rockets have persevered through the endless injuries to Yao and Tracy McGrady. It could be time for a return to the postseason after a two-year absence.

—Sam Amick

PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (GINOBILI)PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (KIDD)PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (SCOLA)PHOTOGREG NELSON (PAUL)PHOTOGREG NELSON (CONLEY)
SCOUT'S TAKE
"Dirk proved he can put the Mavs on his shoulders in the playoffs, so I don't see any reason they can't ride that momentum throughout the whole year."