3 SAN ANTONIO SPURS

October 27, 2014

2013--14 RECORD: 62--20 (1ST IN SOUTHWEST) COACH: GREGG POPOVICH (19TH SEASON WITH SPURS)

SPOTLIGHT

Tony Parker is the Spurs' biggest star of the present, a 32-year-old point guard who has led the team in scoring for four consecutive seasons. Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard is the star of the future, a 23-year-old small forward who is still adding to his game. So where does that leave 38-year-old big man Tim Duncan? "Focused entirely on winning," says coach Gregg Popovich. "Winning championships is all that matters to him."

Duncan remains as essential as ever to San Antonio's title chances. Last season he anchored a defense that ranked fourth in points allowed per possession. He also became the first 37-year-old in NBA history to average 15 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocks. (Duncan, however, was disappointed with his midrange shooting, an area he has targeted for improvement in his 18th year.) Most important, Duncan played 74 games, his highest total since 2010--11. There's no doubt that slimming down during the '11 lockout to reduce the strain on his balky knees has extended his career.

Popovich, as always, will closely monitor how often he uses the two-time MVP, who has averaged 29 minutes over the last four seasons. But there is little doubt that Duncan can duplicate his 2013--14 success. And with 97.5% of the minutes from the Spurs' title-winning team returning, a repeat of that production may be all San Antonio needs to get Duncan a sixth ring.

PROJECTED LINEUP

(2013--14 STATS)

STARTERS

PG

TONY PARKER

16.7 PPG; 5.7 APG; 2.3 RPG; 49.9 FG%

SG

DANNY GREEN

9.1 PPG; 3.4 RPG; 43.2 FG%; 41.5 3FG%

SF

KAWHI LEONARD

12.8 PPG; 6.2 RPG; 52.2 FG%; 37.9 3FG%

PF

TIM DUNCAN

15.1 PPG; 9.7 RPG; 1.9 BPG; 49.0 FG%

C

TIAGO SPLITTER

8.2 PPG; 6.2 RPG; 0.5 BPG; 52.3 FG%

BENCH

SG

MANU GINÓBILI

12.3 PPG; 4.3 APG; 46.9 FG%; 34.9 3FG%

PF

BORIS DIAW

9.1 PPG; 4.1 RPG; 2.8 APG; 52.1 FG%

BEST CASE

Popovich joins Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach as the only coaches to win at least six titles.

WORST CASE

Vet-laden San Antonio limps into the playoffs, wrecking its hopes for the franchise's first repeat.

ENEMY LINES

A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE SPURS

Last season they had the fire to come back after that brutal Finals loss to Miami. Where does their edge come from this season? If the Spurs win the championship—and they'll be in position if healthy—I will anoint Gregg Popovich as the greatest in the history of coaching.... Kawhi Leonard is maybe the best complementary player in the league. He doesn't force shots. Leonard has used good strength, length and anticipation to become one of the top defenders at small forward. He doesn't quit on plays and he can recover to contest shots.... Tim Duncan has been in the system for so long that he knows where to be in advance. He still rebounds well and affects the game defensively while fouling less, and he's very good at picking his spots on offense and running to the rim.... Tony Parker is so consistent. He still has all the speed he needs to get into the paint despite having played 13 seasons.... The bench guys are always prepared because Popovich relies on them so much.... The bad performance in the 2013 Finals pushed Manu Ginóbili through last season. He doesn't have the same reckless abandon that he used to, but he still attacks the rim and can get hot from deep.... They lose some offensive explosiveness with Cory Joseph replacing Patty Mills [who is hoping to return from right-shoulder surgery in January].... Everyone wants to play like them. You can run their sets, but the key is that the ball doesn't stop until it gets to the right person at the right time. And teams can't replicate that without being together for years, the way their core has.

PHOTOBORIS STREUBEL/BONGARTS/GETTY IMAGESThe gang's back, including Ginóbili. FOUR ILLUSTRATIONS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)