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Built to last

Spurs, Pistons poised to lead NBA title chase in '05-06

Posted: Friday June 24, 2005 1:14PM; Updated: Monday June 27, 2005 4:49PM
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Manu Ginobili; Tim Duncan; Tony Parker
With Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan and Tony Parker signed for another five years, the good times should continue in San Antonio.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
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SAN ANTONIO -- In the euphoria of his team's NBA title Thursday night, Tim Duncan couldn't help but crack a joke when a reporter prefaced a question at the post-game news conference about the team's future by noting that the Spurs forward wasn't the team's GM.

"Not officially at least," Duncan interrupted, cracking up the room full of reporters.

Kidding aside, Duncan is more than happy to let others handle personnel matters. And why not? The Spurs, under the direction of coach Gregg Popovich and GM R.C. Buford, have been one of the most well-managed teams in the NBA over the past seven years. With Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker all signed through 2010, San Antonio could well be adding more hardware to their trophy case in years to come.

"It's a great feeling. A great feeling," Duncan said. "In years past we've lost six, seven, eight, nine guys in a year, and rebuilt. I think we've really got a core here that we're in love with, that obviously is a pretty decent core, and we're going to have it together for a couple years."

Like the Spurs, the Pistons also appear to be in excellent shape to make another title run in '06. Other than coach Larry Brown, whose health issues might prevent him from returning to the bench next season, Detroit's entire core should be back next season. The team's top seven players are signed through then, with the only free agents this summer being seldom-used reserves Darvin Ham, Elden Campbell and Horace Jenkins.

The big question for the Pistons will be whether they play with the same intensity under a new coach should Brown decide to step down. However, the Pistons are still relatively young -- Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace are the only starters older than 30 -- and they have the makeup to play hard no matter what. After coming so close in the Finals this year, they also might have extra motivation.

"Everybody is hurt and disappointed right now," Ben Wallace noted Thursday night. "But everybody is going to come back ready to play."

The scary thing for the Pistons -- and the rest of the NBA -- is that the Spurs might be even better next season. With no starter over age 29, San Antonio's core players are still improving. Their only significant free agents are Robert Horry (who can opt out of his contract, but might re-sign), Devin Brown, Tony Massenburg and Glenn Robinson. Assuming they bring back Horry, the Spurs should not miss a beat. In fact, with another season to develop cohesion and work midseason newcomer Nazr Mohammed more into the flow, they should be even better defensively.