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2 SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Jack McCallum
October 29, 2001
This club is still stinging from a nasty playoff sweep by the Lakers. Will that make the Spurs better, or worse?
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October 29, 2001

2 San Antonio Spurs

This club is still stinging from a nasty playoff sweep by the Lakers. Will that make the Spurs better, or worse?

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projected lineup

2001-01 record: 58-24 (first in Midwest)

Coach: Gregg Popovich (sixth season with Spurs)

STARTERS

PVR*

2000-01 KEY STATS

SF

Bruce Bowen#

138

7.6 ppg

3.0 rpg

1.6 apg

1.01 spg

36.3 FG%

PF

Tim Duncan

2

22.2 ppg

12.2 rpg

3.0 apg

2.34 bpg

49.9 FG%

C

David Robinson

28

14.4 ppg

8.6 rpg

2.46 bpg

1.00 spg

48.6 FG%

SG

Steve Smith#

65

13.6 ppg

2.6 apg

3.4 rpg

0.59 spg

45.6 FG%

PG

Antonio Daniels

79

9.4 ppg

3.8 apg

2.1 rpg

46.8 FG%

40.4 3FG%

BENCH

PVR*

2000-01 KEY STATS

G

Terry Porter

209

7.2 ppg

3.1 apg

2.5 rpg

44.8 FG%

42.4 3FG%

G

Tony Parker (R)#

222

14.7 ppg

5.6 apg

2.7 rpg

48.9 FG%

30.4 3FG%

F

Malik Rose

245

77 ppg

5.4 rpg

0.70 bpg

1.04 spg

43.5 FG%

F

Danny Ferry

285

5.6 ppg

2.8 rpg

0.35 spg

47.5 FG%

44.9 3FG%

C

Cherokee Parks#

300

4.6 ppg

3.5 rpg

0.7 apg

0.55 bpg

48.9 FG%

#New acquisition

(R) Rookie (statistics from French league)

*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 117)

Shooting guard Steve Smith had hardly been in San Antonio long enough to visit the Alamo before he found himself lighter in the wallet, having kicked in on a $25,000 donation to a Spurs-supported fund for families of local military reservists called to duty. "I was glad to do it," says Smith, 32, who was acquired in July from the Trail Blazers for guards Derek Anderson and Steve Kerr. Contributions other than financial, however, will now be asked of the 6'8" Smith, one of three newcomers to the lineup, alongside Tim Duncan and David Robinson. Changing 60% of the starters on a team that owned the league's best regular-season record last year seems like radical surgery, but such was the impact of the Lakers' four-and-out humiliation of San Antonio in the Western Conference finals.

"We were so bad that people got mad at us," says coach and general manager Gregg Popovich. "One guy in the press called us 'disgusting pigs' " Popovich, who last month received a contract extension that will pay him $4 million annually through 2005-06, shook his head, smiled ruefully and asked, "You ever been called a disgusting pig?"

As barnyard bad as the Spurs were in losing Games 3 and 4 by a combined 68 points, the changes do not have the smell of desperation about them. One was contract-based; San Antonio was unable to come to terms with free-agent Anderson. Smith is five years older than Anderson and much less explosive offensively, but he is more versatile and plays excellent team defense, which fits in well with the Spurs. With the departure of point guard Avery Johnson, who signed with the Nuggets, San Antonio lost a steadying influence, especially since his replacement, 26-year-old Antonio Daniels, is one of those points who says he feels "just as comfortable at either guard position"—a proclamation that sounds suspiciously like "running quarterback." But Daniels proved his mettle in the playoffs (he and Duncan were the only two Spurs not to go AWOL in any of the games) and will amp up the team's defensive intensity.

So will Sean Elliott's successor at small forward, 6'7" Bruce Bowen, who was named second-team all-defense last year with the Heat. Add spaced-out, tatted-up frontcourt reserve Cherokee Parks and supercharged 19-year-old rookie point guard Tony Parker from Paris—"a fast break by himself" as Robinson puts it—and the Spurs, the familiar presence of Duncan and the Admiral notwithstanding, look rather un-Spurs-like. "Management's main concern was getting us younger and more versatile," says Robinson, who had a rare contract contretemps before signing a two-year deal worth $20 million. "It remains to be seen how it plays out, but we accomplished those goals."

It remains to be seen, too, whether the Spurs can forget about the series against the Lakers, who seemed to expose them as gutless frauds (please don't call them disgusting pigs) caught shivering in the shadow of Shaq and Kobe. "Forget it?" says Duncan. "We don't want to forget it. Remembering that series gives us our focus." Says Popovich, "What I couldn't accept is that our guys lost their belief, gave in to their doubts."

Popovich may now have a team less inclined to give in. Daniels is a cocky, give-me-the-ball type, and Bowen doesn't sound like a man uncertain of his ability, having perfected the third-person mode of speech familiar to superstar athletes. An example:

"It's not Bruce replacing Sean Elliott. It's just Bruce coming in and trying to fill a void. Sean was a more polished offensive player, so don't look for Bruce to do the things he did. At the same time, you'll get a certain production from Bruce all the time."

You get the picture; Bruce gets the picture. Now we'll see if the rest of the Spurs get it too.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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