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Ian Thomsen
October 28, 2002
There's not a lot more that a franchise can ask of reigning MVP Tim Duncan—although his coach still sees room for improvement in one crucial area
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October 28, 2002

3 San Antonio Spurs

There's not a lot more that a franchise can ask of reigning MVP Tim Duncan—although his coach still sees room for improvement in one crucial area

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2001-02 record: 58-24 (first in Midwest)
Points scored: 96.7 (10th)
Points allowed: 90.5 (3rd)
Coach: Gregg Popovich (seventh season with Spurs)



2001-02 KEY STATS


Bruce Bowen


7.0 ppg

2.7 rpg

1.5 apg

1.05 spg

38.9 FG%


Tim Duncan


25.5 ppg

12.7 rpg

3.7 apg

2.48 bpg

50.8 FG%


David Robinson


12.2 ppg

8.3 rpg

1.79 bpg

1.10 spg

50.7 FG%


Steve Smith


11.6 ppg

2.5 rpg

2.0 apg

45.5 FG%

47.2 3FG%


Tony Parker


9-2 ppg

2.6 rpg

4.3 apg

1.16 spg

41.9 FG%



2001-02 KEY STATS


Emanuel Ginobili (R)#


19.9 ppg

4.4 rpg

2.2 apg

53.0 FG%

39.8 3FG%


Malik Rose


9.4 ppg

6.0 rpg

0.7 apg

0.85 spg

46.3 FG%


Speedy Claxton#


7.2 ppg

2.4 rpg

3.0 apg

1.42 spg

40.0 FG%


Danny Ferry


4.6 ppg

1.8 rpg

1.0 apg

42.9 FG%

43.4 3FG%


Kevin Willis#


6.1 ppg

5.8 rpg

0.44 bpg

0.48 spg

44.0 FG%

#New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college season)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 92)

The spurs will make a run at 60 wins, Tim Duncan is the odds-on choice to retain his MVP award, and guard Emanuel Ginobili is a favorite for Rookie of the Year. And none of that will matter if San Antonio can't find a way to beat Shaq and Kobe, who have gone 8-1 against the Spurs over the last two postseasons.

"I had a chance to step away for a year and look at the team from a different perspective," says 37-year-old backup guard Steve Kerr, who is back in San Antonio after spending last season with the Blazers. "What I see clearly is that we need to get other guys involved more around Tim. We have to take a cue from the Lakers, who didn't start winning until they got everybody involved around Shaq."

With three newcomers—Steve Smith, Bruce Bowen and rookie Tony Parker—in his starting lineup last year, coach Gregg Popovich says he wasn't surprised that the Spurs repeatedly wilted down the stretch against the Lakers. "Making shots is huge in the fourth quarter, and that means getting the open shots that you're used to making," he says. "You know the Lakers are going to execute, but you can't exacerbate things by breaking down."

While it appears that Duncan's game requires little fine-tuning, Popovich would like to see his go-to guy—who last season became the fifth player in league history to rank in the top five in scoring, rebounding and blocks—be more assertive at crunch time. "He can be more hungry as a scorer in certain possessions, and he can also demand more from his teammates," says Popovich. "I see him being more aggressive in everything he does."

More crucial to San Antonio's success will be how well Parker and Ginobili mesh with Duncan. Parker is only 20, but he plays with the swagger of a 10-year All-Star. Ginobili is one of this season's most anticipated rookies, a 25-year-old slasher who led Argentina to its upset of the U.S. at the world championships this summer. Eventually, he and Parker will form one of the league's quickest backcourts. "Even though I am a scorer, I've always been a player who understands very well what the team needs," says Ginobili.

Ginobili won't be as prolific as Kobe, but his daring athleticism could, in time, provide San Antonio with a similarly lethal weapon. "At the end of the game Shaq isn't the problem, because you know where he's going to be and you can double him," says Popovich. "Kobe's the problem because he's hard to get a handle on."

If only Ginobili can create similar headaches.

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