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2 San Antonio SPURS
Jack McCallum
October 27, 2003
A still-developing Slovenian newcomer is the center of attention
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October 27, 2003

2 San Antonio Spurs

A still-developing Slovenian newcomer is the center of attention

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POS.

PVR

PPG

RPG

APG

BPG

SPG

FG%

3FG%

FT%

RASHO NESTEROVIC#

C

93

11.2

6.5

1.5

1.51

0.51

52.5

 

64.2

BRUCE BOWEN

SF

201

7.1

2.9

1.4

 

0.80

46.6

44.1

40.4

TONY PARKER

PG

65

15.5

2.6

5.3

 

0.87

46.4

33.7

75.5

MANU GINOBILI

SG

98

7.6

2.3

2.0

 

1.39

43.8

34.5

73.7

TIM DUNCAN

PF

1

23.3

12.9

3.9

2.93

0.68

51.3

 

71.0

#NEW ACQUISITION

Obscured by the persistent praise paid David Robinson, the Human Being, was the fact that David Robinson, the Center, could play a little, even as his stats dwindled in the twilight of a 14-year career. His court sense, help defense and ability to clog the lane were crucial elements in the Spurs' championship run last season. And so it was understandable that Rasho Nesterovic, assigned to man the Admiral's station this season, said early in camp, "I am not David Robinson."

Indeed he isn't, but Nesterovic better have a good bit of the Admiral in him, for the Spurs' chances of repeating may hinge on his development. There's no reason Tim Duncan won't have another MVP-caliber year, and with the off-season acquisitions of Ron Mercer and Hedo Turkoglu, the Spurs have the most versatile perimeter players in the league. But winning the West may still come down to neutralizing Shaquille O'Neal—well, doing something close to that.

Nesterovic, 27, is a true center recognized for his on-the-blocks efficiency and his potential to improve. (His scoring average jumped from 8.4 in 2001-02 to 11.2 in '02-03.) That's good, but what coach Gregg Popovich will be looking for is improvement in Nesterovic's career averages in rebounds (5.4) and blocked shots (1.18).

Nesterovic, who was born in Slovenia, played five seasons for Minnesota until becoming a free agent last summer. On July 1, the first date free agents could be contacted directly, Popovich was at a coaching clinic in Belgrade and made the five-hour drive to a small restaurant in Ljubljana, Slovenia, to invite Nesterovic to become a Spur. "It meant a lot that the coach of the world championship team would come to see me," he says.

Now, Rasho, it's time to show him a lot.

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