- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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IF HIS most promising visions come true and he helps the Spurs win a championship next June, Antonio McDyess may look back on his traumatic knee injuries with newfound gratitude. "At one point I was thinking, My career is over," says McDyess, who was sidelined for 194 of 246 games from 2001--02 to '03--04. "Then I started doing things with [coach] John Lucas: He was helping me to develop my shot, showing me how to get to open spots and putting me on more of a thinking pace rather than just running and jumping—because I couldn't do those things at that point."
McDyess's transformation from young explosive athlete to reliable 35-year-old winner was underscored by San Antonio's decision this past summer to sign him to a three-year, $15 million deal as a 6'9" frontcourt complement to Tim Duncan. "He figured out what he could do to be in the league and be effective with the injury he had," says Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. "You don't see him trying to do things he's not capable of doing. He guards in the post, he hits the medium-range jump shot, and he does it really well and consistently. There's a need for that on every team."
Though he isn't the jumping-jack intimidator he used to be, McDyess has never been more effective. Last season with the Pistons he averaged a remarkable 9.8 rebounds in 30.1 minutes. "Dunking and jumping—when I was able to do it—was definitely fun," he says. "But now the winning mentality is more fun. You don't expend energy outrunning the other team, because now you're trying to outthink them."
Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginóbili are counting on McDyess and trade acquisition Richard Jefferson to infuse their lineup with fresh energy. "The first thing Pop said to me was, 'Hey, we don't look back at our championships,'" says McDyess. "These guys are hungry for a championship as much as I am."
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2008--09 statistics
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: G Manu Ginóbili, 15.5 PPG; F-C DeJuan Blair (R), 12.3 RPG; F-C Matt Bonner, 44.0 3FG%; G-F Michael Finley, 9.7 PPG • New acquisition • (R) Rookie, college stats
COACH: Gregg Popovich (14th season with Spurs) • 2008--09 RECORD: 54--28 (first in Southwest) POINTS SCORED: 97.0 (23rd in NBA) • POINTS ALLOWED: 93.3 (second in NBA)