Tuesday , Oct , 25 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

San Antonio Spurs 2005-06 Season Preview

=== San Antonio Spurs 2005-06 Season Preview ===

By Warren Blatt, NBA Editor

2004-05 FINISH: 59-23 (Champions)

OFFSEASON ADDITIONS: Michael Finley (G) – Free Agent; Nick Van Exel (G) – Free
Agent.

OFFSEASON SUBTRACTIONS: Devin Brown (G) – Signed with Utah.

2005 DRAFT PICKS: 1. (28) Ian Mahinmi (F, France);

PROJECTED STARTING LINEUP: PG Tony Parker, SG Emanuel Ginobili, SF Bruce
Bowen, PF Tim Duncan, C Nazr Mohammed

COACH: Gregg Popovich

(Sports Network) – The San Antonio Spurs are primed to defend their title, and
have all the pieces in place to capture their fourth NBA championship in eight
years.

San Antonio has a roster that is ready for the challenge of defending its
world championship. The Spurs have won three titles in the last seven years
and with the addition of two-time All-Star Michael Finley, a fourth crown
could be on the horizon.

The Spurs, who defeated the Detroit Pistons in seven games in the 2004-05 NBA
Finals, had a very productive offseason. They signed Finley and
also added veteran point guard Nick Van Exel, who could fit in very well with
a team like the Spurs, who did allow restricted free agent Devin Brown to join
Utah as they did not match the Jazz’ offer.

Finley and Van Exel join a club that already has All-Stars Tim Duncan and Manu
Ginobili along with 23-year-old point guard Tony Parker, who seems to get
better every year.

Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are the keys to San Antonio’s success. Parker led
San Antonio in assists (6.1 apg) during the 2004-05 campaign, while the two-
time league MVP Duncan was the Spurs leading scorer (20.3 ppg) and rebounder
(11.1 rpg). Ginobili, who averaged 16 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.9 assists,
had a breakout season and is no longer a mystery in the NBA circles.

Dallas waived Finley in mid-August, as it used its one-time amnesty exception
to end the eight-plus year run he had with the Mavericks. Finley averaged 15.7
points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists in 64 games for the Mavs during last
season. The 32-year-old Finley, who can play shooting guard or small forward
still has a lot of productive basketball left in him. The Wisconsin product
has a decent outside jumper and is able to get out in transition and score
some easy hoops.

Van Exel’s career is on the down side, but he should be able to be a solid
backup to Parker. Van Exel, who will turn 34 on November 27, has been hampered
by sore knees and had been rumored to be considering retirement. In 53 games
for Portland last season, Van Exel, who is a one-time All-Star, averaged 11.1
points and 4.3 assists while playing just over 30 minutes per contest.

Along with the additions of Finley and Van Exel, San Antonio did re-sign 35-
year-old forward Robert Horry, who has won six championship rings and saves
his best basketball for the postseason, and 7-0 center Sean Marks, who is a
role player.

Bruce Bowen is the Spurs defensive stopper and is ready to resume his role in
the 2005-06 season, while the versatile Brent Barry is a steady no thrills
type of player. Bowen, who averaged 8.2 points and shot over 40 percent from
beyond the arc during last year’s regular season, is known for his tenacious,
in-your face defense. Barry can play both guard spots and came through in some
tough spots during the 2005 postseason.

Not only does San Antonio have an extremely talent roster, but it also has one
of the best head coaches in the league in Gregg Popovich, who has guided the
Spurs to all three NBA championships (1999, 2003, 2005) during his tenure in
San Antonio. He was named the 2003 NBA Coach of the Year and has led San
Antonio to the NBA’s best regular season record three times (1998-99, 2000-01,
2002-03). Popovich knows what it takes to win the big game and has the players
to get the job done.

The Spurs kept the main pieces in place and added a pair of veterans in Finley
and Van Exel. San Antonio’s two new players fit right in with the makeup of
the roster, as they have playoff experience and will not sweat the challenge
of having to bring their best every night.

BACKCOURT

Parker and Ginobili are one of the best starting backcourts in the NBA. They
are energetic, skilled, young and know what it takes to win a title. Parker is
still earning the respect of his peers and is on the cusp of becoming an All-
Star, while the 28-year-old Ginobili has an energy that ignites a spark for
the Spurs. Together they make each other and their teammates better players.

With the addition of Finley, the Spurs will use a lot of three-guard sets.
Finley will team with Ginobili and Parker to cause headaches for opposing
coaches. Finley and Ginobili are both capable of guarding the opposition’s
small forwards, which will allow them to work together.

Barry is an excellent complement to Parker and Ginobili. He is not fancy and
will not wow anyone with a spectacular dunk. However, Barry is a solid
basketball player who can get the job done and because of his versatility is
able to play wherever Popovich wants him to.

Beno Udrih contributed during his rookie campaign in 2004-05. He netted 5.9
points per gam in 80 contests. Like Barry, the 6-3 Udrih can play both guard
spots. Udrih will continue to get better and should play more than the 14.4
minutes per game he averaged last season.

Add Van Exel to the mix, and the Spurs are very deep at guard. With Parker
running the point and Barry, Ginobili and Finley playing all over the place,
San Antonio’s backcourt is ready take on any challenge.

FRONTCOURT

Duncan, Nazr Mohammed and Bowen makeup San Antonio’s starting frontcourt. All
three players have different roles, as Duncan does it all, while the center
Mohammed, who will work with Rasho Nesterovic to take up minutes in the
middle, can rebound and score in the low post and Bowen, who played all 82
regular-season games and averaged 8.2 points and 3.5 rebounds last season,
plays tough defense against the opposition’s best scorer. Duncan is once again
the go-to guy and his performance and health will make or break San Antonio.

Horry averaged 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds in 75 games during the 2004-05
regular season. He will once again coast through the season in anticipation
for the battles that await the Spurs in the playoffs. Horry is once again a
member of the Spurs because he knows how to win in the postseason. His
experience and clutch play is invaluable.

The 29-year-old Duncan is ready for another MVP-type season. He has all the
tools and is a team player. A two-time NBA MVP, Duncan leads by example and is
a winner.

OUTLOOK

This team is built to repeat. San Antonio has Duncan, Ginobili and Parker, one
of the top coaches in the NBA, experienced veterans who understand their
roles and a hunger to win titles. The Spurs will win 60 games in the
regular season, and are destined to win their fourth championship in eight
years.

Is this a dynasty?

SAN