Tuesday , Dec , 06 , 2005 C.Y. Ellis

Spurs are playing like champions

By Warren Blatt, Sports Network NBA Editor

(Sports Network) – The defending world champion San Antonio Spurs have
started the 2005-06 campaign right where they left off last season.

San Antonio has opened the season by winning 14 of its first 17 games. The
Spurs have been efficient for the most part on both ends of the court. They
have scored 90 or more points in 15 contests and registered at least 100
points in eight of those games.

Defensively, the Spurs, who have captured three titles in the last seven
years, have allowed more than 100 points three times and were on the losing in
end in all of those games. They have held their opponent under 90 points in
eight games and are undefeated in those contests.

Two-time MVP Tim Duncan is once again off to an excellent start. He has
averaged 20.8 points and a team-best 11.9 rebounds for the Spurs. The seven-
time All-Star is also shooting an impressive 51.9 percent from the field and
has blocked more than two shots per contest.

Twenty-three-year-old point guard Tony Parker appears to be on a mission to
earn a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team. Parker leads San Antonio
in scoring (20.9 ppg) and assists (5.8 apg).

Playing in just his fifth season in the league, Parker, who is yet to play in
an NBA All-Star Game, seems to get better every year. This season, San
Antonio’s lead guard has become more of a scorer. He already has very good
playmaking skills, but becoming a dangerous scorer makes him an even more
difficult player for Spurs’ opponents to defend. Parker is one of those
players that makes everyone on his club better.

Manu Ginobili, who was an All-Star last season, has recently been bothered by
a foot injury. The 28-year-old energetic guards scoring is down from a year
ago, but with Parker picking up the slack there is no harm. When Ginobili gets
back being healthy, the Spurs should see an increase in their already potent
offensive attack. A healthy Ginobili makes San Antonio more effective in
transition and highly active on defense.

Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are the keys to San Antonio’s success. The 29-
year-old Duncan, who already owns three championship rings, is a superstar and
is arguably one of the greatest players ever to play the game, while Parker
and Ginobili are All-Star caliber players who simply play the game the right

However, San Antonio’s big three can’t do it alone. Spurs’ management has
surrounded their three stars with skilled veterans who play to win for the
team. Two-time All-Star Michael Finley, who signed with club in the offseason
after being waived by Dallas, gives the Spurs another player who can play
multiple positions. The 32-year-old Finley does not need to score like he did
earlier in his career. Instead, Finley is asked to fit in with his new
teammates and to take advantage of whatever comes his way on the court. Finley
has accepted his role and is playing for the ultimate prize, a championship.

Defensive stopper Bruce Bowen is up to his old tricks again, while reserve
guard Nick Van Exel, who inked a deal with the club as a free agent in the
offseason, has meshed well in his role as a backup for Parker. Nazr Mohammed
and Rasho Nesterovic are sharing the duties in the middle and Robert Horry is
doing his usual preparation for the postseason. Don’t forget about Brent
Barry, who is off to a slow start but will prove to be valuable as the season

The defending champions have made a statement early on in the 2005-06
campaign. They are still hungry and even though they are the hunted every time
they come out on the court, the opposition better bring its best game or the
contest could be over before it starts.

With Duncan and Parker playing like two of the best players in the league, the
Spurs can’t miss. Ginobili will get back on track and the supporting cast
knows their roles and are happy to go along for the ride. This is a team that
has found the winning formula.

Yes, it’s true. The Spurs are once again playing like champions.