The NBA’s preseason is underway, and that means that the 2008 season is just weeks away! The biggest question for the Spurs during the offseason has been, and continues to be the ankle of Manu Ginobili. Manu’s ankle has been an issue for much of the last year, culminating in the Olympics injury which required surgery last month. Ginobili is expected to miss the entire preseason, and perhaps as much as two months of the regular season.
The good news for the Spurs and their fans is that Ginobili was recently seen at the team’s training facility with no limp, no crutches, and with no protective boot. Although it’s still too early to tell exactly when he’ll be back, Ginobili is hoping to be ready for the first game of the regular season.
As far as the offseason is concerned, the team should look fairly similar to the one of the last few years, except for some minor changes in the supporting cast. One of the key players that will be missing from this year’s version is Brent Barry. A new addition to the team is George Hill at point guard. Hill is the team’s draft pick from this year’s draft, and the team hopes that he can become a reliable option at point guard. If Hill’s first summer league game is any indication of what is to come, the Spurs will have a back up for Tony Parker. In that first game, Hill scored 17 points, pulled down 8 rebounds, and outplayed OJ Mayo.
Another addition to the team is Roger Mason, Jr. Mason’s four-year career has been spent bouncing from team to team, before having a breakout season for the Wizards last year, filling in for the injured Gilbert Arenas and starting 9 games. Mason averaged 9 ppg, shot 44% from the field, 40% from behind the arc, and 87% from the free throw line.
The Spurs got off to a rocky start in the preseason, dropping their first two games to division rivals Houston and New Orleans. Recently, San Antonio has managed to even up their record by going on the road to beat Detroit and Cleveland.
One issue working against the Spurs is their age. San Antonio has managed to keep their core together, but age is certainly something that will be a factor at some point in the future. Tim Duncan is 32, Bruce Bowen is 37, Ginobili is 31, and Finley and Kurt Thomas are 35. Parker is still a spry 27, but the Spurs certainly need some of their young talent to step up and begin to take on active roles.
While age is an issue, the one thing that San Antonio can always count on to keep them in every game is their defense. Bowen, Duncan, and Kurt Thomas are tough, hard-nosed defenders that should be able to help the Spurs stay in the hunt until Manu Ginobili returns.
San Antonio has won at least 56 games for an amazing 8 straight years, and are hoping to keep that streak going. This year will be a test in that regard. Starting the season without Ginobili, or with a recovering version, will require other players to step up and fill in. Last year, injuries caused most of the Spurs’ top players to miss significant time, and the results showed. The team was never able to play with consistency and as a result, failed to meet their lofty expectations. Time will tell if this year will be different.