Friday, July 29, 2016

Bumpy start for new-look Spurs in Duncan's absence.

The Spurs are 14-7 after a bumpy start to the season. New players, new lineups, new changes to those new lineups, but the same philosophy and winning culture has been enough to win more games than not, and the Spurs looked poised to pick up steam now that the new players are beginning to gel.

Speaking of new players, Pau Gasol has moved to the starting Center position instead of Power Forward. Coach Popovich had become displeased with Gasol at the 4, since it meant less playing time for the other new Spur in town, Thaddeus Young, who has played well when given some burn on the court. Young & Gasol are a much better combination rather than an energy exchange. Part of this change was also due to the struggle of Tiago Splitter, who had some struggles last season to be effective upon returning to the Spurs. RC Buford of the Spurs front office has declined to comment on the possibility of Splitter being on the trading block again, but some fans are already requesting it on social media platforms as the NBA encourages them to do so. Dewayne Dedmon has played well in the backup center role especially on the boards and Dedmon has even moved up in the rotation over Splitter.

Jordan Farmar and Shane Larkin have done well backing up Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili has played outstandingly great when called upon, reminding fans of the 2014 finals when he helped crush the Miami Heat. Danny Green, however, has either been ice cold or red hot, having some 20+ point scoring performances or missing 20 shots instead. Coach Popovich when asked said that Green will undergo Lasik eye surgery to hopefully help his accuracy as a marksman, but this is two seasons now where Green has struggled to deliver his one quality skill, outside of his defense.

Gasol has played the best of all roster members so far in the season, including 30 points against the Blazers, and helped overcome a 15 point lead by the Bucks in a recent game, as the Spurs surged on a 20-6 run and held on to win the game. The once perfect home record of last season was not to be, as the Spurs lost early at home this season and had the Bucks held on, would've added to the understandable home imperfection with the new roster.

The Spurs have also recently signed Josh Smith, the athletic stud who spent most of his career with the Atlanta Hawks, then hit a low point with the Detroit Pistons, before regaining his form with the Houston Rockets. Since joining the Spurs' hard-working culture, Smith has shown strides as the backup Power Forward. Adding to the new arrivals is David Lee, a talented big man who's been compared to Chris Webber by legend Shaquille O'Neal in the past, so Smith may be moving over to a backup role at the Small Forward position behind Kawhi Leonard, who's turning in another strong season next to Gasol, also due to former Spur Tayshaun Prince struggling to be a quality backup at the 3.

Most of all, Tony Parker has been less than stellar so he'll need to improve, once the team gels more as a cohesive unit. But, if that huge comeback against the Bucks is any indication, this new look Spurs team can easily do that by season's end. The hardest problem they're facing right now is a sadness because Tim Duncan is no longer suiting up with them.