The Spurs lost the Western Conference finals in five games to the Lakers. The pattern with this franchise is that when it makes a disappointing exit from the playoffs it bounces back strong the next season. That will be the mission when the Spurs report to training camp in a few months but they’ll need to get younger over the summer.
The core trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili gives San Antonio a great foundation around which to build a championship team so it’s little wonder the Spurs have three titles in the past five years. The Spurs know how to play together but too many members of the supporting cast to their trio of stars are on the other side of playing their best basketball. That’s do to their age. Robert Horry is 37, Bruce Bowen and Brent Barry are 36, Michael Finley and Kurt Thomas are 35 and Damon Stoudamire is 34. So there’s a need to retool and add some younger role players if San Antonio is to make a serious bid at winning it all next season.
Horry, Finley, Thomas and Stoudamire are unrestricted free agents. But they are not what the Spurs have at the top of their shopping list — and that’s youth, be it in the backcourt or the frontcourt. A player with the all-out hustle and intensity of a Leon Powe would be a welcome addition to the Spurs. San Antonio doesn’t need a major overhaul but it needs to add some explosive energy off the bench in the form of younger players.
Deron Williams, Carlos Boozer, Andrei Kirilenko, Mehmet Okur, Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver and Matt Harpring are all slated to return next season. That’s great news for the Jazz who are on the rise. In addition to this group being a relatively young one, these players have a good idea of how they fit into coach Jerry Sloan’s blueprint for success. The more they play together, the better they will become and the tougher they will be to beat.
In terms of tweaking the roster, not much is needed. Boozer is a bit undersized at power forward so he could use some reliable relief — that’s a piece Utah could add through a deal. Boozer’s playoff performance was disappointing and it fell off dramatically at the offensive end. Less wear and tear on him during the regular season would leave him fresher for the postseason and that could help the Jazz clear the hurdle of coming out of the West. Led by the gifted play at the point of Williams the Jazz are maybe only a player away from completing the puzzle to compete for a championship.
The Hornets put on a great run with the outstanding play of point guard Chris Paul leading the way. Maybe what’s most needed for them to win the West is just another season of playing together and adding experience. Paul will only get better and the hope is that the big seasons New Orleans got from power forward David West and small forward Peja Stojakovic will be repeated. With such a successful season under their belts, these players now have a better idea of what it will take to capture the conference and get to the finals.
There’s not a lot needed in terms of reinforcements for next season. Maybe some minor tweaking through free agency with the team’s shopping list likely topped by a backup big man and a shooting guard.
Two important matters to future success involve contracts and one of them has already been taken care of as coach Byron Scott recently signed a two-year extension. Come July 1 the team can officially offer Paul a contract extension. Once that deal is done the way will be paved for this group which has a good mix of youth and athleticism to go with its veteran savvy to make its best push yet to come out of the West and play for the NBA title.
PBT: Spurs guard Tony Parker repeatedly sliced through the Grizzlies' defense, creating 20 points and nine assists in an easy Game 1 win for San Antonio.
PBT: The Grizzlies haven't faced a team this postseason that can execute its system to the level that the Spurs can. The results were obvious in the series opener.
Video: NBA from NBC Sports
Grizzlies ready for 'running' Spurs
DPS: Lionel Hollins tells us how he plans to play against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals.
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