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"Spurs Looking Strong Despite Hiccup in D.C."

By Daniel Strickland on November 17, 2005.

This is according to Washington Post Staff Writer Michael Lee:

Two weeks into the season, Duncan’s new ‘do and his off night are minor concerns for the defending champion Spurs, who remain an overwhelming favorite to win their fourth title in eight seasons. After all, Duncan, a two-time regular season most valuable player and three-time NBA Finals MVP, is still averaging a steady 21.6 points and 12 rebounds. “Nights like this you see once every, three, four years,” Ginobili said following Duncan’s performance against the Wizards.

The Spurs are also waiting for Michael Finley (left groin) and Brent Barry (low back strain) to return to full strength so that they can have more depth and develop the chemistry needed for a dominant run. “It’s going to be tough every night. Every time people play the Spurs, they’re going to play their best games because we’re the champions,” said Parker, who is off to a surprisingly fast start, leading the team with 22.6 points and 5.9 assists per game. “We just have to be ready and match their energy. We just have to be ready every night.”

The Spurs (5-2) have followed up their past two championship seasons with disappointing second-round losses to the Los Angeles Lakers. They likely won’t have to worry about seeing the Lakers that deep in the playoffs this season, but the challenge of winning back-to-back titles remains. “If we win, it will happen to be back-to-back, but we’re not trying win back-to-back,” Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said. “It’s another season, it’s another challenge, a couple of different pieces and we either will or we won’t. But back-to-back doesn’t enter my head. It never has either — maybe that’s why we never did it. Maybe I should’ve thought of that.”

Instead, Popovich thought about strengthening his team with the additions of Finley, Nick Van Exel and Argentine Olympic gold medalist Fabricio Oberto in the offseason. Finley, an amnesty cut from the Dallas Mavericks, has already led the Spurs with an impressive fourth-quarter comeback win against Denver, but he has missed the past three games. Van Exel celebrated with his family in Houston after signing with Spurs, knowing that he has his “best chance in 13 years” to win an NBA title. Oberto has yet to find his way into the Spurs regular rotation, but Popovich said he wasn’t worried about getting his talented roster to mesh.

“Well, to some degree, it’s always a challenge because all players want minutes. But the more character with each player, the less of a challenge it is for a coach,” Popovich said. “If you have players that understand the whole, rather than just themselves, they can probably see the big picture better than some that are more self-absorbed. With the guys that we have and the ones we brought in, they’re going to see the big picture and it’s not going to be a problem.”

Popovich would rather lead a loaded team anyway. He said he has no intention of being like his friend, New York Knicks Coach Larry Brown, and attempt a rebuilding process elsewhere. “I’m smart enough not to ever get into that situation,” Popovich said. “My moon is aligned very closely with Timmy’s. I’m waiting for his retirement announcement because mine will be 30 seconds after it. I have no need to prove this, that or the other by going to this, that or the other city: ‘Oh, he did it again, so he’s for real.’ For real can kiss my [butt].”

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