The successful San Antonio Spurs have been strong defenders ever since the days of David Robinson playing alongside Tim Duncan, but for years the tradition also continued thanks to the efforts of Bruce Bowen.
Age caught up with the aggressive small forward last season and he quickly fell off the map, eventually being moved to another team, and recently announcing his retirement.
Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News reports:
The transition to a post-Bowen defense began last season, when the eight-time All-Defensive Team selection’s ability to lock down the league’s great scorers began to erode. Bowen slipped out of the starting lineup. His minutes dwindled to fewer than 19 per game, an all-time low for his eight seasons with the Spurs.
Now, Jefferson will be part of a gang approach to defending players such as Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Wade, who is likely to miss today’s game with a strained rib muscle. So will Manu Ginobili, George Hill, Roger Mason Jr. and Keith Bogans.
“Bruce was the best at making those kinds of guys uncomfortable, but those guys you have to guard as a team,” Ginobili said, “so we’re going to have to play better team defense than the last two years.
“We all have to step up defensively.”
The Spurs have a limited window to win another championship in the Duncan era, and they stocked up on weapons this summer and are going for broke this year. On paper, I consider them the second or third best team in the Western conference.