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Spurs the favorite to win championship

 


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| Nov. 9, 2006

nba spurs columnAt the approach of every new NBA season, I find myself picking the San Antonio.

Year in and year out, the Spurs should be winning the NBA title -- only they don’t. They have all the tools to be a dynasty except for the most essential, the requisite mental toughness.

There’s a long list of reasons to like the Spurs’ chances in this season, with no prohibitive favorite.

The Spurs have a core trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli that most teams would die for. Shaq’s decline leaves Duncan and Yao Ming as undoubtedly the best inside players in the league. Parker is unstoppable when penetrating and Ginobli is one of the best money players in the world. Bruce Bowen is one of the very best one on one defenders in the league.

The Spurs have great balance and depth, tremendous coaching and by far,the shrewdest front office in the league. What’s not to like?

The Spurs’ main competition this year should once again be Dallas, Miami and Phoenix.

Although people are talking about Dwyane Wade’s emergence as a transendant player, he still plays for an aging team that only caught fire in the playoffs and did nothing in the off-season to get younger.

Some think that Dallas will be more mature, focused and determined after choking in last year’s finals. Let’s see them prove it. They're certainly off to a bad start, dropping their first several games without registering a win.

Phoenix did nothing to upgrade their roster in the off season and is hoping for a healthy Stoudemire to give them the edge. That’s an iffy proposition and the Spurs would still be better balenced then the Suns with the full Amare.

We shouldn’t forget that last year’s Spur-Maverick Western Conference semi-finals was so close that either could have won. One point was all that kept the Spurs from reaching the finals, assuming that they would have knocked off the fading Suns.

But the real reason I like the Spurs this year is they never win it all when you expect them to, and they usually grab a title when you’ve started taking them for granted. For instance, in 2003 the Spurs won the NBA title and were thought of as a budding dynasty. A lucky shot by Derek Fisher in the 2004 playoffs put that idea to rest.

In 2005, the Spurs grabbed another crown, against Larry Brown’s Detroit Pistons, even if they were playing basketball, “the right way”. Last year, the Spurs were probably the best team in the West during the regular season but were watching the Finals on TV in June.

In a nutshell, the Spurs aren’t tough enough to always win when it counts, but are so skilled, proficient and fundamentally sound that they get it done, some of the time.

The Spurs are a club without flair. They are not loveable underdogs led by Steve Nash-like wizardry. They have no shock-radio type owner in the spotlight. Don’t look for Armani suits on the sidelines, Shaq diesel-like braggado or the next “new Jordan” playing the wing.

But don’t be lulled to sleep because the Spurs are methodical. When you wake up, you and the rest of the league could find them on the winners’ podium next June.



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