The NBA season is upon us… or at least it would be if this lockout were not going on. Nobody is quite certian when the NBA season will start. But if the collective bargaining agreement gets figured out soon, we will see a flurry of moves to make up for our lost offseason. So, with that in mind, it is time to begin opening the book on the 2011-12 season and to take a look at what the season might have in store — especially when it comes to the Magic. Be sure to look out for more of these team capsules and to check out all the blogs taking part in this year’s NBA Blog Preview (don’t worry, I will be linking to all of them in the next few weeks).
San Antonio Spurs
Last Year: 61-21, Lost Western Conference 1st Round
Last Year vs. Magic: W 106-97 in San Antonio on Nov. 22; L 123-101 in Orlando on Dec. 23.
This Year vs. Magic: Jan. 18 in Orlando; March 14 in San Antonio
Magic Connection: Assistant Coach Jacque Vaughn (Player, 2002-03)
The Previews: Michael De Leon/Project Spurs
The Spurs have symbolized excellence in the NBA for almost a dozen years now. Tim Duncan seemingly has never seen a set back in his career, just consistently going out and doing his work while the rest of his teammates fall into their roles and fulfill the brilliant gameplan Gregg Popovich sets.
It seems so easy for the Spurs. They fill and replace players on their team better than any other team in the league. As long as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are in place, things work for the Spurs.
Last year things really worked for the Spurs. The offense began to shift away from Duncan (he is getting up there in NBA years) and more toward Manu Ginobili (also getting up there, but not quite yet). Popovich seemed to defy all San Antonio history and logic in asking his team to push the pace a little bit more while falling back on the team’s strong defensive principles.
The shift worked in the regular season for the Spurs. San Antonio shocked many — and defied age — in netting the top seed in the Western Conference.
Then the Spurs ran into the Grizzlies. What exactly went wrong against Memphis is tough to say. San Antonio was every bit as good as the team had been throughout the season. Memphis was just better at it throughout the series. It did not help that Manu Ginobili was nursing an elbow injury and Tim Duncan was slowed by injuries of his own.
The Spurs, for the first time in a long time it seems, are back to the drawing board. This team still has an identity. The Spurs are still good defensively and still feature as good a trio as any this side of the Heat. But something was clearly off about the way this team ran last year. Maybe it was just injuries. Maybe it was just the natural course of aging finally taking away the Spurs we all know and love.
Whatever it is, the Spurs have to figure out their way back to the top once again.
The defense was good, but it faltered uncharacteristically when San Antonio needed it late last season. The team started to look a bit old.
The Spurs made some big moves on draft night to increase its youth, versatility and size. San Antonio traded promising point guard George Hill to Indiana for the draft rights to power forward Kawhi Leonard. It appears once free agency begins, San Antonio will be looking to add some size up front.
Besides that, San Antonio will be filling in their roster with the typical unheralded, hard-working guards that just seem to work.
This team is all about Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. And as long as they are healthy, it seems, San Antonio will continue to matter in the championship chase.
How the Spurs Will Beat the Magic: Consistency has been San Antonio’s game for a long time. That is what they are all about. And that seems to be how they defeated the Magic last year and in the past.
Duncan is a rock, and is wily enough to give Dwight Howard problems (as much as anyone) when they are actually matched up against each other — typically they are not. Orlando really struggles against Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili historically and those two are as good as they have ever been. When healthy, of course.
Remember it was Parker leading the way for the Spurs in that epic November battle in San Antonio. And it was Ginobili who torched the Magic a few years ago in a comeback, runaway win in San Antonio.
But really, the thing is Orlando has no clue what it will get out of any player on its current roster. San Antonio knows exactly what it will get from every player on its roster at just about every time. The Magic are not at that point. Hedo Turkoglu has never been one to rely on for perimeter scoring. Neither has Jameer Nelson. If the Magic keep Jason Richardson, he is consistent for 15 points per night, but Orlando needs more in the way of offense creation.
Dwight Howard is the only one doing that for this team right now. The Spurs have multiple players filling that role.
How the Magic Will Beat the Spurs: Well, Orlando has this going for them. In both games against San Antonio last season, Orlando was able to score. And score a bunch.
In Orlando, in a game following the trades, the Magic shot better than 50 percent for the game and simply ran the Spurs out of the gym. Poppovich, as he normally does in some blowouts, left his stars on the bench. And Dwight Howard made Chris Quinn a YouTube celebrity for a bad reason. Orlando was able to run past them.
That was with all cylinders clicking. We have not seen that Magic team since December. Who knows if we will ever see the Magic playing that free and loose again.
But even with Vince Carter and Rashard Lewis still on the team before the trade, Orlando was able to score. Of course it will take a gargantuan effort from Dwight Howard to defeat a team of San Antonio’s caliber, but Orlando has the capability of winning this matchup. It is just about being consistent and knowing what the team can do that could determine this matchup.
Photos via DayLife.com.