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The “Which Blair Project” continues, RJ finds his shot and Batman is living in the Alamo City. This was a busy week one for the Spurs. With all of the hype coming into the season, you never really know how the team is going to react. We are used to flying under the radar, but with all the offseason madness the Spurs found themselves center stage from day one. After this week, the league is beginning to realize why Blair never should have been a late second rounder, RJ is looking more like the player of years past, and Manu’s bat episode tells us a little about why he is still a great threat in the NBA.

While DeJuan Blair fell out of the top ten, then out of the first round, and eventually, like a piano falling down a flight of stairs, crashed into R.C. Buford’s lap late in the second round, the dust settled with a familiar flavor in the air. The Spurs have, yet again, acquired an incredible talent late in the draft. The questions about Blair’s durability still remain as the first week of play comes to a close. Pop has used him sparingly and hasn’t quite figured out how to get the most from DeJuan while managing his minutes. In game one we saw him 25 minutes, serving up double-double a-la-mode to the Hornets, then getting variable minutes against Chicago and Sacramento with mixed success. We would all love to see him play more, every time Blair enters the court, the air is electric in the AT&T Center, but we need to temper our excitement. If we want him to be a Spur for many years to come, we need to accept a more limited role his first few years with the team. The “Which Blair Project” will continue until we find out just what kind of wheels we have on this monster truck.

There’s nothing like playing a winless team with horrible defense and even worse offense to get your shot going. For the first time in a long time, the Spurs should thank a Western Conference team for their help. Just as it looked like it may take months, not weeks to get RJ going, we drew Sacramento on the schedule. You won’t hear many of the Spurs big-wigs say so, but we need RJ to be a twenty point player all year long. With Timmy and Manu aging, RJ brings some relief on the offensive end. He also brings a quality go-to scorer late in the game, which gives Pop the flexibility to let some of his big three rest in tight situations. It gives the Spurs the ability to go small and run the floor with more up-tempo teams, much like we saw with the championship team in 2005. Maybe Peter Holt should make a little donation to the “Brothers Maloof” for getting his new star going.

While other teams’ heroes have dawned capes (Dwight Howard) or masks (Richard Hamilton) the Spurs found their’s entering the game in his alter ego. The decrepit and declining star Manu Ginoboli entered Saturday’s Halloween night game just like any other, but this night would be different. In the modest confines of the AT&T Center, while fathers brought their sons to a pro game and the Who’s Who of San Antonio came to watch their beloved home town stars, a terror lurked in the night. Waiting for the right moment to strike, watching quietly from a distance, to prey on those unsuspecting masses as they gathered. Out of the shadows, it attacked, darting in and out of the crowd, haunting fan and player alike, even taking shots at the maligned referees. Then, in a flurry of action, a blow was struck to the foe, bringing it to the ground, and one stood victorious, as he has for years. Manu stood at the top of the arc, looking over his conquered enemy and once again found himself doing things no one ever expected to see on an NBA basketball court. With all kidding aside, it was pretty amazing. But if you watch him, his vision and quick hands are all still there. If he would attack ball handlers like he did that bat, Manu may be at the top of the league in steals when the season is finished.

This first week of play confirmed some preseason fears, but also showed us some signs of life. Once again, a quick young team found the upper hand. Offensive rebounding, defensive rotations, and tempo control still need to improve. I believe the current roster allows us to go small and play with quicker teams more effectively than in recent years. Pop doesn’t like breaking out of his half court mode, but if we haven’t controlled the pace in the first half, he should consider playing fast ball. There were major improvements in week one as well. Offensive production is up. Even with a lower three-point percentage than usual, the Spurs are shooting over 50% from the floor through the first 3 games. Our defensive rebounding is solid and our point differential is +9, all necessities to return to Championship form. There will still be hick-ups in these first few months as Pop figures out his rotation, but this Spurs team in incredible, and when it is all said and done, possibly one of the best we have ever fielded.

Jeromy K.


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