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Gone Fishing...For Now

So the season is officially over and the Spurs are gone fishing. I had hoped we would still be competing our way through the conference finals, but I have to say, an early elimination in the playoffs is not necessarily a bad sign for the franchise. In fact, this season should be viewed as a resounding success for the Spurs. Why you ask? Well, let me answer that by pointing out the key reasons why Spurs fans should still be standing tall.

1. A First Round Upset Victory Bodes Well for the Spurs
True, the Spurs couldn’t find the rhythm to dispatch the historical playoff fodder in the Steve Nash led Suns, but a shot across the bow to the archrival Dallas Mavericks, a team that was expected to contend with the Lakers for a championship following the blockbuster All Star weekend trade, proved that the Spurs still have the juice to contend with the “big boys.”

2. Richard Jefferson and Antonio McDyess Have Started to Fit In

Despite not playing well for a majority of the season, and really not playing well when it counted in the Suns series, Richard Jefferson has shown some flashes of brilliance on the court this year. By the tail end of the season he was rebounding and defending much better than the Jefferson of old, and even though his scoring proved a dreadful Achilles heel, he brought the type of energy and dedication that makes me think he can still be made a Spur. As for McDyess, the big man has proved every bit as reliable as the McDyess of old. He rebounds. He defends. He hits that 15-17 foot jumpshot. By next year I expect he will be a perfect fit into the starting lineup and a fundamental compliment to Tim Duncan, and a key component in a potential championship run.

3. George Hill, DeJuan Blair, Malik Hairston, and Garrett Temple Bring Youth and Energy

Of the breakout players this year, George Hill has proved to be one of the best. He hits corner threes. He passes well. He defends. Realistically, he is a future franchise player in the making, provided the Spurs can keep him around and surround him with the appropriate pieces, which ought not to be too difficult considering the warm reception Hill has had not only from the fans but from the coaching staff as well. But aside from Hill, Blair, Hairston, and Garrett Temple have all shown great energy and determination. Hairston has shown himself to be a surprisingly solid defender. Temple has proven to be a nimble guard with range out to the three point line. DeJuan Blair has sucked up rebounds like a possessed industrial vacuum. Altogether the backups have played at a surprisingly high level, and next year I expect to see them continue their high level of play as mainstays in the regular rotation.

Of course, there are still a few things that desperately need to happen before the Spurs can clench that elusive fifth title, so on top of my list of good signs I feel compelled to add a list of must haves before a championship dream can become a reality.

1. Welcome to America, Tiago

I’m sure everyone has heard this one before, and I do hate to be unoriginal, but I feel like this is pretty essential to the process. Tiago Splitter is without a doubt the best big man not playing NBA basketball, and the addition of another legitimate seven footer to play alongside the Big Fundamental would be huge for the Spurs. Although Antonio McDyess has played solid basketball for most of the season, he can only do so much, and let’s face it, he is old. Splitter would provide the Spurs with young, high-energy player to come and play defense alongside the two starting bigs, and that is an addition whose importance cannot be understated, especially considering that the alternatives now are Blair, whose small size inhibits his ability to challenge larger forwards like Pau Gasol and Kevin Garnett, and Bonner, whose defensive abilities have proven to be somewhat unimpressive. Throw in a young, seven foot center, and all that changes. Hello Splitter, hello twin towers defense, hello fifth title.

2. Help us Obi Wan Ginobili

I’m not sure if there even is a way to put into words the tremendous contributions a healthy Manu Ginobili is capable of making to the Spurs. He passes. He scores. He rebounds. He blocks. He has an uncanny tendency to do the impossible, and he knows it. Unfortunately, he also has an uncanny tendency to get injured at the most inopportune times. Ankle injuries. Foot injuries. Groin injuries. From the waist down, Manu Ginobili is an accident waiting to happen, and in order for the Spurs to have a chance to contend for the title, we are going to need to make sure that he is in ship shape, not in shambles.

3. Bring Home the Bacon

R.C. Buford has proved himself to consistently be one of the best executives in the NBA, and the Spurs front office has been unimaginably consistent in drafting future basketball phenoms, both foreign and domestic. Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, George Hill, DeJuan Blair the list of All Stars and future All Stars stolen by the Spurs on draft day goes on and on, and although sometimes our draftees don’t end up with the franchise (Dragic and Scola seem the most glaring), the scouts and the fine members of the front office always seem to make the right decision come draft time. And as they say, every team is only one great draft pick away from a dynasty.

4. Forget FIBA

Memo to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, it is time to remember who pays your bills. Representing the Motherland on the international scale is not necessarily a bad thing, but come on; when push comes to shove the loyalty from the players has to be to the team. And not the international team either. It’s time for the NBA off season to be a real off season, as in please, for the love of all that is good and holy, take the summer off! If Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili can actually get some rest and get healthy, then the championship is ours for the taking.

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