Age Bound to Hurt San Antonio Spurs

By: Sean Speirs

 

     Some say that valuable experience comes with age.  Unfortunately, experience will not be enough to help the San Antonio Spurs as their old age begins to rust this off-season.

 

     After enduring a tough NBA post-season this year with series against the Phoenix Suns (4-1) and the New Orleans Hornets (4-3), the Spurs were hoping their road to another NBA championship would be less stressful.  However, MVP Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers had a different agenda, and overthrew the defending champs in the Western Conference Finals 4-1.

 

     With their season now over, the future of the Spurs does not appear that promising anymore, especially since their squad will be one year older come next season.  Typically, one would say big deal, it is only one year.  But to the Spurs, that year could mean the demise of their championship franchise.

 

     Currently, the average age of the Spurs is 31.2, a range of two to seven years older than the average age of the other NBA teams [youngest being the Chicago Bulls at 24.2].  11 players of the Spurs 15-man lineup are 30 years old or older.  Six of those 11 will become 35 years old or older during next season, including starters Bruce Bowen (36) and Michael Finley (35), role-players Brent Barry (36), Robert Horry (37), Damon Stoudamire (34) and Kurt Thomas (35).

 

     With such an older team developing in the league, how long will it take until they cannot keep up with other, mostly younger, opponents? 

 

     The answers to this question became evident throughout all of the Spurs playoff games.

 

     Bruce Bowen could not keep up his once stellar defense against Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan suffered a slow inside game due to Hornets big men Tyson Chandler and David West, Manu Ginobli was playing through constant injuries, and Michael Finley could not find his deadly outside shot.

 

     Although the Spurs had an overall good season, clinching second place (56-26) in the Southwest Division, the true test of an NBA team is always the playoffs, whose outcomes can change the face of teams who fail to produce. 

 

     The Spurs this year was one of those teams, as the first signs of rust started to show, officially setting an expiration date for their once effective bench.

 

 

     Enough is enough.  There is no reason for this team to hold on to older players any longer that make up most of their lineup.  The Spurs already have experience from their superstars Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli (all have won 3 or more titles with this team).  By keeping older players, the Spurs are carrying dead weight that is preventing their “Big Three” and overall team from becoming a dominant future contender.

 

     –Bottom line: changes need to be made and fresh legs are necessary in order to compliment the quick style of play from starting point guard Tony Parker (26), the true future of this franchise.  What is needed, more specifically, is an agile/aggressive shooting guard/forward that can drive the ball, finish in the middle, and settle with the occasional outside jumper.  Younger Spurs Matt Bonner ( 28 ), DeMarr Johnson ( 28 ) and Ian Mahinmi (21) will never fill those needs and assets at the pace they are going, all three of these players average between two to four points a game.

 

     For General Manager R.C. Buford and Head Coach Gregg Popovich, in order to accomplish this main goal of change, the best chance the Spurs have is to let go of some, if not all, of their veteran free agents (Horry, Finley, and Thomas) and invest in a younger player through NBA draft trades.  They could also depend on a massive off-season trade that can bring over some youth and adequate help from off the bench.  Either way, expect the Spurs to try to edge their way into trade offerings and draft picks this off-season.

 

     All in all, if the Spurs got anything out of the 2007-2008 playoffs, it was a wake-up call from the future, warning them of the downfall that is about to come. 

 

    This is truly a rude awakening that cannot be ignored any longer.  If serious moves are not administered this off-season, the Spurs are in for a rough season next year.

 

     At this point, it’s safe to say that it’s time to panic.

Sean Speirs

Images Courtesy of YAHOOSPORTS.COM

Hey SportsZone fans and readers,

Welcome to “SZ: Questions of the Week”.

This feature on SportsZone’s webpage is where fans/readers will be able to answer sports questions that will be posted every week.  Readers will be able to give their opinion and might even debate with our very own panelists (who will answer the same questions), as they do on-air during the academic year at American University.  If you see a posted question that you want to take part in answering or see an absurd answer that you think is wrong,  let your voice be heard and leave a comment.  This is your chance to join the interaction and debate that is seen onSportsZone every week, only on ATV.

Thanks: Sean Speirs and the SportsZone Crew

Questions of the Week: Week 1

1) The NBA playoffs have finally reached the Conference Finals.  In the East, the Detroit Pistsons are up against the “Big 3’s” Boston Celtics (a great analysis of the matchup has been written by Sean “Beard” Wagman–see below).  Meanwhile, in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers are facing the defending champions San Antonio Spurs.  Of these two series, which teams will we see in the NBA Finals?

2) The Yankees are in an ongoing slump this season, capping it off with their recent loss to the New York Mets this past weekend.  Without A-Rod, the Yankees are 8-12 this season.  Should this team start to worry, or is this a repeat of the Yankees we saw last season (same type of slump, but came back strong to make it into the playoffs)?  Who is to blame, the players or new manager Joe Girardi?

3) Believe it or not, among all the other sports, the NHL is still going on and its Stanley Cup Finals time as the Detroit Red Wings (going for their fourth Cup since ’97)  take on the Pittsburgh Penguins (in the finals for the first time since ’92).  Who will be crowned victor in this epic series and why? 

With both Conference Finals finally set, I am here to give you my preview of the upcoming series. Today I will start with the East and tomorrow I will do the West.

Eastern Conference Finals

Boston Celtics (1) vs. Detroit Pistons

To steal from ESPN.com’s scouts inc., this is the series we have all been waiting for on the Eastern Side since the playoffs began. These are the two top teams in the Eastern Conference and both have a legitimate shot of winning it all against whoever wins the West.

Guards: Advantage Detroit (but only if Billups is healthy)

I have always really liked Rajon Rondo and to me, he really proved his worth during the series with Cleveland. He ran the offense efficiently and played good defense. Ray Allen on the other hand has collapsed into being the worst starter left among the four teams (yes worse than Vladimir Radmanovic). Everyone knew that he could not defend or drive coming into this season. However, his deadly shooting has rendered him about as useful as a poopy flavored lolli pop. In order for the Celtics to have any sort of chance in this series, he really needs to step it up.

Detroits guards on the other hand have really played well. Billups has played like the professional we all know he is. When he went down, Richard Hamilton really stepped up his game and carried the Pistons into the third round. Right now, there is nobody better coming off a screen and shooting a jumper (which used to be Ray Allen’s job).

Forwards: Advantage Boston

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are what makes this team go. The impact Garnett has had on this team is unbelievable and has made Bill Simmons (ESPN’s the Sports Guy –> and yes, I am gunning for that job, which will be mine some day) turn into a teen-aged girl at an N’Sync concert (wow, I am really dating myself with that reference). Pierce, on the other hand, has been on this team forever and is the only player left from the pre-Danny Ainge days. As much as Garnett brings to the table, he is the heart and soul of this team. His game seven performance against LBJ was amazing and shows that he can take over a game against anybody who tries to defend him.

Detroit’s forwards are not weak though. Sheed and Tayshaun Prince are excellent players who have the experience necessary to win. Prince has become one of the elite defenders in the NBA and regularly guards to the opposition’s best perimeter player. He is also effective at using his long arms on the offensive end of the floor where he is deadly from the corner and has a good understanding of his own personal strengths and weaknesses. Rasheed Wallace has become the Piston’s best three point shooter in the playoffs and has the “balls” to take that last shot (even though Chauncey does have ice water running through veins). His ability to knock down that jumper spreads the floor and gives space for Billups and Prince to take it to the hole.

Center: Advantage Neither

Kendrick Perkins of the Celtics and Antonio McDyess of the Pistons are both big men who stick to the low post and offer defense and rebounding. Neither is much of a scorer but both teams need to be wary of offensive rebounds. Also, neither of these players are playing huge minutes right now. However, McDyess used to be an excellent player, I would look for him to make a huge difference in one game.

Bench: Advantage Boston

I really like the depth and talent of Boston’s bench. Eddie House was a revelation in Game 7 providing great energy. Leon Powe, Big Baby Davis, and PJ Brown offer great depth and versatility for the front line and can throw a myriad of different styles at Detroit’s big men. James Posey is the three point shooter off the bench and can match up against Detroit’s best perimeter player on the defensive end.

Detroit does have some interesting options though. Jason Maxiell is a more experienced and explosive version of Leon Powe and has pretty much taken over for McDyess as Detroit’s low post option. Rodney Stuckey proved he can play when he filled in for Billups over the last two games of the Orlando series. He will be an interesting matchup for Boston because of his ability to play both backcourt positions. Beyond those two, two veterans who provide a steady hand, Theo Ratliff and Lindsey Hunter, add shot blocking (Ratliff) and a reliable fourth guard (Hunter).

Coaching: Advantage Detroit

Let me just say that these are possibly two of the worse coaches in the NBA (them being Doc Rivers and Flip Saunders) and I am not going to waste mine or yours going into the details of this mind game match up. I just want to say that I hope Doc Rivers sticks to a rotation and redeems himself for one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the playoffs in round one (how do you go to seven games against ATLANTA?????).

Key Matchup: Paul Pierce vs Tayshaun Prince

If game seven of the Cleveland series showed us anything, its that Paul Pierce is the most important player on Boston. Yes KG was excellent but this always has and always will be Paul’s team. If Tayshaun can play Pierce even, then the Pistons will walk away with this series. If not, then Detroit is going to be in trouble. I would look for Detroit to utilize Prince’s long arms to try and lock him up one on one and offer little or no help as they will try to keep the ball out of KG’s hands.

X-Factor: Sam Cassell, PG Boston Celtics

Yes, he did not play in game seven. Yes, he has been horrendous so far in the playoffs. Yes, he is perhaps the ugliest human being in the world and yes, he may not even be human. But that does not matter. If he can provide ten-fifteen minutes of solid basketball then Boston should count there blessings. However, if he reverts to his ball-hogging style, then watch him ride the pine for the rest of the playoffs, leaving Boston dangerously thin in the back court.

Prediction: Celtics in Seven

I believe that is about as even as a matchup one could hope for. Both of these teams play solid fundamental basketball and great defense. I just see Boston having just a little bit more on the offensive end. And even though Boston just went through a highly exhaustive and emotional series with Cleveland, I don’t see KG and Paul Pierce letting this team down and playing with low energy..

BEARD