Contributed by guest blogger Frank Palmasani
They’re old. They’re out of shape. Their best player is old, the second best is now visually impaired, and the third is balding. You’ve heard it all before.
It’s no secret. The San Antonio Spurs are an older team. Tim Duncan can still bask in the old days when they traded buzzer beaters and game winners with the “Kobe-Shaq era” Lakers. Ask any Spur-hater and you’ll get a long list of reasons on why the Spurs are more of a nuisance then a pleasure to watch. You hear talks about Tim Duncan. His voice, his age, the look on his face; all of it has taken a fair share of pointless scrutiny. Tony Parker, too, has had his skill challenged. He may be the quickest point guard on-ball in the league, but he doesn’t drop the thirty points a game of a Russell Westbrook or Derrick Rose. You can be sure that he has to hear about it.
However, what you won’t hear from this intolerable group of NBA nere-do-wells is that the San Antonio Spurs are the team to beat in the West. Regardless of their new look, the Lakers have not had the time to play together and form an effective game plan. While Steve Nash is very much one of the top point guards in the NBA, the Lakers have a different set up then Nash will be used to. All-Star point guard or not, it is still Kobe’s team and he is going to assert his touches per game. He doesn’t have to have the most touches, and he probably won’t, but it’s the natural style of the Kobe-era Lakers. Dwight Howard’s return to the court will be timely, but still costly. The missed out playing time will affect the speed at which the chemistry of team is built. The Spurs, however, have a game plan and perfect chemistry that works.
They propose a major obstacle to the Laker’s this season and for season’s to come; especially as long as Tim Duncan is still lacing up every night. He’s been a big man that both Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum have had problems containing. While Andrew is stronger and Pau is longer, neither can compare the Mr. Fundamental. His skill on both defense and offense, honed sharply by years of doing it right over and over again. So the major issue that Duncan will pose against this new Laker team is whether or not Dwight Howard can handle him.
Can he? Dwight Howard is easily the best center in the league, no facts can detest to that fact. He’s been the best rebounder, blocker, and low post defender that the league has seen since Shaquille O’Neil. Controversy and all, he is still Superman. But can he break the combination of finesse, length, skill and strength that Tim Duncan brings? Can Howard handle the play of a big man that can kill you at mid-range, destroy you in the post, and seems to know the exact calculus and geometry of the bank shot? Maybe; but that match up is just one of the few that will pose a serious problem for the Lakers this season.
Tony Parker v. Steve Nash: Oh the possibilities. The three point marksman and floor-general extraordinaire takes on the quick footed Frenchman Tony Parker. Despite what you may have heard about Nash, his defense does not lack to such an extent that he can’t hold his own. He’s quick with ball and sees the floor better than any other player in the NBA with exception to possibly Chris Paul. However, even the most athletic of point guards like Russell Westbrook have had problems containing Parker on and off ball. This point guard match up will definitely be a contributing factor to how these two Western powerhouses match up this season.
The Spurs are a great team, arguably the best in the West for now. Even being overtaken by the Thunder in the Western Conference finals last year does not fully ingrain the Thunder as the best in the West. It will take this up and coming season to truly define the top team. There is one thing for sure: The Lakers may have the talent, they may have the money, but they also have the competition.
The top 3 Eastern Conference competition is next…