PROJECTEDSTARTING FIVE with 2006-07 statistics
PF TIM DUNCAN
KEY BENCHPLAYERS: G Manu Ginóbili, F Robert Horry, G Brent Barry, C Francisco Elson, G-FIme Udoka* *New acquisition
Record: 58-24(3rd in West) Points scored: 98.5 (14th in NBA) Points allowed: 90.1 (1st)Coach: Gregg Popovich (12th season with Spurs)
The tony parkerWorld Tour 2007 has finally downshifted from fifth gear to fourth, but, oh,what a ride it has been. The first stop was Cleveland, where the point guardled the Spurs to their fourth NBA title in nine years and was named Finals MVP.Then there was a wedding in France you may have read about and an exchange ofvows with a Hollywood star you may have heard of. That was followed by ahoneymoon in Turks and Caicos, a trip to Spain to play for the French nationalteam in the European Championships and a stopover in Paris to be inducted intothe French Legion of Honor. "I didn't really have time," Parker says,"to enjoy my championship."
He did, however,have time to get a tattoo of a wedding ring on his left ring finger. NowParker's focus has shifted to delivering another ring (the real deal, not theink variety) to San Antonio--because the Spurs have not yet won back-to-backtitles during their long run of success.
While San Antoniowill be Tim Duncan's team for as long as he wears the silver-and-black, thedefending champ's bid for a repeat depends on the continued development ofParker. On a team whose other core players are all in or past their primes,Parker, 25, still has significant upside.
He made strideslast season, adding a midrange shot to prevent defenders from always goingunderneath on pick-and-rolls. And in the sweep of the Cavaliers, Parker playedwhat coach Gregg Popovich considers his best ball ever, slicing to the rim foreasy buckets and averaging 24.5 points on 56.8% shooting.
The knock onParker's game has been his long-range jumper, but Popovich plans to let Parkershoot the deep ball more this season. "I think it's time to let him goahead and prove [that he can make it]," says Popovich. "If he gets thatdown, he's going to be pretty tough to handle."--G.M.
An opposingteam's scout sizes up the Spurs
Tim Duncan is somuch more skilled than the other big men in today's game. His teammates are putin the right spots to succeed around him, and he's been in the system so longthat he knows how to take advantage of every little thing. As he gets older,he'll still be able to score inside, and he'll still block shots because he'ssmart and knows where to be in their defense. Age won't be a huge issue untilhe gets to the point that he's not able to run up the court as much. . . . Thething that separates Manu Ginóbili from others is his lack of ego. He doesn'tcare if he starts or comes off the bench. He knows he's going to be in therefor the key moments, and he does everything--he plays defense, he passes itgreat, and he does too many other good things to mention. I can't think ofanyone else in the league who compares to him. . . . Bruce Bowen knows how totrip, hold, grab and push his man and get away with it. And it's to his creditthat he's learned all of those things and does them so well.
Since he enteredthe NBA, in 1997, Tim Duncan has played in more regular-season wins (538) thanany other player. Robert Horry ranks second over that span, seeing action in502 wins for the Lakers and the Spurs.
STARTING LINEUP: GREG NELSON; D. CLARKE EVANS/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES (2); BOB ROSATO (2)
RING LEADER Parker hopes to add another to his burgeoning collection.