NBA / Nov 23, 2009 / 4:04 pm

Breaking Down Why the Spurs Are Off to Their Worst Start in a Decade

Tim Duncan

On paper San Antonio looked like a team that was going to challenge the Lakers for the top spot in the West. Right now, the Spurs look like a team that is challenging the Thunder for a playoff spot. The Spurs have come out of the gate struggling (5-6) and up until their win against Washington on Saturday, they lost their previous three games. One of those losses was at home against the Jazz, a team that hasn’t won in San Antonio since 1999. They are off to their worst 10-game start since the Duncan era began.

Expectations were certainly high from the get-go. They acquired the athletic Richard Jefferson in the offseason, which is certainly an upgrade over Bruce Bowen. The Spurs also came into camp relatively healthy – remember Manu Ginobili missed half the season due to injury. They also added a lot of frontcourt help with the acquisitions of Antonio McDyess and rookie DeJaun Blair, who had a great preseason.

Trying to figure out exactly why the Spurs are struggling is hard to pinpoint. The team’s big three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili have been banged up a little bit. But when they’ve been on the court, they all have been a little inconsistent. And even when one of them produces, it doesn’t necessarily result in a win. Everytime Duncan has scored over 20 points in a game this season, the Spurs have lost. The Spurs are also 2-0 when Duncan is not on the floor.

Defense for the Spurs has been an issue as well. Usually, the Spurs are near the top as far as allowing the least amount of points. Now they are in the middle of the pact giving up 97.5 points (up 4.2 ppg from last year). “It’s probably tougher on the defensive end,” Popovich told reporters last week. “Everybody likes to score. All of these guys have been scoring all of their lives. … It’s tougher for a team to come together and trust each other at the defensive end.”

Whether their struggles are injuries, defense, lack of focus or maybe it’s just their age is starting to show, the Spurs have to regroup and figure out what the problem is. Like Washington, they have a few new faces on the team and have dealt with injuries so far, so it’s easier to make an assessment after 25 or so games. But scanning up and down the roster, there is enough weapons there to be a championship contending squad.

What’s wrong with this Spurs team? Do you see them turning it around when Manu gets healthy?

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  • Scott

    TP isn’t THAT old. Neither is RJ, and I can’t imagine Manu is older than 29-30. TD is the aging guy, but is that really the issue. Seems like Pops needs to figure out his new guys and they all need to mesh better.

  • Alex

    give them a little time, manu is 32 and hes got alot of basketball behind him with the spurs, europe, and the national team so his body is battered a bit but he’ll be ready playoff time. theres never any panic in san antonio so i see them playing better soon especially as all the new guys get situated comfortably

  • fred a stair

    dude manu is like 33 have u seen the bald spot?????

  • jermaineand

    m g. is 32. Td can’t do wat he use to do

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    not an issue. the spurs are a 2nd half team. always have been; always will be. they get their thing going in spring. right after the allstar break and trade deadline. in march they’ll win like 12 of 15 games. watch.

    not to worry now.

    but they are a team that is gonna get beat in the 2nd round no matter what.

  • Rizwan

    Jeez doesnt Dime have another writer, every article is by Gerald! He’s certainly earning his money, plus overtime!

    PS: Spurs suck, and thier summer moves were overrated especially RJ who doesnt seem to fit in the team.

    Go SUNS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Oscarisalakerfan

    They might comeback, I never count out those old dogs.

  • Rizwan

    and enough of this Spurs are a second half of the season team! That wont be much use if the first half they stink!

  • jjustice

    Injuries and chemistry. They’ll be fine after the all-star break.

  • http://heckler@aol.com Heckler

    spurs need to start thinking about life after timmy duncan. he aint old age wise, but bball wise, he’s got so much mileage. i dont think he can carry a team anymore. in fact, tony parker has carried them thru the regular season the past few yrs.

  • karizmatic

    The problem is Tim Duncan is starting to age a little bit and his play hasn’t been as consistent as it has been in previous years. They have him in the high post more as opposed to the low post which means lower percentage shots, so even if he does get those points he probably isn’t shooting as high a percentage and he’s not in position to rebound as frequently. The perimeter guys, haven’t yet adjusted to the fact that more and more of the scoring load is going to fall on them. But yes the key is Ginobili, and Poppovich may have to shake up the lineup a little bit and make Manu the starter. On this team Manu probably needs to be taking a bunch of shots and averaging over 20 ppg at least. Jefferson was supposed to be a key part in the scoring ability of the first team, but his integration hasn’t been as smooth as hoped. They should give him a few more isos. Even though they cite defense as the problem I think that will pick up as the season goes on. I can’t see San Antonio remaining a sub par defensive team. So the short of it is they might be lagging a little right now, but I still expect them to be right in the middle of things by All star break.

  • mb

    A team that is that old is not going to be a second half team. If they can’t get it going now then they are going to have a hard time playing catchup.

  • zaboo

    good night spurs! it’s a wrap.

  • mb

    I agree with Rizwan, Gerald is earnin his stripes

  • Shady

    I’m really surprised by the Spurs bad start. Their weakness has usually been a lack of a solid athletic small forward and good backup big men. RJ should be a great fit, as he is a fairly fundamental player and seems like a very coachable player. In the preseason and during the first few games Blair looked great. On paper, their record doesn’t make sense at all.

  • Steve A

    Jefferson isn’t good. Period. He’s the most overrated player in the NBA. When guys like Matt Bonner are playing key minutes, you know you’re not looking to good. They’ll rebound and will be a tough out in the playoffs, but they aren’t winning the title. Everyone is living off of what they used to do.

  • Steve A

    *too good.

  • rangerjohn

    ok to all the “td cant do it anymore” and the “he is shooting a lower % because he is on the high post” crowd, go look up his numbers, he is shooting the 2nd highest % in his career, he is averaging higher rebounds and assists this yr then he did in both the 05 and 07 title yrs. the only difference is his scoring is down and his blocks.

    the problem with the spurs right now is their defense, they cant get stops when they need to for nothing. in the 3 games their defense showed signs of life, they are 2-1, beating dallas and washington and losing to dallas in a close game. pop has some strange and different defensive rotations and it is obviously messing with the new guys.

    tony has definitely become the offensive focus when he is in, and i am sure the new guys have all practiced repeatedly since the start of training camp, when tony drives you go xxxxxxxx, when tony is out they are extra lost because hill is not tony and while becoming a good PG, he has a different game.

  • the cynic

    bench bonner, give Blair bonners minutes. Start Ratliff. rest tp more, give Hill those extra minutes. Pray Manu can stay healthy

  • Ian

    spurs suck? how i hope you guys keep that 1st seed and we the 8th my man. you know what happens to your team everyteam we play you in the playoffs.

  • baron

    Man this is just BAU for the spurs, they almost always start slow.

    With all the new guys, no spurs fan expected them to start like 20-3. it’s how ya finish that matters.

    i.e. Dallas had the best record then lost to Golden State in the 1st round. et al REGULAR SEASON DOESN’T MEAN MUCH.

    i.e. New England Patriots can’t finish a perfect season against the New York Giants in Super Bowl XLIII.

    uhhhh back to the Spurs – they are playing younger guys this year, too

    blair (oberto), hill (vaughn), bogans (udoka), jefferson (bowen)

    sorry but that looks younger to me.

    i remember they had Kevin Willis, Steve Smith, Steve Kerr, Glenn Robinson, Danny Ferry… lots of vets have won a championship there as role players. McDyess and Ratliff are looking to do the same.

    so they have problems with the younger, much more athletic Thunder. but OKC ain’t a real playoff team, either. SA has always been built for 7-game series.

  • Bron42 aka Had Springs before slamball

    Simple, rj is completely overrated and he’s not even considered a star. He throws off their whole flow. He was supposed to step up on the nets and bucks and has been a waste

  • LakeShow84

    “Simple, rj is completely overrated and he’s not even considered a star. He throws off their whole flow. He was supposed to step up on the nets and bucks and has been a waste”

    Couldnt have said it better.. oh and their best (and biggest) big man is showing his age.. they arent tops on defense and WONT be unless Timmay can turn the clock back and provide better help.. hes the only who can really..

    Like i said before the year started, they simply arent big enough to truly contend with us.. and i dont mean big enough for rebounds i mean big enough to scare people out the paint..

  • heartbreaker85

    this article’s too early.

    we all know how the spurs operate. they test the waters early, figure out what rotation works and gets down and dirty only by mid-january getting into the playoffs.

    td looks lean enough and between him and gasol, imma go with the best power forward in the game.

    too bad the rookie dejuan’s too short to handle bynum.

  • Ian

    “to contend with us” sounding a bit like dc my man. i didnt know the lakers were the only team in the league we had to play.

    but yeah we need another big man.

  • Kolshak

    Having watched over 95 percent of all Spurs games since the Duncan/Pop era began, I can definitely say two things thus far: (1) this is one of the most talented Spurs teams ever assembled, and (2) this team simply hasn’t meshed yet. They are not executing on offense and are missing assignments on defense. And injuries have slowed down the chemistry process.

    Once they figure it out–trust me, they will–they will be up there in the West. I expect their +/- average to be around 7.0 which is close to what the Lakers had last year.

    They’ll definitely be a team to avoid in the playoffs.

  • Detroit Dave

    What if Chris Bosh signed with the Spurts this off season and started at the 4?

  • http://WARROCK Bryan

    ..i still bELievw in them..
    ..bElieve me they will be this season champion if they have a cpmpLete and hEaLthy Line-up..