SAN ANTONIO (AP) No NBA team has more victories over the last 20 years than the San Antonio Spurs. Regular season, postseason, doesn’t matter, they’re atop the list.
And now they’re even winning in the offseason.
Getting LaMarcus Aldridge to sign with them over the summer was a coup for the Spurs, who for whatever reason typically aren’t the team landing the biggest prize on the free-agent market. The former Portland star is coming back to a part of the world with which he’s very familiar – he’s from Dallas and played his college ball about an hour from San Antonio at Texas.
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So a team that went to the NBA Finals in 2013, won the title in 2014 and posted 55 wins a season ago now looks even better, maybe better than ever.
”Over the years we’ve missed out on a bunch of people,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. ”It’s kind of the first time that we’ve gotten a guy of this caliber. I was floored by it.”
The Western Conference is loaded again, starting with the reigning NBA champions in Golden State. But expectations around the Spurs – who lured David West away from Indiana while also keeping 2014 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and veteran guard Manu Ginobili around as part of their big summer – couldn’t be higher, and Aldridge is already buying into San Antonio’s simple but proven way of thinking.
”Guys come in, they work hard, they go home,” said Aldridge, an All-Star in each of the last four seasons. ”Guys here are focused.”
Aldridge also got some preseason exposure to another Spurs tradition – resting players when they need it, with hopes of having them freshest when things matter most. When Aldridge had some tightness in thigh during camp, Popovich insisted he take the day off.
”He didn’t want to do it,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. ”Well, welcome to the Spurs. Go sit.”
Here’s some of what to know about the Spurs entering this season:
WINNING DUNCAN: If Duncan appears in 49 games that the Spurs win this season, he’ll be the third player in NBA history to participate in 1,000 victories by his team (excluding playoffs). He’s currently No. 5 on the all-time wins list and should rise to No. 3 quickly, considering he’s only one behind Karl Malone (952) and John Stockton (953) in that department. Once he passes that legendary duo, the only players with more wins will be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1,074) and Robert Parish (1,014).
WEST’S ROLE: West, who left more than $10 million on the table just to sign with San Antonio this offseason, figures to be part of the Spurs’ second unit with Duncan and Aldridge occupying the first-string big-man roles. That means his streak of 780 consecutive regular-season and playoff games started will end. West hasn’t made an appearance as a substitute since April 20, 2005. ”It’s incredible that he would … give up what he gave up,” Duncan said.
NUMBERS WATCH: Aldridge has averaged at least 21 points per game in each of the next five seasons. Chances are, he won’t be expected to extend that streak. Over the last decade the Spurs have had only one player – Tony Parker in 2008-09 – average at least 21 points. Their balanced approach clearly works, given than San Antonio has been a top-seven scoring team in each of the last five seasons.
POP’S LONGEVITY: Popovich is eight regular-season games shy of 1,500 as the Spurs’ coach. To put his longevity in that job in perspective, consider that there have been 216 coaching changes – more than seven per team, on average – in the NBA since he took over on the San Antonio bench. And he’s simply never had a down year, with the Spurs winning at least 61 percent of their games in every full season that he’s been in charge.
FINISHING KICK: On paper, it’s tough to find a team that finishes with a more daunting stretch this season than the Spurs. Out of San Antonio’s final 18 regular-season games, eight are against Oklahoma City, Golden State and Memphis. Most of the other 10 games in that span figure to be matchups against likely playoff clubs.