In PtR's inaugural In The Bonus: a round-table style discussion of an exciting summer in the NBA, predictions for next season and a peak into the wilder side of Kawhi Leonard.
1. Two months removed from the Spurs 5th Championship...what is the sweetest part of the Spurs' most recent crown?
Michael Erler: That when I think of the Spurs (and I think of them quite often) my first thought is no longer of their failure, their choke, their missed opportunity, so on. There is no longer that typical dynasty bell curve of "oh they had their dominant stretch from '03 to '07 but then they never made it back to the top of the mountain." Instead, they threw that bell curve on its head thanks to their new wave of young players to complement the big three. So yeah, I'll just say that the best part is when I think of them now it's a happy memory/feeling rather than a sad one.
Jesus Gomez: Redemption for Manu Ginobili and Tiago Splitter. Those guys clearly struggled against the Heat in the 2012/13 Finals to the point where their return was questioned by a significant part of the Spurs' faithful. So seeing them play at a high level and quash any doubts about their value was sweet.
Bruno Passos: Vindication. It wouldn't seem necessary for a team with the Spurs' resume but, after Game 6 of the 2013 Finals, last season's run was the kind of catharsis I needed as a fan. Re-living it is like watching the last 20 minutes of The Shawshank Redemption over and over again.
Taylor Young: Fullness. There's nothing else left to be desired. It's a sad feeling to go to a restaurant and realize that you ordered the wrong meal. Though the Spurs run had tasted great, something about the nature of their runs and brutality of their worst defeats always left Spurs fans wanting more. But the way they performed and avenged losses against OKC and Miami totally gave fans a full heart. I would love to see them win back to back championships, but it would just be an extra sweet cherry on top.
J.R. Wilco: The sweetest part is the personal difference it made to the fans. One of this website's earliest readers and commenters recently died of cancer, but she got to see the Spurs win the fifth, just like she'd been wanting for so long. We all have our own stories of how the win has made our lives better, but hers is my favorite.
2. True or False? Free agency and off season moves around the league helped the Spurs' chances of repeating.
Erler: F alse. LeBron James left a situation in Miami where he was clearly playing with aging, inferior talent. With Love, Irving and Waiters, that offense is gonna be bonkers. They're not going to be able to stop anybody, but overall I still like this group more than the one he had in Miami, especially with Wade's knees deteriorating. I the moves the Bulls made as well and if Rose can come back to 90 percent of what he was (the U.S. team scrimmages have been encouraging), they could be a scary team. Lastly, the Thunder, who the Spurs basically played in the real NBA Finals last May, added a shooter in Morrow, who knocked down the threes at a 45 percent clip last year.
Gomez: True. LeBron and all the commotion in the Eastern conference will get the most attention. The Spurs still need to come out of the West for the dissolution of the East's one powerhouse to truly matter. So it's much more important that their direct competition hasn't improved. No Love for the Dubs or Bosh for the Rockets helps the Spurs.
Passos: True. Beyond the Clips' signing of Spencer Hawes, few moves have really improved the chances of Western Conference contenders. The fact that Houston was unable to sign Bosh (while losing Parsons, Lin and Asik in the process) is a bit of a relief. The Thunder are, well, still the Thunder, while the Cavs and Bulls replace the Heat and Pacers in what looks like another two-horse race in the East.
Young: False. I know LeBron will have a tough time winning the title in his first year in Cleveland, but I refuse to count out a team with him on it. Especially now that he'll be surrounded with a hungry cast that views him as "dad." Also, Steve Ballmer's epic freakout in his Clippers introduction might be a sign of a real threat to the West. I could see the Clips riding the Ballmer wave to a Finals appearance.
Wilco: False. But the moves didn't hurt the Spurs' chances and that's enough for me. Talk about the East all you want, but the Spurs have to get out of the West before they can defend the title. The Thunder have added a shooter, so that's not good, but I don't think anyone else improved too much. Dallas took a step backwards (losing Vince Carter will hurt more than you'd think) and I don't see anyone else's moves making that big a difference -- sorry Clippers. In the end, it'll be Spurs vs. Thunder or Thunder vs. Spurs for the right to play in the Finals.
3. The Spurs had a very Spursian offseason. What was the most important thing they accomplished this summer?
Erler: They ordered Manu Ginobili to not play in the FIBA World Cup. Ginobili all but admitted without that letter he would've given it a go, even though he felt in workouts that the stress fracture in his fibula hasn't healed yet. If he tried playing in that tournament he would've completely shattered the leg and his career would've ended on a sad, sour note. Instead, there's a decent chance he'll be fully recovered and ready to contribute again, even at 37.
Gomez: Retaining Boris Diaw on a team friendly contract has to be near the top. Diaw received the bump in salary he deserved but the Spurs retained flexibility by getting creative and only partially guaranteeing the last two years of his four year contract. That's just smart cap management.
Passos: Reloading the exact same team for a title defense. It's one thing to keep a championship team's core intact, but ensuring they were able to retain guys like Boris, Patty and Matt Bonner (and at such reasonable contracts) underlines the emphasis PATFO place on continuity.
Young: Tony Parker extended. This means that with the Pop extension, a remnant of the Big Three will extend into the next generation. That's huge for the longevity of the Spurs!
Wilco: Somehow convincing their main horses (can we call them the Big 4 yet?) to all stay home for the summer. Yes, there was all the drama over Ginobili's ankle, but Duncan, Parker and Leonard all decided to rest up (if you can call working out three times a day a rest for Kawhi) instead of playing in the World Cup. Being fresh from the very beginning of the season should loom large for a team that has a legit shot at repeating.
4. A report came out that Kawhi Leonard had Larry in San Diego for three days, but left him at home for two days because of his workout schedule. Describe a "wild" day for Kawhi Leonard in summertime, one where he really lets loose..
Erler: I imagine he has a lady friend so I think a wild day for him would be going to mini golf with her, then they split a pizza and maybe return home and watch a movie on netflix. It's entirely possible instead of the movie Kawhi puts on Games 3-5 of the Finals.
Gomez: I'm sure he had some normal 23-year-old guy fun this summer. But playing along to his image, I imagine a wild day would involve cutting his workout short, then going home to eat unhealthy food and play with the Spurs on 2K14, turning automatic substitutions off and taking every single shot with virtual Kawhi. No corner threes either; just fade away jumpers against double teams.
Passos: At a local fast food chain, Kawhi asks the cashier for a water cup. Then, after glancing over both shoulders, his heart racing, he selects Sprite instead.
Young: I see Kawhi being extremely good at something very odd. I wouldn't be surprised if he was the world's best at ski ball and just posted up in an arcade on a Saturday and smashed records.
Wilco: There's no such thing as a "wild" day when every day is the same: Get up. Work out. Think about getting better. Work out again. Take a nap. Watch video. Work out again. Visualize improvement. Work out one more time. Go to bed.
5. The Spurs schedule just came out. What do you predict the Spurs record and seeding to be this season?
Erler: I'll say 57-25 and the second seed, behind the Clips.
Gomez: Considering the Spurs won 62 games last season and this year they will have a rested Ginobili and Parker, it's tempting to throw out there a number on the high sixties. But I think 62 is a good figure, so I'll go with that and the Spurs narrowly edging out the Thunder for first in the West and the league.
Passos: 60-22. Second behind OKC.
Young: Part of me wants to say something crazy, like 68-14. Which is possible if they play like they did in the last three rounds all year. But, I don't think they'll get that lucky. So, 56-26 and the third seed, OKC gets two, Clips get homecourt.
Wilco: 62-20 First seed again.
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