There are a lot of similarities with this San Antonio Spurs team and their team from the last lockout-shortened season back in 1999.
Both ended the regular season with the best record in the Western Conference, both were anchored by an aging center near the end of his career and both teams rode their younger players through the regular season in order to keep their veterans fresh for a strong playoff run.
And the Spurs hope that by following a similar recipe as the one they followed back in 1999 that they will also see the same result: an NBA title.
The ’99 team had three starters who were 33 or older and another starter who was 30 years of age. David Robinson was the All-Star center who was nearing the end of his career. His skills were diminishing but he was still dangerous in spurts due to his versatile game.
Second-year player Tim Duncan was a beast though and the Spurs rode his broad shoulders all the way to the NBA Finals. The Spurs also got significant production from two of their other young players, Malik Rose and Antonio Daniels.
And just like their current squad, that ’99 team was also deep. Besides Rose and Daniels, the Spurs also had Jaren Jackson, Steve Kerr, Will Perdue, and Jerome Kersey coming off the bench.
This year Tim Duncan is that “aging center” having turned 36 this month. And for those who want to argue that he is a power forward let’s stop that argument right now. Duncan is and has always been a center.
He’s 7’0” tall and plays in the post. Regardless of whether he wants to be called a center or not, his size and game clearly puts him in the category of a center.
The player that the 2012 Spurs have ridden is Tony Parker. While he’s not as advanced in years as stars Duncan and Manu Ginobili, he is just a shade under 30 himself.
The Spurs have gotten a lot of production out of their young players this season. DeJaun Blair, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and rookie Kawhi Leonard have been sensational giving coach Gregg Popovich the ability to rest his stars on a regular basis throughout the season.
The Spurs were also able to add some veteran help by bringing in Stephen Jackson and Boris Diaw. Jackson of course is a former Spur who was here for the championship run back in 2003 and Diaw is a very versatile player that can play all three frontcourt positions.
Regardless of how well all of these other players play though, this team will only go as far as Parker, Ginobili and Duncan take them. Parker has had an MVP-caliber season and Duncan has shown flashes of his former self throughout the year. If San Antonio’s “big three” can put it all together in the playoffs then they just might be raising another championship banner come June.
Roosevelt Hall is an NFL Blogger for The Sport Mentalist and an NBA Blogger for The Sport Mentalist 2. He is also a Sports Reporter for Pro Sports Lives. He can be contacted at RHall_TPFB@Yahoo.com and be sure to follow him on Twitter @sportmentalist.