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Ian Thomsen
October 30, 2000
The old center persuaded the young star who persuaded the new guard to play here and win
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October 30, 2000

3 San Antonio Spurs

The old center persuaded the young star who persuaded the new guard to play here and win

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Projected Lineup



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Sean Elliott


6.0 ppg

2.5 rpg

1.5 apg

35.8 FG%

35.1 3FG%


Tim Duncan


23.2 ppg

12.4 rpg

3.2 apg

2.23 bpg

49.0 FG%


David Robinson


17.8 ppg

9.6 rpg

2.29 bpg

1-21 spg

51.2 FG%


Derek Anderson


16.9 ppg

4.0 rpg

3.4 apg

1.41 spg

43.8 FG%


Avery Johnson


11.2 ppg

6.0 apg

1.9 rpg

0.93 spg

47.3 FG%



1999-2000 KEY STATS


Terry Porter


9.4 ppg

3.3 apg

2.8 rpg

44.7 FG%

43.5 3FG%


Samaki Walker


5.1 ppg

3.8 rpg

0.49 bpg

44.9 FG%

68.3 FT%


Antonio Daniels


6.2 ppg

2.6 apg

0.81 spg

47.4 FG%

33.3 3FG%


Danny Ferry


7.3 ppg

3.8 rpg

1.1 apg

49.7 FG%

44.0 3FG%


Malik Rose


6.7 ppg

4.5 rpg

0.60 apg

45.7 FG%

72.2 FT%

New acquisition
(R) Rookie (statistics for final college year)
*PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 113)

Help often comes from the most unexpected sources; in the case of the Spurs it arrived courtesy of the woebegone Clippers, in the person of shooting guard Derek Anderson. "Derek adds what we didn't have—a young and athletic player on the perimeter," San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich says of his prized free-agent signee. "With Derek and with Sean [ Elliott] coming back, we have people who can break down the defense at the end of the shot clock. We didn't have that last year."

Elliott played only sporadically at small forward in the final month of last season after recovering from a kidney transplant, forcing San Antonio to rely on swingman Mario Elie from the outside. But at 36, Elie no longer had the quickness to keep teams honest. Fresh legs were essential. "With the rules put in last year, you can't touch a man when he's on the perimeter," Popovich says. "Teams that can penetrate and break down the defense have the advantage."

More than a dozen teams showed interest in the 26-year-old Anderson. None wanted him more than the Spurs. They held a private dinner for him downtown. Kids in DEREK ANDERSON #1 T-shirts waited to greet him at his hotel. Former team owner Red McCombs, who now owns the Minnesota Vikings, hosted a lavish party in Anderson's honor.

Most important, Popovich laid out the Spurs' reason for going through all this trouble: their steadfast belief that Anderson could help them add a second championship to their 1998-99 title. That was reinforced when All-Star forward Tim Duncan twice met Anderson at the San Antonio airport—first to recruit him, then to welcome him after he had agreed to sign for the $2.25 million salary-cap exception. "Tim told me that the teams they struggled against last year were the teams with athletic two guards, and the West is full of them," Anderson says. "I'm willing to listen and learn and accept the role I have to play."

"We needed a slasher," says Duncan. "Derek's going to fit in well here."

Duncan was a formidable recruiter, which figures: He was well-acquainted with the Spurs' recruiting pitch. The most-sought-after free agent last summer, Duncan was weighing his options in July when 35-year-old David Robinson flew from his off-season home in Hawaii to San Antonio. Duncan was persuaded that the Admiral had a few more good years left and that together they could win another title. Duncan resigned for three years and $32.6 million.

Robinson's age and ailing back cannot be dismissed in assessing the Spurs' title hopes, but he did report to training camp looking more flexible than he has in years, thanks to a new regimen of yoga. Point guard Avery Johnson, 35, must also stay healthy through the postseason grind, knowing that after signing a one-year, $8 million contract, this may be his last chance for a ring. Then there's the condition of the 32-year-old Elliott, whom Popovich will monitor closely. "We're going to be sure to hydrate him more man anybody else," Popovich says.

The Spurs figure to be one of the most well-rounded and highly motivated teams in the league—their motivation having been heightened after they became the first defending champion to lose in the first round of the playoffs since the 76ers in 1983-84. Duncan, whose injured left knee sidelined him for the four-game series against the Suns, has recovered from off-season surgery and is poised to regain the dominant form that made him the MVP runner-up in '98-99.

According to Popovich's plan, the Spurs will improve dramatically once Anderson grows comfortable in their system. Admittedly, Anderson had a few bad habits from his Clippers days to overcome during training camp. "I gave the effort last year, but I'm not going to try to fool you," he says. "It's not easy after you've played really hard for 45 games and gotten no results."

That won't be a problem for him this season.

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