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San Antonio’s entire championship roster remains the same, in hopes of the franchise’s first repeat title. other teams not long after hoisting the trophy. “It’s great. You don’t see it often. Not many teams win a championship and have the same team coming back. It’s very rare,” Green said. “It’s very comforting. It gives us a good deal of confidence going forward. I think we have a good shot at making a good push again this year.” Bringing back the roster ensures that every Chris Covatta/Getty Images player knows exactly what’s expected of them on both ends of the floor, especially on defense, which might be where Popovich’s true genius lies. San Antonio’s entire starting five is solid defensively, especially with Duncan and Splitter in the middle. And Leonard, who is already regarded as one of the League’s up-and-coming two-way players, is only going to get better. Add in a second unit featuring Belinelli, Diaw and Ginobili, three guys who Popovich has definitely helped mold into better defenders and it’s not hard to see why the Spurs’ formula is one that has worked quite well in the Alamo City. OUTLOOK With five titles, some wonder what the Spurs have left to prove. Well, for all San Antonio has accomplished, they have yet to repeat. Popovich’s presence plus a veteran core ensures that the Spurs’ eyes will again be on the ultimate prize, but equally honed on what it takes to get there. “The fact that Pop is always around really pushes us to the limit and makes us understand every day what we have to do to get to that goal,” Ginobili said. “We got a great combination of coaching staff, players, motivation, great guys, unselfishness to make it again. We have the opportunity and we’re going to work for it.” Injuries might be the only thing that could derail the Spurs from getting a shot at repeating. But considering how adept Popovich is at managing minutes to ensure everyone is fresh at playoff time, San Antonio will again be in the conversation and maybe this time even repeat. SPOTLIGHT: Kawhi Leonard Now a household name, the spotlight figures to shine brightly on Leonard this season. Even casual fans now know all about the Spurs’ newest postseason hero thanks to his MVP performance in the NBA Finals last June. And while some outside of the Spurs organization might wonder how Leonard, now 23, will handle no longer being an unknown commodity in and around the League, the man who coaches him isn’t at all concerned about how the third youngest Finals MVP in NBA history will handle himself this year. “I think with him, it’s just a matter of opportunity. He wants to be great and as I’ve said many times his work ethic is exemplary,” Popovich said. “Before practice, after practice, he just works and works on individual things to try to improve his game or add to his game. He’s already got a competitive spirit and he understands about what it takes to win and to lose.” Maybe the only viable question about Leonard heading into the start of the season is how the eye infection which he has had during preseason, which likely will keep him off the floor, will impact him going forward? An eye infection is of course not a serious issue, but depending on the specific condition, can be contagious. It will likely take Leonard a bit of time to catch up with his teammates, but once he does, expect him to pick up right where he left off in the Finals and continue his progression. As he showed during the Finals guarding LeBron James, Leonard’s defense is world class (he was also recognized during the regular season, earning his first All-Defensive Second Team selection). While he averaged about 12 points per contest over the past two seasons, don’t expect Pop to be running many plays for the quiet star. Leonard’s value remains his defense as his scoring will still remain knocking down open shots, filling the lane on the break and slashing to the basket. While it might all seem pedestrian, those valuable assets that Leonard provides is what will keep San Antonio’s chances of repeating for the first time a possibility.


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