Last Spring the Mavs and Spurs played another classic playoff series. The Mavs really had no business pushing the Spurs to a game seven, but Carlisle worked some of his warlock magic. How did that series shape the way you looked at the Mavs and at the Spurs playoff run?
That series made me gain so much more respect for Rick Carlisle. I knew he was a great coach, but him putting his guys in a position to go 7 with that Spurs team was truly incredible. For the Spurs, that series raised a lot of questions for me. Carlisle was fantastic, but they really shouldn't have had to go to a Game 7 versus those Mavericks. Patty Mills and Marco Belinelli weren't very good that series, and I was concerned that they wouldn't come back to the high level they had played at all year. The Mavericks figured out that forcing Tony Parker to take jumpers makes the whole offense sputter, and the rest of the Western Conference playoff teams definitely took notice of that. Of course, those things worked themselves out and the Spurs took off after that war of a series.
Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard—that still feels strange to say—has an eye injury and Tiago Splitter is questionable with a calf injury. If they’re not available for the opener, who fills those minutes for the Spurs?
Kawhi Leonard being a Finals MVP is the 2nd strangest moment I've seen in my years of following the Spurs. (Behind Boris Diaw even being considered for that Finals MVP.) If he's out, I expect a lot of those minutes early in the season to go to veterans that have been in the system. Manu Ginobili and Belinelli should be able to hold the fort, and we may even see a little Kyle Anderson and Austin Daye sprinkled in. Jeff Ayres and Diaw should be fine absorbing Splitter's minutes.
The Spurs seemingly got another steal in the draft when they selected Kyle Anderson out of UCLA. How has the rookie looked in the preseason and will he crack the rotation?
Anderson looks fine offensively. We all know he's a great passer, his shot has looked pretty solid through the preseason, and he has great awareness and basketball know-how for a rookie. Defensively, he can't guard a phone book. Like most rookies, his positioning and knowledge of a complex NBA system is extremely weak right now. He's also just not as quick as most NBA players, so he gets beaten off the dribble a lot. Overall, he could get minutes on most NBA teams, but with a talented roster like the Spurs', he won't see much court time.
The Spurs have been old for a very long time now. Is this the year they finally die?
The Spurs will never die. Even when Duncan, Manu, Parker, and Pop are all gone, the Spurs will be perpetually Spurs-ing until the end of days.
The opener will be on TNT, which means sideline interviews with Pop are back. Has he smiled much since the championship, or should we expect the same surly Coach Pop?
Pop has actually been pretty charming in sideline interviews as of the past couple seasons. He's a wicked-smart person, so I'm sure he knows that people look out for those interviews, and proceeds to ham it up a bit for that half a minute. Don't be fooled though, if you ask him the wrong question in those interviews or at a presser, you'll get Pop'd