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George Gervin
01-30-2006, 09:23 AM
Spurs embrace annual rodeo trek

Web Posted: 01/30/2006 12:00 AM CST
Johnny Ludden
Express-News Staff Writer

SALT LAKE CITY When Spurs officials told coach Gregg Popovich three summers ago the team would need to vacate its new arena for almost a month each season to make room for calf roping, no less he reacted as expected.


"I thought it was the worst thing I've ever heard of in my life," Popovich said. "How could we be away from our home court for that long? I was scared to death."

Three years, 23 games, 28,000 miles and one hefty room-service bill later, those fears have disappeared. Not only do the Spurs no longer dread their annual cross-country trek, they have embraced it, going a combined 19-4 in their three previous trips.

Two of those trips helped cut a path toward a pair of NBA championships, leaving the Spurs to hope this season's travels which begin tonight at Utah's Delta Center can do the same.

"I think this signals to the team that we want to make a run before the All-Star Game, continue after the All-Star Game and roll from there," Popovich said. "That's usually where we begin to be very focused. We'll see if the past holds true again."

With the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo moving into the AT&T Center on Sunday, the Spurs departed for the first stop of an eight-game, 8,251-mile journey that has them playing in three time zones, none of which is their own.

This season's trip is divided into two legs, the first of which includes games against Utah, Portland and Golden State. The Spurs will return home for five days to rest and practice before heading east to play Toronto, New Jersey, Indiana, Cleveland and Philadelphia.

The All-Star Game, like last season, comes at the end of the trip, affording the team another five-day break before it returns to the AT&T Center on Feb. 21.

"Everybody has been talking about it, but I don't know what to expect," newcomer Michael Finley said. "The first couple of games will be similar to what I'm used to. Down the line, I'll see whether it's a burden."

The Spurs have so far considered the trip to be more boon than burden. Robert Horry calls it "a blessing in disguise," allowing the players to sharpen their focus, depend on one another and develop the type of mindset needed to win in visiting arenas during the playoffs.

"To go on the road and know you're on the road for a while, you have to really pull the team together," Tim Duncan said. "And over the years we've used this to really get on a roll."

The Spurs are 13-7 on the road this season, third-best in the league behind Detroit (17-3) and Dallas (18-6). But four of those losses at Washington, Atlanta, New Orleans and Milwaukee were against teams that now have losing records.

"Part of it is recognizing that when you play on the road, sometimes it's the other team's biggest game of the year," Bruce Bowen said. "I think we're starting to understand that a little more now."

In most seasons, Popovich would worry that a five-day gap in the schedule a week before the All-Star break would slow any momentum the team has gathered. But with Duncan playing on a sore right foot, the Spurs are looking forward to the time off, provided they manage it properly.

"We're not confident that the short-term rest is going to do a lot," Popovich said. "But we're anxious to see if it helps."

Duncan responded well to last week's two-day break, totaling 28 points and 16 rebounds in Saturday's victory over Minnesota his best performance in more than a month.

"You can see he has more energy, he's more involved," said Tony Parker, who made a detour to Los Angeles to accompany his girlfriend, Eva Longoria, to the Screen Actors Guild Awards. "I can't wait (until) after that first road trip. That's going to be huge for Timmy for the second part of the season."

The Spurs should have a better idea of not only Duncan's health, but also their strength as a whole, by the time they finish their travels in three weeks.

"It's usually the moment," Manu Ginobili said, "that we start looking like the team we're going to be."



Isn't this tjhe time where most Mav fans assume they will seperate themselves from the Spurs in the standings?

Nash13
01-30-2006, 09:48 AM
The Spurs are going down.

MavsFanFinley
01-30-2006, 09:54 AM
I have to say a 19-4 record is pretty impressive. That's a tough trip for any team to make and the Spurs usually put things together at this time. We'll see if they do so again.

The stretch doesn't look that bad when you consider the rest they'll get:

1/30 @ Utah
2/1 @ Portland
2/2 @ Golden State
> 5 days rest. <
2/8 @ Toronto
2/10 @ New Jersey
2/12 @ Indiana
2/13 @ Cleveland
2/15 @ Philadelphia
> 5 days rest during the all-star break. <

George Gervin
01-30-2006, 10:05 AM
I have to say a 19-4 record is pretty impressive. That's a tough trip for any team to make and the Spurs usually put things together at this time. We'll see if they do so again.

The stretch doesn't look that bad when you consider the rest they'll get:

1/30 @ Utah
2/1 @ Portland
2/2 @ Golden State
> 5 days rest. <
2/8 @ Toronto
2/10 @ New Jersey
2/12 @ Indiana
2/13 @ Cleveland
2/15 @ Philadelphia
> 5 days rest during the all-star break. <



who knows every year is different and anything can happen. i believe that we have just begun to play with a sense of urgency on a consistent basis. The last Detroit game was a great example of how you cannot 'turn it on' if you have not previously played with any sense of irgency. My problem with the Spurs this year was there lack of intensity at times. I can accept losing games if the other team plays better than we did but to lose games because of lacking energy grinds on my nerves. Sort of like the Cowboys( yes I was born and raised a cowboy fan) when they were going through the 5-11 seasons I could see those guys busting their tails even though the ywere losing. It was easier for me to accept losses during this time because the Cowboys were as bad as their records indicated but I appreciated thier hustle. If history repeats itself we will be playing much better after this road trip irregardless if we lose the division lead.

aexchange
01-30-2006, 10:20 AM
i see the spurs going 6-2 at the very worst on this trip. i actually could see them taking all 8 games on the trip with relative ease.

Big Boy Laroux
01-30-2006, 01:23 PM
hell, they act like they're away from home for the entire month. they go back to SA for those 5 day stretches.

mary
01-30-2006, 09:27 PM
THE SPURS' SCHEDULED HYPE
DLord: Mavs Shouldn't Scoreboard-Watch

By David Lord -- DallasBasketball.com
This Mavs team is playing incredibly well right now, and it's easy for Mavs fans to watch the games this time of year with one eye on the Mavs and the other on the scoreboard (or on the standings). This team is tied for first, and every game is crucial. It's natural to focus on the Spurs results and use it as a gauge of the Mavs' chances.
But that's wrong. If the Mavs play well, the standings will take care of themselves by the time the season ends. The good teams just have to take care of their own business by winning over and over and over and let the chips fall where they may, rather than sit back and hope to get help from losses by their competitors. And the same holds true for fans: avoiding scoreboard watching at this time of year will keep you from falling into expectations traps and ensuing disappointments.
In fact, one of those dreaded traps is about to be sprung. You will hear about it repeatedly over the next few weeks. We are here to warn you: dont be sucked in to the hype. The NBA world is about to hear repeated references to the Spurs and their supposedly "brutal" road trip over the next few weeks, and Mavs fans might naturally expect that the team should have a great opportunity to put some distance between themselves and their rivals .
But is it brutal? Not really. On the surface it looks way more difficult than it is. It is very possible that the Spurs may take this so-called nasty stretch and run off a winning streak, and suddenly become the media darlings. If it happens, don't forget you heard it here first - and don't be alarmed that the Spurs have suddenly "found their game" or somesuch.
The Spurs embarked Monday on an 8-game 17-day "road trip" leading up to the all-star break. But after you pass the "advertised" brutality of the trip's supposed extremity and look a bit closer, you see it really is mild.
The Spurs begin with a 3-game 4-day road trip. That's all. It has games against Utah, Portland, and Golden State - all pretty soft, winnable games.
Then there is a rest. A break. They go home to practice and relax and all. They have six (yes, six!) days before the next game. They aren't on the road, they aren't away from home, they aren't pushing Tim Duncan's sore foot, even though THEORETICALLY they are still on their "brutal road trip." Six days of this road trip they are sleeping in their own beds, playing with their kids, eating home cookin' and practicing.
Then they in reality start a different road trip, of only 5 games. And the entire road trip is against the weak east.
So they will have 4-5 days at home to practice, rest, heal, and hone their skills for a simple 5-game trip against beatable teams: Toronto, New Jersey. Indiana, Cleveland and Philadelphia. What do you think will happen? Yep, me too, I wouldnt be surprised to see them win 4 of 5, or even all 5. Only Cleveland might pose some sort of a mild challenge.
Then we hit the All-Star Break, and after that the Spurs will be back on a regular schedule like everyone else. At that break, with a glittering "brutal road trip" having perhaps been turned into an "AMAZING" win streak, look for Barkley and Screaming Steven and Walton and all the lazy media to be drooling all over themselves about the Spurs and the way they handled such a "horrendous" road trip. But was it really that bad?
Nope, in fact the Mavs' west coast road sweep just completed with Houston, LAClippers, Portland, Golden State, and Seattle was at least as hard.
So as a fan, if the Mavs don't gain any ground during this over-hyped window of opportunity, dont be depressed or in despair. It really wasn't the opportunity the pundits are going to make it sound like. Instead, keep your eyes on the Mavs - their chances will depend on how THEY continue to play, rather than how well the Spurs navigate a creampuff stretch of games that is going to be mislabeled and overhyped

MavsFanFinley
01-30-2006, 10:01 PM
So it's hard for the Mavs to go on a 5 game road trip but the 8 game trip the Spurs take is a creampuff? C'mon DLord.

BTW, Spurs win in Utah.

dirno2000
01-30-2006, 10:10 PM
I don't think he's saying it's creampuff. It's just not as bad as it sounds since there is a 6 day break in the middle.

Good effort by the Jazz. They hung around all game, they just don't have to fire power.

dude1394
01-30-2006, 10:15 PM
DLords pretty right on on this, you have to read the whole thing. Let's say the latest 5 game road trip for the mavs was interrupted with a 5 game break, where the team would fly back. You think that would be as tough...nah...

DLord still thinks outta the box, nice stuff as usual.

MavsFanFinley
01-30-2006, 10:49 PM
He does use the word creampuff.

And the Spurs do go on a 5 game road trip without interuptions. So they happen to play 3 games and have 5 days off before going on that 2nd half of the road trip. Haven't the Mavs had 4 days off already this season? It's not like the Spurs are getting this lucky break in the schedule themselves.

I do agree with him that Mavs and fans should just concentrate on how the Mavs are playing and not worry about SA but I think he's brushing the road trip of the Spurs off a little too easily.

alby
01-30-2006, 11:49 PM
1-0 for spurs

sike
01-31-2006, 09:03 AM
great thread....and it was started by GG? ;)

I think its fair to say that the two road trips are NOT the same...and DLord is pointing that out...its one thing to hit the road and miss your wife for 11 days...its an all together different thing to be a few come back to her...and then head out again....

George Gervin
01-31-2006, 09:21 AM
He does use the word creampuff.

And the Spurs do go on a 5 game road trip without interuptions. So they happen to play 3 games and have 5 days off before going on that 2nd half of the road trip. Haven't the Mavs had 4 days off already this season? It's not like the Spurs are getting this lucky break in the schedule themselves.

I do agree with him that Mavs and fans should just concentrate on how the Mavs are playing and not worry about SA but I think he's brushing the road trip of the Spurs off a little too easily.



I agree that the Mavs fans should not worry about anyone else other than the mavs. Now I don't mean this as a shot to the fans but it comes down to how well they are playing as oppsed to whom they are playing. Throughout these last few years we, Spurs fans, have felt that if we play the way we are capable no one could beat us. Obviously this did not come to fruition a couple of years but the message stays the same. Now some Mav fans took offence to this when I , or most other Spurs fans, would say we don't worry about the Mavs etc. I was only worried about our team and I think this will help Mav fans who feel the team does not get enough respect. Let it go...... The Mavs are on the verge of becoming an elite team which comes along with playoff success fair or not. I think most of you are aware that in order to get respect your going to have to go out and win a championship. The Spurs and Pistons get the benefit of the doubt nowadays because of their recent successes whether they deserve it or not. I think the Mavs are the best team in the Western Conference at this point in the season and I believe if the playoffs started today they would beat the Spurs. Luckily we have a long way to go..

Now I know some of you will pick this apart and find something to complain abput especially the 'elite team' mention. Most 'prognosticators consider the Mavs an 'elite' team at this point but in order to carry that mantra for a few seasons they would be to go out and kick the Spurs or anyone else's a$$.. well everyone else but the spurs

chumdawg
01-31-2006, 10:07 AM
I think Lord is right. As far as the Mavs are concerned, the Squirts are NOT on one long road trip. Because here recently I heard several times on the broadcasts that this was their first ever 5-0 roadtrip. Not even any mention at all of last year's team winning at SAC, SEA, GSW, and PHX (three playoff teams there) before taking the All-Star break and then heading out to beat UTA.

I also believe that Lord is selling it softly. If I read it correctly, he has the Squirts going 7-1 or 8-0. Hell, you could play eight games in a row--against anybody, and at home!--and expect to drop one at least. A 60-win season still has you taking only 6 games in 8 on average, and that's across all conditions.

sike
01-31-2006, 11:09 PM
it needs to mentioned that the Spurs have played 3 more games at home than the Mavs...