SAN ANTONIO - Today officially marked the end of the offseason with the San Antonio Spurs holding media day just prior to the start of training camp, which will be held at the Air Force Academy this year.
For some Spurs players, it was an offseason of world travel or workouts and some really didn’t even get much of a chance for a break after the NBA Finals with the start of summer international play, including the FIBA Americas Championship and EuroBasket.
Aside from seeing players make their toughest game faces for a 360 degree DSLR camera system for game intros and take their media guide photos, you can always count on some good soundbites from media day, from Kawhi Leonard revealing that he is apparently the only human being on the face of the earth that didn’t watch Breaking Bad to Tony Parker admitting that he still has a bit of champagne in his blood from celebrating France’s EuroBasket championship.
“Everybody gears up as a new season gets closer. You start to get excited about camp and any changes you might make, new people, new schedule, and it begins again so we’re all excited to start,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said.
Aside from seeing several new faces around the Spurs practice facility, including Sam Young, Corey Maggette and former Longhorn Myck Kabongo, there seemed to be one common thread - the question none of the Spurs could avoid this summer.
After a heartbreaking loss in the NBA Finals, questions about Games 6 and 7 seemed to follow every Spur around this offseason.
Luckily for all-star guard Tony Parker, he had to have a short memory as he prepared for EuroBasket early on in the summer.
“It definitely helped because it was a tough loss. It was really tough, but to have only three weeks and you play with the national team was a good therapy to think about something else,” Parker said. “Now I’m fresh and ready to go for this season.”
“In Europe, the NBA is huge and of course they asked me. At some point I was like ok let’s focus on the national team. It’s a different competition. I’m sure once we arrive in Colorado, I’m sure we’ll talk about it. We have to use that as motivation.”
If anything, starting training camp should put a bit of a close on the pains of last season.
“I still think about it, but I don’t think about it every day,” Spurs forward Tim Duncan said. “I don’t dwell on it every day. Obviously it’s painful. I just have to let go of it and deal with it.”
Just as the Spurs used a Western Conference Finals loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder as motivation this time last year, they see the Finals as an opportunity to do the same for them.
“It was very tough. As a team we’re going to have to get over it and use it as fuel,” Manu Ginobili said.
Ginobili, who struggled through the Finals, took the summer away from international play and says he is eager to get back to work again.
“I think you get to a point where you want to get back with the guys and play. Now I am (ready),” Ginobili said. “You start to feel that adrenaline. I’m pretty sure we’re all excited to see each other again. I’m excited.”
While Parker, Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo wrapped up some frequent flyer miles, Danny Green might have traveled the most. But whether it was Beijing, Mongolia, Canada or South Texas, Green never stopped hearing the questions.
“I think that’s a game or a question that I hear every day. I think I’ll never not hear it until we do something different this year, but I heard about it in every country, every where I went, people bring up Game 6 and Game 7,” Green said.
“Pop thinks about it I’m sure a lot more than anybody. I thought about it a lot but not as much. I tried to stay away from it as much as possible, but it’s hard when you’re a competitor and a basketball player and you watch it all the time. All they play is the Finals or games, they play the playoffs or classics.”
Apparently even the confines of Green’s own New York home brought no comfort to the guard who smashed Ray Allen’s NBA Finals three-point shooting record.
“When I got home, my dad is a big basketball player. He was there with his boys, and they love to critique me and they were playing the Finals as soon as I got to New York, I just walked into my room. I tried to stay away from basketball for a while, clear my mind for a couple weeks,” Green said.
“I think the quick turnaround will help us. Hopefully as they year goes on and we continue to do well or do as well as we did last year, we’ll kind of try to forget about last year’s outcome.”
While Colorado and the Air Force Academy will likely not keep the Spurs away from the constant questioning and bad memories, they’ll have a chance to wipe the slate clean and start anew with much of the same core that was seconds away for a fifth NBA championship. The Spurs will welcome some new faces both in the locker room and on the coaching staff as they slap their sneakers back on and have their sights set on the NBA Finals yet again.