Posted October 22, 2013 on AP on Fox
There was defiance in Tony Parker's tone, about 15 minutes after his San Antonio Spurs had lost a gut-wrenching, classic finals series to the Miami Heat. Parker sat in his chair and was asked if he had given any thought to the possibility that the Spurs as he knew them - the Timmy-Tony-Manu-Pop Spurs that had been together for so long - may have just made their last run. Parker has heard those questions for years now, but in the wake of coming within a fingertip of the franchise's fifth championship, it seemed to burn him a little more this time. ''I can't believe you're asking that question,'' Parker snapped. ''It's been five, six years you saying we're too old, so I'm not going to answer that.'' But in a way, he did. Four months after that monumentally disappointing loss to the Heat, here they all are again. Manu Ginobili re-signed for two years and $14.5 million to keep the core together and chase another title. ''I'm so excited to start with the Spurs and try to win a championship,'' Parker said when training camp opened. ''I get another opportunity to get Timmy out with a championship. I'm ready to go.'' The Spurs could've closed out the Heat in Game 6 when they led by three with 5.2 seconds to play. But Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer from the corner to force overtime and the Heat prevailed, forcing a Game 7 that they won to take their second straight title. ''Suffice to say that I've thought about it every day,'' coach Gregg Popovich said. ''I'm wondering if it will go away. I'm anxious for it to happen, but it hasn't happened yet.'' Tim Duncan is 37, but his turn-back-the-clock performance in the finals was inspiring, showing that the ''old Spurs'' still had plenty of juice left. And Duncan thinks that disappointment and heartbreak might give them just the boost they need to make one more run at it. The only way to put it behind them is to get out there and do it again. ''We'll get there, we'll get there,'' Duncan said. ''I don't think it's time to heal all wounds yet. We're going to let it fester for a little while, we're going to continue to think about it because it's going to continue to hurt whether we talk about it or let it go or not. But once the regular season starts and the ball goes up, we are going to be focused on a whole `nother season.'' Here are five things to watch for the 2013-14 Spurs: LEONARD'S LEAP: Kawhi Leonard's emergence was a revelation last year, never more so than in the finals against LeBron James and the Heat. He averaged 14.6 points, 11.1 rebounds and shot 51 percent from the field in the series. ''I think Kawhi is the new Parker, Ginobili and Duncan kind of guy,'' Popovich said. ''He's going to take over as the star of the show as time goes on.'' GREEN'S ENCORE: Through five games of the finals, little known Danny Green was in the running for the MVP of the series. He shot the lights out from 3-point range, setting the record for 3s made in the finals in just five games. But Green went just 2 for 19 - 2 for 11 on 3s - from the field in the final two games. So were those first five games just a really hot streak? Or is Green ready to cement himself as another young building block for the Spurs' future? LONELY POP: Popovich's bench has a new look this season, and it's going to take some time for him to adjust. Mike Budenholzer worked under Popovich for 19 years before leaving to take the head coaching job with the Atlanta Hawks. Then the Philadelphia 76ers hired 11-year assistant Brett Brown. Popovich brought in Jim Boylen from the Pacers and added former player Sean Marks to fill the spots. ''I thought about it all summer. Getting the coaches in as a new group,'' Popovich said. ''I walked into the gym and I wondered what I was doing, like I didn't belong. They're getting along fine, but I don't know any of them. I feel like I have to coach the coaches and let Timmy, Manu and Tony take care of the team. I'll just show up for the game because I'm too busy coaching the coaches.'' MANU'S BACK: Ginobili said after Game 7 that it was too soon for him to say if he would come back this season or not, and there was genuine intrigue into the Argentinian's future in the NBA leading up to free agency. But the Spurs quickly agreed to a new deal with Ginobili to bring him back for two more years. They also added Marco Belinelli to give Popovich another option and allow him to rest Ginobili a little bit more during the regular season. MAN IN THE MIDDLE: Big man Tiago Splitter signed a four-year, $36 million deal this summer to stay in San Antonio. But he does come into the season with something to prove after struggling mightily against the smaller, more athletic Heat. Splitter averaged just 4.9 points and 2.0 rebounds in the finals, and he was on the court for just over 12 minutes in the last two games of the series combined. --- Freelance writer Raul Dominguez in San Antonio contributed to this report.

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