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Trust Of Organization Prevails In San Antonio

Even with difficult starts for Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs are atop the Western Conference. Faith in the team's organization makes fans and analysts alike remain cautiously optimistic they can stay there.

Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Right now, there's only one other team and fanbase that can truly relate to the excitement around the Blazers' winning streak.

The San Antonio Spurs, as has been the narrative for more than a decade, are the cream of the crop in the West this season and they are riding a 10-game streak of their own. A classic cool-calm-and-collected effort led to a dominant performance over Cleveland on Saturday, pushing the Spurs' record to 12-1, which is tied for the best in the league. However, like so many dynasties eventually deal with, an end to the run is becoming a more real conversation.

Amidst more question marks than the team has maybe ever faced during the Tim Duncan era, San Antonio fans and analysts take a cautiously optimistic approach to the way 2013 is going-and likely will go if things continue to fall into place. That's true even though this season is starting with a bang for the Spurs. Their only loss of the season was on the road in Portland, a game in which the Spurs played quite well (shot 50%, forced 16 turnovers) and was at the hands of a team that's now 12-2.

"It's hard to find fault with the way the season's begun," Bruno Passos of Pounding the Rock said in an email exchange with Blazer's Edge. "I think most people still feel reservedly optimistic heading into this season."

If the attitude around San Antonio is "reservedly optimistic," there are very real reasons for caution. Just a few months ago, the team experienced one of the most devastating losses in NBA Finals history, watching a potential series-clinching  five-point lead with less than 30 seconds to go evaporate and lead to an overtime -- and eventual title -- loss.

On a more macro level, age could very well be a factor for the Spurs' Big Three of Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (Ginobili is 36 and Duncan is 37). Both Ginobili and Duncan are starting off slowly: Duncan's 11.7 points per game average is just over half his career mark (he's also shooting under 38%), while Ginobili's 42% shooting season has led to seven games of scoring in single digits.

These numbers -- specifically age -- are usually reason for panic, just ask the Nets and the Lakers.

Yet, even with two of the Big Three struggling, this is only the second time in the Duncan-era the Spurs have started 12-1 (they started 13-1 in 2010-11). That they're doing it without large production from Duncan and Ginobili is one of the biggest reasons for optimism.

"The fact that this is all happening with Tim and Manu still finding their shots suggests that we have even better basketball to see later in the season," said Passos.

There is certainly reason to believe that these guys can turn it around. Despite their ages both being on the wrong side of 35, Duncan has averaged under 15 points and nine rebounds only once in his career (that aforementioned 2010-11 season). He also has never shot below 48% in a season. Finally, he found the fountain of youth in last season's Finals, nearly single-handedly willing his team to a victory in Game Seven. Ginobili's numbers are a bit more concerning, but he's generally a streaky player to begin with. His 15 points and +18 mark on Friday night against Memphis was his most positive moment of the season.

There is more than just numbers to suggest that they could be in line for a turnaround.

What the Spurs have that no one else has -- and is truly the root of their positivity -- is a sense of confidence in the front office and coaching staff. That optimism is a result of the organization's decision making over the last decade, from recent signings of Danny Green and Boris Diaw to the drafting of emerging superstar Kawhi Leonard in the middle of the first round. Re-signing an aging Manu Ginobili and matching Portland's free agent offer to not-going-to-knock-your-socks-off Tiago Splitter were accepted positively because, well, what has the team done to inspire second-guessing or doubt?

In Passos' words, "After so many 50-win seasons, it's hard not to take it all for granted in some way - but that's more of a reflection of the organization's continuity than any sort of irrational level of expectation."

The calm is also reflected in the stories written about the Spurs. While over at Netsdaily there's already the "Assets for short ... or long-term ... rebuild" article posted, Pounding the Rock is writing "What to do until Tim's shot starts falling again." At Silver Screen and Roll, a Lakers SB Nation affiliate, this week's "Steve Nash goes to Los Angeles: A five act tragedy" was countered with Pounding the Rock's "How to get Tim Duncan going on offense."

Obviously win totals are going to determine the urgency of these conversations. But amidst one of the worst starts in Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili's career, panic is overcome by trust.

Even with the team standing among the elite in the West, there's a definite sense there is room to grow. Duncan's slow start and Ginobili's search to find a shooting touch give the Spurs some problems that have usually sorted themselves out for the better. Ultimately, while concerns of age and reality of a post-Duncan era loom, faith in the organization prevails.

"Wins might not carry the same weight as they do later on in the year, but we do see new storylines emerge that have their impact down the road," Passos said.

"That and Pop's in-game interviews are reason enough to watch every game in November through March."