Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Who are the San Antonio Spurs?

They've had moments of brilliance. They've also looked like and old team whose only gotten older. So many questions still remain unanswered.

Rasheed Wallace Tim Duncan

There are some who see tonight's game against the Boston Celtics as the first true litmus test for a San Antonio Spurs team still trying to fit all the pieces together. The Spurs (9-6) are 4-5 against teams with winning records this season.

They've only played three games against teams at least four games over .500, and two of those came against the Dallas Mavericks. They split with the Mavs (14-5) and lost to the Blazers (12-8). This team hasn't yet found an identity, causing some to search for the panic button.

But those who understand what Gregg Popovich is trying to accomplish with this team at the moment will understand that tonight's game shouldn't hold more significance that any other. A win doesn't change the season. Neither does a loss.

All season long, we've heard players use the phrase, "It's a marathon, not a sprint." Spurs fans know this better than most. After all, it's Spurs fans who usually utter the phrase, "The season doesn't start until after the Rodeo Road Trip." The problem with that is, this isn't the same old Spurs. (OK, maybe they're still kind of old, but I think you get my point).

This team is more offensive. They have more weapons at their disposal that they ever have, and their bench is the deepest in the league. The problem here isn't a lack of options. It's a lack of cohesiveness. Who knows how long that will be a factor, but don't count on the Rodeo Road Trip to be the catalyst that brings it all together. The Rodeo Road Trip this year is the softest I can ever remember it being, mainly because it's stretched out over 18 days and the Lakers are the only formidable opponent they'll face.

In seasons past, the road trip has served to give this team the "bunker mentality" heading into the second half of the season, when games matter more than they do now. That bunker mentality is achieved when the team spends time amongst themselves, away from family and the comforts of home. But that won't be the same this year.

Over the 18 days of this year's Rodeo Road Trip, the Spurs will play only 8 games. The kicker here is that there is a 6-day break between games five and six. So really, it's 5-game road trip and a 3-game road swing separated by a mini-vacation. It defeats the purpose. How can you achieve the "bunker mentality" when the team gets to chill in San Antonio for 6 days with family?

Gregg Popovich will have to find another way to get this team to gel together. Fifty-three percent of this year's roster is new to his system. There are going to be some growing pains along the way, most notably for Richard Jefferson, whose adjustment to Pop's defensive system has been somewhat rough. While a good one-on-one defender, Jefferson lacks the intensity needed to guard the opponents' best player. Usually, Pop gives that assignment to Keith Bogans or George Hill.

So here we are tonight, with the Boston Celtics in town, asking ourselves the same questions we had before the season started. How will Jefferson fit in? Will Manu be able to stay healthy? How are Tim's knees? Who steps up and replaces Bruce Bowen as the team's defensive stopper? All of those questions still lack a definitive answer.

As fans, we need to see this team play well against an elite contender in the NBA. For our sanity, we need to know that we're good enough. The Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of this team has toyed with our emotions for the first 14 games. We're insecure. We need some sort of reassurance.

Perhaps tonight, we'll get some. But if we don't, we cannot be too quick to press the panic button. It's a marathon - not a sprint.

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