Duncan, Ginobili return healthy

SAN ANTONIO -- Tony Parker didn't see many familiar faces Monday when he returned to work after an unusually long summer for the San Antonio Spurs.

"I came in the locker room and half the guys are all new," Parker said. "It's kind of nice."

Parker is not unsentimental. He's just realistic about what the Spurs needed.

So are Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, who are healthy again and eagerly welcomed Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and the rest of an overhauled roster to training camp following the frustration last season of the shortest Spurs playoff run since 2000.

The Spurs also brought aboard veterans Theo Ratliff and Keith Bogans, and added All-America forward DeJuan Blair in the draft. To make room, San Antonio let go aging role players and longtime Spurs fixtures, including Bruce Bowen.

The Spurs didn't get drastically younger, but they are certain they got better.

"I think it's important at a certain point to realize that it's time to turn," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "We felt like that for a couple years and slowly moved toward it, knowing full well at some point we had to change. And last year was our last attempt with that group."

The 35-year-old McDyess said he might have retired had the Spurs not made him an offer in free agency. Jefferson said he just wants to fit in after coming over from Milwaukee in a four-player deal.

"You have that established group with Tim, Tony and Manu," Jefferson said. "You just want to contribute to that."

Ginobili told reporters at the Spurs media day that he feels no pain after ankle problems limited the 32-year-old to just 44 games last season and kept him out of the playoffs.

Duncan showed up 15 pounds leaner and said he, too, was feeling OK after being hobbled by knee problems last season.

Duncan said he doesn't want to break down again like he did last spring, when the 33-year-old sat out games down the stretch to rest and recover.

So entering his 13th season, Duncan started his preseason regimen a month later. He didn't flip tires or run sprints up a steep hill like last summer, and instead kept up his conditioning with boxing and swimming.

"I'm not gearing down or playing at a different level," Duncan said. "I'm just trying to stay healthy."

Popovich said he'll ease Duncan back into camp along with Ginobili and Parker, who sprained his ankle playing for the French national team this summer. Jefferson, who jammed his thumb during a workout earlier this month, said he won't miss any time.

The biggest relief for the Spurs might be the sight of Ginobili walking around healthy. The Spurs sputtered badly last season without Ginobili's offensive spark, particularly during a first-round loss in the playoffs to Dallas. It was the second straight postseason that Ginobili was banged up.

Ginobili said his ankle problems were the toll of playing summers once the seasons in San Antonio were finished. Staying healthy could mean a shift in how the NBA is used to seeing Ginobili score: fearlessly driving to the basket, eager to make contact before firing off some twisting, acrobatic shot.

"I might be more cautious and take more midrange shots rather than getting fouled every time," he said.

Will he think twice from now on before charging into the paint?

"I don't think so," Ginobili said. "I think when it counts and when I see the opportunity, I'll be the same."