Crucial questions at Spurs camp

E-N beat writer Jeff McDonald breaks down five storylines to track as the Spurs open training camp today:

1. Tony Parker’s encore

Individually speaking, it’s difficult to imagine point guard Tony Parker turning in a better season than the one he posted in 2011-12. He averaged 18.3 points, a career-best 7.7 assists, made his second All-NBA team and finished fifth in league MVP voting.

If the Spurs are to remain among the league’s elite, Parker will need to duplicate his career year.

2. Leonard’s maturation

The Spurs made no major additions this offseason, betting internal improvement would be enough to keep them among the ranks of title contenders. Hopes are highest for Kawhi Leonard, a revelation as a rookie last season, even in a compressed season.

The 21-year-old small forward’s confidence grew leaps and bounds during an offseason spent with the U.S. Select team and spearheading the Spurs’ summer league squad in Las Vegas.

“We expect more from him this year,” team captain Tim Duncan said. “We’ll see what load he’s ready to carry.”

3. Blair’s comportment

The Spurs’ sometimes starting center went public during the summer with his frustrations in falling out of Gregg Popovich’s playoff rotation two seasons in a row. At one point, DeJuan Blair said he expected to be traded.

Still on the roster at the start of camp, Blair’s attitude will go a long way toward how his contract year plays out. Blair showed up at camp in top shape and saying all the right things, so that’s a start.

4. Backup point guards battle

The Spurs never settled on a backup for Parker once T.J. Ford went down with a career-ending injury last season. The scrum there will be the most intriguing camp battle.

Patrick Mills might be considered the front-runner after running the show for Australia in the Olympics, but Gary Neal, Cory Joseph and rookie Nando De Colo also will get shots.

5. Race for the 15th roster spot

For all intents, the Spurs open camp with 14 of the maximum 15 roster spots filled. That leaves one slot open for six non-roster invitees to arm-wrestle over.

Four of those job-seekers — Eddy Curry, Josh Powell, Derrick Brown and Sherron Collins — have NBA experience.

Given the Spurs’ never-ending search for size, Curry — a 7-footer with a well-documented history of weight issues — is perhaps the most interesting candidate.

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