SAN ANTONIO (NBA/EuroBasket) - The 2012-13 NBA season might have had its share of surprises so far, but there is still a familiar feeling as one particular team once more sits among the league leaders.
The San Antonio Spurs, a team that endures far less media scrutiny than their Western Conference rivals in Oklahoma City and Los Angeles, are yet again proving that team basketball wins games.
Eliminated in the Western Conference Finals last spring by an upstart Thunder franchise, the Spurs are back to work this season with the same goal as always: winning a title.
San Antonio are one of many teams in the NBA that have an international make-up, and their foreign contingent - seven different countries are represented on their roster - makes the Texas-based franchise a tough opponent in the playoffs.
Alongside superstars Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker, are players like Boris Diaw and Nando De Colo of France. The duo has been working hard to impress and gain the trust of head coach Gregg Popovich.
After spending the past three seasons with Spanish side Valencia Basket - and helping them win the Eurocup in 2009, rookie De Colo has shown great things so far, despite playing limited minutes.
"I know that it's my first season here and that I need to be patient," said the 25-year-old guard.
"I'm waiting for my opportunity to come and I keep working hard in order to be ready when I’ll play. I know that I can help the team."
For French national team veteran Diaw, the story is a little bit different. Now in his ninth NBA season, the former Élan Béarnais Pau-Orthez player’s versatility gives Popovich great options when matching up with different opponents.
"I'm here to help the team, to use my experience, and to do what the coach ask me to do. That’s why they recruited me," Diaw summed up.
Of course, having All-Star point guard and fellow Frenchman Parker as your teammate is of great help to the pair of them.
"Tony, Boris and myself have a good connection on and off the court as we’ve known each other for some years now by playing for the national team. I feel lucky to be part of a team where some teammates are from the same country as mine," said De Colo.
"It helps a lot at different levels. I’ve been learning a lot about the way to deal with the NBA routine, to improve my game, and to get used the culture of the franchise for example."
Selected 53rd overall by the Spurs in the 2009 NBA Draft, De Colo finally crossed the Atlantic last summer after a successful spell in Spain’s Liga Endesa.
"I had lot of offers from Euroleague top teams, but I wanted to go to the NBA. I’ve always been dreaming about playing in this league, so when the opportunity came, I decided to join the Spurs," he explained.
"The roster is very deep and we have lot of talented players. The franchise is one of the best in the NBA, everything is made for players to give their best. Those aspects were very important for me as I’ve always wanted to come to the NBA and join a top team."
Diaw agrees with De Colo’s last statement.
"Playing for the Spurs is perfect for every basketball player. Everything is great, from the team to the staff. The franchise's DNA is about winning. That says everything," he explained.
Diaw believes the Spurs feel have what it takes to add to their four NBA championships to date (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007).
"Our roster is incredible and we’ll give our best to reach the title. That’s the only goal of the team," Diaw warned.
De Colo is equally confident that the Spurs are one of the top calibre teams.
"There are lot of teams that can reach the Finals and we are one of them for sure. We'll never surrender. There's still a lot of games left before the playoffs begin, but count on us to fight for the title,” he said.
The French pair also have national team duty on the horizon as well. After winning a silver medal at the 2011 Eurobasket in Lithuania, and playing in their first-ever Olympics in London last summer, Diaw and De Colo expect something more next September in Slovenia.
"Apart from our early elimination, everything was perfect in London. Playing in the Olympics is something incredible. But now, we need to think about the next European championship," said Diaw.
De Colo believes Les Bleus aim for nothing less than the title in Slovenia.
"We'll do everything to win a (European) title. All the players and French basketball deserve it. It’s still early to talk about it, but we’ll go to Slovenia with one goal in mind: win the gold," he said.