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News » Ratliff hopes long quest for ring ends in S.A.

Ratliff hopes long quest for ring ends in S.A.

Ratliff hopes long quest for ring ends in S.A.
The newest Spur was in San Antonio on Monday, steeled to endure the typical battery of physical tests that comes with arriving in a new NBA town.

By now, Theo Ratliff is used to the drill. At various other points in his 14-season pro career, he has also done the turn-your-head-and-cough routine in Detroit, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Portland, Boston and Minnesota.

The welcome-to-the-team physical has been roughly the same in each locale, as thorough as it is monotonous.

"Lots of checks and balances," Ratliff said with a chuckle after his latest exam ended late Monday afternoon.

Well-traveled and well-heeled, Ratliff arrives in San Antonio in search of the one significant bauble that has eluded him.

A championship.

Ratliff, the 6-foot-10 center who signed a one-year, veteran-minimum deal with the Spurs last week, did so because he believes the team gives him the best chance of putting an exclamation point on his long and winding career.

"Just to be in a position going into the season where you know you have a chance to be playing in that final game, that's something I haven't had in a long time," said Ratliff, 36. "That's more important than anything."

The Spurs could truthfully sell Ratliff on a title shot after an offseason in which they traded for scoring swingman Richard Jefferson, signed veteran forward Antonio McDyess and drafted All-American big man DeJuan Blair out of Pittsburgh.

Tabbed as a backup to Tim Duncan and McDyess in the Spurs' frontcourt, Ratliff - who spent last season on a second tour of duty in Philadelphia - is the final piece of that summer remodeling job. Now, he hopes to be more than just window dressing.

Ratliff has always been regarded as one of the NBA's best shot-blockers. In three consecutive seasons from 2000-04, he led the league in blocks per game.

Though well past the prime of his career, Ratliff still believes he can contribute around the rim. He averaged a block per game while backing up Samuel Dalembert in Philadelphia last season, despite logging fewer than 13 minutes an outing.

For the Spurs , the NBA's fourth-worst shot-blocking team last season, Ratliff represents a low-cost gamble. Just as the Spurs are hopeful Blair might single-handedly help them improve one statistical shortcoming (rebounding), they believe Ratliff might help them upgrade their shot-blocking.

"I think I'll be able to make the team a little better," said Ratliff, who is on his fifth team since leaving Portland after the 2005-06 season. "What I can produce, in terms of knowing the game, playing defense - that's something a lot of teams aspire to have."

Ratliff, meanwhile, aspires to have an elusive title.

He has been playing professional Basketball since 1995 and has called nearly every NBA time zone home.

The closest Ratliff came to a championship was in 2007-08, his second stint in Detroit. That Pistons team - which also included another future Spurs big man, McDyess - lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference finals.

Adding insult to defeat, Ratliff had played for the previously moribund Celtics the season before.

When Boston went on to beat the Los Angeles Lakers for the NBA championship, there were those who joked that perhaps Ratliff deserved a ring as well. After all, his $11.6 million expiring contract was a key component in the preseason trade that brought Kevin Garnett from Minnesota to Boston.

Ratliff doesn't know if this season will represent his last chance at an NBA title. The ultimate call on his retirement, he says, will come from his wife, Kristina, and his six children.

He does, however, realize time is running out.

"Having had that taste, getting so close to a championship, it definitely puts a bad taste in your mouth," Ratliff said. "It makes you want to get back in a situation like that."

His latest physical passed, his Spurs contract made official, Ratliff believes that he has.

Notebook: The Spurs on Monday finalized a preseason game against Euroleague power Olympiacos Pireaus. The Greek team, highlighted by former Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Childress, will visit the AT&T Center on Oct. 9 as part of the Euroleague American Tour 2009.

Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website:
Added: July 29, 2009


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