Spurs newbies battle for position

ST. THOMAS, U.S. Virgin Islands -- Five early observations from Spurs camp:

1. Point of contention: It's not difficult to imagine Nick Van Exel playing ahead of Tony Parker in the fourth quarter of an NBA Finals game, especially if you remember Speedy Claxton playing ahead of Parker in the big moments of 2003's title series. The hard part, not yet a week into the season, is getting a read on how that threat will impact Parker.

The Spurs still like Beno Udrih as a future contributor, but they targeted Van Exel to be the Robert Horry of their backcourt rotation after Detroit repeatedly rattled Udrih in the Finals with its full-court pressure. Even Parker says he "knew Pop wanted to get somebody who can play under pressure and give us a solid 10 to 15 minutes," but coach Gregg Popovich actually wanted more than that. In Van Exel, he has another dangerous lefty, who, like Manu Ginobili, fears no big shot and can run an offense efficiently when asked.

The Spurs' preferred scenario, of course, is that Van Exel's presence drives Parker to a new level of consistency.