Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Are the Spurs Done?

In light of San Antonio's 88-85 loss at Seattle tonight - its third in a row and seventh in their last 12 - the question must be posed: are these guys done?

My answer: I wish.

Look, I've never shied away from stating my true feelings about San Antonio. They feature a brutal combination of suspiciously favorable officiating and incomparable complaining that makes them a viewing nightmare. I'm not sure how many more springs I can take with this team playing 25 times while Charles Barkley gushes about their ball movement. So if this really is their demise, I would be perfectly okay with that.

Sadly, I'm afraid that is not the case. Every year we read too much into the regular season failings of the Spurs, only to watch them kick into gear for the playoffs. There are still few answers to Duncan. Not many point guards can stay in front of Tony Parker. All those graybeards on the San Antonio bench no doubt retain their ability to make threes all day once the playoffs start. The Spurs are like vampires - you have to drive a garlic-covered wooden stake into them to kill them.

That said, I do think 2008 will differ from 2007 in several ways. Last year the Spurs were able to shake off a poor first half to finish strong and win the West in part because there were few legit challengers in their way. Phoenix and Dallas were the only teams that had real shots at knocking off San Antonio and the former was robbed by the league while the latter got knocked out by Golden State in the first round. The Nuggets lacked cohesion, the Jazz lacked experience, and the Hornets lacked a playoff appearance. This season, all three of those teams have a very real chance of beating San Antonio in a seven-game series. You can throw the Warriors and a healthy Lakers team into that mix as well. (Note: I don't think Portland or Houston could beat the Spurs this year). Add it up and there are a whopping seven teams in the Western Conference that cuold reasonably hope to defeat the world champs in a series. Plus, the Celtics and Pistons both present problems in the East. So the road to a title should be far more arduous this time around.

Furthermore, I do think Father Time is finally catching up with this squad. Robert Horry, Michael Finley, and Brent Barry are all at various stages of decline and - most importantly - Bruce Bowen has lost about nine steps this season. We all know that Bowen gets away with murder in the playoffs, but this year he might literally have to commit a homicide against NBA superstars to stop them from scoring. Tonight Kevin Durant had his best game in weeks and it came (with relative ease) at the expense of Bowen. About a month ago I watched Pop go with Ime Udoka on Baron Davis down the stretch in a loss to the Warriors.

Of course, the mere fact that the Spurs haveUdoka is reason enough to think they could still defend their crown. This front office is among the best in basketball and they know what it takes to maintain excellence. They saw the signs that Bowen was slipping before anyone else and promptly spent the money to bring in his heir apparent. Furthermore, there are reports that San Antonio has won the rather bizarre Damon Stoudamire sweepstakes and will be bringing in Mighty Mouse to bolster the backcourt. If they get everyone healthy by May, they are still going to be a tough, tough out.

Western Conference, get your wooden stakes ready.


Aaron said...

dont ever underestimate the heart of a champion... four time champion that is..
Spurs repeat

Mandi said...

We can only hope. I dislike the Spurs as much as I dislike any NBA team... the team whines, plays extra-physical on defense and as you mentioned, gets a lot of suspicious calls. They're brutal to watch.

But as long as Duncan is healthy, they'll compete for the title.

mldpu76 said...

What a whiner you are! The Spurs play great team ball - Duncan is as fundamentally sound as any NBA player ever, despite the fact that he gets about half of the calls he deserves. Ginobili wills the team to win and he and Parker are two of the most exciting players in the NBA. Finally, Popovich is a fantastic coach who knows how to get the most from his team - coasting through the season and peaking in the playoffs.