Skip to content

Spurs’ run finally over? An annual question

Jun 22, 2013, 6:30 PM EDT

BKN-NBA-FINALS-SPURS-HEAT-PRACTICE

Tim Duncan is 37. Manu Ginobili is 35. Tony Parker, the youngest of the Spurs’ famed trio, is 31. All three have significant mileage from NBA regular seasons, long playoff runs and international play.

Are they over the hill to the point San Antonio’s run finally ended?

It sure seems so, but I also realize the Spurs were a minute away from a championship this season. San Antonio was certainly good enough to win, but so were the Heat, and the breaks went in Miami’s favor. Credit the Heat for coming out ahead, but also realize the Spurs were right there.

Also realize declaring the Spurs dead has become an annual tradition since they won their last championship in 2007.

Fran Blinebury of NBA.com when the Spurs lost to the Thunder in the 2012 Western Conference Finals:

Forget the back-to-back sweeps of the Jazz and Clippers in the first two rounds. Going out by losing four straight in a reverse sweep and blowing the largest halftime playoff lead in franchise history in the finale says the Spurs might be lucky to slide a razor through that window crack next October.

How many times can Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford beat the bushes to drum up supplementary talent such as Gary Neal or Danny Green or Boris Diaw or Jackson to give Duncan, Ginobili and Parker one more chance? How many times can the big three avoid ankles and elbows and knees that break down before the playoffs even begin?

How do the Spurs replicate the lightning-in-a-bottle good fortune of winning Hall of Famer Duncan in the 1997 Draft lottery that has produced 15 years of stability and elite contender status for the small-market franchise?

On a night when the painful realization of what lies ahead had to run deep, Popovich chose the Novocain of praising OKC for running the table against Dallas, L.A. and San Antonio, the teams that had ruled the Western Conference for the past 13 seasons.

“I think it’s pretty cool for them,” he said.

However, when Parker was asked what went so horribly and suddenly wrong for the Spurs, he shrugged and replied, “It might be too early.”

It might already be too late.

Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk (sorry, boss) when the Spurs lost the Grizzlies in the first round of the 2011 playoffs:

The Spurs as contenders are done. The Grizzlies have put the nails in the top of that coffin. San Antonio may again win 50+ regular season games next season. There may be flashes of the old magic. But we know that they cannot sustain it for seven games against a quality opponent.

It’s over for the Spurs.

Bill Simmons of ESPN when the Spurs lost the Suns in the second round of the 2010 playoffs:

To the Duncan-era Spurs: Four titles, 13 straight 50-win seasons (I’m including the stupid lockout season) and a boatload of fantastic memories. OK, not really. But we got to watch Duncan (the best power forward ever), Ginobili (the best international guard ever if you’re not counting Nash, and you shouldn’t, since Canada isn’t really “international”), Parker (who perfected the celebrity relationship), Popovich (the best coach of the past 15 years), and two really fun rivalries (Spurs-Suns, Spurs-Mavs). Look, you can’t stay on top for more than a decade without getting a top-three lottery pick or having Chris Wallace trade you a top-three lottery pick. That’s just the way this league works. So hold your head up high, Spurs. Fantastic run. When players are bawling in their locker room because they finally beat you (like Nash did after Game 4), you know you accomplished something great. And you did.

John Hollinger of ESPN when the Spurs lost to the Mavericks in the first round of the 2009 playoffs:

End of the season … or end of an era?

It’s not just that four-time champion San Antonio lost a first-round playoff series for the first time this decade Tuesday night. What’s shocking is the manner in which it lost to a team that, let’s face it, wasn’t that good.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of this series was the dreadful performance of the Spurs’ roster, other than Tony Parker and Tim Duncan. A decade of drafting 27th will do that to you. San Antonio’s supporting cast was so ineffective Dallas couldn’t guard the Spurs’ best player and it didn’t matter.

Worse yet, two of the Spurs’ three stars had physical problems this season, and one wonders how they will affect the club’s fortunes going forward. Manu Ginobili missed half the season with ankle injuries. While he’s still capable of playing at an extremely high level, he’s no longer somebody you can pencil in for 80 games.

More worrying, perhaps, are Duncan’s knee problems. With 30 points Tuesday, he showed he still can be a capable player even with the injury. The problem is, this isn’t an “injury” so much as a chronic condition, and it’s limiting his ability to be a defensive dominator. He blocked one shot a game over his final 20 contests this season, after averaging well more than two for his career, and his rebounding also has slipped.

This much is clear: Without a major infusion of talent and youth at some point in the next two years, the Spurs’ quasi-dynasty of the past decade will come crashing to an end. We’ve had it in the back of our minds for a while, but this series, and Tuesday night’s game in particular, hammered that point up to the front.

The Associated Press when the Spurs lost to the Lakers in the 2008 Western Conference Finals:

San Antonio’s elimination might signal the end of its era of dominance. With Duncan leading the way, the Spurs won championships in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007, but with a rotation made up solely of 30-something players except for the 26-year-old Parker, the future seems uncertain.

So, as much as I think the Spurs are finished, I won’t declare them dead. They were good enough to win a title this year, and although they fell short, they came much closer in 2013 than those who’d written them off previously ever would have imagined.

Besides, I wouldn’t want someone quoting my foolish words in a blog post about San Antonio’s 2014 NBA title.

Latest Posts
  1. Spurs use huge 4th quarter run to come back and win Game 1 vs. Mavericks

    Apr 20, 2014, 4:21 PM EDT

    Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan Manu Ginobili, Tim Duncan

    Spurs close the game on a 19-4 run after trailing by double digits.

  2. NBA issues statement saying Chris Paul was fouled before late-game turnover against Warriors

    Apr 20, 2014, 3:30 PM EDT

    Chris Paul, Draymond Green Chris Paul, Draymond Green

    Statement confirms referees handled replay review correctly, but also admits that they missed the initial foul call on a critical possession.

  3. Jim Buss says he’ll step down if Lakers aren’t contenders again in ‘three to four years’

    Apr 20, 2014, 2:00 PM EDT

    Jim Buss Jim Buss

    If Jim Buss fails to deliver in quickly rebuilding the Lakers, he says he’ll resign.

  4. Hibbert says he’s the “weak link on defense,” hopes for better Game 2

    Apr 20, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Atlanta Hawks v Indiana Pacers - Game One Getty Images

    Roy Hibbert owned up to a poor Game 1. Will he do anything about it in Game 2 is the question.

  5. Raptors say malfunctioning shot clocks will be fixed in time for Game 2 vs. Nets

    Apr 20, 2014, 11:00 AM EDT

    raptors shot clock

    Shot clocks stopped working midway through the third quarter, but Raptors say all will be well in time for Game 2.

  6. Thunder start fast, cruise to Game 1 win over Grizzlies

    Apr 20, 2014, 12:44 AM EDT

    Memphis Grizzlies v Oklahoma City Thunder - Game One Getty Images

    OKC led by as many as 25 points in the first half.

  7. Kyle Korver swats Roy Hibbert’s shot out of bounds (VIDEO)

    Apr 19, 2014, 11:30 PM EDT

    Indiana Pacers v Atlanta Hawks - Game Four Getty Images

    Roy Hibbert wasn’t good in Game 1 against the Hawks, and this play epitomized his performance.

  8. Pacers’ troubles continue as Hawks convincingly win Game 1

    Apr 19, 2014, 10:01 PM EDT

    Pacers' Hibbert looks down court during Game 6 of their NBA Eastern Conference Final basketball playoff series against the Heat in Indianapolis Reuters

    The eight-seed Hawks blowout the Pacers in Game 1.

  9. Warriors take Game 1 from Clippers

    Apr 19, 2014, 7:12 PM EDT

    Stephen Curry Stephen Curry

    Warriors steal Game 1 in Los Angeles.

  10. Nets defense smothers Raptors, gets Brooklyn Game 1 win on road

    Apr 19, 2014, 4:06 PM EDT

    Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) battles under the hoop with Brooklyn Nets centre Kevin Garnett (2) but they couldn't get it done as the Nets won 94-87 Getty Images

    Playoff games are played in the halfcourt and the Nets owned that in Game 1.

  11. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri screams ‘F— Brooklyn’ to crowd at rally before Game 1 vs. Nets (VIDEO)

    Apr 19, 2014, 2:39 PM EDT

    Masai Ujiri AP

    A rare and raw show of emotion from a team’s GM was caught on camera.

  12. Toronto Sun fires shot at aging Brooklyn Nets (PHOTO)

    Apr 19, 2014, 12:30 PM EDT

    Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce

    “Garnett and Pierce are so old the Raptor had to ask his dad about them.”

  13. Adam Silver says after owners’ meeting raising age limit top priority

    Apr 19, 2014, 9:29 AM EDT

    Adam Silver Adam Silver

    The owners are behind Silver’s effort to raise the age limit. Now there’s just the pesky matter of negotiating with the players’ union.

  14. PBT Extra: Are Pacers or Spurs in any trouble in first round?

    Apr 19, 2014, 8:00 AM EDT

    Paul George, Pero Antic Paul George, Pero Antic

    You can construct a scenario where the Pacers are in trouble… except they play the Hawks.

Featured video

Warriors vs. Clippers playoff preview
Top 10 NBA Player Searches
  1. D. Wade (3548)
  2. L. James (3546)
  3. S. Curry (3338)
  4. C. Anthony (3161)
  5. A. Bogut (3101)
  1. K. Durant (3083)
  2. R. Westbrook (2818)
  3. D. Williams (2806)
  4. D. Rose (2748)
  5. K. Love (2592)