spurs
If things ended well, they wouldn't end.

This may be hard to believe considering how many years the Spurs spent tormenting Steve Nash and the Phoenix Suns, but San Antonio's Game 4 loss to the Grizzlies really bummed me out. It's not like I ever hated the Spurs. Well, okay, in 2006-07, when Robert Horry hip-checked Steve Nash into the scorer's table and precipitated the Game 5 suspensions of Amare "I hadn't added the apostrophe yet" Stoudemire and Boris Diaw...that year I hated the Spurs. Between the mad floppery of Manu Ginobili, the rampant Duncan faces, and the many crimes against humanity committed by Bruce Bowen, the Spurs (for a time) began to embody a quality I hate in certain NBA teams: The willingness to do anything, be it bending rules (such as flopping or whining to the officials) or taking cheap shots (see the collected works of Bowen and Horry), to win.

Still, for the most part, the Duncan era teams actually represented much of what I love about basketball. The Spurs (usually) were a model of character and consistency. San Antonio played basketball the right way: Emotionally, intellectually and physically. Based in no small part on the demands of coach Gregg Popovich, the Spurs stressed the fundamentals of sports and life, focusing on loyalty and teamwork above all else. Management sought out smart players and built nothing but success on a strong foundation. That foundation being Tim Duncan.

The Spurs won their fourth NBA title in 2007...and haven't been back to the Finals since. There were mitigating circumstances, of course, specifically injuries to Ginobili in 2008 and 2009. But last season, when a reasonably healthy and restocked San Antonio team stumbled (by their standards) through the regular season and then got swept by (of all teams) the Suns in the Western Conference Semis, the Duncan era seemed essentially (if not officially) over.

Then something unexpected happened.

With the professional basketball world focused on the Celtics, Bulls, Heat and Lakers, the Spurs came tearing out of the gates. They got off to the best start in franchise history and had a stranglehold on the league's best record for most of the season. Popovich finally relented and let his players go all out to earn the top seed in the Western Conference. They got it. The Spurs finished the 2010-11 campaign with 61 wins and homecourt advantage in every series barring a matchup with Chicago in the NBA Finals.

But we can all admit something was wrong, can't we? The Duncan era champions (and championship contenders) were characterized by relentless defense, near-flawless execution and a grind-it-out style of play that wore down their opponents. This is why San Antonio served as the perfect foil for the Seven Seconds or Less Suns. And they proved to many people, beyond any shadow of doubt, that offense wins MVPs and regular season win-loss titles, but defense wins championships.

That's why it came as such as shock when this year's Spurs team became a sort of zero-calorie version of the SSoL Suns. Instead of slowing the game down, they sped it up, finishing 8th in fast break points per game (15.2). They became one of the league's best offensive teams, ranking 6th in PPG (103.7) and 2nd in Offensive Rating (111.8). On defense, they were adequate but no longer elite, finishing 11th in Defensive Rating (105.6).

Now, remember that 2006-07 Suns team I mentioned? You know, the one that may have been one bush-league move by Big Shot Rob from overcoming the Spurs and possibly going all the way to the NBA Finals? That Phoenix squad won 61 games. They finished 1st in PPG (110.2), 1st in Offensive Rating (113.9) and 13th in Defensive Rating (106.4). But the Spurs slowed them down, beat them up, and sent them home early.

History is repeating itself. Somehow, in some way, the Grizzlies have metamorphosed into the Spurs and the Spurs have transformed into the Suns. Last night, Memphis slowed the pace down to a near halt (87.4) and gradually pounded San Antonio into meek submission. The run-and-gun sprint-and-score Spurs finished with an Offensive Rating of 98.4. The Grizzlies had an O-Rating of 119.1.

You know what else is wrong with the Spurs? Tim Duncan. Oh, I saw his decline coming and watched it happening, noting it (some would say harping on it) repeatedly on this blog. Some people called me (and people who agreed with me) a naysayer. They pointed to advanced metrics. After all, they reasoned, Duncan's PER, eFG%, TS%, rebounding percentages and Wins Shares weren't all that far off his career numbers. He was still just as (or almost as) efficient...just playing fewer minutes. Staying fresh. Saving himself for the playoffs.

Still, he had quite a few un-Duncan-like performances this season. Out of the 76 games he played, Duncan scored in single figures 21 times. By comparison, that happened only seven times in 78 games the previous season and only four times in 75 games the season before that. Timmy had not one but two games against the Lakers in which he finished with a mere 2 points on 1-for-7 shooting. He had another game against L.A. in which he managed only 8 points on 3-for-12 from the field. He had a 5-point game (on 2-for-9 shooting) against the hapless Wizards. He had a 3-for-7 outing against the Clippers and a 2-for-10 night versus the Hornets. There was a 5-for-14 night against the defenseless Knicks and...I could go on, but you must see my point.

Duncan's bad nights were becoming more frequent and more, well, bawful.

Here's where we have to talk about hard realities. During his career, Duncan has logged 37,733 minutes in 1,053 regular season games. On top of that, he has put in an additional 6,877 minutes in 174 playoff games. He has carried a franchise on his back for 13 long seasons. That takes a serious toll.

You know what else takes a toll? Being an old school big man in a little (or smaller) man's game. David Stern has successfully legislated into existence an NBA in which perimeter players like Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, et al. really can't be touched, relatively speaking. But big men are still allowed to push and shove. And let me be clear: The pounding that perimeter players absorb during their forays to the hoop is nothing -- I repeat nothing -- compared to the constant beating big men take on a nightly basis. Duncan rarely gets a play off from being grabbed, held and knocked around, and (in all fairness) dishing out the same punishment to his defender (or defenders).

As Kevin McHale once put it, being a big man means always having "an elbow in your back and a knee up your ass."

To be a big man is to be under constant assault. It wears people down. Take Karl Malone. During his prime, there wasn't a more physical or more physically imposing player than the Mailman. But as his career moved painfully toward its ragged close, Malone became increasingly weary of being Utah's only true big man. It changed his game. For most of his 19 seasons, Malone loved to mix it up. Then, almost overnight, he didn't anymore. Karl started taking fadeaway jumpers instead of muscling his way to the hoop. He openly pined for help, rejoicing when "big man" Donyell Marshall was traded to the Jazz in August of 2000. (Sadly, Marshall turned out to be a small man dressed in big boy clothes.)

I can't find the quote, but during his final years in Utah, Malone said something to the effect of: "I dream about being able to throw the ball to somebody down low and say, 'Go ahead, big fella, you take it this time.'" Malone never got the help he wanted. He got Greg Ostertag. Which makes his final, desperate (and ultimately failed) run for a title with the Lakers kind of understandable, even if it still makes me throw up in my mouth a little.

Still, it was hard (at the time) to clearly mark Malone's decline because, as with Duncan now, his numbers remained fairly stable and the Jazz continued cranking out 50-win seasons with the regularity of an atomic clock. But if you looked closer, you would have seen (as I did) Malone being outclassed and overwhelmed by younger power forwards like Duncan.

The first sign of trouble came during the 1998-99 season, when the Jazz were one year removed from a Finals appearance and favored (by some) to finally win that elusive championship, thanks to the second retirement of Michael Jordan. Only Malone -- who was named MVP of the league that season by the way -- struggled mightily in the first round against an up-and-coming Kings team. In the second round, he finally succumbed to the persistent defense of Briant Grant, scoring only 8 points on 3-for-16 shooting as the Blazers eliminated the Jazz in Game 6.

The following years brought more of the same. In 2000, the Blazers again bumped the Jazz in round two as Malone went 11-for-25 in a Game 5 elimination. In 2001, the Jazz got upset in the first round by the Dallas Mavericks, and Malone went 9-for-28 in the fifth and final game in Utah. (In all fairness to Karl, Dirk Nowitzki went 3-for-11 and grabbed only 4 rebounds in that game.) By the time the favored Kings took out the underdog Jazz in the first round of the 2002 playoffs -- Malone went 7-for-20 and made only one trip to the foul line in the finale -- it was painfully (even awkwardly) clear that Utah's time had passed. It was even more clear that making the 1998 Finals had been the team's zenith and everything after that was a (somewhat sad) sunset.

And here we are again. Watching Duncan relive the closing act of Malone's career. Younger players like Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are now outclassing and overpowering Duncan. Did you ever, in a bajillion years, think you'd read a line like that in any human language? Or that it would be true?

The Grizzlies' big men didn't have a statistically dominant game last night -- they combined for 20 points and 18 rebounds -- but poor Timmy looked spent. He would finish with only 6 points (3-for-7) and 7 rebounds in 29 minutes. This was supposed to be Duncan's time. He averaged a career-low 28.4 minutes per game specifically for this moment...so he could be fresh and ready for the rigors of the postseason.

Yet, last night at least, he looked like a man with nothing (or very little) left. And, just like when Malone was getting worked over by the Grants and Duncans and Webbers of the world, something hit me with absolute clarity...

...2007 was Duncan's, and San Antonio's, zenith.

It's over. It's really and truly over. We never felt totally safe counting the Spurs out because Duncan and the team had been too good for too long. Look! They keep winning 50 games a season! Look! Duncan's numbers are still on par with his prime! They still look and act like the Spurs. They must still be the Spurs.

No. No, they aren't.

I'm sad. Really and truly sad. It feels like something is passing away. I am a fan of NBA basketball. Over the last decade-plus, I have followed the Association as closely as almost anybody. Duncan and the Spurs -- sometimes heroes, sometimes villains -- have defined (or helped define) a full third of my life on this planet. Now they're fading away. Not only that, I realize now they have been fading right before my eyes. For years.

If you read through the archives, I've actually been saying this for the past two or three years. But now I feel it. I feel it in my bones.

Almost 10 years ago, I had this experience with Malone and the Jazz. It hurt and, in many ways, I was never quite the same. My heroes were exposed as mere mortals and my own mortality was revealed in that truth. Last night, Zach Randolph and the Grizzlies dealt another blow to how I perceive the world and my own mortality.

It doesn't feel good.

But it feels like the truth. And we all have to face it some day. Even basketball legends like Tim Duncan.

Thanks for the memories, San Antonio Spurs. Thanks for everything.

Labels:

79 Comments:
Blogger chris said...
As cold as this sounds, there's a part of me that is amused that the once unmotivated, underconditioned Z-Bo is now humiliating Tim Duncan, and thinks that that is the epitome of bawfulness.

Anonymous phelan said...
I can't fathom an NBA without a dose of Tim Duncan face. Sigh.

Don't get me wrong, there's still plenty to look forward to in the league, but how many of them are true quality big men? Everything is on the perimeter now, and even the next rising star in Blake Griffin is a hyper-athletic freak of nature, not a classic bruiser like TD or Malone.

It really is strange to see the Spurs struggling though, but knowing Pops and the Spurs front office, they will weather the storm and come back quicker than most franchises can even dream to do.

Blogger boredsam said...
I attended my first Spurs game in utero, 3 days before I was born. My first memory of a game was the pre-Robinson Spurs getting dominated by Barkley and the 76ers. I was there for Robinson's quadruple double, I was there for the Memorial Day Miracle, and I turned the game off last night in the third quarter.

Spurs fans have been spoiled for a long time. David allowed us to dream, and Tim made the dreams a reality. I have been readying myself for the past year or so for the reality that sometime soon I would have to learn what it's like to be a fan of an average/subpar team, and last night brought that realization front and center.

Part of me is excited that younger teams are coming up. The West has only had 3 teams in the finals for the past 10 years, a change of the guard is in order (so long as LA isn't in the picture either!). I went to UT, I can cheer for Durant or Aldridge while still being a loyal Spurs fan during their rebuilding years. I just wasn't quite ready for that yet I guess.

The article summed up a lot of what I've been feeling for the past 12 hours, especially about the zenith being 2007. Even without any moves the spurs are still probably a 50+ win team next year until Tim retires. And after that, I could see a Manu-led team breaking .500 maybe one more year, but that's it. Spurs fans are used to waiting for the playoffs, the regular season doesn't matter to us. Now I wish I had enjoyed the regular season more this year, it's likely to be the last thing I'll have to cheer for as a Spurs fan for a long time.

Anonymous Sid said...
Guess we can look forward to a similar one of the Lakers.

Here's a comic about their beatdown at the hand of the Hornets:

http://www.sportskeeda.com/2011/04/26/new-orleans-hornets-vs-la-lakers-2011-gm-4-comic/

Anonymous kazam92 said...
Somber post OR elaborate reverse jinx? Lets watch the Spurs win the next 3 while Duncan averages 33-17

Blogger Dick Sullivan said...
What is with the vagina monologue, Bawful? I cannot tell you how completely giddy I am feeling about San Antonio's imminent demise. I'm thinking about taking a sad-bench photo from the next game and having it blown up into a wall-sized mural for my room. I could wake up every morning to sad Tim Duncan eyes and think about how great my day was about to be, despite anything else. I wouldn't have to remember the three and a half championships or his unflappable character, just his puppy-dog face and how good it felt to see him kicked for once. I'd put the poster right next to one memorializing Stackhouse muzzling Ginobili on the floor: "Flop now, you goofy sonuvabitch."

Count me as one who's not the least bit sad that San Antonio will be grilling out Memorial Day Weekend.

Signed,
A Mavs Fan (clearly)

Anonymous Stockton said...
Maybe the NBA is getting shorter ;)

It's the age of the point guard, with a few wings to go with it...

It's a long, long time since the NBA doens't have a dominant center (don't f### me with D. Howard!!!)... and that's one of the reasons Duncan ruled, since he is a center playing as a PF...
Now the posting-PF is also fading... the PFs are either (also) perimeter players, or guys who face the basket and dunk!
New times...

Blogger Michael Hsu said...
If dwight howard could hit 80% of his free throws he would be a dominant player and be able to put up 50/20 numbers and win games.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Agreed, Stockton. The ban on hand-checking has opened the door for the "preening pretty boys around the paint." I don't care what anyone says, this is still a big man's game, and I would rather take an elite center over an elite point guard any day.

Blogger Pinto Raine said...
Great post Basketbawful!

I watched Game 4 yesterday, it was the first game of the series I saw.

I was suprised by the Grizzlies, they played very well. I didn't really saw them play in the regular season.

By the way, what's up with Kevin McHale calling multiple players "clever"...he should really start using some other words.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
"Somehow, in some way, the Grizzlies have metamorphosed into the Spurs and the Spurs have transformed into the Suns."

And the Suns have degraded into the Hawks.

Blogger chris said...
...and the Hawks...oh wait.

They're overcoming adversity, specifically the Joe Johnson contract!

LOL.

Blogger Hillsolo said...
Great great article on the Spurs. I've loved Spurs for years, not only because they keep winning, it's about the character of the team, they are always poise and acting classic. One of the main reasons is coach Popovich, over the years, he is not only teaching his players to become better basketball players, but become better persons. This is why the team has been extremely cohesive and collaborative. Their older players are good mentors, and the young guys are quick learners. No one on the team is the self-serving ass like Lebron, a dick like Kevin Garnett or a spoiled Hollywood brat like Kobe. It is very hard to have a mentor in the early of your life to guide you the right way to become a better person. Popovich has done a marvelous job.
In the beginning of this year, I have had the exact same feeling you’ve expressed in the article. The Spurs became faster, a lot faster. But no matter how many wins they got, I just always felt anybody could have a chance to beat them. The main reason is Tim Duncan. How can you deny the fact that he has declined so much. The numbers don’t mean anything. When Duncan was at his prime, every play went through him, their game was inside-out and he was simply unstoppable. The difference today, double-team is less, means less wide-open shot and penetration opportunities for others, they heavily reply on Parker and Ginobli to kick the ball out. Duncan on the other hand, is a big role player, shooting wide open jumpers and score occasionally with single coverage. He’s no longer the foundation he’s used to on at both ends. Still, Spurs depend on their exceptional team-work and impressive resiliency to win games. However, once the playoff starts, they seems to be a little lost, this type of offense in the playoff game isn’t very familiar to them. But they have to force themselves to keep on going, but things are not working as well as the regular season. You can tell at times that their confidence is shaking, their 3pt shooters are rushing their shots, their inside games weren’t there, frustration is just inevitably shown on each one’s face. I believe this is such a huge hit to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, because they realize their era is coming to an end, and their “giving a last shot” mentality might not even work.
I still believe the team can come back from a 1-3 deficit, however, it’s going to be hard for the big 3 to make mental adjustments.

Anonymous Flud said...
'by the Grizzlies.' .... wow.. it does make my head shake. Everytime. A physical reaction to bawful in action.

Blogger Dooj said...
Thanks for the shout out to the Spurs, Bawful.

I know the series isn't over, and we could come back and win (I'm an optimist) but this series shows us that the book is closed on the Spurs championship window. No way we make it through OKC or LA or even MIA/CHI if we made it that far. As for the haters? So long and thanks for all the fish!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
you missed some SERIOUS man love in this picture:

http://i2.cdn.turner.com/si/2011/writers/chris_mannix/04/25/spurs.grizzlies.game4/grizzlies-ap.jpg

can't tell whose arm that is on marc gasol's junk

Anonymous Batmanu said...
*hangs head and frowns*

*wipes tears from eyes*

*tries to think happy thoughts, like the Mavs time never really came (they were destined to lose to Pookie)*

I still feel like shit. Please finish by becoming the 2006 Suns that beat LA. Or at least show me some effort. =(

Anonymous AK Dave said...
Dick Sullivan: +1 I, too, will not shed one tear for the poor Spurs and their 4 championships.

Also of note:

Brandon Roy was "shown love" once again and promptly shit the bed, thus evidencing what I believe to be the sad truth that his epic 4th quarter performance really was just a fluke.

Charles Barkley, who was making gagging sounds and choke sounds when he spoke of the Mavs after the game 4 collapse, now has picked them to win game 6 and close out the series. Make up your MIND, Chuck.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Due almost entirely to what you wrote in the openning paragraph, I will not miss the Spurs and their brand of 'fundamental'ly boring schemes (effective though they were), dirty play and proliferation of flopping. Add that to the fact that after 12 years Duncan still has yet to actually commit a foul, and I don't have any nostalgia for this team. Oh, and Parker ... can't forget my disdain for Parker ...

Blogger Fishy said...
Thank you for writing this article, I have been feeling the same exact way the last year or two... even when the Spurs were a pain in the ass over the last decade+, I could never hate them. And what's strange is that they are the one team that has been consistent not just in terms of winning, but they have had pretty much the same core and coach the whole time while most other teams have zero identity to who they were 10 years ago. Definitely sad to see my first generation of players on their way out, but such is life!

Blogger Wormboy said...
Hey now, nobody hate on Timmy (I'm looking at you, DICK Sullivan). You can hate the Spurs, especially Bruce Bowen. You can hate the Ginobili flops. You can hate the smarmy Tony Parker doubly after screwing over both his wife AND teammate. But you can't hate on Timmy or Pop. These guys are consummate professionals. Timmy is the best PF ever. If you don't feel the respect coming through the rivalries, you ain't a mensch.

Yeah, I saw a couple of Spurs games in February and March, and it was pretty clear that Timmy had permanently lost his mojo. I thought maybe Ginobili and Parker could carry the team, but clearly those dudes aren't first bananas like Timmy was. Ain't gonna happen, especially not without great defensive schemes.

Hey, no regrets: they won four rings. My only regret is that Antonio McDyess couldn't win a ring.

Blogger Steve Steffens said...
I was there last night, as I was for every Grizzlies home playoff but Game 3 this year.

At halftime, I looked up to see how well the Spurs were shooting, and realized they were only up TWO. it dawned on me that we were in great shape, and then the 3rd Quarter exploded.

Having lived through the sweep of 2004, it was very, very sweet and appreciated. I look out there and can only concur with the author of this piece; even with a Hall of Fame coach and two Hall of Fame players, the Spurs are done, if not tomorrow, then Friday.

The Spurs are a class organization, and they will rebuild, but it's the Grizzlies' time now, and who ever thought we would see that?

Anonymous Mladen said...
Sorry, but as much as I respect consistency and fundamental basketball, I cannot feel sad for the Spurs. They were basically a pain in the ass for anybody not rooting for them, and they did most of it not by being incredibly talented and playing at an amazing level, but rather, like Bawful said, by being incredibly dirty and willing to use any means necessary. On top of all that, am I the only one who was tired of their ugly, boring jerseys, and the equally ugly faces of Ginobili, Parker and Duncan? (Respect to Duncan as a player, though.)
Seriously, they won 4 championships, which is more than enough. Now it's time for some changes - be it OKC, CHI, MIA (they could be the new Spurs, in terms of the hatred towards them, right?) or even LAC, it will be a welcome change. Also, the Grizzlies are making me smile every morning, when I see the game results on NBA.com, and I am very thankful for that.

Blogger Dan B. said...
Bawful, you did a nice job summarizing my relationship with the Spurs. As much as I wanted to not like them, I couldn't help it. They played the kind of basketball I like. What others describe as "boring," I see as amazing to watch. Creating offense through absolutely brutal, grinding defense, and effective team play. (And Tim Duncan is just awesome.) It's the same reason I enjoy the way the Steelers and the Penguins play. A big emphasis on wearing down the other team and striking when they aren't ready for you... I don't know why, but I just really get a kick out of that. It's a shame that the Spurs have lost that identity, and that they have to get older and break down. Hopefully they'll pass on the torch to someone worthy.

Anonymous Tree said...
No doubt that Duncan is among the greats and is extremely likable (aside from his propensity to act as though every foul ever called against him was a crime against humanity) ... and nothing but respect for Pop & Buford ... but that's it.

Bowen and Floppy Ginobli almost single-handedly turned me off the game when they were at their best (by which I mean playing dirty and flopping in a way that would make Divac ashamed). Their success was also built upon some shady tanking which produced Duncan, and that can't be ignored. But, mostly, they have their 4 rings, so now that they're heading toward the mediocrity that the majority of the league enjoys, I will not shed a tear.

San Antonio: it's been a great run that has made people like me jealous of the success you got to witness for well over a decade ... but I don't have an ounce of sympathy now that it's over (this is where I need to mention I live in Toronto and the greatest success I've ever got to witness was named Vince Carter ...)

Blogger Kody said...
As a hardcore Suns fan, I can't tell you how great it feels to see the collapse of the evil Spurs empire. I just wish Bruce Bowen and Robert Horry were a part of the misery.

Blogger chris said...
And thanks to this dedication to an almost-a-dynasty...

We didn't get to talk much about the SIX MAN MARIO PARTY the Frail Blazers and Mavs had last night!!!!

Blogger Dick Sullivan said...
Wormboy, I have genuine respect for Timmy, but in the same way I respect General Rommel.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Yeah, I saw a couple of Spurs games in February and March, and it was pretty clear that Timmy had permanently lost his mojo. I thought maybe Ginobili and Parker could carry the team, but clearly those dudes aren't first bananas like Timmy was. Ain't gonna happen, especially not without great defensive schemes.

One thing I meant to add to this post was a line like: "The same instant in which Manu and TP became San Antonio's most important players was the instant in which the Spurs, as championship contenders, were finished."

And thanks to this dedication to an almost-a-dynasty...

We didn't get to talk much about the SIX MAN MARIO PARTY the Frail Blazers and Mavs had last night!!!!


Aw, crap. Can you post the lacktion ledger in these here comments, chris?

Anonymous DKH said...
Meh. Well-written article, but it still can't make me care about the dirtiest NBA team of recent times (just like the Steelers in the NFL; what's up with the teams you have an affinity to, Dan? :P But seriously, are there fundamental, "wear-you-down" teams that don't play dirty?).

I never got the accusation of them being "boring." Where the Spurs played well, they were entertaining to watch. Where they were kneeing people in the crotch, grabbing their man regions, and kicking their faces, it made the NBA look silly. I wish all teams in the NBA had equal standards for what was a foul, but I guess it helps some teams to have refs on the take.

Blogger Caleb Smith said...
Duncan's numbers are still quite good, but the decline *is* evident to an extent number-wise as well. While a 21.9 PER is nice, it's also a career low for Duncan. His 7.7 Win Shares is also a career low. His offensive rebounding % is a career low and his total rebounding % is nearly a career low (though still comparable to his career rate). His 17 points per 36 minutes is, again, a career low. So I don't think there's any big disconnect between his statistical performance and what people are talking about here.

Anonymous Aaron said...
as a Steve Nash fan, last year's sweep was just the perfect revenge. Even though Suns sucked this year, it seems just a bit even more disappointing for a top-seed to lose to an 8-seed. So yeah, no tears shed here!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Wow, great post.

As much as I hated the Spurs at times for kicking my teams out of the playoffs, it is kinda strange and sad to see them fading. They have been a good team for as long as I have been watching the NBA.

Also their team-first, no-drama, no-nonsense approach was really refreshing with all those egos and eccentrics going on in the NBA.

Blogger chris said...
Our uber-8 bit lacktion ledger for Monday:

Spurs-Grizzlies: Hamed Haddadi harbored a board in 9:06 but also bricked once and fouled thricely for a 3:1 Voskuhl.

Frail Blazers-Mavs: Dallas's DeShawn Stevenson started as guard for Mark Cuban's cadre of coin collectors, spending 12:51 with three bricks (twice from the Mercantile Bank Building), a rejection, foul, and turnover each for a +6!!!

BUT WHOA. WHAT A MARIO PARTY.

SIX MARIOS IN ONE _GAME_. This may be an Association record for time eternal!

For the Frail Blazers, Patrick Mills (53 seconds), Armon Johnson (18 seconds), and Earl Barron (18 seconds) all plugged in their Virtual Boys, while Brian Cardinal (38 seconds), Corey Brewer (24 seconds) and Ian Mahinmi (18 seconds) scored the latest Zelda game at GameStop for the Mavs!!!!!

Thunder-Nuggets: Oklahoma City's Nazr Mohammed nailed one missed shot in 7:33, two fouls, and a turnover for a +4 and a 3:0 Voskuhl!

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Meh. Well-written article, but it still can't make me care about the dirtiest NBA team of recent times...

Here's the thing...


...in many ways, this article was more about me than it was about the Spurs. I'm attached to the Duncan era teams the same way I'm connected to periods of my life that have come and gone.

If you read the "Livin' Large" series I posted almost two years ago now, you could probably tell the level of nostalgia I have for my college years. Looking at that time of my life in the rear view mirror, I can hardly imagine a chunk of time I'd rather re-live.

But that doesn't change the fact that large portions of my college career sucked ass. I was poor, direction-less at times, had family problems and all sorts of crazy romantic follies. But when I look back, I remember all the good times and the might-have-beens.

Like it or not, Tim Duncan was a part of my life for the last 13 years. A major player, even, because 1) I am a basketball fan and 2) Duncan repeatedly battled my most hated team (the Lakers) or one of my most beloved (the Suns). In one way or another, he has been important to me almost every year for over a decade.

Now, looking over the past 10 years is a lot like thinking back to my college days. The end of the Duncan era Spurs feels like losing those years forever.

True story: I hated Bill Laimbeer more than any other basketball player ever. Yes, even more than Kobe. My mom, who was a die-hard Celtics fan until Bird retired, hated him, too. With a dreadful passion. Yet when I went home for Thanksgiving break during my freshman year in college, she told me, "Hey, Bill Laimbeer scored 26 points the other day." (He did it against the Orlando Magic on November 17, 1993.) My mom told me this with a really strange sort of pride. It was her way of saying, "See? Players from our past are still important today."

See, my mom became disenchanted with the "new generation" of NBA players. She followed the NBA of the 1980s and couldn't relate to the NBA of the 1990s. So, even though she despised Laimbeer, his 26-point game was like a flashback to what were, for her, happier (or at least better) times.

On December 2 of that year, Laimbeer retired.

Said Laimbeer: "It was a very difficult decision, yet it was easy." Even at the end of the line, he managed to infuriate me with a stupid quote.

So there you have it. The end of the Spurs as we know them is really the end of an era of my life. I'm getting older. I can tell in the way my knees ache after a night of pickup ball. I can tell in the way that each new generation of NBA players means a little less to me than the generation before it.

Hey, it's melancholy, and it'll pass. But I still feel like I'm losing...something.

Anonymous Batmanu said...
Why can't Manu go into video-game mode like he did last year? He was ridiculous down the stretch for us.

And Timmy has always been my favorite player since he came into the league. Before him, I enjoyed The Admiral. Jordan was always a close second for me during those years, but I felt I identified more with the PF/C position. Although I was never the tallest of the people I play with, I was always solid, crafty, and assigned to guard the tallest person on the other team. I developed my post moves and post defense watching these two play (my guard skills came later - I play more like a SF now - just about a foot shorter than a SF should be) and a loved every moment of it. It will be hard watching these last few years and into rebuilding mode, if you don't believe we've already entered it.

But I can at least say my team and favorite player was able to win it all. Four times.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Welcome to the world of the Roger Federer fan. The sunset has transpired over a similar timeframe, and is similarly life-altering.

Blogger Will said...
How's this for fittingness: my WV after reading Bawful's reply to DKH is remenisc(e).

Blogger Catfish Hunter said...
I just miss the days when Z-Bo was proudly stationed in the banner of this website. Now Z-Bo is no longer bawful, and that's almost like the sad melancholy theme here. Z-Bo nailed a 3 the other day, nothing but net. It's like he's immune from bawfulness these days.

Blogger chris said...
You know what's interesting?

The dynasty Lakers of earlier this decade, with Shaq...the way the team imploded due to personal conflicts, that era basically just died out in a flash without any long goodbye. Add C-Webb's disintegrating physique and you get the quick flameout of a relevant Lakers-Purple Paupers rivalry in an instant.

Amazing it's been over 6-7 years since any of that mattered.

Blogger Japes said...
I used to be a Spurs fan. I was ecstatic when they beat the Lakers in 2003. However, I never forgave the Spurs for what happened in 2007. They potentially robbed Steve Nash of his best shot of making the finals. I still don't understand why Stern decided to reward that Horry cheap shot with 2 non-sensical suspensions...

I love Tim Duncan as a player and person but I delight in seeing the Spurs lose. With that said, even though the Suns swept them last year and Memphis is up 3-1 in the series, I'm still afraid of them simply because they're the Spurs. That's a testament to how good they've been during the Tim Duncan era.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
I just miss the days when Z-Bo was proudly stationed in the banner of this website. Now Z-Bo is no longer bawful, and that's almost like the sad melancholy theme here. Z-Bo nailed a 3 the other day, nothing but net. It's like he's immune from bawfulness these days.

I'll tell you what: Zach's best-ever season just so happened to coincide with (SPOILER ALERT!!) a contract year. He just signed his extension and I expect a dropoff of some kind next season. And if there's a lockout, he's going to go the way of Shawn Kemp/Vin Baker and return a fat, doughy shadow of this season's Z-Bo. I guarantee it.

While I'm making guarantees, here's another: If Kobe's injury forces him to back off on his shooting and force feed the ball into Gasol, Pau is going to have a miraculous "comeback" game. It's amazing that people haven't caught on to this yet, but Gasol's level of effort seems to be directly proportional to how consistently the Lakers go to him on offense. As long as he's getting a steady diet of touches, he will crash the boards and play great defense. I think these occasional bouts of crap performances are his (conscious or unconscious) way of reminding the team how important he is to winning.

So, if the Lakers spoon feed him offensive touches tonight, he will have a big game and the Lakers will win in a blowout.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
I'm kinda disappointed. Every avid Suns fan should atleast know that when it comes to the Spurs, you can't just shoot once. Confirm the kill.

A hypothetical question was raised: would I trade the Diamondbacks World Series for a Barkley or Nash or 70s Suns championship? I hesitated. Why? Because I think taking down the Yankees in that fashion is a completely unique historical moment, and is often seen as the spark to the Yankees' decline, while the Suns may in retrospect be seen as the spark of taking down the Spurs. I think I'm okay with this. Even if the Suns won in, say, '93, it probably wouldn't have stopped Jordan from getting his six+.

Anyways, yea Pops and Duncan are great, all the rest of the vets can suck it.

Blogger Catfish Hunter said...
We also need a special post to commemorate the Atlanta Hawks' rise to prominence the first year they parted ways with Mario West. Maybe it's a psychological thing, but this team seems way more focused with Mike Woodson and without Mario West on the bench. It's like getting rid of Mario was a ceremonial "turning of the corner" for this team.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Bawful, that's a terrible prediction. Kobe's already had his less-FGA-than-3+-teammates game, and if anything he'll try to overcompensate to prove his "hunger" or whatever the fuck, like he's done before. This seems like a, if I may paraphrase PJax, "he knows the right thing to do, but chooses not to do it" situation.

Mark him down for 20+ FGA, or atleast leading the Lakers in usage.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
It is only fitting that the Tim Ducan era be ended by a team that was tanking.

Anonymous kazam92 said...
Tim Duncan is NOT the greatest PF of all time because he's not a friggin PF. Forcing a 6'7" guy to play next to you and have him take the Center label doesn't make you a PF Timmy. It's a hell of a lot easier to be the best PF (full of ringless losers) than the greatest Center (full of iced out fingers). He's been pulling that shit since Robinson left really. I don't know why nobody has caught on.


Timmy is great and all and the Spurs era was one to behold, but when I watch him play even now, I see a Center who happened to be a great passer for his size and blessed with great faceup and backdown skills that refined over the years. Maybe my idea of a PF has been warped by the Blake Griffin's of the world, but I wish someone would call him out on that.

Blogger AnacondaHL said...
Oh my God not the goddamn PF vs C discussion again

Anonymous Batmanu said...
http://www.slamonline.com/online/nba/2010/04/tim-duncans-a-power-forward-and-the-best-ever/

I think that article says wonders in regards to PF vs C.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The Lakers have also reached their zenith some time ago. can't wait to see kobe's numbers go way waaay down.

As much as i respect the spurs' front office, i doubt they will recover from this quickly. Seems like just a moment ago that everybody was praising joe dumars' work assembling the pistons' championship roster. Now he's a has-been.
Building a championship roster is like a poker game. Skill helps but you need some luck as well. You practically have to get a top-5-of-the-decade type of player if you want multiple shots at a title.

So long spurs. Won't miss you guys at all. Make room for OKC. They already have their top 5 of the decade player lined up.

Anonymous DKH said...
Here's the thing...
...
Hey, it's melancholy, and it'll pass. But I still feel like I'm losing...something.


Hey, I can sympathize with all that and I enjoyed the read. I'm trying to think of any similar perspective I've had with baseball players/teams when I was younger.

My NBA fandom was very brief and I now just watch for entertainment/highlights, in essence. I became a basketball fan in general upon entering college, and I always root for my home teams, but I pretty quickly became disenchanted with the NBA because the refereeing is too questionable and they show no desire to fix it. So that is, unfortunately, what the Spurs symbolize to me: inconsistent reffing that allowed their hack-fest and dirty play to thrive, rather than a monolithic franchise with consistent and solidly fundamental play.

====

As an aside, I still read the site as much as possible because I enjoy the writing (the traditional WotN and the new BAD features), but I know I don't comment as much as I used to since, as I said, I don't care as much about the NBA anymore.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
All the espn experts seem to think the spurs will take the next 3 in a row. Ha!

Anonymous Anonymous said...
"He's been pulling that shit since Robinson left really. I don't know why nobody has caught on. "

I'm not really sure in what world Tim Duncan has anything to do with or is answerable to this arbitrary, pedantic media dialogue that exists so television commentators can quickly, easily say something good or bad about the Spurs without really saying anything with any substance.

But it's not this one.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
Bawful, that's a terrible prediction. Kobe's already had his less-FGA-than-3+-teammates game, and if anything he'll try to overcompensate to prove his "hunger" or whatever the fuck, like he's done before. This seems like a, if I may paraphrase PJax, "he knows the right thing to do, but chooses not to do it" situation.

Mark him down for 20+ FGA, or atleast leading the Lakers in usage.


I concede that's a very real possibility, and said as much to ET when we were discussing the game, which is when I made the prediction. I have Pau down for something like 28 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists, with a Lakers blowout. We'll see.

Blogger KHayes666 said...
The thing about the Hornets is that they needed absolutely insane performances by a gimpy Chris Paul to even squeak out 2 wins against the Lakers.

Without West in the middle, all the Lakers have to do now is double team Paul everytime he's on offense. If they get beat by Trevor Ariza and Emeka Okafor...they deserve to lose.

Anonymous EuroGuy said...
The end of an era...

On another note: Guess who won the NBA Citizenship Award - also known as the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award.? Yep, that's right: the great human being called Ron Artest. I just puked a little in my mouth.

Anonymous sixtyeight said...
While I enjoyed every second of the game I see where you came from. My hate for the manu-parker-duncan triumvirate made me forget that duncan's the type of player I wanted to be when I was a teen and that he helped my all time fav player (the admiral) win his rings. Duncan is the last of his kind, in this nba of inept big men he really was special...man I have some serious love/hate issues...

Anonymous kazam92 said...
My point isn't so much his style of play, rather it's why are you calling yourself a PF and Dejuan Blair/Matt Bonner/Rasho Nesterovic/Antonio McDyess a Center when you generally guard the other team's center and those guys are inches shorter (Rasho was 7 feet but c'mon)


I did forget about Nazr Mohammad though. Point noted.

Anonymous r13 said...
What the hell has Z-Bo got to do to earn some respect around here? The dude is a savage. He has dragged the Grizz to their first playoff victories and will probably drag them into the next round in a mammoth upset, and has put up all star numbers two years in a row. No weed scandals and instead of punching his teammates, they all love him! All this without their best scorer in Gay. Lay off him he is the man. If he drops off next year, then you can put the boot in and say i told you so. Right now, he deserves the key to the city.

Blogger stephanie g said...
I feel bad for Duncan. Isn't there a clause that says you can't get into the HoF if you lose to the Grizz in the playoffs? When Z-Bo hit that go ahead three, do you suppose Isiah was watching? With that trademark smirk...

They should've kept Scola.

While you're in this morose mood, you should prepare your future Celtics decline article. I'm still surprised KG came back to be as effective as he is. Usually when a player that old with that many minutes crumples their knee it's over. I thought that was his Mutombo moment.

Blogger BadDave said...
AnacohndaHL - +1. And another FAUGH for the "best ever" argument too.

r13 - Earning respect on a site called "Basketbawful" is pretty difficult. I won't even argue what "all star" numbers are, but Z-doh has a lot more to prove to me than squeaking in at #8 and beating an aging Spurs team before I start giving him credit.

Anonymous Batmanu said...
Two things regarding the Grizz...

1. Every time I look at Z-Bo, I swear I believe he would sound like Jadakiss.

2. I think Gay being out made them a better team. The ball goes where it was originally supposed to and gave them a reason to play Tony Allen.

@kazam92 - Duncan generally guards whoever will get him in less foul trouble. There's no question he's PLAYING more Center in the past few years, but that doesn't make him one. If you think Timmy should be a Center, you must clearly believe the opposite for Chuck Hayes, right? LOL

Anonymous Adrià said...
I love the way you make me look into myself to know what I think about situations like the one you wrote here. I see myself trying to describe and define all those mixed emotions, feelings and memories that important things produce.

I can't just sintetize it now because it's 4:00 am. But I love this game, and this blog (and its comments section).

I had a pretty tough time last night, watching the Spurs (and as an extension, the Tim Duncan era) come to an end. They overachieved like crazy to lock up the first seed in the West, and it was a fun season.

But, it's not the Spurs. It was a short term solution to get the most mileage out of the years Ginobili and Duncan have left in them.

It's over. It still hurts to think about, but it's something that, as a Spurs fan, I have to accept. We're clearly outmatched, and we can't hide it with clever playcalling and hiding the deficiencies of niche players by complementing them with other niche players.

It was a glorious run, but it's over, now.

RIP, Duncan era (1999-2011). It was an experience.

Anonymous supersonic said...
You should be glad, the Spurs are playing as if they were the San Antonio Suns. In love with the 3-point (which is killing them) and 0 defense.

Anonymous TransINSANO said...
Nice ode to the Duncan Spurs, they deserve more respect than they generally get, as evidenced by some of the comments here. I've always respected them; great player, great coach, great teams. I never understood why people hated the Spurs the same way I never knew why people hated the New England Patriots. They won too much? They did it boring? It was like hating greatness, or professionalism. Those people should have wanted THEIR teams to be like the Spurs, not hate them. The Lakers are my team and sometimes I wish even they played more like the Spurs; with that consistent purpose (maybe that's because I root for the Lakers). Every player and every team, good and bad, wants to win, but few are willing to do the work needed on and off the court, and some of these Spurs teams won on that work ethic alone. To put it in perspective, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I remember a few years back I heard the Spurs had the best winning percentage of any sports team this decade, even better than the more heralded and infamous Patriots. Pretty good for a boring team that won more than it should have, but they earned it.

Blogger matt said...
Chuck for dirty quote machine on Inside: "When you're out there banging big guys all night, it wears you down."

Blogger Factfinder said...
@Batmanu:

For your listening enjoyment:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2sA8xsYRLU

Anonymous dave m said...
Terrific post and a lot of great comments. The Spurs were never "my team" but I'd watch them whenever I could - they play the game the right way. True, the new hybrid offense was very un-Spurs-like but they made it work for the regular season. Always hard to go wire-to-wire though, especially with so much tread on the tires. Time's the avenger - will always remember the Duncan era with respect.

Blogger LotharBot said...
TransINSANO, The Spurs play this pure and beautiful "fundamental basketball" with solid defensive schemes, efficient offense, professionalism, all the stuff I love to watch -- and then they mar it with flopping (Manu), dirty play (Bowen, Horry), and whining (Duncan Face), which I hate to watch.

IMO, all true basketball fans (other than Spurs homers) should both love and hate the Spurs -- a great team that plays great, professional basketball except in a couple very visible and ugly to watch ways.

Blogger karishma said...
hey...I dnt thnk they r fading...its an era of the rise of d underdogs..evythg cmes to an end na...like....Shaq-Kobe laker era did or Ganguly's cricket team did...bt they gt replaced by smthng better...they will be...:)and u'll hve smethng else to like

Blogger winnetou said...
It is only fitting that the Tim Ducan era be ended by a team that was tanking.
And that only the second 8-1 upset ever might have been made possible by that strategic tanking, whereas the first event earned Mavs coach Avery Johnson criticism for not losing strategically to avoid that specific #8 opponent.

Blogger James said...
This was a sad post. Not what I normally expect from Bawful, but still a good one. It made me think, when current great players such as LBJ, Wade, and CP3 retire, will I be as nostalgic? For some reason, I think not. I guess there is something about childhood memories that makes it more special than just memories.

Anonymous Batmanu said...
TransINSANO, The Spurs play this pure and beautiful "fundamental basketball" with solid defensive schemes, efficient offense, professionalism, all the stuff I love to watch -- and then they mar it with flopping (Manu), dirty play (Bowen, Horry), and whining (Duncan Face), which I hate to watch.

Show me ONE team with no floppers and no whiners in the NBA. I don't know why people make it sound like he's the biggest whiner in the NBA. And Manu has been out-flopped in recent years by Pierce (annually), Sideshow Bob, Fisher, and even Shaq, for good measure.

I will concede Horry and Bowen, though. Horry did Nash dirty and man, did Bowen Liu Kang the SHIT out of Wally Szczerbiak. He also kicked Steve Nash, Ray Allen, CP3, and possibly Amare. I thought he'd go MMA when he retired.

Anonymous lechuck said...
the debate aside, putting tim duncan as a PF has clearly given him a lot of advantages:
1. he'd automatically get voted to start the all-star game in the west as during the late 90s/early 2000s shaq would surely get the vote for starting C.
2. he'd also be selected almost automatically to the all-nba team as (again) shaq would be too dominant to be toppled at C.
so, whether we want to admit it or not, being labeled as PF definitely has helped duncan's career.

Blogger LotharBot said...
> only the second 8-1 upset ever

Third. Nuggets over Sonics in 1994.

> Show me ONE team with no floppers and no whiners in the NBA.

Point. That said, yeah, there are a few guys who out-flop Manu, and a few guys who out-dirty Bowen/Horry, but I can't think of a team that's had consistent flopping and dirty play anywhere near Spurs level for anywhere near as long. (They've also been playing fundamentally good basketball for a very long time, which IMO makes the cheap stuff all the more worthy of hate.)

Anonymous bizarro said...
I can't believe some people still think Robert deliberately hip checked Nash back then so that the Suns play without two of their best players the next game.
This is just absurd. It was just a frustration move from Horry, and the Spurs just ended up on the lucky side when everything was said and done. The Suns were never equipped to last long in the post season and the spurs have little to do with that

Blogger BadDave said...
James - one other reason that the old guys will be remembered more fondly? Because they didn't pull dick moves on fans. No serious legal or character shenanigans (he said glossing over Barkley tossing a guy out of a bar window and a little gambling), a demonstrated work ethic, and the drive to win every game.

Now it's all show for contracts. I'm not saying the older players didn't do it for money. BUt they were willing to clock in and out pretty much every day, and did what their bosses asked them to.

Anonymous Runescape Gold said...
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