Were You Really Ever Doubting The San Antonio Spurs?


Yeah, the San Antonio Spurs are coming on a little late, but did you really think they would go down that easily?

This season hasn’t gone exactly as planned in San Antonio.

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Last spring, when the San Antonio Spurs dismantled the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, and effectively ended the LeBron-Era in Miami by decimating the Heat with absolutely dominant team basketball, they looked as though they would be the team to beat in the West this season.

It seemed like they had figured out the secret to success, that they had something no one else in the league had. Maybe they had gotten Tim Duncan bionic legs, or Manu Ginobili had brought some sketchy beans back with from Argentina during the All-Star break that aged everyone five years in reverse. Or maybe they were just well coached and played team basketball, something 80 percent of the league doesn’t do but no, that couldn’t have possibly been it.

Whatever it was, the Spurs looked amazing last spring, and we were all certain that they would continue that dominance into this year.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Entering the All-Star break this season, the San Antonio Spurs were on the fringe of the Western Conference playoff picture, and just didn’t look like themselves. People were talking about the Spurs like they actually might

Feb 8, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich talks to his players during the second half against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated San Antonio 87-82. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

be done.

Yup, this is it. This is what we’€™ve been waiting for for the past five years, Tim Duncan is finally worn down, Tony Parker isn’t the same, Popovich has lost his touch, the Spurs are finished.

That was the tone of many in and around the league. I’ll admit, I even got a little bit worried. The Spurs really didn’t look like the team we knew. Kawhi Leonard couldn’t get healthy, the team was wearing down late in games, and those same role players like Boris Diaw and Patty Mills, who had made the team so deadly last spring, just weren’t getting the job done like they had in the past.

It also didn’t really feel like it was premature to start doubting them. We had seen this before; we had seen the Spurs take their time to get into a rhythm, but it had never taken this long. Never before had we seen the Duncan-Popovich Spurs limp their way into the All-Star break. It truly felt like the Spurs might finally be done.

But of course, we were all mistaken. After all of our criticism and doubt, the Spurs once again, proved us wrong. The team went 14-3 in the month of March, and they finally began to click again. Now the Spurs look good. Tony Parker has found his stride, Kawhi is healthy, Pop isn’t calling frustration time-outs where he scolds his team with silence anymore, and Tim Duncan no longer looks as though he belongs in a 55+ YMCA league.

Yup, I think it’s safe to say — the Spurs are back.

And seriously, should any of us be surprised? Shame on us for doubting San Antonio for only like the 6th straight year — you’d think that by now we’d have learned our lesson. You can never count them out.

The problem with judging the Spurs is that they can be really deceiving. With the way Gregg Popovich runs his team — resting guys, giving certain players who probably shouldn’t be on the court that long extended looks, sometimes at the expense of winning games, and generally not giving a crap about the regular season — their record is often not reflective of the true state of the team.

But just about every spring, Coach Pop enters the playoffs with the most prepared, and the most refreshed team in the league. The Spurs are the New England Patriots of the NBA — annoyingly, consistently good.

If the Western conference was a series of restaurants, here is how it would breakdown:

The Warriors are that trendy new gastro pub that serves edamame foam, and homebrewed microbrews, and does a lot of fun and creative stuff.

The Clippers are that place that’s pretty good, but you can feel the tension between the waiters, and you can hear the arguing coming from the kitchen. It’s generally pretty uncomfortable to be around.

The Rockets are the restaurant that serves one really good dish called The Harden, and absolutely nothing else. It’s still pretty successful, but you can only go so often.

The Pelicans are that place that you, and only you, love. You tell all of your friends to go there, and they always come back saying they found a hair in their food, or that the service was terrible. But none of that has happened ever to you, and even though you’ve heard the awful stories about the Monty Williams stir fry and the Omer Asik Panini, you keep going back and totally enjoying the Anthony Davis special.

The San Antonio Spurs are the reliable, unassuming diner/pub on the corner. It’s always there, you know

Mar 12, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich is interviewed by ESPN reporter J.A. Adande during the second half at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

exactly what you are going to get, and it’s always going to hit the spot. They have a fantastic chef, though he’€™ll probably answer your question about the Chicken Parm with a fact about Saturn, and their menu is deep and consistent with very few weak links.

So yeah, the Spurs are the diner of the NBA and in case you were wondering, the Timberwolves are that place that gives you food poisoning every time.

But seriously, is that analogy that far off?

The Spurs really are always there when it comes down to it every season. And once again they are primed for another playoff run. If the Spurs are clicking, there’s no team in the West they can’t challenge. They have one of the NBA’s deepest lineups, its best perimeter defender in Kawhi Leonard, and by far its best coach in Gregg Popovich.

Right now they are on track to take on the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. For starters, the James Harden vs Kawhi Leonard matchup would automatically become must watch TV. The NBA’s best offensive weapon that is healthy (Sorry KD), going up against the NBA’s best perimeter defender — just the idea has me dreaming. But ultimately, Kawhi would probably contain Harden to some extent, meaning only 35 PPG, and the Spurs would be able to discard the Rockets.

At that point, the Spurs would likely go up against the Warriors. And while Golden State is have a historic season, on pace to win about 69 games, the Spurs are one of the few teams I see having a shot against them. Once again, you’ve got Kawhi defending on the perimeter, neutralizing at least some of Golden State’s 3-point ability.

The other advantage that the Spurs possess is their ability to out-physical the Warriors. From top to bottom, the Spurs have the ability to play them physically, and potentially disrupt some of the Warriors high-octane offensive rhythm. Pair that with the playoff experience that the Spurs have over them, and San Antonio has a chance. This is the only way the Spurs would be able to challenge Golden State, and even then it would be tough. But it’s certainly in the realm of possibility for this San Antonio team.

Regardless of who the Spurs face in the playoffs, they are a potent team, and someone that nobody in the West wants to face.

It’s been a slightly more rocky journey than anyone would have hoped for, but once again, the San Antonio Spurs appear to be hitting their stride heading into the playoffs. Their unbelievable longevity is more than apparent, and they are definitely capable of making a run this spring.

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