Welcome to “Pretty Much Screwed,” our definitive guide to the upcoming NBA season. This team-by-team preview details why it’s probably not your favorite team’s year. Today: We’ll talk about the Spurs, who are still basically your father’s Spurs.
By most accounts, the window of opportunity had already closed on San Antonio last year. You could never count out a team led by Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, but in the face of flashier, younger teams like the Thunder and Grizzlies and Clippers, the Spurs seemed doomed to another season of great regular season success and postseason failure.
Then, whether you want to call it luck or skill or a combination thereof, the waters parted for the Spurs as they not only made their way to the NBA Finals, but came within seconds of closing it out. If the ball bounces a slightly different way, or Ray Allen doesn’t hit the most clutch shot in Finals history, we’re having a much different conversation this offseason — nay, for the rest of our NBA-watching lives. But the ball bounced, and the shot fell, and the Spurs were unable to stave off Miami’s momentum. And so it was, in fact, the same old story: great regular season success, postseason failure.
Nothing perhaps sums up the missed opportunity like this video (Spurs fans, avert your eyes):
The greatest power forward ever, in Game 7, with Shane Battier on him, blowing a layup? The clang of the ball off the rim doubled as the sound of a window slamming firmly shut. Tim Duncan is an all-time great player, but even he said that miss will always haunt him. It killed the comeback, and sealed the Spurs fate.
Some of you will say that last year was last year and this year is this year, and the Spurs showed they still have some left in the tank, and they’ve got some young pieces that will take the next step this season and so on.
No, guys. Last year was their best chance for a title in years, and they choked.
While several Western Conference teams made major upgrades this offseason, the Spurs pretty much stood pat. The Rockets grabbed Dwight Howard; the Nuggets snagged Andre Iguodala; the Clippers got Doc Rivers; even the Mavericks upgraded their backcourt.
The Spurs signed Marco Belinelli. Cool.
Anyone who saw Manu Ginobili during (most of) that Finals series knows his best days are way behind him. Tony Parker is also on the wrong side of 30 and looked gassed in Games 6 and 7. Tim Duncan… well, see the video above.
The Spurs should have started the Kawhi Leonard era this year and committed themselves to making him a vital part of their game plan, instead of just “guard LeBron” and “be the fourth option.” Instead, they’re hoping to catch magic in a bottle one more time, and that when the time comes, Duncan won’t miss that bunny again.
So much of success in sports is based on luck, and the Spurs were extremely lucky to be in that position last year. It won’t happen again. The league is too strong. Sorry guys.
Three things to know about the Spurs:
1. They’ve only thrown five alley-oops in the last two seasons. That’s last in the league and it isn’t even close: next-to-last are the Mavs with 30.
2. Manu Ginobili’s new contract was stolen in Buenos Aires after the intern delivering it was shit on by a bird.
3. At 18 years with the Spurs, Popovich is currently the longest tenured coach in America’s four major sports.
Actual season prediction: 56-26, third in the West, second round exit.