The Rorschach inkblot test. You probably know it. It's used by psychologists to examine personality characteristics. The subject looks at an abstract inkblot and verbally responds to it.
Show a Spurs logo to most NBA fans and you'll hear a litany of accusations: floppers, whiners, dirty, boring, all-that's-wrong-with-the-NBA. They, of course, would be somewhat right. For comparison, someone who looks at the Grand Canyon and says "I see a rock" is somewhat right. There are rocks in the Grand Canyon. A man often sees what he wants to see and disregards the rest.
But there's more there. You just have to step back to see it.
Spurs fans have a different vision. They see consistent lock-down defense and finely executed offense. There's Manu Ginobili, the rightful MVP of the 2005 finals, Olympic champion, clutch performer and fierce competitor. There's Tony Parker, the one man fast break who, when he puts his mind to it, cannot be kept out the paint. There's Tim Duncan, the best power forward ever and arguably the most effective NBA player since Michael Jordan. You put those guys together and you get game 3 of the Phoenix series, where the Spurs shot 56%, never trailed and disemboweled the Suns by 16. No team in the NBA could have touched the Spurs that night.
But there's less there. You just have to step forward to see it.
The Spurs were a figment of our collective imagination all year.
The fans, the management and the players all fiercely held on to the same belief: no matter how good the opponent, no matter how dangerous the playoff path, no matter how pathetic the Spurs' supporting cast, the Big Three were good enough to pull us through. After all, they had done this before, right?
Right. They had. But the Spurs are no longer "they." They are all too much in the present tense. The present Manu Ginobili, even with a healthy ankle, lacks the explosion and deadliness of the version in our heads. Today's Tim Duncan just put up the lowest playoff shooting percentage of his career (and his second worst effort in terms of blocked shot per game). This is not criticism. This is just reality.
Reality is something Spurs management conveniently avoided all season. Key players such as Michael Finley, Jacque Vaughn and Robert Horry were given playing time despite doing nothing this year to show they deserved it. The best attribute of the three of them was Finley's 37% shooting from three, good for 63rd in the league. 63rd. For a guy who took maybe ten contested threes all season. He couldn't create his own shot, create shots for others or play anything other than barely adequate defense. And he played 27 minutes a game. If he was a 22 year old nobody instead of Michael Finley he wouldn't have made it out of training camp.
I don't mean to sound negative and bitter. That's not how I feel. More than anything I'm sad, but not for me. I feel bad for Tim, Manu and Tony. They were good enough this year to repeat as champions. They dragged a bunch of scrubs deep into the Western Conference playoffs, carrying 98% of the workload between the three of them. They deserved a better chance than the front office gave them.
As for next year, it's obviously time to reload, and in a big way. We'll have plenty of time to talk about that later.
Wrapping up some loose blog ends:
1) Thanks to everybody for reading / participating. I didn't have as much time for this blog as I would have liked this season, but it didn't suffer from much (if at all) from my absence. The game threads were especially beautiful; some of ya'll's is funny.
2) Thanks to AusTechSpur for handling the game threads. This place probably would have fallen apart without you.
3) Thanks to Michael Erler for the writing. You have a gift. Thanks for sharing.