The Spurs were immediately placed on my mental back burner the minute I finished writing the recap of game 5 against the Lakers. After coming back from
- Tim Duncan was less than 90%.
- Manu Ginobili was less than 90%.
- Tony Parker was less than 80%.
- Bruce Bowen was less than 90%.
Any one of these events would have led to a Spurs loss against the Lakers (to argue otherwise is sheer ignorant idyllic idiocy). The Ginobili injury just happened to be the obvious flip of the coin that turned up tails.
You could take any NBA championship contender and pick one player they could not win without. The Lakers have
The Spurs did not lose because Manu Ginobili got hurt. The Spurs lost because any of four different, independent events happened. They had zero margin for random events, and this is entirely the fault of management.
The Spurs mistake has been their focus on finding “veteran role-players.” Every player addition has been evaluated in the context of the Big Three and “fitting into the scheme.” You may be thinking “Wait a second, that’s how it’s supposed to be done.” Really? Look at what that got us:
Look at those guys a group. Remove the context of Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. Pretend you’re starting a team with those nine guys. Who has a one on one game? Who can penetrate? Who has a post game? Who do you run the offense through? Who rebounds? Who’s the interior presence? Now pick any other team in the NBA, and look at their worst nine players. Try to find a group worse than the Spurs. It’s impossible to do amongst the playoff teams, and amongst non-playoff teams there are few, if any, obvious choices.The supporting cast surrounding the Big Three is atrocious. To say otherwise requires one to focus solely on how good they look playing next to Tim, Manu and Tony. That futility and stupidity of that narrow-minded focus is laid bare by the realization of what, apparently, is a secret:
Every one looks good playing next to the Big Three. (Except the Collective Detritus that is Robert Horry.)They are by far the least selfish core in the NBA. They play both ends of the court. They say the right things. They don’t show up their teammates or coach on the court or to the media. They can create their own shot and create shots for others.
Their diverse abilities, along with Pop’s stubbornness and his refusal to put with mistakes made by someone under the age of 30, have led to a focus on finding the smallest of pieces. They have acquired players who “play the right way” or “play hard-nosed defense” or “do all the little things.” When, instead, they should have simply gone after “good” players who, when called upon, can attempt to do the “bigger things” that have to be done when Manu / Tim / Tony gets dinged or the likes of Ray Allen has a bad stretch of games.
What frustrates me most about Spurs fans is that they evaluate the management in the same way they evaluate the players.
In some respects I can understand refusing to admit just how horrible Michael Finley has become; pretty much all of us wanted to be an NBA player at one time or another. Idolization of athletes, and ignoring their failures and faults, is no new thing. (Not to mention criticism of any kind is getting discouraged more and more in every aspect of media.) We look at the success of the Spurs, and we attribute some of the credit for that success to each member of the team. We believe a team is a sum of its parts, but we ignore that some of those parts can be negative. In the context of the Big Three, Michael Finley is a winner. In the context of an average NBA team, he’s a waste of minutes.
What surprises me is that Spurs fans so willingly apply the same context to Spurs management. The Spurs have won three titles in six years, so Pop must be a great coach and Buford must be a genius. Give me a break. I’m not saying Pop is a bad coach, but he’s been blessed with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. Have the Spurs ever won a title they shouldn’t have? Have they ever beaten a clearly superior team? Have they ever pulled an upset? Have they ever won when any of the Big Three suffered even the most minor of injuries? Have the Spurs developed a single young player other than Tony Parker? How hard is it to have a great defensive team when you have Tim Duncan guarding the basket?
Buford and Pop should be run up the freaking flag pole for their performance this past year. Pop dicked around with lineups / game plans / time out calling / substitution patterns all year, openly admitting he didn’t care about home court advantage. Well, hmm, that might have come in handy against
Pop spent the first 50+ games of the season with the JV as his backup. Stoudemire is acquired, given 15 games and then essentially kicked to the curb. The playoffs arrive and, wow, what a shocker, the JV is a total zero on offense, to the point Barry is thrust into PG duty despite having played about 5 minutes there all year. Do I blame Pop for the JV sucking? No. I blame him for ignoring the suckage and therefore not playing Barry / Ginobili as the backup PG all year.
(And that, my friends, is the short list of Pop's blunders.)
Buford hasn’t been any better. We haven’t drafted a useful player since Beno. Scola was given away when he’d clearly be the second best big man on the Spurs.
I see little reason to hope the Spurs will be any better next year. That is not to say the Spurs won’t be good enough. They’ll just be in the same position as 07-08: helpless if anything goes wrong. The writing, after all, is on the wall:
Translation? Three studs and a bunch of suck.
"The ‘getting younger’ thing is overblown," Popovich added. "If we knew Manu would stay healthy, Timmy (
) would stay healthy and Tony (Parker) would stay healthy, we’d bring back the same doggone team. And if any of those guys are not healthy, we’re not going to win a championship anyway." Duncan