The Spurs lost. The Spurs got swept. It’s hard to think straight, but I know I’ll just be laying in bed thinking about the series, so I figured I would put my thoughts to paper (or computer screen) and find solace in the company of my fellow Spurs fans.
It was a tough series and when any Spurs fan thinks about it honestly, one we didn’t deserve to win. Our bench was awful. Manu was clearly bothered by his broken nose and looked out of sync all series. Our bench was awful. We seemed to lack the hustle and desire to win a lot of the 50/50 balls. Our bench was awful. Our RQC pretty much killed us and never let Phoenix feel like they were out of any game. We couldn’t stop the pick and roll and never seemed to have an answer for anything Phoenix did offensively. We looked a little slow and un-athletic. Our bench was awful. We missed a lot of free throws. And most importantly, our bench was awful.
There were a few bright spots about the Playoffs though. We beat Dallas. Manu showed that when his nose isn’t broken, he can still be an elite player. George Hill flashed enough potential to get our hopes up for the future. Tim Duncan, while older, gave us all he had. Phoenix was a tough matchup for him, but he’s still Tim Duncan. Tony Parker showed he’s a true Spur by being unselfish, coming off the bench, and then being the only aggressive player we had, even with a bum shoulder. And most importantly, RMJ played his last game as a Spur (ok, so that’s not exactly a bright spot about the Playoffs, but it makes me feel better going forward…).
And rather than spend this fanpost writing about the future and where the team needs to go, I thought I would take a different approach. The next few days are going to bring columns, Suns blog posts, and lots of people talking about this being a series of revenge. That the Suns were able to finally beat their hated rivals. That this finally got Steve Nash the vindication he deserves for the NBA cheating them out of series wins. And that Phoenix finally proved to San Antonio and the NBA that they could win and win their way. But I don’t buy it. Not for a second. And neither should you.
I’ll be honest. I hate the Suns. I really do. I hate most NBA teams who aren’t the Spurs, but the Suns rank right up there with Dallas, Utah, the Lakers, and Cavs (I live in Ohio). I hate them because they were always soft. I hate them because they always complained. I hate them because of their “me first” attitude. I hate them because their fans always had an excuse for why they didn’t win in the playoffs. I hate them because I like Oasis and wish Steve Nash would go back to being the lead singer. And most of all, I hate them because they were the anti-Spurs.
When Mike Dantoni became the Suns head coach, he brought with him the 7 Seconds or Less era and it was going to revolutionize basketball. We no longer were going to be subjected to the boring basketball that teams like the Spurs played. Like scoring? They had it. Like no defense? Got that too. Like whining and complaining? Check and check. Selfish basketball with no commitment to a team goal? Oh yeah. They became the symbol of what everyone wanted to see. But to me, and I think most Spurs fans, they became everything that was wrong with basketball. I took an inordinate amount of pleasure in watching them self-destruct every season, because you knew it was coming. Dantoni yelling and stomping his feet on the sideline. Amare, Marion, Joe Johnson, or any number of players complaining about not getting minutes or enough touches. No defense for entire games and panic setting in when things got tough. These were all the calling cards of the Suns. Year after year, the blueprint kept failing, but they didn’t seem to get the message. Meanwhile, the Spurs, Lakers, and Celtics were all winning based on toughness and defense and stepping up in big moments.
Enter Steve Kerr. He traded for Shaq, hired a defensive minded coach, and tried to change the culture. He was seen as a villain and somebody who was killing basketball in the Valley of the Suns. NBA pundits complained about the change and longed for the days of Dantoni. Although those specific moves didn’t work, he still worked hard to change the culture. He hired the right head coach and got players who cared about a team. And low and behold, the Suns move on.
Why is this important? Because after all of these years, the Suns didn’t beat us playing their game. They did it by becoming a little better version of us. And in the midst of my anger, frustration, and anxiety about this Playoff series, I take a little solace in the fact that we killed the 7 Seconds or Less Era. We beat the Suns in 4 straight series when everyone thought they had the best team and the best system. When the entire world was waiting for a revolution, the Spurs held steady and kept Pounding the Rock. And in order for Phoenix to advance, they had to become tough, defensive minded, and put solid role players around their stars. They had to become what the Spurs have been. They had to become what is right about basketball and right about sports. Look at the teams that have tried to emulate the Spurs. Boston, Portland, Cleveland, OKC, Phoenix....just to name a few. That tells you something about the respect our team gets and deserves. You win games and championships by doing things the right way. The Spurs way.
I’m not going to root for the Suns or anyone else the rest of the Playoffs. I’m going to stop watching the NBA until the draft and then get myself ready for the next season when the pain from this playoff exit will lessen. But in the meantime, I’m going to have a little smile when I realize that in order for Phoenix to beat us, they had to do the one thing they never wanted to do, and that was be like us.