Despite the festive concept of having all 30 NBA teams play games in one day, the regular season ended somewhat with a whimper for most playoff teams (sans the Los Angeles Lakers, who had to fight tooth-and-nail against the on-the-fence Sacramento Kings) as coaches opted to rest their major stars in preparation for the madness that is the playoffs. As for the San Antonio Spurs, the team was supposed to take it easy, try to build a rhythm for its players and get some momentum going into the money season. But as the breaks of the game go, it quickly turned into a long night as Manu Ginobili suffered a hyperextended elbow that threatened to put a damper on an otherwise sterling and most of all, incredibly surprising 82 games for the suddenly resurgent Spurs.
A late non-recap 'cap for a late game, when you take the leap.It's done. The regular season. We won't know if there will be a next one due to threats of a lockout. So I guess some Pink Floyd is in order.
Ugh, I really don't want to talk about the game. Most people didn't seem to have fun or had a lot of interest in it anyway after Manu went down. Let's just say that after the defense took a serious dip from Gino's shock injury in the first quarter, the team was resilient enough to keep the game close despite having very little to play for. Tim Duncan played a good solid 30 minutes to maintain rhythm, and to go 17-12 (although give up a 21-13 to the improving Polish Hammer, Marcin Gortat, on the other end) should have him feeling good and confident about himself. The bench was a little so-so, but at least Danny Green played a nice all-around game that should earn him an invite to camp next season.
I think that's as much as I'm going to talk about this one. It would've felt better to end up with the W and to have everyone safe and healthy, but right now it is what it is. Hopes are high that the injury isn't too serious, and I think Timmeh's already pumped up to face the Memphis Tankers after observing that the Grizzlies seemed all too serious to stay where they are at in the number eight spot. Jerry Buss and Mitch Kupchak should also send Lionel Hollins a thank-you card after everything is all said and done.
So, instead of sulking and bitching why lady luck seems to frown upon us at just the wrong time, I'd like to view this loss with a lot of positivity, as it also helps us slow down, breath a few more deep breaths than what we would've taken had we all been jumping up and down for joy, and just look back at what happened since November, all the way to today, April the 13th (14th for some furriners).
That's a lot, people. And nobody saw that coming, that's why I think more than anything else, the underrated-ness of the Spurs this season stems from a league-wide denial that an old, decrepit squad is still very much capable of beating up everyone in the league. No one was expecting any dramatic swan songs anymore, that was so 2003. Or 2005. Or 2007. Besides, David Robinson did that already -- must fans go through it again and suffer through a season dominated by grind-it-out basketball, just to see a living legend like Duncan go out in style? This was supposed to be the year of the super teams, the year when talent was expected to prove its superiority over the team concept, or the year when Kobe Bryant finally ties Michael Jordan's ring collection and maybe even surpass the GOAT in the pecking order.
Instead, they got the 61-21 Spurs, running along with the best of the lot, jacking up threes with abandon, and scoring like nobody's business. The vise-like defensive grip was gone, and only reappeared in choice moments of brilliance when no one else except Spurs fans were looking. It was indeed a bizarre transformation, and a lot of people didn't know what to make of it. They couldn't completely appreciate what they did not comprehend, kind of like the movie version of The Watchmen which most found boring as hell when in fact it was as faithful as it could get to its graphic novel counterpart.
But I understood it. You did. It was just another master stroke for one of the most innovative and smart franchises in all of sports. They slowly but meticulously changed with the changing times. Beating the Phoenix Suns at their own game in those playoffs and the reigns of the offense carefully shifting to Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili -- those weren't by accident or a eureka moment when Pop, in his classic imaginative drunken stupor, was chugging down bottles of wine in his cellar after another playoff crash. It was all by design, and in a league where a lot of teams tried to suddenly shift gears in style of play to capitalize on the game's increasingly fan-friendly style and ABA-like high-scoring revival, the Spurs still stand tall above the carcasses of squads who were never able to fully and consistently adapt.
Through it all, this really isn't supposed to be a surprise. To quote a chunk from The God of Small Things:
The secret of the Great Stories is that they have no secrets. The Great Stories are the ones you have heard and want to hear again. The ones you can enter anywhere and inhabit comfortably. They don’t deceive you with thrills and trick endings. They don’t surprise you with the unforeseen. They are as familiar as the house you live in. Or the smell of your lover’s skin. You know how they end, yet you listen as though you don’t. In the way that although you know that one day you will die, you live as though you won’t. In the Great Stories you know who lives, who dies, who finds love, who doesn’t. And yet you want to know again. That is their mystery and magic.
The Spurs winning and contending? Everyone's heard of this before, for every single year since the Tim Duncan-era. No matter the points-per-game average or points-against stats churned out season after season, the Spurs continue to be the Great Story that they've been over the last decade. The players might come-and-go, and the aging body a little less cooperative to the punishment, but the excellence remains. It's as familiar as the house that we all live in -- the house of the San Antonio Spurs.
At this juncture of the season, the real war begins, and there is a great deal of excitement at hand in anticipation of where and how the story ends. So while a lot of fans continue to overlook the Silver and Black in search of the next Dan Brown book of NBA teams, we remain committed to our own story, a classic but still compelling one that might ultimately end up like Jean Valjean's tragically triumphant tale, or a hopeful redemption similar to that of the Karamazovs. Either way, it's been one hell of a ride.
I'm not intending this recap to be some sort of rally the troops cheering session or a pep talk filled with expletives about how this team is going to kick ass, take names, spit on the face of hype and absolutely destroy everything in its path. I'm really not good with that. Instead, you get unsolicited advice:
Prepare for disappointment.
Disappointment, because this team won't yield to that lingering feeling of yours that it'll suffer another playoff flameout because of the holes in its lineup. Prepare to be disappointed in your expectations that Pop will cost us games, because this time, he will be engaged as ever and he will do whatever it takes to win that fifth ring. You will be disappointed that playoff Timmy will not appear, because in his place will be Super Playoff Timmeh, turning back time and dominating the post again like the motherf5ing boss of everyone that he used to be. Prepare for disappointment, not because Manu's bald spot won't suddenly and magically grow hair, but because he won't turnover the cudgels of his season-long leadership all of a sudden -- he will continue to lead this team through an incredible run, and he will continue to win us those heart-attack games.
The time is ripe, I say, for the story not to be rewritten, but to be retold with conviction and enough panache to make the world realize what they've sorely missed when they chose to overlook a team playing top-notch basketball for the last 10-plus years.
To hell with the sexy and trendy picks. Where are you going? Me? I'm already safely seated inside the bus on a return trip to title town.
Your Three Stars
3 -- Danny Green
1 -- Tim Duncan
Up Next: There's supposed to be an epic preview somewhere at some point courtesy of the PtR staff, guess you'll just have to wait.