Reading comments on basketball sites across the Internet (which, due to statistical probability and the bandwagon effect, are full of Lakers/Heat fans) and while most level-headed folk put the Spurs as 3rd in the West and winning their division, some folk have actually done and placed the Spurs a shocking 4th, behind the Los Angeles Clippers of all teams. What this does, however, is revealing that soundbites and oft-retreaded storylines are the norm in punditry nowadays, whether in the realm of Sports or Politics (pick your poison).
But if you ask me, it's probably better off that way.
While I look at the Spurs fanbase as having one of its biggest Debbie Downer phases in a while (seriously, when was the last time it happened, 2004? 2009? 2011?) while other contending fanbases have reasons to gloat (they did get this new guy with NAME RECOGNITION and all)) like the Celtics getting every Spurs fans' least favorite ex-Maverick Jason Terry, the Nuggets getting best-wing-defender-in-the-league-not-named-LeBron James Andre Iguodala, the Clippers getting two of the past three Sixth Men of the Year (but not getting James Harden), the Heat getting Ray Allen, and the Lakers foolishly trading away Andrew Bynum for some guy named Dwight Howard and turning a trade player exception into "triples their current MVP count" Steve Nash. Meanwhile what did PATFO do? Resign some minuscule Australian, a portly Frenchman (whose contract includes a fat clause, however), a guy once cut by the Cavs, and a 36 year old 6'11" guy from the Virgin Islands. Oh, and they added a pale combo guard of French extraction (seriously what is it with all the Frenchies? I think Pop might mandate team lunches to include baguettes now) and who played in Spain. And Eddy Curry of course. Eddy Curry, NBA Champion - still feels strange hearing those words.
But as they say (or more correctly, as I say), telling the facts is a matter of revealing the right angles. I could easily counter that Terry, Allen, and Nash are all 34 or older, and guards age faster than big men. I could also note that Crawford and Odom were simply HORRIBLE last season, and the Clipper bench seems to be getting by name recognition rather than on-court production nowadays. This leaves that guy Dwight, but sooner or later a coach will kill the Laker offense by making him go to the line. I can then say that the Spurs resigned their defensive cornerstone, their backup poing guard, their other starting wing, and their starting power forward. And I could also point to the fact that the Spurs achieved the league best record and returned to the Conference Finals. with one of their best players out half the year; last time Manu was out half a season, the Spurs started 0-3 and despite winning the Southwest lost in the first round to the Mavs in five games. And that was WITH a mid-season trade for Stephen Jackson and adding on Boris Diaw and Patrick Mills - the Spurs are rarely known for mid-season deals, unless it's a salary dump - and the only other major mid-season trade in the Duncan era was when Malik Rose was sent to New York for Nazr Mohammed.
So while I have my concerns for the Spurs (like whether the 20 win streak was a fluke or a sign of team chemistry at its best, or whether the Spurs play good enough D to reliably be in the top 10 in defensive efficiency as opposed to simply squeaking in) I think they still have a fighting chance. At worst they go down fighting and leave a bloody nose for whoever eliminates them - since 2004, the team that eliminated the Spurs in the playoffs has not gone on to win it all - but at best, I expect Timmeh to get one for the thumb.