Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
While the aging star-laden Lakers struggle to gel and the ultra-hyped Thunder find out how much they may miss James Harden, the Spurs continue their winning ways with familiar faces.
4.5 points, 4 assists: Steve Nash's averages through the first two games before missing the third and fourth with injury, which were basically the same stats as those of his namesake and backup, Steve Blake. And though Kobe and (except during the Clipper game) Superman are putting up typical numbers, the Lakers suddenly find themselves staring at 1-3, having only been able to beat the perennially hapless Pistons. Can they mirror the Heat's rebound from their initial struggles to find team synergy, or was that recovery due to the South Beach presence of the otherworldly Mr. James? Could it be that this collection of aging megastars might not mesh well? Could Hollywood's rendition of the SuperTeam be destined to choke on the brittle bones of Steve Nash, Antawn Jamison, Ron Artest, Pau Gasol, Kobe Bryant, and the other 30 year-olds populating Mike Brown's squad? Of course it is early, but things are off to a less-than-intimidating start.
Thunder Up...or down??? Oklahoma City's blockbuster move of James Harden for the oft-injured Kevin Martin+others garnered lots of attention and leaves lingering questions. Whether or not the team is able to retain their dominant form of last year, will they be better off in the foreseeable future? Will the addition of rookie Lamb and the two first-round picks next year combine to pay dividends, or will Harden become a true superstar in Rocket red, while Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook find only mediocrity in their search for a new Third Musketeer, and Thunder blues echo hauntingly across the wind-swept Oklahoma! plains? Suddenly, for OKC, the once-gleaming future is suddenly far from clear.
We come to the Spurs. The historic core of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker once again led the Spurs to an age-defying and record-setting season last year, while new (and returning) faces like Leonard, Green, Neal, Jackson, Splitter, Diaw, Bonner, and Blair all contributed at varying times and levels of effectiveness to forge a unit that has now played through near-miraculous peaks and deeply disappointing lows. What do they look like now? Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker are once again joined by Leonard, Green, Neal, Jackson, Splitter, Diaw, Bonner, and Blair, not to mention the returning Mills and Joseph and the newly acquired De Colo. Part Deux of the New Spurs? 2011-2012 all over again, only this time with more seasoned, battle-tested, and championship-starved warriors?
While the other Western Conference powers face unfamiliarity, transition, and questions only time can answer, the Spurs carry on with business as usual. It wasn't broke, and they didn't try to fix it. A 20-game winning streak collapsed into a natural, but ill-timed, slump against the young and powerful three-headed Thunder of old, but PATFO knew they had found a winning, nay, dominant combination of players to unleash on this league.
Time will tell, as always. Of course I'll qualify all of this with an acknowledgement of potential Laker glory and/or OKC greatness, but in my heart, I don't believe it. I am not merely a Spurs fan. I truly believe, as a sports fan, that San Antonio is the class of this league. With unparalleled depth, improved defense, abundant offensive weapons, grounded intangibles, and legendary coaching, these Spurs should fear no one.
Just practice, play, and win.