If you wanted to draw up an end of the season to set up for the playoff run that Popovich likes to have, you could not design a better last 12 weeks than the Spurs have just experienced, and that includes the blowouts from the games taken off (that rest sure has paid off), the stumble against the Lakers (which revealed a lack of effort on the boards and the ahem Blair issue), and Manu's injuries (which let the rest of the team step up in his absence). About the only thing left to be upset about, for those who are always looking for such a thing, is the fact that the rest of the media seem to have remembered that the San Antonio Spurs exist.
And they're writing stories about them.
The ability to fly under the radar is a bit of a badge that Spurs fans often exult in. And even more than that, it's a technique that any number of people have engaged in throughout the course of their lives. But when you have real talent, it's hard to hide it forever. Just ask the brilliant but slacking teenager in high school who's assigned a project on something that he's passionate about. Or the boyfriend in college who realizes he is going to lose his girlfriend, so he pulls out all the stops and plans a and super romantic Valentine's Day; setting the bar for all future special days to come. In literature you can check out Hal in Henry the Fourth Part 1, and in pop culture you can check out this willful toddler.
In every case, the capabilities that lie beneath the surface eventually will see the light of day. And here, at the end of the season, the sun is shining pretty bright indeed. As evidenced by the following snippets from around the interwebs.
First up is the Baseline Awards (which are weekly) from CBSSports.com writer, Matt Moore. You may be familiar with him by his Twitter handle @HPbasketball, and if you've ever felt like he was stingy of his praise concerning the Spurs, then feast your eyes upon this:
The Horde Award for Team You Should Fear: San Antonio Spurs
There just aren't words for how well the Spurs are playing right now. They had a +25 efficiency differential per game this week. To put that into context, for every 100 possessions, they outscored their opponents by 25 points. They beat their last four opponents by 100 points across 400 possessions. That's insane.
They space the floor, they can attack you with size now with Tiago Splitter, their bad defenders are defending well, they have versatility, Tony Parker is playing at an MVP level, and Manu Ginobili does amazing things with a basketball. There is absolutely no reason for you to not believe the Spurs can win the title right now. They are there.
If that doesn't show how much altitude San Antonio has gained lately, as far as the radar of large media outlets goes, then check out this from ESPN's Daily Dime about last night's decimation of Portland:
The Blazers aren't a particularly difficult opponent, but the Spurs' blowout win was both thoroughly commanding and absolutely unrelenting. The Blazers' 35-point loss didn't stem from a lack of effort, but rather from facing a team that's functioning as an unstoppable offensive machine in recent weeks.
Look at all of those adjectives -- MVP level, amazing, thoroughly commanding, absolutely unrelenting, unstoppable. Have they been making up for spending so much time focused on Miami and LA by drinking some Spurs brand Kool-Aid? Sure sounds like it.
But aside from all of that, and the recent list of great stories that SpursfanSteve unearthed, I hear someone (is it my conscience?) saying that they don't really need the acclaim of the cognoscenti. That
while it's nice every once in a while to hear that someone who shapes conventional wisdom has glanced at my team and responded with something complimentary, I don't NEED their notice. I've been inoculated from that need through regular coverage, analysis, frivolity, and psychologically satisfying conversation with those who are most qualified to create it: the observant fans who follow the team every single day.
And it's in that spirit, that I bring you some good news of great joy. One of the most troubling aspects of this season, has been the worry bubbling up from among those who comment regularly on PtR, sounding the warning after every great game by Danny Green. Alerting the rest of us that it's going to be too hard for us to sign him next year. Well, I have something of substance to present to you. A wonderful nugget from Andrew A. McNeill of 48minutesofhell who informs us that
the Spurs can make [Green] a qualifying offer of a little over $1 million for next season (According to ShamSports). This would make Green a restricted free agent, meaning any team can make an offer to Green and the Spurs have the option to match that contract and retain Danny. This would be a way for the Spurs front office to let the market dictate how much Green is worth, but they can also agree to a new contract without extending a qualifying offer. That is, if both parties want to continue this relationship.
I'm sure that there are salary cap issues that will remain to be hashed over, but I've got to say that (given my well publicized man-crush on Greensleeves) this bit of news is my favorite of the entire month so far. And that, my fellow £ers, (aside from the sure to be stiff debate over whether to rest the stars or play them in the final two games) is that.