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It's time for another in our Fraternizing with the Enemy series, and since the Spurs play the Trail Blazers tonight, you know that it's going to be an epic conversation with Dave, right? Well, you'd be half-right. We're throwing a small wrinkle into the mix this time.
In planning for this, our last regularly scheduled regular season email exchange of the year, I decided that it would be therapeutic to go ahead and out myself as a pessimistic/jaded/glass-half-full Spurs fan. You and I have been privately corresponding about the Spurs this year, and since no one explains things better than you, I was hoping that you would help me break the news to my readers in a way that will gently warn those who are relying on their championship hopes for this season.
You know how I feel about Tim Duncan's knee. You know the doubts I have about the team's ability to play elite level postseason defense without Tim playing the way he did at the beginning of the season. We spent the vast majority of our previous conversations this year on the Blazers, so I feel that it would be fair to ask you to help me in this way. And while you're at it, you can tell your readers why my request is even necessary, vis-à-vis San Antonio's legitimate contender status this year seeing as their defense has joined their offense, placing the Spurs in the top five on both sides of the ball all year long.
This is not exactly a Colonel Mustard in the Conservatory level mystery, is it? The Spurs are absolutely, positively championship contenders until the exact moment that they're not.
Within the last year we've compared the Spurs to Johnny Carson, a legion of undead, and Gollum after his Precious. Let's give you the ultimate compliment though. You know who you guys really are? You're Frank Sinatra. You're classic, golden...NOBODY does it better or with more class. People take one look at you and say, "I wish I could dress like them, sound like them, perform like them." Every year the media trots out the latest winner of American Idol and speculates that they'll be the one to take over the mantle. Then here come the Spurs with their version of "I Did It My Way" and all of a sudden everybody remembers. "Oh yeah. Everyone else is crap by comparison."
If the entire world were at stake in one basketball game against extraterrestrials Space Jam-style and we held a vote for the one team to represent the future of the planet San Antonio would win in a landslide. But nobody knows better than you guys that the NBA playoffs don't happen on a single night against a single team like that. It's four, seven-game series against a variety of the best opponents in the league. You can't control your opponent or their style. So Sinatra gets up in the battle of the bands and spins Jazz, Classical, Pop Standards...he wins them all. But somewhere along the way you know that spinner is going to come up "Rap". And uh oh, here comes the Sugarhill Gang. Even if they're goofballs, not the most respected mic-masters on the block, at that point, Sinatra is done.
In the Spurs' case the equivalent of "Rap" is the athletic, quick team with enough bodies to bully that frontline out of their game. And when you say things like "Tim Duncan's knee" you might as well start the beat box and sample track right now.
It's practically a Rite of Spring by now. It's early March. The Spurs must be title contenders. Early June? Not so much.
I said a hip, hop, a hippie to the hippi-dee hip hip a hop, a you don't stop...
The onus is on the Spurs to show that something is different this time. Has Tim Duncan found a time machine? Kawhi Leonard is good but can he hold back the flood single-handedly? I guess it could happen. You'll never find me betting against the Spurs at the start of any series except perhaps facing the Thunder. But you're going to have to show this isn't the same old song before anybody believes it. And that's fair. I tell hyperactive Blazers fans all the time that nothing in this league is won on credit. The Spurs have the best FICA score imaginable, but it's a cash-only league with championships as the only legal tender.
I keep wondering if there is a road to the Finals for the Spurs, however. What would need to happen for them to get there? Are there any matchups flying under the radar that you would find more difficult for San Antonio? How about high-profile matchups you think you could win despite the world considering you an underdog? Who do you really fear in a seven-game series and who would you like to see?
This would normally be where I hold forth on all of Dave's questions, but I'm going to throw this one out to the £ers this time, and make it more of a Discussion Starter than a classic Fraternizing with the Enemy. Am I the only one worried about Duncan? He's been playing great the last few games. But when he went down against the Wizards, it reminded me way too much of 2011 when his knee forced him to the hardwood twice in two different late-season games against the Warriors. Surely you guys remember that Timmeh was a mere shadow of himself in that series against the Grizzlies. It's the one thing that no one ever mentions when explaining why an eighth seed could tumble the mighty Spurs.
So, let me hear about your take on The Duncan Question, and the rest of Dave's queries.