What a coincidence! My last entry was titled "Fun with Small Sample Sizes" and three days later Bill Simmons writes the following, based nearly entirely on what he saw during the Spurs' recent game at the Clippers:
A "grim team?" The Spurs? The same team with a bench that explodes every time Brent Barry hits a three? The same team with Nick Van Exel waving his towel every time Beno Udrih successfully gets the ball across half court? I love the Sports Guy, but he made the mistake of reading way too much into one game, one game that just happened to be a SEGABABA and the fourth game in six nights.
Are the Spurs bringing the full effort every night? No. They're biding their time because they, compared to the other legit contenders, have the least to prove/gain during the regular season. DET has the Larry Brown grudge and has come out and said they want HCA throughout the playoffs (while the Spurs have publically downplayed the need for HCA). MIA is trying to integrate multiple new pieces into their starting lineup and simulatenously prove they even have a shot against DET. PHX wants to show they are still contenders without Amare and Avery has spent all year trying to alter DAL's personality into a more defensively intense team.
As for Pop leaving, this thought has not crossed my mind once this entire year. What coach leaves a team that has is a legitimate contender for at least two more years?
Simmons does make some good points; namely pointing out Duncan is not himself and NVE is washed up. I have no problem with him thinking the Spurs aren't going to get the job done this year. But let's wait until the first round of the playoffs before declaring the thrill is gone. For the Spurs, the thrill is in the challenge, and the challenge doesn't begin until the playoffs. For now they're Einstein solving quadratic equations.