That's all she wrote, folks. Take a deep breath, grab my hand, and jump.
This Isn't What You Think It Is
First of all, this will not be a stat-filled, analytical look-back on the season that was because I'm not good at it -- I'll let the number crunchers take that on.
Second of all, this won't be an expletive-filled rant fiesta that eventually ends up in me calling out every single entity or object responsible for that epic upset of upsets. No finger-pointing, no crying over spilt milk, and no thinking about the shoulda-coulda-wouldas. A lot of people the past couple of days have already swiftly written their obituaries, begrudgingly or sincerely paid their respects, breathed heavy sighs of relief, and mournfully shook their heads at the marked defeat of the San Antonio Spurs and the Tim Duncan era. I won't be one of those.
I was supposed to recap the last game, until grego21 popped out of G-talk asking me if he can write about it. I immediately said yes, since it's always tough to recap losses, what more if it's the last game of the season for the team. Hat tip to him for taking the task on.
The last couple of days were very helpful in sorting out all the rubble created especially by a stinging series loss to the number 8 seed. It helped me calm down and think about what just happened, even if it meant chugging a few cans of strong beer and not taking a bath for approximately 37 hours. As I type this, I now smell like a young Leonidas draped in grizzly bear hide after a long journey in which I inexplicably get thrown into the snowy mountains to hunt for game and earn my birthright. Or something like that.
Ultimately and unfortunately, this Spurs season will be characterized by history as a complete failure, and on the other spectrum, the triumph of what seems like conventional theory nowadays that regular season excellence should never, ever be assumed to translate into postseason success. As people have written and debated about just on this site alone, the largely unforeseen demise hurts like hell. Tie this with our penchant for being babied with an inordinate amount of wins and a bountiful championship haul in the last decade, and it makes for some very explosive combination of lamenting and resignation. For the more level-headed ones, it offers some perspective and maybe even a sign to finally stop living in the past AND present, and start staring into that vast empty space that is the future of this franchise. All of these make perfect sense, and are understandable.
Surprising Things Come In Silver and Black Packages
As for me, to say I've had the highest of high hopes in this team from the very beginning is an understatement. This season, for me, was unlike any other in that I've had the benefit of technology (league pass) that allowed me to watch replays of games that previously were elusive because of the massive difference in timezones. At the very beginning, I relished the experience of just being able to watch the Spurs almost every game, not caring if the season turns out to be another rollercoaster ride to an injury-riddled, barely fifty-win output. For a foreigner feeling a certain disconnect knowing that the squad he's rooting for plays a million miles away, I just wanted to watch my team, and that was it.
Early on, when we got to that 1 win-1 loss point, I wanted to wax prophetic at how history might repeat itself, and by history I meant just the previous season when the team also started 1-1. Then came 2-1. Then 4-1. Then 9-1. Until it was 13-1 with a 12-game winning streak that came so out of left field. Then we had Manu's game winner against the Bucks. The winning charge off Melo to escape the Nuggets. The big turnaround from an improbable deficit to an amazing blowout of the Hornets. Dice's tip in against the Lakers to exorcise 0.4 demons. The humbling of the Miami Heat. All of this left me feeling great about the Spurs' chances at the fifth title.
It didn't stop there. We were treated to one brilliant offensive display after another -- the exquisite ball movement swinging defenders from side to side until their heads and bodies almost contorted into nearly impossible angles, only to find that a Spurs shooter has just buried another corner three or Tony Parker punching in a backdoor layup. Not coincidentally, we saw Richard Jefferson and Matt Bonner soar to the top of the list in three-point field goal accuracy as the Spurs' reputation as bombers without regard for human life grew in stature around the league. Tim Duncan and Antonio McDyess received copious amounts of rest as the bench continued to key win after win after win. And of course, there was the almost random discovery and eventual emergence of one Gary Neal, whose dark past has now been completely overshadowed by the light of his stellar play, that angelic shooting stroke and an indomitable will to succeed.
So We Lost... Just Neal With It
If RJ was representative of the previous season's inconsistencies, ups-and-downs and sheer disappointment, this season's personification came from the player whom PtR fondly refers to as The Nailgun. Like Neal, the Spurs weren't even invited to any elite team parties -- people were all too willing to relegate them to league mediocrity, never again to see the daylight of winning. And just like Neal, the Spurs simply put their head down, went to work, maybe air-dapped somebody or something along the way, and had a regular season renaissance unlike any other.
For the most part of the basketball year, in a league where kings and superheroes and celebrities rule the roost, the Spurs embodied true team basketball. They were both the old guard and new guard that made our hearts beat slower and faster all at the same time -- remnants of a model franchise led by the most unselfish and unassuming of superstars, while internally, it moved away from its cornerstone and bread and butter as he aged, hoping to save his legs and win the title as a last hurrah.
It was basketball rebellion, pure and simple. The Spurs secretly provided fuel for a supposed critical massing that would end in a Spurs championship, which will not only be considered one team's triumph, but a monumental victory for the NBA and its fans against a new world order threatening to take Michael Jordan's brand of individuality and entertainment to far loftier and vomiting-ly dizzier heights.
Or at least that's how I scripted everything in my mind.
Together with every single one of its fans, the Spurs sought history as if it had a long overdue date with it. And for the better part of 82 games, the team played gracious host in meticulously preparing the dinner table, cooking up an exquisite menu, and creating the perfect atmosphere to sit down and close the deal on a franchise player deserving of his own feel-good ending. Instead, it was history who found us in what seemed like a brutal, highly physical ambush, and in its wake, left a once-proud franchise in tatters. It turned out, history had a date with someone else, and it wasn't us.
"There can be no vulnerability without risk; there can be no community without vulnerability ; there can be no peace, and ultimately no life, without community"
-- M. Scott Peck
There was never a doubt as things came to a screeching halt that this Spurs team was a flawed team, and therein lies and explains the deep connection I felt with them. For one season, they had me believing, and while this sense of belief will never be enough for hungry fans, it was sufficient, at least for me. I never asked for a juggernaut the way those old Celtics, Lakers and Bulls teams ran the table with the rest of the league. I only hoped back then that we'd be able to compete, hang with the best out there enough for Timmy, Tony, Manu and even old man Dice to get a fair crack at that championship and work their magic.
Fortunately, they -- the players, the front office, the franchise -- gave realization to that hope. And while I'm tempted to seek blood, get greedy and demand that we should have gone all the way, I'm somehow surprisingly at peace with the result. I loved this version of the Spurs because they simply threw out the door their own convenience and history of grind-it-out, defend-you-til-you-suffocate style of basketball in favor of something unheard of, heck, even something reviled in the championship eras, all for one more shot at glory. Isn't that what great sports moments are about, and should be? For months, we saw and chased that glory with the Spurs together. We rode an unfamiliar wave of fastbreak, high-scoring basketball, unsure of where it will take us. Still, we excitedly put our full trust in the guys we've trusted our fandom for so long.
However, as we've all seen it, this glory wasn't meant for us, at least for the moment. At times, we thought the transformation from defensive wizards to offensive gurus was complete, only to realize that the Spurs was just as vulnerable as the guy who said to the girl he'd change for the better, but still ended up short.
The 2010-2011 Spurs weren't a tragedy, nor a fabricated success story screwed to end miserably by the higher ups. They were real, and like us, proved to be human. That alone made it easier for me to say that I will remember this team fondly, and will continue to do so probably until the next season, and the next one, and the next one... until, history and glory willing, that time we finally win that fifth, and who knows? Maybe even the sixth and beyond.
At the very least, whenever I feel that belief slipping away, I know that I will always have this season to look back to and hold on to hope.
Postscript: The Credits
I've lost count of how many recaps I wrote this season, but I'm pretty sure these past months have been the most I've written in my entire life. I'd have jollyrogerwilco to thank OR blame for that. He asked me during preseason to ensure a recap is made each game, and to gather a pack of hungry writers to help me in my cause: SpursfanSteve, rick2g, SpurredOn, Big50, LatinD, Hirschof, swgeek, greyberger, grego21, TD21, quincyscott, and to whoever I missed that helped out -- all of you have my deep gratitude.
Looking back, I don't know how I was able to write that many stories, much less for a public website. It somehow goes against my nature of not broadcasting my thoughts to anyone, even more so strangers. So yeah, I guess most of what you read about my recaps were not really analysis as much as they were reflections about the game and this team. I'm sorry if sometimes I hacked it out, or things got too overly dramatic with words. Apparently, that's the only way I know how to write although I hoped I grew even just a bit after all the blogging I've subjected myself to. I think I've never gotten around to thanking people for the kind words and feedback I've received (good or bad), so in Filipino parlance -- maraming salamat!
There are other parts of the PtR Reich worth mentioning for all the work they've put through -- Josh Guyer for all the terrific work on game threads and other goodies. The man was literally a machine. CapHill for keeping us all in line, and the person whose counsel I trust the most when I want to ban the hell out of someone. Tim C. and Big50 and their preview team who were the main reasons why PtR has the best previews in the SBN blogosphere. Hirschof with the excellent on-court coverage and magnificent write ups. Janieannie and her tremendous dedication to the team matching only her unflinching eye for the moment in taking game photos.
And of course, all the regulars -- both new and old -- who made every minute wasted on this blog completely worth it. You guys are too many to mention, but I know who you are and love you all just the same, including the KGPs, the halftime fishes, the gif parties, Red Panda orgies (DBB stand up!), the flaming chickens, the bro-isms, the Sparkles photos, the hilarious 'chops, representin' the Tone, the most beautiful city of Detroit, and yes, even the unpredictable Korean comics.
When we're finally able to goad them in joining PtR, our children and their children will look back to this season as one of the more special ones in this little blog's history because magic not just happened in game threads. It happened practically everywhere and everyday in the site, and for this, I feel equally blessed as the Spurs winning 61 games.
Jollyrogerwilco has some great plans to keep the site busy when everyone's gone fishing already, so hopefully you stick around.
See you in the threads and Go Spurs Go.