So I need to get some things off my chest. It's been a couple weeks since the Spurs lost Game 7 under some crazy circumstances. My numbness is starting to wear off and I think I might actually watch the conference finals. Progress!
I have not, however, watched the dreck they're calling the conference semifinals. That was some brutal basketball. I somehow managed to catch the 15-16 third quarter in the Cavs/Bulls game on Thursday. All I can say about it is that's 45 minutes I'll never get back. You know it's bad when the highlights make you want to change the channel. Maybe it's just me. Unlikely, but a possibility I'm willing to consider.
Moving on, I decided that I would like to just lay out some frustrations and thoughts and ramblings that have been marinating until now. So without further ado:
The Clippers Series
I want to get this out of the way since I don't really want to spend much time going through that painful playoff exit. I continue to hate Chris Paul. There is no doubt that he is one of, if not the, best point guards of his generation but I still hate watching him play. I, however, really respect Blake Griffin a lot more after watching him dial up his game to a 10. The Spurs couldn't handle him at all. Obviously Tiago Splitter being hurt didn't help the cause but I really don't think it would have mattered. Griffin was a beast with a very nice all-around game.
As for the refs -- always a controversial topic after losses -- I think Doc Rivers pulled out the tried and true "Phil Jackson Method" of criticizing the officials: make it public, make it loud, eat the fine and see things go your way for several games. Now, don't get me wrong, the refs didn't cost San Antonio the series. The Spurs just didn't play well enough. As frustrating as it is to have to deal with the mind games, the officials were mostly fine or at least bad in general and not biased.
Yet there was a call I consider to be terrible that I think could have potentially changed the outcome: the foul call on Tim Duncan late in Game 7 on a Paul prayer fade-away.
The official report says that "Duncan does not give Paul room to land on the jump shot," which might be the right call. I disagree but that's not the worst part. If you watch the play again, you'll notice baseline official Monty McCutchen doesn't even see the foul or doesn't think there was one. He watches the flight of the ball and as soon as it clanks off the iron his arm goes up and he calls the foul.
It's just a late call. Every NBA game has some of those. Clippers fans can easily find some questionable or downright favorable calls that went the Spurs' way, for sure. But it still irks me. Of course nothing will change -- not late calls or fines for discussing officiating -- and my rant will die just as all my other rants have died. But I needed to say my peace before truly moving on.
So now we're here, the Spurs offseason that could change everything. Manu Ginobili and Duncan are considering retiring. The Spurs have a long list of free agents to be, including Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Those two may be the best pair wings the Spurs have ever had and they could slip away. That would obviously be terrible. There have also been rumors that the Spurs will be chasing big name free agents LaMarcus Aldridge and Marc Gasol, something I have mixed feelings about.
The Spurs have not signed that big a free agent in, well, maybe ever. I remember when Brent Barry was signed and how big of a deal that was. Let's not forget Derek Anderson back in the day. He was supposed to put the Spurs over the top. That didn't work out very well. So I'm not holding my breath waiting for reinforcements to arrive via free agency.
Even if the Spurs do manage to sign someone, to do that they're going to have to get rid of some people. There have been several write ups here in PtR about that, here, here and here. I encourage you to check those out. The summed up version is that the Spurs would look a lot more like the Clippers than the Spurs if they were to land a max or close to max player. Is that what we really want?
If Duncan and Manu hang 'em up then I'd be a lot more in favor of really changing up this team, as they would need an infusion of talent. But what happens if they don't and the Spurs still try to maneuver themselves into cap room at the expense of depth? Will San Antonio be OK with 8-9 man regular season rotation that shrinks down to 6-7 in the playoffs? I think that's asking a lot of a team that is really trying the be healthy and fresh come the postseason.
My ideal scenario would involve bringing the core back (Duncan, Manu, Green and Kawhi) while dropping the back end of the bench guys that are going to be priced out of the Spurs' range. Only then get Aldridge, Gasol or whoever if they realize that playing with this current core could get them multiple shots at a title and are willing to take a pretty significant discount to get that done. I do not think that's likely at all. In fact, I would be stunned, shocked and perhaps even flabbergasted if something along those lines were to occur.
That leaves my realistic scenario. The Spurs get Manu and Duncan back, with Manu taking a sizable pay cut. Then I see San Antonio maxing out Leonard and bringing back Green for a reasonable pay raise. Cory Joseph and Marco Belinelli are going to get too much money thrown their way by somebody. I'd love to have those guys back, but I don't see that happening. You pretty much have to bring Matt Bonner back, that's a given. Then the Spurs find a couple of undervalued guys that they can bring in to fill in meaningful roles for cheap, like they have in the past. At some point I'll take a look at some guys that might fit that undervalued label but, needless to say, they are out there.
The reason why that's by far more realistic than the other scenario is because it does not really fit the Spurs MO to bring in big names at the expense of multiple good players. It would completely screw up all the "corporate knowledge" that Pop And The Front Office (PATFO, for short) have built in the last 3-5 years.
I think that is something they really value and I have a hard time believing they'd blow all of that up just because they lost a series to a very good Clippers team. Keep in mind the Spurs had two starters playing injured, they lost on a crazy lucky shot in Game 7, they had several bad breaks in that game alone and that was probably the worst match up they would have had in all of the playoffs. As exciting as offseason speculation is, let's no go crazy thinking our franchise needs to reboot. The Spurs are still one of the best teams going.
There, I feel better now. Share your thoughts in the comments if you feel it might be as cathartic for you as it was for me.