Blog Entry

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Posted on: April 30, 2011 3:12 am
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The Spurs were ousted in the first round and everyone's begun the funeral song. But why does this feel so different than previous Spurs failures? 
Posted by Matt Moore




Maybe they'll come back. After all, they did win the most games in the West this season. They still feature three Hall of Famer players and a Hall of Fame coach. Maybe it was just lightning striking four times out of six in the same place. Maybe it was just Manu's elbow, or Duncan's knee, or fate or the Basketball Gods, or whatever. 

But it doesn't feel like it. 

There will be many, many eulogies for the Duncan-era Spurs in light of the Grizzlies' stunning first-round series win over San Antonio. Spurs fans will balk and guffaw at these claims, because heroes never die to their fans, or because they've already accepted that the championship-era Spurs are over. They'll point to the fact that the Spurs haven't won a title since 2007 as reasons why all this talk of the end of an empire is silly and overdramatic. But that's because they're in it. They're living it, every day, reliving series against the Lakers and Mavericks and Suns while approaching each season with faith. It's different for those of us outside of the palace walls, because this series respresented something different. It wasn't that the Spurs lost. Most expected that in these playoffs. It was the realization they couldn't win. 

The Spurs have lost in previous years but because the other teams had matchup advantages or a few things fell their way or the Spurs couldn't make the necessary adjustments. The losses didn't serve as judgment on the identity of the Spurs. To put it simply, the Spurs failed to win a championship because of other teams' ability to beat them, not fundamental flaws in the city walls that held the kingdom.  This loss?  To an upstart eighth seed without its highest paid player who tanked to play them, then took them out in the first game on their home floor and closed at every opportunity? Yes, the Grizzlies were better, and yes, they had matchup advantages. But there were moments where you expected the Spurs to do what the Spurs do and for that to be the difference. It wasn't. 

Tony Parker struggled with Mike Conley attaching his dribble. Manu Ginobili suffered when the Grizzlies responded to Ginobili's quickness by backing him down in the post. And Tim Duncan just plain struggled. The greatest power forward of all time found himself overwhelmed by a 26-year-old quick-footed center who is most commonly known as "Pau's little brother." Marc Gasol is a really great player, a future star in this league, maybe one now, after this series. But the Duncan that defined those teams would have tore him to pieces from mid-range with the bank-shot-straight-up. The Manu Ginobili who defined the mid-oo's run for the Spurs would have called timeout to reset the offense with the final possession of Game 3. The Tony Parker who won Finals MVP would not have had his play so thoroughly undercut by an attack on his handle. 

But beyond the Big 3? The Spurs of old would never have relied on the 3-pointer this way, would never have had to cover for a gigantic flaming neon defensive red target like Matt Bonner just to space the floor, would never have had to rely on Gary Neal and George Hill's mid-range jumpers to fall. They would have fallen back on clutch plays and defense, always defense. The Spurs' empire isn't over because their players got old, that's been happening for a long time and in reality, the team is pretty young. The Spurs' empire is crumbling because what made them the team you couldn't count out, now has become the very thing that makes you not that shocked at this shocker. A mediocre defensive club falls to a better one, a team that relies on an aging Tim Duncan is toppled by younger, more spritely bigs, the squad that allows Matt Bonner on the floor defensively is beset by easy scores and foul trouble when Matt Bonner can't contain his man in the post. There's nothing shocking here, not if you've been paying attention.

Afterwards, Gregg Popovich was his usual self. Congratulatory to Memphis, classy in defeat, dismissive of dramatics like the question of the end of the Spurs' run. If they go out, they go out on their own terms. The franchise that defined class, humilty, and above all, excellence, would not go out in a pitiful blow-up of egos or blame. They simply hugged their worthy opponent, packed their things, and headed home. 

Spurs fans may have already come to terms with the end of an era, or rationalized that there will be no end, only a transition. But for the rest of us, the Grizzlies' shock of the world serves as a reminder of the mortality of dynasties. It's not just that the Spurs lost a first-round series to an 8th seed. They lost to a team more willing to grind, more willing to defend, more able to close. What is it about these Spurs that make them seem so far removed from what defined those great, inevitable Spurs teams? Just think back to what we saw from the upstarts, the team that simply wanted it more. That's what means the empire has reached its end. 
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Comments

Since: Sep 11, 2006
Posted on: May 7, 2011 5:55 pm
 

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

it's a bout damn time!! yes they have hof players but this team reminds me of the ny yankees always there, all the time , never goes away i for one won't miss them one bit! 


--------------------------------So much hate from one meaningless person. Sad for him. Spurs will get busy and get the big man they neeed and will be fine no matter wha tthe little useless haters say.



Since: Jul 8, 2010
Posted on: May 1, 2011 7:06 pm
 

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

When the playoffs are over and we all look back, the Spurs loss is not going to look quite as bad.  They caught a young team on the rise and peaking at just the right time.  One of the things that makes this loss look so bad for the Spurs is that they lost to the Grizzlies who had never won a playoff game before so either the Grizzlies are better than expected or the Spurs are washed up has-beens.  Which is it?  Maybe Thunder fans can help us find the correct answer to this question.



Since: May 20, 2007
Posted on: May 1, 2011 6:35 pm
 

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Who knows if this is the end of the Spurs as we have come to know therm?  I thought they looked totally drained in this series, including coach Pop.  One series does not make a career, I understand.  But with the Spurs performance in this series with the Grizzlies, a very low seed, and their premature exit from the playoffs, at least begs the question of whether the Spurs have finally become too old to  weather a long regular season followed by a strenuous post season playoffs.  And quite frankly, I was surprised to see this team, in it's current configuration, return for another season.  This will most certainly be a very interesting off season for Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and coach Pop.  Can't wait to see what, if any, changes occur for this Spurs team.  They've certainly been at, or very near, the top of the league for a long, long time.  They are obviously to be congratulated for their long list of accomplishments.  And they've done it with class.



Since: Oct 9, 2010
Posted on: May 1, 2011 4:07 pm
 

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

it's a bout damn time!! yes they have hof players but this team reminds me of the ny yankees always there, all the time , never goes away i for one won't miss them one bit!



Since: Jul 22, 2010
Posted on: May 1, 2011 12:12 am
 

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

I'm not going to say the end yet, but it's close.  You have to keep in mind that they ran into a very good young team.  A lot of boys became men for the Grizzlies in this series.  We can go back 20 years and see a young Michael Jordan beating the Pistons after a couple of tries.  The torch always passes, but I wouldn't say the Spurs are dead yet.  Maybe it's time to trade Duncan to a contender?  I don't know, but it seems like the Spurs tank is no where near empty.  Just need to reload!  Must be nice coming from a Timberwolf fan! lol



Since: Jan 17, 2007
Posted on: April 30, 2011 11:54 pm
 

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Gator surgeon: I agree with you on Blair, the guy can be a beast.  A little inconsistent, but when your problem is Gasol and Randolph, why not give him a chance to help?  I also agree on Jefferson.



Since: Oct 2, 2007
Posted on: April 30, 2011 8:11 pm
 

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

There was a lot of nice responses posted here but it boggles my mine that not a single person here was surprised that Matt Moore believes that the Spurs have three Hall of Famers on the Spurs team.  Without a doubt Tim Duncan is a HOF'er, a first ballot guy all the way.  Coach Pop as well, theres not a team in the NBA who wouldn't want him on their bench.  Those are the only two guarantees on the Spurs bench right now.  Parker has a chance to get in but he is no lock at all. I would like to see what he can do in the years without Duncan or with Duncan's decline and what numbers he puts up then. Manu Ginobili is not a HOF'er at all,no way, no how! Yes he is good and has three rings but he is not HOF material.  Not everyone on a dynasty team gets to get in the HOF.  As far as the Spurs being finished,well thats not true at all.  They had a great record against a great western conference this year and I think that if they make a few player personnel changes such as getting younger they will be ready for next year and be competing at a championship level. Getting a big man who can give Duncan some rest and take some minutes off his season will definitely help him in the play-offs.  That and shoring up there defense will help the Spurs as well.  It would not hurt the Spurs to get a player with a little hunger and drive on their team,those players who have not won a ring yet can bring that spark with them.  Anyone who thinks the Spurs are done with should hope their teams don't have to face the Spurs.



Since: Feb 2, 2009
Posted on: April 30, 2011 5:48 pm
 

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

4 titles in an 8 year window, nothing to be ashamed of or be angry with this team. as boring as this team was for a decade, they were a dominant team and a very fundamentally sound team as well. Duncan is a great player, and I hope he succeeds in whatever he does after basketball. farewell spurs dynasty era



Since: Nov 16, 2010
Posted on: April 30, 2011 4:41 pm
 

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire




Since: Nov 16, 2010
Posted on: April 30, 2011 4:39 pm
 

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire



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