Blog Entry

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Posted on: April 30, 2011 3:12 am
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. 

Since: Sep 10, 2006
Posted on: April 30, 2011 4:34 pm

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Why did Blair not play more in this series?  Iwould have thought he might be a decent option against Randolph, at least for a little while. 

Franchises sometimes just make mistakes, even the Spurs.  The mistake they made was Richard Jefferson.

Since: Dec 15, 2007
Posted on: April 30, 2011 3:38 pm

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

The Spurs have a bright future in Splitter, Gee, and Dejuan Blair all they need is a few consistent players that will contribute. One player being Tayshaun Prince he is a solid veteran that can assist on the wing and will fit the Spurs style, I forgot to mention George Hill and if they had one more big man that can contribute then they should be able to compete next season.

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

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Say good-bye to the San Antonio Spurs.  And not simply from this year's playoffs, but for good.  After their splendid regular season performance, I was shocked by their playoff performance.  They almost looked lifeless, from their coach, to their trio of all-stars, to their back-ups.  I guess the regular season simply sapped the life out of them.  That is the tell tale sign of a team whose time has passed.  Their age finally caught up them.  And this is really strange.  The Spurs have been a fixture in the playoffs picture for as long as I can remember.  This has to be their last year in their present configuration.  But, the Spurs have always been there, they were a constant in an ever changing NBA.  I will miss their presence.  Always a class act, operating with a clear set of principles.  I join those who who thank the Spurs for the great things they gave us over the many years.  Not sure we will ever see anything quite like them again in the NBA.

Since: Dec 11, 2006
Posted on: April 30, 2011 1:50 pm

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

The sad fact is the Spurs, as we have come to know them, are simply done.  They were probably done two or three years ago.  Tim Duncan and Pop simply looked like they were completely worn out in the series against the Grizzlies.  Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker provided few highlights.  The bench was non-existent.  Yes, we have reached the end of a great era of basketball.  But, the Spurs deserve our appreciation, not our criticism.  Their dynasty has extended well beyond most others.  It's been quite a run.  I am going to choose to remember their accomplishments in their prime, not their failures in decline.  The big picture for the Spurs over the past couple of decades  is spectacularly beautiful.  I simply want to say thank you to the Spurs for a job very well done.  I have no idea where the Spurs go from here.  Duncan and Pop just have to be done.  Ginobili and Parker have to at least be thinking about whether to continue or not.  They do have a few years left if they so choose.  But the Spurs will change forever now.  This will be a very interesting off season for San Antonio.  Again, Spurs, thanks for all the great years you gave us in the NBA!

Since: Sep 1, 2006
Posted on: April 30, 2011 1:43 pm

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Pathetic. It is completely over for the Spurs.

Unless they bring in a star player who will be known as the best on the team.

Since: Jun 28, 2008
Posted on: April 30, 2011 12:56 pm

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Oh, ye of little faith.  The Western Conference and the Eastern Conference are two different factions of the NBA.  Every team on the Western Conference side of the house is way above .500.  On any given day, a Western Conference game is always a nail-biter.  I will not count the Spurs out.  There will be some re-tweeking going on during the off-season.  No matter what, the NBA wants to see LA and Boston again.  Do not cry for San Antonio because they are a class act and do resort to being thugs on the court.  I have seen more elbows, knees, and players seriously trying to hurt their opponents.  Bring on the WNBA, and let the women show you how the game is supposed to be played.  I will say the one main ingredient that the Spurs miss is someone to fill Bruce Bowen's shoes, and it sure is not Matt Bonner.

Since: Apr 30, 2011
Posted on: April 30, 2011 12:27 pm

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

What a tragedy for Spurs fans! All season their team is the best in the west only to be taken out by an 8 seed in the first round. Popovich is a future HOF coach with out a doubt, but I bet he wishes he would have played Ginobli in game one. This series was over as soon as Memphis believed they could win. Too bad they don't get LA or Dallas next, it's a shame that they have to play OKC next.

The commisioner really needs to look at how different the games are from the regular season to the playoffs, as a fan I don't like it. it's not that an occasional Cinderella story isn't cool but it is happening more often in the last 10 years.

Since: May 16, 2008
Posted on: April 30, 2011 11:05 am

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Laddin, you're an idiot. So when the Lakers beat the Spurs they are a great team, but when the Spurs beat LA it was because LA wasn't good ? That doesn't make any sense ! In this dynasty, the Spurs: beat LA with Shaq and Kobe, beat Detroit in their prime after they whipped LA, beat Phoenix with Nash, Johnson, and Stoudamire. It's sad to see it end, but only a true fool discredits what the Spurs have done because they are from SA instead of LA or Boston. Great run for some of the all time great players in Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Manu Ginobili, Avery Johnson, Mario Ellie, and many others who showed the rest of the league that you can win with class on and off the court. It's too bad that the league is headed in the direction of players who have never won anything and are more worried about being fake thugs than champions or leaders. Hopefully, history will give the Spurs the credit they deserve.

Since: Nov 30, 2008
Posted on: April 30, 2011 10:01 am

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Well lets be honest here, Tim Duncan has been in the NBA for what 13 or 14 years and as a result he's well past his prime when you add the injuries that he has sustained ! Now if Duncan was Duncan from a few years back, he would ate Marc Gasol for lunch ! It's a charging of the guard and every great player at one time or another will be defeated by that old nemesis known as father time !

Since: Dec 31, 2006
Posted on: April 30, 2011 9:23 am

San Antonio Spurs: The end of an empire

Yes, the Spurs dynasty is over.  But man, what a dynasty it was.  They weren't flashy, they weren't pretty, but they were boringly fundamental, ostensibly classy, and and they simply won that way.  I'll take that over the boys from Tinseltown and their stars on the sidelines any day.  Well done, San Antonio.  Well done, indeed.

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