The Spurs led the Western Conference from wire to wire during the regular season only to add their name to a very short list of No. 1 seeds to lose in the first round of the playoffs.
The Memphis Grizzlies exploited the Spurs' major weakness -- interior size -- and dumped the Spurs in six games to send the proud franchise into a curious offseason in which it must figure out how to make the team better with little wiggle room to make many changes.
At least one Spurs player believes changes must be made. Point guard Tony Parker recently told the French publication L'Equipe and other French journalists that he doesn't think the Spurs are equipped to contend for a title.
"I don't think this current team will play for the title in the future," Parker said. "We are aging. We must be realistic. It was sort of our last chance this season."
The problem the Spurs face moving forward is they are locked into the same core for next season and beyond. Parker signed an extension early in the season. Manu Ginobili signed an extension after last season. Tim Duncan, who has slowed the most of the Big Three, has one more year left. Richard Jefferson, a disappointment in his two seasons, is locked in for at least two more seasons.
General manager R.C. Buford will have to wait for a new collective bargaining agreement to be reached to know what the salary structure will be for the 2011-12 season, and then he'll have to get creative to make the Spurs a contender again.
The Spurs had win streaks of 12, 10 and eight games, but the enduring season highlight came on Feb. 3 at Los Angeles. The Spurs lost a fourth-quarter lead with 22.7 seconds left in the game. Antonio McDyess fouled Pau Gasol, who made both free throws for an 88-87 lead. But McDyess would make up for it. Manu Ginobili missed a 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds left, but McDyess got the rebound to save the possession. Tony Parker missed a floater with 4.6 to go, but San Antonio maintained possession and called timeout. Tim Duncan failed to win it when he missed a jumper with 2.1 to go, but McDyess went over Lakers center Andrew Bynum to tip in the game-winner with 0.1 seconds left.
San Antonio benefited from excellent health all season until the very end, and it seemed to throw what had been a well-oiled machine out of whack. Tim Duncan sprained an ankle and then Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili each suffered injuries and missed games during a season-high six-game losing streak from March 23 to April 1, nearly costing the Spurs the No. 1 seed. In their final 18 games, including the six-game playoff loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, San Antonio went 6-12.
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