End of an Era: San Antonio Spurs Dynasty Comes To a Close
You’ve all heard the saying before.
All good things must come to an end.
The writing was on the wall after a lopsided Game 3 loss at home, but the Spurs weren’t ready to admit it.
But alas, San Antonio now finds itself out of the playoffs after surrendering to a familiar foe in the Phoenix Suns, bowing out in sweeping fashion.
"We thought from our past experience that we could do some things to control the series, but they just outplayed us," said Tim Duncan. "All in all, they just outplayed us."
It’s a tough pill to swallow for a team that is just so predisposed to winning, especially against the Suns, who they have sent packing from the playoffs an astounding four times since 2003.
While Steve Nash’s bruised and bloodied eye may have caused many to wince with displeasure, it was the look of anguish on the Spurs’ faces that will stick around for years to come. It was a look that elicited a message of not only a series defeat, but the acknowledgement that the end of an era was inching closer as time ticked off the clock in the fourth quarter.
There may be no classier franchise in the NBA today, easily exemplified by the Spurs’ graciousness towards a Phoenix team that has not only given the fans an abundance of classic games to watch, but given the players a rivalry to respect, just the way it should be.
"Obviously I'm very sad and very mad that we lost, but at the same time I'm happy for [Steve] Nash and [Amare] Stoudemire," said Tony Parker. "Because every year they played hard against us and it never went their way. This year, it went their way."
Both teams played with so much heart, from Nash’s six stiches mid-game, to Parker’s battling through an un-human amount of injuries, but in the end the Spurs were over-matched and out-played by a younger, hungrier squad.
So where does the franchise with the most division titles since its inception in 1976-77 turn now?
As long as the core trio of Duncan, Parker, and Manu Ginobili are still around with Gregg Popovich at the helm, the Spurs will still be a competitive ball club.
Those three players are too experienced and too intelligent to settle for losing.
But the Spurs have to get younger.
34, 33 in July, and a banged-up, high-mileage 28.
Those are the ages of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, respectively.
Throw in a soon-to-be 36-year old Antonio McDyess, and the Spurs are one step closer to converting the hardwood at the AT&T Center into a shuffleboard court.
The Spurs have made the playoffs every year since Tim Duncan joined the league, essentially adding three to four years to his “NBA-age” based off of how many extra minutes he has played.
The original reported game plan of Popovich this season was to sit Duncan as much as possible, and almost always on the second half of a back-to-back.
Unfortunately, as the season progressed and the road got tougher, the Spurs were forced to call upon their rock, adding more stress to the engine that has been chugging along without a hitch for well over a decade.
Take into consideration the never-ending health struggles that Ginobili and Parker have endured and this Holy Trinity, while still productive, is on the verge of falling apart completely.
They began the anti-aging process last season by dealing Grandpa Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas, and Fabricio Oberto for slightly younger Richard Jefferson. It proved to be a move that paid dividends on occasion, but is more of a generic-brand, knockoff Band-Aid than the answer.
Jefferson scraped together just over 12 points, four rebounds, and two assists per game in the regular season, but saw his numbers shrink in postseason play.
The June draft is unlikely to yield high reward for San Antonio, with two picks at 20th and 49th overall, but it can’t be ruled out.
With the 37th selection in the 2009 draft, the Spurs selected DeJuan Blair, a proverbial “steal”. Blair showed flashes of brilliance at times when given the opportunity in 2010 and his development will be a crucial part of the team’s rebuilding/retooling years sure to come.
Along with DeJuan, the Spurs were treated to another pleasant surprise in George Hill, a second-year guard out of IUPUI, who filled in seamlessly for Parker when he was out or coming off the bench.
If Blair and Hill are able to produce at a higher rate of consistency as they learn the ins and outs of the league, it might be enough to squeeze another year or two out of Timmy, Tony, and Manny, but a championship run may be a stretch.
The Western Conference is a beast that grows stronger every year.
The Spurs had to scratch and claw their way to a 7th seed in 2010, and will have to battle even harder from here on out.
The desire alone will keep the Spurs competitive, but in this new decade of basketball, that might not be enough.