Maybe the clock finally went ding and it was just time. As they say, all great things come to an end eventually.
But likely few would have predicted what happened to the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA playoffs. Most had long penciled them in to face off against the defending champ Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference finals. The Oklahoma City Thunder, while being a very good team, was supposed to be just another bump in the road.
But it didn't work out that way. In fact, what happened to the Spurs was stunning.
Weren't these the same guys that posted 67 wins during the regular season? Had only been defeated once at home all year, and that in the last week of play by GS? The very same team that blistered Memphis in the opening round and clobbered the Thunder by 32 points in the first game of the second round?
Everything was going to plan -- and then the wheels fell off. OKC would beat the Spurs 4 out of the next 5 games, including two in San Antonio. So the Spurs are done and the Okies move on to face the Dubs.
It could well be the end of an era in San Antonio. Tim Duncan, a lock Hall of Famer, was long considered one of the best power forwards in the history of the game. But he's now 40 years old and appears to have become more of a liability than an asset. Chances are good we have seen him play his last game.
Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are getting up there in age as well. While Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldredge were wonderful additions to the Spurs, overall the team would appear to be trending downward in the near future. Sure, they still play smart and have the best coach in all of the NBA, but they were exposed by the Thunder. Younger, faster, more athletic teams, especially with a super-star or two (Durant and Westbrook), that have also learned to play team defense are carrying the day in modern times.
Let's get real. When the Spurs lost a game, people said they were old. When they won, it was because they were experienced. That's a heckuva juggling act and something had to give eventually. Turned out, the Spurs would finally fold. How they rebuild from here is a very good question, but it's difficult to imagine them not continuing their excellence. Maybe not championship caliber, but definitely a cut above most other teams. Never underestimate the Spurs. They'll figure out something -- because they always do. It's a pretty safe bet the Spurs won't be a lottery team any year soon.
The thing they need first and foremost is someone to replace Tim Duncan. Names have been bandied about. Dwight Howard? Could he adapt to "Spurs basketball" and be just another cog in the machine? Would Coach Pop even want him? Unknown.
Even Kevin Durant of the Thunder has been mentioned. He's in the last year of his contract and still hoping to win a title with OKC -- but then what? Especially if he and the team fall short? Does anybody think the Thunder can knock off the Warriors in the Western Conference finals, ceding home-court advantage? Likely few, but few thought they could dispatch the Spurs either. And then there's the matter of those pesky Cleveland Cavaliers that will likely await them in the NBA Finals. Tough rows to hoe indeed. Regardless of how this year plays out, would KD consider jumping to San Antonio if they made him an offer he couldn't refuse? Hard to say.
For now, the Western Conference finals will be interesting indeed to watch. Two up-tempo teams that can shoot the lights out, play some defense, feature All-Stars galore, and are deep.
But only one can survive to move on.
Though the shoot-outs in the West have been flashier and garnered much more attention -- don't sleep on the Cavs in the East.
Those guys are the real deal and Lebron will never have a better chance to finally bring a title "home" to Cleveland. I'm just saying.......