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Latest News, NBA / May 13, 2010 / 3:30 pm

Requiem For a Dynasty

(photo. adidas)

In less than a season, Raylan Givens is rocketing up the Austin’s Favorite TV Cops power ranking — threatening Frank Pembleton (“Homicide”), J.C. Williams and Eddie Torres (“New York Undercover”), Rick Hunter (“Hunter”) and the entire cast of “In The Heat Of The Night” — the same way Kevin Durant crashed the NBA’s elite party.

In a recent episode of “Justified” (Tuesdays on FX), Givens had gotten his ass kicked in a barroom brawl, and while his ex-wife is nursing him back to health, they have this exchange:

Ex-Wife: “You’re a little too old to be fighting, Raylan.”
Givens: “I’m certainly too old to be losing.”

That made me think of the San Antonio Spurs.

It’s been almost a week since my other favorite team was swept out of the second round by the Phoenix Suns, which if you know the history of their rivalry, would be like Day-Day mercilessly beating Craig in the fourth Friday movie. The Spurs have been hounded by the “too old” knock ever since they failed to defend their 2007 NBA championship, a claim bolstered by this year’s regular-season struggles. After upsetting the 2-seed Mavericks in the first round, though, San Antonio proved they’re not too old to contend for a ‘chip.

But they’re not the Bulls or the Blazers or even the Hawks: Postseason elimination for these Spurs isn’t met with, “OK, nice run. Now what do we do to improve next year?” Facing the reality that every passing year might be Tim Duncan‘s last good one, elimination means time is running out. For the Spurs, going through the grind of the season hurts even more and seems more like a waste when it’s not rewarded by a championship. For the Spurs, elimination doesn’t come with a side dish of “next year” optimism.

The Spurs are too old to be losing.

Trying to figure out what exactly went wrong, you go back to some of the same issues that plagued San Antonio before the playoffs:

Richard Jefferson, who was supposed to be the breath of fresh air and (relatively) young legs helping the Spurs run with the Mavs, Suns, Lakers and Cavs, was inconsistent during the playoffs, which was at least a step up from being consistently bad in the regular season. RJ put up 18 points (8-13 FG) and 10 boards in Game 2 against Phoenix, which he sandwiched with a combined 9 points on 2-for-12 shooting in Game 1 and Game 3.

Beyond their top four players — Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and George Hill — the Spurs didn’t get enough production. Roger Mason was invisible when he was supposed to be the three-point threat. DeJuan Blair barely got on the court, let alone played like the Junior Paul Millsap he can be. Keith Bogans, Matt Bonner, Antonio McDyess … they all would have had to play well to beat the rolling Suns, and none of them did.

The Big Three (almost Four) aren’t absolved, however. Hill followed his breakout Dallas series by getting ripped apart by Steve Nash for 17 points in the first quarter of Game 1, and he was never the same after that. Manu was all over the stat sheet and was brilliant in two games against the Suns, but for the most part his series was defined by rough shooting nights (41% FG, 34% 3PA). Parker was the most consistent of the group in the second round, but in big spots he missed a lot of those shots around the rim he usually makes. And Duncan put up his usual points and rebounding numbers (20.3 ppg, 10.5 rpg), but he was horrible at the free throw line (47% FT).

But more surprising than anything, Gregg Popovich was simply out-coached by Phoenix’s Alvin Gentry. Watching Game 4 at a family Mother’s Day gathering, my uncle (another Spurs supporter) shook his head and said, “They just can’t run with Phoenix” about 12 times during the second half. But that’s the thing: The Spurs never could run with Phoenix, but they didn’t have to. Pop found a way to make teams play San Antonio’s style, and the Suns and Mavs of the world usually couldn’t compete. This time, Gentry manipulated the matchups, Nash decided he wasn’t losing to this team again, Amar’e was at times dominant, Goran Dragic came out of nowhere with his Game 3 explosion, and role players Jared Dudley, Jason Richardson and Channing Frye did everything they’re supposed to do. The Spurs’ season was done.

And now, almost a week later, it still feels like the San Antonio dynasty is done.

Trade rumors are starting to circulate around Parker, which would be mostly a money move if GM R.C. Buford is even considering it; San Antonio is paying four guys more than $11 million next season (Duncan, Ginobili, Parker and Jefferson), they have no cap space, but they also know they can’t just roll out this same roster again and pretend to be championship contenders. If you’ve talked yourself into believing Hill isn’t much of a drop-off at point guard, then trading Parker starts to make sense. And surely the Spurs will try to unload Jefferson on somebody; if that happens, maybe they can get the pieces they need to make one more good run with the Big Three intact.

If we have seen the last of the best of the Spurs, hopefully even the San Antonio haters can appreciate what’s happened. You’ve just witnessed what might be the last real NBA dynasty in an era where it’s tougher and tougher to build a dynasty. (Especially if the post-2011 lockout means everybody is signing 3-year contracts from now on.) From 1998 to 2010, San Antonio won four championships. In the years they didn’t win, they were always a threat. And if they’ve got one last good run in them, the Spurs’ enduring legacy is going to be what carries them: You couldn’t ever write them off.

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  • dmitry of jersey

    i never rooted for the spurs, but I’m gona miss them when TD retires and the whole thing is blown up.

  • Brown

    Their core players aren’t the problem, except for Jefferson. Other than Hill and Blair, who are extremely inexperienced, their role players are terrible. Bogans, Mason, Bonner and McDyess? Seriously? They need to do something about their bench if they have any hopes of contending again.

  • fallinup

    The biggest disappointment in the Suns series was watching them single out Timmy. It was like he couldn’t get off of the ground anymore. And they were dropping what seemed to be everything over him. I noticed Tim’s decline during a loss to the Pistons a couple seasons ago. And it’s been painful to watch ever since. Because he still has gas, but the motor is running a bit off.

    The Spurs have to get young. And they have to get young fast. That youth has to be a plethora of shooters. Manu is still crafty as ever but you can see his step is slower. I think there was more that met the eye with Parker and Pops relationship. And I wouldn’t be surprised if they do trade Tony… it’s one of the few bargaining chips they have and he COULD be expendable, depending on who they get in return. I like Hill… I think he’s got potential… but he’s still unpolished.

    The front court is a bigger question for the Spurs. Try hard to get rid of Jefferson. Get someone else to anchor the front court along with Blair and Dice…. and hopefully… HOPEFULLY… Tim’s got 1 or 2 more seasons in him.

    I’m with you Austin. The Spurs have been an important team to me for a while now. It’s saddening when folks say it’s the end of the Dynasty… but maybe…. just maybe… they can eeek out one more good run.

  • LakeShow84

    The biggest mistake SA did was not go after a BIG.. not a big in the sense of a PF or C but a TALL player.. It was an arms race this offseason for everyone to counter THE Lakers size.. Orlando got bulk (Bass) cuz they big enough with Howard

    The Spurs went and picked up a man who already had his lunch eaten by Kobe in the Finals..

    So once again THEY NEED A DEFENSIVE BIG MAN.. Timmay should not be depended on for help on the defensive end.. everything defensive from Duncan should be considered a bonus at this stage in his career..

    Let him save his energy for the offensive side and they good again.. They already got enough perimeter players..

    And TP has no real trade value.. hes been breaking down.. Who going to trade for a injury prone PG??

  • LakeShow84

    Oh im sorry they need another 3 pt specialist..

    Mason Jr seemingly used up all his perimeter shots in one year..

  • http://www.nodoubt223rd.com Nodizzel

    Watching my Spurs this season has hurt my poor little heart.

  • Rafa23

    Is it really a dynasty if a team never actually defended the title?

  • snook

    Tiago.

    Splitter.

  • the cynic

    I don’t think the Spurs are finished yet, they only came up a round short of where I expected them to finish at the beginning of the year despite never coming together as a team

    Tiago Splitter would be a huge move for SA, the guy has skill.

  • K Dizzle

    Luis. Scola…..oh yeah…sorry.
    Seriously tho, if they can pry Brendan Haywood, Pryzbilla or another legitimate big, it would go a long way.
    And get rid of Richard NoHeart Jefferson…Embarrassin. You get to play with Manu, TP and Tim Duncan and that’s how you bring it?
    Even 37 yr old Grant Hill, with one foot, completely outplayed his ass. How bad is Dallas to get stomped so bad by the Spurs?!?

  • Ian

    rafa
    winning separate seasons with the same core is harder than going back to back.
    well at least magic said that hehehe.

    tiago splitter is what the spurs need oh yeah and some argentinian that plays for houston.

  • albert

    Everyone talks about the Spurs being old and they can’t win unless they get young. So let me ask you what young teams are still in the championship run right now? Lebron’s Cavs are out, Durant and the thunder are out, Wade and the Heat out. Of the teams left the only one that is young is Orlando. Boston is as old as SA, LA is led by two guys as old as Timmy in NBA years and the Suns have Nash who’s as old or older than Timmy. It’s not about age it’s about skills. Some of our bench players were out skilled.

  • http://sanantoniospurs.com Jason

    Again hate to be a broken record here, but the Spurs never replaced there 3 point, defensive bigs after the 08 season. They need a defensive specialist like Bowen was who can shoot the 3. They need another guy who is (big),who can make the 3 and can play defense like Horry. they they need to get Timmy some real help on the defensive side like Marcus Camby, so he can focus on his offense and 3 point shooting. Then they need some more role players who can make the 3’s like Korver, Diaw, Kapono etc….
    With that being said they definitely need to drop Mason Jr, Bonner, Bogans maybe Dyees. They might have to bite the bullet on Jefferson unless he opts out of his contract for some reason. (no defense)
    Again the Spurs weren’t able to get any stops because there defensive isn’t lock down and swarming anymore. they also didn’t get any help from there bench players shooting the 3’s.
    In the offseason they need to focus on 3 point shooting, defense, and freethrows.
    Remember if u go back to the 08 Western Conference Finals that was the Spurs end of a Dynasty. They should have been rebuilding around the “big three” for the next two years.
    I also blame Bufford for his lack of “quality” role, defensive and 3 point players the last 2 seasons.
    Remember people quality, no quanity. With that being said Bufford tried to go for it all by picking up Jefferson, Dyees, and Ratliff. Even if thoses guy would have played great for us we still wouldn’t be big and athletic enough to compete with L.A. for a championship.
    Good Luck in the Offseason.
    P.S Since L.A.( unfortunatley) is the team to go through now in the West the Spurs need to go big. I mean really big.
    Spurs fan since 89

  • http://sanantoniospurs.com Jason

    As I went back and watched game #3 vs. the Suns I had to contain myself from putting my fist through my wall. Not only did the Spurs blow a 18 point lead, they missed 7 straight freethrows and left Jason Richardson wide open to hit 3 after 3. As I got more furious watching Richard Jefferson miss wide open jump shots John Barry made a point that summed up the Spurs whole season and playoffs.
    Everyone needs to read this so I’m putting it in caps. John Barry says “RICHARD JEFFERSON IS NOT A SPOT JUMP SHOOTER AND HE’S REALLY STRUGGLED ALL SEASON. ALSO SO HAS MASON JR, AND BOGANS. THE SPURS DON’T HAVE THOSE SPOT JUMP SHOOTERS LIKE THAT THEY USED TO HAVE TO HELP OUT THE BIG 3 LIKE HORRY AND BARRY”(BONES).
    PEOPLE THIS IS WHY THE SPURS LOST. THERE BENCH STRUGGLED, THEY LACKED TRANSITION DEFENSE, 3 POINT DEFENSE , POOR THREE POINT SHOOTING, POOR FREETHROWS, AND THEY BLEW TOO MANY LEADS, PERIOD.
    I’M LIVID. I WANT REVENGE NEXT YEAR.
    AND WHY COULDN’T ANYONE MAKE A FRICKIN FREETHROW. THE SPURS BASCIALLY GAVE AWAY GAMES 2,3&4.
    NEXT YEAR I WANT MASON JR, BOGANS, BONNER (NO DEFENSE) AND JEFFERSON GONE.
    IF JEFFERSON STAYS THEY NEED TO MAKE SOME PLAYS FOR HIM. THE BUCKS AND NETS WERE A RUNNING TEAM, THE SPURS AREN’T. THE NETS HAD JASON KIDD. THE SPURS DON’T. THE NETS & BUCKS GAVE JEFFERSON ALLEY OOPS, THE SPURS DIDN’T. THE NETS AND BUCKS HAD ALOT OF FASTBREAKS FOR JEFFERSON, THE SPURS DON’T.
    IF JEFFERSON DIDN’T FIT INTO THE OFFENSE WHY COULDN’T BUFFORD OR POP SEE THAT BEFORE THEY GAVE HIM A 2 YEAR 28.2 MILLION DOLLAR CONTRACT?
    I’LL TELL YOU WHY. BECAUSE ARTEST, THERE FIRST CHOICE DIDN’T WANT TO COME HERE, HE PICKED L.A. INSTEAD.
    SPURS FAN SINCE 89

  • http://sanantoniospurs.com Jason

    oh yeah I forgot to say BEAT L.A. BEAT L.A
    SPURS FAN SINCE 89

  • Jomai Azanza

    GO FOR BOSH. PARKER MASON JEFFERSON BONNER SHOULD BE GONE…

  • Blentzen

    I BELIEVE!!!!! 2011 THE YEAR OF THE SPURS!!!!! GO SPURS GO!!!!!

  • james

    trade richard jefferson & keith bogans.. for a big man that could play defense & rebound
    dont trade tony parker couz he is one of the big three

    get rrid of RJ please.. he cant shoot the three the key is for the spurs is they need to get a SF that could shoot three’s & a Center that could defend & score in the paint