NBA playoffs is here again, the best teams going through 3 rounds of best of seven games to make it to the finals. My beloved San Antonio Spurs made it to the finals per usual. I think they made it to the NBA playoffs for straight twenty seasons already. Not a small feat to accomplish but people keep on dismissing them. I always hear people say that Spurs is a boring team. I don’t understand that, they entertain me just fine. Yeah they don’t have those flamboyant players with their flashy moves but they have their own style. They play beautiful basketball as far as I am concerned. They don’t have those superstars almost everyone loves to root for. They won 5 championships already, what’s not to love right?
My Spurs don’t buy superstars, they breed great players. Superstars have no place in this team, what they want are players who will fit in the franchise’s culture and would be willing to be coached by the arguably the best head coach in the league, Greg Popovich. If you are paying attention to them, you already know how the Spurs system works. This team don’t care about individual awards, they only want the championship and so far they got 5. To be in this team, you have to self-less, you have to care more about being in a great team more than being the best player. Have you seen Spurs ball movement? Did you noticed how smooth their transition is? Did you try to pay attention to their defense? Did you see how Manu passes a ball? He turned it into an art form. He passes without even looking.
The great Tim Duncan is the embodiment of this system. He is my most favorite Spur player. He was very low key despite his status. He just let his work speak for him. He is a 5 time NBA champion, a two time MVP, three time finals MVP, 15 time NBA All Star and the list goes on. He is a legend on his own but what he did for his team is equally commendable. He was a leader by example. He joined the team as first overall draft pick in 1997 and stayed with them for 19 seasons until his retirement in 2016. People always say that he is the most boring NBA superstar both on and off court. I get the off court part, he doesn’t have the international sports brand, he don’t talk that much, he does not dress well and don’t really have a very colorful personality, all these things that attract more fans. However, on the court, he is not boring as far as I am concerned. Yes, he is not the most exciting player but the way he play the game is a thing of beauty. You can chalk it up to being a part of well-oiled machinery that is the Spurs team but Duncan has been the solid rock that Popovich built his team around. What Duncan shows in his every game is how to play basketball it its most efficient and coordinated way.
I became a fan of this team in 2003 when they were playing New Jersey Nets in the finals. I didn’t even know these teams during that time but I was bored and I was looking for something to watch. I think it was already game 5, I don’t remember some of the players and was so surprised to realize that Steve Kerr, Golden State Warriors head coach, used to be a Spur and helped them win their second championship in 2003. I didn’t really watch most of their games during regular season after that. I even forget about them for a while until they made a reappearance in the finals in 2005 against Detroit Pistons and won. I watched every game of that series. I am more invested in the team this time around. This is when I started to fall in love with them. I love their ball movement, their defense and their system. The Big Three; Duncan, Ginobili and Parker; made me fall in love with basketball. I am just so amazed with their chemistry. The respect and care for each other is very apparent. Duncan is like a big brother, he is always there to encourage his team mates. I live for this moments when his team mates would make a really good shot and he would give that guy a hair ruffle, which I find really adorable, a pat in the back or a high five. I can’t imagine Spurs without him but it was inevitable. My Spurs made it to the finals again in 2007 against the Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James and it was a sweep. Despite his talent, Lebron wasn’t able to carry his team against Spurs. It was different back then, he didn’t have superstar team mates to help him. I feel in love with this team more and more. They would have some not so stellar seasons after 2007 but they never failed to make it to the playoffs. In 2013, they made it to the finals against Lebron James and the reigning champion Miami Heat; this time LeBron had the help of Bosh and Wade. Miami Heat won in game 7. It was a very close match, with Spurs leading the series and almost ended it in game 6 but Heat pushed back and forced a seventh game. I was devastated when they lost but I know they will bounce back from this failure. The following season, my Spurs did redeem themselves, making it to the finals against Miami Heat again. Heat is poised to win their third consecutive championship but the Spurs won’t let them. Spurs won the championship in game 5. It was one of the happiest days of my life. Miami Heat is the favored team to win, their fans are loud and rowdy, trash talking in social media. I can’t blame them, their team is so hot that time. So just imagine my glee when my Spurs crushed them with a 4-1 finish. It was a lovely day, I was basking in glory. What a comeback!!
That season neither Duncan nor Parker took home the Finals MVP award; it went to the rising star, Kawhi Leonard. He was only 22 back then but he was able to guard Lebron really well. Kawhi was drafted in 2011 by Indiana Pacers but traded to Spurs for George Hill on the same night. It was probably one the best decisions the Spurs management ever did. Look at Kahwi right now and the way he is carrying his team.
The following years, they were eliminated in the playoffs but Kawhi was just getting better and better. They were several changes in the team as they are preparing for Duncan’s retirement. They signed LaMarcus Aldridge, the highest paid Spurs player right now, to fill in Duncan’s shoes. There were so much expectations from Aldridge but as of the moment he is letting his team down. I have never been so disappointed with a Spurs player before. Spurs got eliminated by Oklahoma Thunders in the 2nd round of playoffs in 2016 and it devastated me. There’s a huge possibility that this could be Duncan’s last season and I wanted the Spurs to win the championship so much. I wanted Duncan to have what David Robinson had when he retired, a championship. That is the only proper send off for the man who contributed so much to the franchise. But they didn’t and it was a hard pill to swallow. Yeah it was the era of Stephen Curry and the Warriors too bad they bowed down to Cleveland Cavaliers and Lebron James (yup he came back to the Cavs).
In July 2016, Duncan announced his retirement in his usual style, no flash nor call for attention, a simple press release from Spurs’ management and that’s it. It broke my heart, yes, I expected it but it still hurts. I cried despite trying so hard to fight my tears (I was at work when I found out about it). Spurs signed Pau Gasol and I was hoping that he would be a good addition to the team, he was not so young anymore but I think he can still contribute. With Duncan gone, people expected Aldridge to take his place, be the franchise player and bring Spurs to the finals and that’s probably one of the reasons why he went to the Spurs. He maybe thought that he will be the star in this team. However, he was found lacking. Nope, he was not playing badly but it was subpar considering the expectations of him and the amount of money the franchise shell out to get him. It was said that Duncan cut down his salary so they can sign Aldridge. Good thing Kawhi is just getting better and better and this season he showed everyone that he is the “rightful heir” of Duncan. He is even one of the frontrunners for MVP this season, and finished second after Curry last season (though the gap is quite wide).
In the first round of the playoffs this season, Spurs played Memphis Grizzlies and it wasn’t an easy one, they won in 6th game and Kawhi is the biggest reason why. In round two, they are playing Houston Rockets and James Harden (one of the top contenders for MVP race). Spurs lost in the first game and they were humiliated by Rockets at their home court. It was painful to watch but I still finished the game and all I was thinking was please close the gap because at one point Rockets was up by 38 points. The game ended with 27 points deficit. Again I was so disappointed with Aldridge. Kawhi was doing all he can but he simply cannot carry his team all the way to the finals all alone. Spurs got their redemption in the second game, ending the game with 25 point lead. This a huge relief for me. They were able to limit Rockets three point shots, Aldridge did better but still not enough if you ask me, and Leonard was able to guard Harden effectively while also doing so well offensively. Kawhi really works both ends of the court. We got a glimpse of the vintage Tony Parker, who made 18 points, but got injured in the third quarter. The bad news is his injury is serious and he can no longer play for the rest of the playoffs. I worry about his health but I don’t worry much about the impact of his absence in the team in the next games. Don’t get me wrong, I respect Parker and his skills but Spurs have other players who can take his place and as long as Aldridge doesn’t mess up again and Leonard and coach Pop is around they will be just fine. Game 3 was in favour of Spurs again. Aldridge finally showed up and scored big. Kawhi did his usual best. Game 4 was another bad game for my team. They were down by 21 points by the end of the game. Kawhi made a dismal 16 points. I was so disappointed but hopeful that they will the next two games. Game 5 was a very exciting game. It was a very close game. I was screaming the entire time. I noticed that Kawhi was not his usual self early in the game though he was doing okay but he seemed slower and not as aggressive. Then got injured his ankle in the fourth quarter and his moves got more limited and did not play anymore in the overtime. Thankfully my Spurs win thanks to Ginobili’s well-timed but very risky block on Harden. It’s now a 3-2 series. I really hope that Spurs will end this series in game 6 two days from now.
They have a bigger opponent to face in the conference finals when they make (when, not if) and another huge adversary in the NBA finals. I know most people don’t think that Spurs can beat the Warrior should they reach the conference finals; heck some people don’t even believe that they can beat the Rockets but I have so much faith in this team and Popovich’s ingenuity. They will make it to the finals. Wouldn’t it be amazing if Leonard win the MVP and Spurs the championship? That would be awesome albeit a tad ambitious I know I am singing Kawhi praises but have you seen him play recently? I just love this team so much
Go Spurs Go!!
Proud to be part of the Spurs Nation