I knew I forgot to do something…
There’s really no two ways about it. I’m a horrible person. Our Spurs won their fourth championship like a week ago, and just now I’m getting around to putting my two cents in. (By the way, you’ll notice that I actually took the time to write, “putting my two cents in.” You people who think it’s a cute and clever shortcut to write, “just my $0.02″ need to be repeatedly and sharply slapped across the face until you swear to whatever invisible humanoid(s) in the sky you believe in that you’ll never ever ever ever do that shit again.)
Where was I?
Oh, right, my apology.
There were extraneous circumstances, as always. First off, I watched Game 4 in a sports bar in San Diego, with Manolis. We went down there to move my stuff out of San Diego for good and since I cancelled my cable down there a week ago, I had no internet access to write anything. I can’t say that anything that happened down there was too exciting or eventful, but I learned a few important lessons.
1) My disgusting bathroom was every bit as difficult to clean as I’d feared it would be. I’m a slob.
2) I will never buy a pick-up truck in my life. I don’t care if my Mitsubishi Eclipse makes me look girly or Asian or girly-Asian. I had to rent a pick-up for moving purposes and the frequent fill-ups were a nightmare. 14.7 miles per gallon is fucking awful. I don’t understand how any truck owner can afford them. I guess they have jobs or something. And yes, they do help a guy look more macho and virile. Trucks are like chick magnets and truck owners do truck owner type things like haul things and drink whiskey. Women go insane for that shit. My economical gas mileage and bloody marys aren’t cutting it. On second thought, I might have to give serious consideration to becoming a Ford Truck Man. Might as well go the whole nine and start listening to country and voting Republican.
3) I am never going to live in LA. Manolis and I made the brilliant decision of heading for home at 12:30 in the afternoon. It took us six hours to make it out of LA proper. No matter where you’re from, you don’t have traffic like LA has traffic, trust me. It goes for miles and miles, and it’s completely inexplicable. No car accidents, no stalls, nothing. It’s just traffic because it is. I couldn’t live in LA more than two weeks without flipping out like Michael Douglas in “Falling Down.” Frankly, marijuana shouldn’t just be legal in LA, it should be mandatory.
And since I arrived back home, it’s been one thing after another. Had a date on Saturday, (don’t ask) worked on a cover letter for my portfolio on Sunday, looked for work on Monday, played basketball on Tuesday and had an interview Wednesday. And all that napping! I’ve got to get out of my mom’s place, it’s turning me into a house cat. Really the main reason I’ve been distracted is that it appears I’ve been bitten again by the poker bug. This happens to me once every six months or so. I’ve been having decent fortunes on the tables of late so I’m going often with Manolis. I’m afraid until I wipe out a couple times in a row, I’ll just keep on going. Until I actually get gainful employment, it’s kind of my job now – amateur 3/6 Hold ‘Em player. I know, it’s pathetic. But in my defense, I play against lots of stupid, stupid people and it’s hard to resist the temptation when I hear that my uncle just won 8k in some tournament (he’s a total dope).
As I said, I did have one interview, and my potential employer looks kinda shady. It was with this on-line covert PR agency that aims to clean up dirty reputations on the internet, by hook or by crook. I’m not sure how, but I was told this is a creative writing job. The fellow who interviewed me stressed to me repeatedly that if I were to work there that I couldn’t tell what I was doing to anyone, not even my immediate family. Both our clients and our methods were to be kept secret with no exceptions. I asked if the job was legal and he responded, “Oh yeah, totally legal, and we feel it’s ethical too.”
Very reassuring. But the pay is decent and the guy has my portfolio in hand. If he takes the time to read my clips, (doubtful based on my first impression of the guy) I think he’ll call back. If he doesn’t, well I don’t think not working there will be something I’ll look back on with regret on my deathbed. PR really isn’t my forte anyway, unless we’re talking about The Sickness.
Anyway, enough about my life. Let’s talk about your four time NBA Champion Spurs. To paraphrase Pop for a second, obviously I’m thrilled with the win. Even though I’m just a lowly unpaid blogger, it just feels oddly gratifying to have my favorite organization in all of sports to reach the mountaintop in my very first year of committing myself to them on a level beyond the mere emotional. I mean, writing is work. And writing about a team with seemingly no issues, no controversies and very few faults is not easy.
You know why the media calls the Spurs boring? It’s not because of their play, believe me. It’s because there is no angle to cover. Nothing to complain about or analyze to death. You know which three incidents involving the Spurs got the most play this season? The first is easy of course, the Horry hip check to Nash which led to the suspensions of Amare and Diaw.
But any guesses about the second incident? Huh?
It was on January 28th when Kobe got suspended for hitting Manu in the face with his elbow after Gino blocked his potential game winning shot in Los Angeles. This game was memorable for a variety of reasons. For one, it was our only victory against the Lakers all season (quick kids, name the only team we never defeated in the 06-07 season). Secondly, it took a miracle three from Finley with 1.3 seconds in overtime to pull the game out 96-94. Thirdly, Powell and I engaged in our one and only live chat during a game all season. Finally, by the end of the game Matthew had openly given up on the Spurs and declared them a lost cause. His view totally made sense at the time though since their record was a disgraceful 32-14 at the time. (He’s not spoiled or anything.)
How the game ended was irrelevant though to the main story. The NBA’s most famous player was suspended for an incident that involved the Spurs, so naturally lots and lots of strangers rushed over to our sites for the scoop. It wasn’t a Spurs story, it only peripherally involved the Spurs.
The third biggest Spurs story? It happened on April 15th, at Dallas. Does that ring a bell? How about this picture?
At least Timmy got the last laugh…
God, it seems so long ago that Dallas was the most evil, unfair place on Earth. Those arrogant, inbred jackass fans of theirs got smote but good just two weeks later.
But yeah, what was my point? Right. The Spurs aren’t easy to write about. Losses give you material. You can bitch about all the bad calls, the bad coaching decisions, the bad plays, etc. When you win, it’s pretty hard to complain about anything. Either it falls on deaf ears or people think you have some kind of mental imbalance like Skip Bayless. But this team, like clockwork, pretty much stops losing once the All-Star break hits.
It’s cool though. I accept that my team kicks ass. In fact, I’m thrilled that they do. But can they kick ass with some intrigue?
The two easiest basketball teams to cover were Jordan’s Bulls after his first retirement and the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. You may notice that squads had Phil Jackson, (I’ll forever be grateful to Jeff Van Gundy for dubb
ing him “Big Chief Triangle”) perhaps the only coach in NBA history whose ego could challenge his stars’.
The Bulls were must-see TV because Jordan’s sociopathic level of competitiveness meant that any night had the potential to be the one where he finally snapped and slugged an opponent, a teammate, even a ref. People remember the dunks and the highlights and all that, but real basketball fans know Jordan was good for one hissy fit with the refs per night, and they were always too chicken to ring him up with a T. Combine that with the Rodman sideshow, (you think ‘Sheed gets targeted by the zebras) Pippen’s constant neurosis, Kukoc’s almost daily trips in and out of the doghouse and all the Jackson/Jerry Krause drama, and the Bulls always kept your attention.
The Lakers meanwhile were fascinating in their own way. For one, no team in history could so effortlessly flip the switch “on” after months of listless, apathetic play. It’s like they were hustling the whole league before May. Secondly, by halfway through their second championship season (their only legitimate one, btw) it was pretty obvious that Shaq and Kobe despised each other. Their on-screen frigidness was similar to Ron Burgandy and Veronica Corningstone’s during the second act of “Anchorman.” If you close your eyes real hard you can almost picture Kobe telling Shaq that he has man boobs and The Diesel replying, “Why don’t you go back to your home on whore island?”
Now, it’s hardly unusual for the best two players on a club to not get along. Barry Bonds-Jeff Kent and Larry Bird-Kevin McHale are two of the most recent examples that quickly come to mind. But when the teammates are two of the top five players in the sport? We might have to go all the way back to Babe Ruth-Lou Gehrig for a parallel. The Lakers always gave you something to talk about, plus they were totally contemptible. The team oozed arrogance. Their coach didn’t respect any of his peers, their superstars didn’t respect any of their peers, (let alone each other) even their role players were jackasses. Fisher was a whiny punk, Horry was in love with his clutch reputation and George had that perpetual grimace that was so off-putting.
Let’s face it, at least 80% of our hatred for the Mavs have to do with their owner and fans. We’re certainly not jealous of their players (only one All-Star, and he’s soft) and not resentful of their on court success (they haven’t had any). But LA invited malice the old fashioned way, they earned it.
The Spurs? What’s there for people to hate about the Spurs? Duncan’s bug eyes, Bowen’s undercutting and Gino’s flopping. Oooooh. Yeah that’s gonna generate copy for seven months. Media and blogger criticisms of the Spurs go nowhere because the guys refuse to take the bait and get into a cat and mouse game with their accusers. Tim didn’t stop whining until Pop told him to, not the media. Bruce won’t change the way he plays defense because he knows Pop will bench him if he did. And Manu could give a shit what Americans think of him. He just wants to win. Plus I guarantee you that the refs have less of a problem with him than fans do because Manu always treats those guys politely and with respect, even when he disagrees with them.
And forget the team disharmony angle. These guys get along so well that you couldn’t even make a sports movie about them, no one would think it was realistic. This is a team that had two different starting centers and three different starting shooting guards last year, and nobody made a fuss. Their second best player got sent to the bench without a peep. The rotation was constantly in flux as far down to the 11th and 12th men on the roster without a hint of controversy. Minutes and shots were all over the map for everyone except Duncan and Parker. But nobody cares and nobody points fingers.
I mean, think about Manu’s season for a second. Not only did he get demoted to the bench, but he had to put up with his own coach routinely blaming the team’s second round exit from the playoffs last season on him. What other star player in the NBA could have handled being disrespected like that so well? Name me one. This is a league where Latrell Sprewell choked P.J. for telling him “to put more mustard on those passes” during practice. This is a league where Jason Kidd of all people led a mutiny to get the coach who led his team to back-to-back Finals appearances fired.
Now skip ahead to next season. Would a Parker-Ginobili feud or Tim Duncan going off about how the team is negatively portrayed in the media make the team more interesting on a national level? Absolutely. Would it hurt the team’s chances of repeating? Uh…duh?
The media doesn’t care who wins and loses because they’ve got a fan-like rooting interest. They just care about the best story. What’s there to say about the Spurs besides they’re really good and great role models. Nobody wants to read that stuff about a bunch of foreigners and old geezers. A role model is a guy with a 50 inch vertical who can score 40 on his ex-team after telling the media he would do so before the game and who is there for his new teammates because a jury couldn’t prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he didn’t murder those three underage prostitutes. That my friends, is what character is all about; walking the walk and being accountable.
As for the fans, why do they tune out the Spurs, besides the latent xenophobia? Jealousy and predictability I would guess. They’re jealous our guys win and are good people and they’re bored by the inevitability of our success in the Finals. Even though MJ went 6-0 in the Finals with the Bulls, occasionally he faced stiff competition with Drexler’s Blazers, Barkley’s Suns, and the Malone/Stockton Jazz. When Duncan and Co. make the Finals though, basketball fans know it’s a wrap. Our championship was virtually assured after the second round. The Eastern Conference offers no competition. I think we could have beaten the Cavs even if Tony or Manu was injured (but not Timmy).
For crying out loud, we beat Detroit two years ago with maybe a seven man rotation, a gimpy Tim Duncan, a butterfingered turnover machine at center, and a petrified Tony Parker down the stretch (he’s better now). Yeah, maybe Ginobili was at the height of his powers in ’05, but really we didn’t have much else going for us that postseason.
The more I think about it, the more I’m ticked off at the Mavs for choking so badly against the Warriors. They ruined the 3rd round of the playoffs for everyone and robbed us of our rightful revenge. We knew the Finals were going to be a dog (although both the Bulls and the Pistons would have taken a game or two against us) but at least beating Dallas would’ve given us some closure and vindication. It’s natural for people to blame us for ruining the playoffs, but we weren’t the ones that played like a bunch of frightened prep-schoolers against an eight seed and we weren’t the ones who left the bench during an altercation. It seems even in the postseason of a championship year, the Spurs are only a part of the story by association than anything else.
Maybe next year James White will save us all and we can have our dunkin
g sizzle to go along with the winning steak. Yeah, we’ll still be despised for all the other reasons, but for 15 minutes a game, people will resist calling us boring or unathletic. Plus maybe if White is playing it’ll mean Bowen’s on the bench, so the dirty label will be put on the backburner too. National media vindication means everything to me. I repeat, EVERYTHING.
But yeah, recapping 2006-07…
I don’t have a whole lot to say about the boat parade or the celebration at the arena. You all probably noticed the same things that I did. Horry looked sullen and sad (was it personal problems, bitterness that Findog has replaced him as the team’s unofficial fifth banana, or maybe an in-house chat with Pop where he was told that his place on the roster next season isn’t a given?). Barry definitely should have taken the microphone from Bruce – I can’t decide what he’s better at MCing or the dribble drive. And Tony appeared less than amused with Brent’s comments about Eva and ze French on that boat. I thought most guys handled themselves pretty well, especially considering how shitfaced they were, and it was probably for the best that most of them elected not to speak.
There were no real highlights this time around, nobody got too crazy. Manu and Tim said some nice things, Finley was classy as expected. Tony, unfortunately, didn’t rap. Fab did a neat little chicken dance and Pop said “We kicked ass” but outside of that, eh. I think even the guys were a little underwhelmed by their competition. A sweep might make one feel dominant, but it can’t be as exhilarating and gratifying as winning a Game 7 against the defending champion with an undermanned team, right?
As for Game 4, what can I say? It was kind of like the microcosm of our whole identity. Tony was the offensive star most of the way, making all manner of acrobatic drives to the basket and a few jumpers as well. Bruce had completely broken LeBron’s spirit by the end and reduced him to a fadeaway jumpshooter (nice 10 of 30 game there, slick). I wonder how much guys like Kobe, T-Mac, Wade, even Carmelo resent the LeBron hype machine. The guy might be a good passer and rebounder, but as a scorer his game needs work. There’s no way Bowen at this stage of his career, with all the perimeter defensive rules stacked against him, should be able to so thoroughly dominate a talent like James. Look at how easily he got scored on in the first three rounds. We all know that the Western Conference has exclusive rights to all the good NBA teams, but who knew that applied to superstars as well? Could it be that if James were in the Western Conference he’d only be merely good right now?
Where was I? Oh, right, the game. Tony and Bruce were doing their thing, Tim was the anchor at both ends as always. He didn’t have a great night by any means – 4 of 15 from the field, 4 of 10 from the line – but he did score two of our biggest baskets there in the fourth. When we were down 63-60, having not scored for damn near the first half of the period, (another habit of ours, unfortunately) he hit a running half hook over Varejao to bring us within one, and then shortly after he tipped home an errant Ginobili free throw. Our offense started to string together points again and we soon had a lead we wouldn’t relinquish.
Of course, we don’t win that game without a big fourth quarter from Manu. He was having a decent enough night with 14 through three quarters, (it felt like he had a 40 point night going compared to his gruesome Game 3) but he once again stepped up when his seemingly bored, frustrated, and lifeless team needed it most. He split a Damon Jones-Varejao double team and made a lay-up while being fouled by Donyell Marshall, then hit a big three from the wing to give us the lead for good, and finally hit a running banker going right to left to ice the game. Also, after a shaky start from the line, he clutched up and hit his final six, and it turned out we needed every one of them as James and Jones hit a couple bombs at the end there. Our other resident Argentine Fab chipped in with five points of his own during the run and the only other point of our last quarter of the season was a Finley free throw.
The Sickness though, tragic hero that he is, came full circle with his Buckneresque foul on Dirk in last year’s Game 7 vs. the Mavericks. It wasn’t quite so bad this time, but with a 79-73 lead and only seven seconds left he got whistled for a foul attempting to block a Jones three. It looked like a clean play, but the fact that that he even attempted it, the audaciousness of it, blew my mind. Would he have made the same decision if it was a Game 7 and only a three point game? I don’t think decision making has anything to do with it. The guy will always play on pure instinct and if he thinks he can make a play, he’ll try to make it, regardless of situation. Critics might look at the behind the back dribbles or odd angles he contorts his body when going for lay-ups and say Manu is unorthodox, but really I think his offensive game is pretty disciplined and reined in from where it was as a rookie. It’s in his own end, where he’s usually at a physical disadvantage, that he is what I’d call a risk taker.
Guess who led the Spurs in +/- for the third straight postseason? Bring up this point in Spurstalk.com and three most common explanations you’ll receive are A) “It’s a coincedence” B) “It’s a meaningless stat” C) “Fuck off.” (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
The bottom line is the foul call didn’t prove to be tragic, mainly because Gino was able to knock down the freebies to make it a footnote. It was a wild ending – surely 13 combined points in the last eight seconds of an NBA Final has to be some kind of record – but his last foul shot gave us a four point lead with less than two seconds to go, and even a Jones three at the buzzer wouldn’t be enough. We swept these bastards. Really, I feel kinda stupid thinking it could go any other way.
Fans and analysts were left cold with this series, with the low scores in three of the four games and all that, and rightly pointed out that neither team played well. Not so, I dare say. Cleveland didn’t play well, but they played like Cleveland. That is their level. The one game we played well, we were up 25 at half. The two squads were so imbalanced, it could not be any other way. By definition, us playing well meant a blowout. There are really just a handful of teams we can throw our A game against for two or three quarters and not run away from, and the Cavs ain’t one of them folks. If anything, the Spurs did Cleveland a favor, playing uninspired and sloppy for great stretches of three games, but the Cavs were just that poor. C’est la vie.
Couldn’t have done this without you Mike. Well, we could’ve, but it’d have been harder. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
That reminds me. I know this will shock everybody, but I don’t agree with the decision to award Tony the Finals MVP. Duncan was robbed. Why not just change the award to “Highest Scorer on Winning Finals Team” and get it over with? Tim had more rebounds, more assists, more blocks, more steals and less turnovers than Tony. He was, as stated a million times by Pop, our foundation offensively and defensively. He got doubled practically every time he touched the ball in the post and this freed Tony and everyone else to get open looks.
Plus, in a series where we outscored Cleveland by precisely 24 points, Tim was a +24, Tony was a +16. Tony was so valuable for us against Cleveland that we outscored them by 8 with him on the bench. We were even with Timmy on the bench and outscored by 22 with Manu riding the pine. Doesn’t it mean anything that both Manu and Tim had a better +/- in all four of the games?
Or to argue it another way, how can you give a guy a Finals MVP when he wasn’t our best player in any of the four games? In game one Tim was clearly the guy, no contest. In game two it was Tim, then Horry, then Manu. I defy anyone to tell me otherwise. In game three we were rescued by big efforts from Bowen and Barry. Finally in Game 4, while Tony was very good, it was Manu and Tim who rescued the game.
Parker won the award simply by scoring. His defense was only so-so (he let Boobie get a few good looks from three) and his floor game was pretty abysmal, with a 13-12 assist/turnover count for the series. Duncan led the team in assists with a perfectly ordinary total of 15 in four games. Tony was pretty spectacular against Phoenix and Utah, probably our two toughest opponents, and nobody can convince me he didn’t play much better all around against them than he did Cleveland. The Cavs are so bad that Tony was able to capture an MVP, even playing one dimensionally.
Honestly, in a weird way I feel kinda bad for Tony. For some people, the Finals are the only exposure they get to the NBA, and if the impression that these people get is that Tony is just a scorer and nothing else, they’d be grossly mistaken. We wouldn’t have gotten to the Finals in the first place if he played against the Suns how he played vs. Cleveland.
Duncan lost out on the award simply because he totaled only 26 points in the last two games. If he averaged 20 or so, he’d probably have won his fourth MVP. Really, he was much better (and healthier) in this series than he was against Detroit, but the layman just doesn’t realize it, looking at the scoring numbers. People don’t realize he compiled a lot of empty numbers two years ago scoring a lot of points in lost causes in Detroit. Even in Game 7, when he paced the team with 25 points, it took him 27 shots to get there. Only in the NBA can you get more credit for scoring in blowout losses than playing an all around game in wins. Tony was very, very good against Cleveland and he shot a high percentage, but he was not the series’ MVP, sorry.
So what’s next for the Spurs? The draft obviously, and I don’t know how much assistance I’ll be able to provide for that. I really don’t follow college ball and I probably won’t be familiar with anyone drafted low enough to where we’re picking. I’ll probably write something though. The offseason will be a bit busier than the team is leading on, I suspect, and I think we’ll have a few new faces in the silver and black next season. I’m pretty sure Ely and Beno are gone, and I would think that Barry and Butler will be moved as well. If it were up to me Horry and Vaughn would be history (but Brent wouldn’t be, I’m funny that way) but I think they might stick around another year. I’d put the over/under at 10.5 Spurs retained. Feel free to make it a poll, Matthew.
Is a repeat in the cards? It’s hard to say at this point. Motivation shouldn’t be a problem because I’m sure the guys still feel they owe Dallas one, plus all that bitching from the Suns organization had to have left a bad taste in their mouths as well. But the team will be a year older, and it’s very doubtful that the big three will be as injury free as they were this season. Also, I’m already dubious of how we’ll be officiated next season, considering how piss poor the Finals ratings were this go around. I mean, I think the fact that such a thing could be a factor is disgusting, but we can’t just ignore it and pretend it doesn’t exist – America doesn’t want to see us win.
What the team needs desperately is some youthful rejuvenation to get them through the interminable slog of the regular season. White is definately a candidate there, and maybe a guy we wind up drafting to play back up point would be as well. Luis Scola could make an impact if we ever brought him over and Matt Bonner should be a rotation guy if we re-sign him. Who knows what we can get from the Cavs if they’re actually interested in Beno, as rumored? Like I said, I’m sure stuff will happen, it always does, and I’ll jot down my thoughts when it does.
As for me, I really enjoyed this year, I enjoyed this experience, and I can’t believe I don’t have another game recap to worry about for a long time. I’m not sure yet in what capacity I’ll write for Spursdynasty or PtR in the future, but it’s not like I’m quitting either, that’s for sure. But I don’t have the security of being a college student anymore, so I really do have to get a job, and once I do I’ll have a better idea of how much free time, if any, I’ll have to devote to writing about a boring basketball team from some hick town in Texas.
My sincere thanks to all the fellas from Spursdyansty for always going above and beyond making me feel like one of the family and to Matthew at PtR for kind of getting this writing thing started for me and always being there as a sounding board. I just wanted a forum to write, and as cheesy as it sounds, I never thought I’d actually make friends out of the deal.
Now pay me.
Seriously, I want money.
Eh, we’ll talk about it.
Finally, I just want to say thanks to everyone who took to time to read my inane, crazy long rambling posts. You put up with my irrational Tony Parker bashing, my even more irrational Manu Ginobili man love, and my way frequent bitchfests about my personal life which always involve way too much information. I can’t promise to not talk about the Eagles next fall, but at least the San Francisco Giants suck way too much for me to even think about mentioning them at all this summer.
Like money is the only thing that separates an eccentric person from a nutcase, readers are what separate a blog from being a lonely, delusional, narcissistic cry for help. I appreciate everyone who reads and especially those who give feedback every once in a while. It makes me feel like I’m doing this for a reason instead of just wasting my time. I’m really happy with how everything has worked out this year and can only hope it will continue in ’07-08 and beyond.
Your Final 3 Stars of the ‘
3. Tony Parker – All jokes aside, there’s no young point guard I’d rather have on this team. I was thinking Deron Williams for a while, but he’s kind of a dick. While I’m glad that Tony no longer locks up during big moments, it’s a brave new world for yours truly. If I can’t make fun of Tony Parker anymore, what possibly can I write about? James White better start playing next year.
2. Manu Ginobili – Basketball’s answer to Mariano Rivera, except he doesn’t play on the team that everyone hat- aw shit, never mind. Anyway, that’s how you end a season, my friends. I fucking love the guy.
1. Tim Duncan – Underappericated as always. Can you imagine the shitfit Shaq would’ve thrown if Kobe won a Finals MVP? Now I hear rumblings of how KG going to Phoenix would be a boon for the Suns “because he plays Duncan better.” Ha! Go ahead. Seriously go fucking ahead. Throw Amare and KG on him. I dare you.
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