What might have been
In just minutes, the Denver Nuggets tip-off against the Los Angeles Lakers in this year’s Western Conference Finals. Were it not for an unfortunate twist of fate, the Spurs would likely be facing the Lakers right now.
I look at the Nuggets-Lakers series and imagine what might have been, had Manu not re-injured his ankle last month, and going back further, had he not played in the 2008 Olympics. With Ginobili, the Spurs were 32-12 (.727) this year. Without him, they were just 22-16 (.579), which would have kept them out of the playoffs had it been their record for the season. In other words, one player was the difference between the Spurs being the second best team in the Western Conference and being a lottery team.
Maybe the Spurs would have gained more this year with a lottery pick instead of a first round elimination against the Mavericks.
Ok, I don’t really mean that. I guess sometimes I forget how good we’ve had it as Spurs fans. I expect our team to win, game after game, year after year. And they have — four titles since Tim Duncan arrived in 1997. In fact, the Spurs have the best record of ANY professional sports franchise in the Duncan era. And yet, I always want more wins, more rings, more glory. I’m sure that the players wanted more this season, too.
As much as I hate to think it, let alone say it, the Tim Duncan era will come to an end. Maybe not next year, or the year after, but eventually Duncan will hang up his high tops.
Timmy turned 32 last month. How many players get rings when they’re older than he is now? Not many. The Houston Rockets won their second title in 1995 when Olajuwon was 32. The Chicago Bulls won their sixth and final title in 1998 when Jordan was 34. The San Antonio Spurs won their second title in 2003 when David Robinson was 37.
Tim’s minutes played per game this season was 33.6, and they’ve gone down every season for the past three. Only in 2004-2005 did he play less. Next year we can expect him to play a little bit less.
As for Ginobili, he turned 31 and his body is in worse shape than Duncan’s, having gone through surgery twice in the past year. It’s unlikely that he’ll ever be as great as he was the previous two seasons.
I’ll watch this year’s Western Finals and I’m sure I won’t be disappointed. It promises to be exciting, matching great players against great coaches. If sports gambling were my thing, I’d bet on the Nuggets to beat the Lakers. Why? No team, except for the Cavaliers, has played better team basketball in these playoffs. The Nuggets are healthy and deep while the Lakers have looked vulnerable and unsure of themselves, struggling to beat an injury-riddled Rockets team in seven games.
All the same, while watching this series and cheering for the Nuggets, I’ll wonder about what might have been.
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