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Chase All The Ghosts From Your Head

By Jeff Koch on October 3, 2013.

I still wake up in the middle of the night, Ray Allen’s 3-pointer drifting in the ether, soon to fall to rest in the basket, ad infinitum, chasing away the Spurs 5th championship.

Time has dulled the edge of that particular knife, but it will never erase it. We’re blessed as Spurs fans to have very few of these knife moments, and even more blessed to have redemption for almost every one of them. 0.4 gave way to the ’05 Title. Likewise, Manu’s foul on Dirk begat ’07. Will anything ever erase Miami?

As soon as I finished recapping Game 7, I turned off my computer and turned off basketball for the summer. I do this most summers, but I really needed it this year. I kept tabs on the Spurs tangentially, but never dove full in. I still have articles from June in my bookmarks folder to read. Who knows if I’ll ever read them.

But if Pop and Tim can get back to work, I suppose I can, too. Training camp opens this week, and the Spurs are right back where they seem to perpetually be: in high esteem in the minds of the basketball literate, yet once again passed over to contend for a championship. It amuses me that after essentially winning the title (or, at the very least, proving to be the tiniest of iotas worse than the Heat) the Spurs have already been passed over by Oklahoma City, the Clippers, and even Memphis and Houston in some circles. OKC I can understand, but Chris Paul has never been past the second round of the playoffs, Dwight Howard is a man-child, and the Spurs just swept Memphis in the conference finals. With Westbrook’s recent injury, I would think the Spurs should be the prohibitive favorites out West. You know, because we won the West not 6 months ago.

But these things rarely actually bother me. I’d rather fly below the radar and just do what the Spurs do: win 50-60 games a year, secure a top seed, and go into the playoffs with a reasonable chance at a title. We only have a few more of these years left, perhaps just one.

There’s no reason this season can’t be as successful as last. We return every significant player and, like most years, have the advantage that systemic continuity brings. Pop, Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili have been together longer than most players have been in the NBA. (Think about how fluid teams are these days, and how remarkable the run of this foursome is. We may never see this level of stability again in any major sport.)

I’ll get into the changes to the team perhaps in another post, but the story of the season remains the same:

  • Will Duncan continue to play at an insanely high level?
  • Does Parker have another gear? Can he repeat last season’s peak?
  • What can we get from Manu? Can we find a way to maximize the good and minimize the bad?

But perhaps the biggest question for this season is simply…

Rocky Widner/NBAE/Getty Images

Kawhi?

What can Kawhi become? Will he always be an amazing ‘fourth’ option, sort of a super role player? Can he blossom into a true star? Can he take Manu’s place in the hierarchy, and will Manu accept it gracefully?

The big difference between 2011-12 and 2012-13 was the growth of Splitter, Green, and Leonard. Splitter and Green are more or less maxed out as players (and both are quite good). But Kawhi still has mountains to climb. Once again, the end point of the season may very well rest on his broad shoulders. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that he won’t wilt under such pressure.

That shot still hangs over my head, stuck in a moment of uncertainty, when the Spurs still had that 5th title in their hands. But it’s time to get back to work. Nothing gets you over basketball like more basketball.

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