Playoff Postmortem: San Antonio Spurs

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What happened here? 6 games after finishing with the best record in the West, the San Antonio Spurs are headlong into vacation mode.

Where did it all go wrong?
(image by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Two unexpected things happened this season for the Spurs:
1) Nobody expected them to tie for the best record in the league.
2) Nobody expected that the team that tied for the best record in the league would lose to the Memphis Grizzlies.

Tim Duncan: Deconstructed by Zach Randolph and the Memphis Grizzlies
(image by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
Now what? Do they continue to hope that Duncan has some gas left in the tank? With Tony Parker and Manu Ginpbili probably playing, and getting hammered, in their respective FIBA tournaments later in the year, will the 2011-2012 Spurs even resemble this past season’s team? Will Gary Neal, George Hill and DaJuan Blair blossom into franchise players?

Tony Parker and Gregg Popovich
have a lot to talk about
(image by the AP)
There are so many questions swirling around Gregg Popovich and RC Buford. What will they do? Do they even need to do anything, or do they just ride it out like good old cowboys do?

Pop, for one, thinks this team can still compete. He has unwavering faith in the grit and soul of the Spurs, but how old are these legs that are holding the grit and the soul?

Duncan will eventually ride into the sunset, and when that happens, around whom will they build the franchise? Antonio McDyess? He’s leaving. Tiago Splitter? He can’t hit free-throws. Richard Jefferson? His point production was practically halved in the postseason.

The conundrum is this: if it all ended in the regular season, we’d say San Antonio overachieved, but since it ended in Game 6 at Memphis, we’re saying San Antonio is on the way to the outhouse. Ironic isn’t it?

Like Manu here, the Spurs are about to lose it
(image by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Another irony: this team that has built its reputation for being all business, for being the basketball purists’ darling, for playing yawn-worthy but efficient ball, and for stepping up when the chips were down and when the stakes were highest, faltered right where it was supposed to thrive.

So what happened here? That’s moot and academic.

What matters more is this: What happens now?

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2 Comment

Injuries. People don't realize that Tim Duncan played with a weak left knee and Manu with what essentially amounted to a broken arm. You can talk abut Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol all you want, but I genuinely, genuinely believe (and apparently, so does Pop, as he stated in a private interview with the San Antonio Express-News shortly after the Spurs were booted from the playoffs) that, had injuries not messed with the team's rhythm down the stretch (they were on pace for 70 wins for much of the year), they would've been serious contenders for a title. As a die hard Spurs fan (and current Ateneo High School student), I hardly think my Spurs are done. Far from it. Maybe their 61-win aberration of a season was an overachievement (though I remain convinced they could've won much more had fate not intervened). But it doesn't change the fact that this team still won 61 games, and that, in and of itself, is enough reason to believe (67-win Dallas Maverick team in 07 aside) that this team still has plenty left in the tank.


Finding a team with no injuries after an 82 game season is impossible. It's was unfortunate that for the Spurs, it was their stars who got hit. But, hey, they're pretty old and they've seen more than their share of postseason games. To expect them not to be banged up would be nothing short of crazy. BUT even if that's the case, they were still favored to get past Memphis. Experience was on their side. These were 4-time champs here. Any team could make the "if we were all healthy" argument, but it's a different story when a team finds a way to succeed despite those. The Spurs aren't done of course. They have lots of up-and-coming talent and TD and Manu have had an unexpectedly long time to recuperate. BUT Manu and Parker are expected to play in the London Olympic qualifiers, so that might bang them up some more. I think they're still a lock for a playoff spot next season, but they'll need to conjure something magical to match their 2010-2011 win total.