By Craig Kwasniewski
The Spurs are back! Tim Duncan has found a career second wind! The Jefferson trade reveals that the Spurs front office, as always, is far ahead of the pack. DeJuan Blair is the greatest, yet most-est underrated draft pick ever! Watch out LA, because the Spurs are a-comin'! Manu Ginobili is finally healthy! Tony Parker continues to develop! The Spurs are back!
BLAH... BLAH... BLAH....
Is there ever a more predictable rant as the annual "Spurs are still contenders" article/post? It starts around Christmas time with the "these guys are notorious slow starters" and gains steam in the spring. By playoff time, "NBA Experts" are literally drooling at the prospect of the Spurs rising up to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers (or at least give them a decent run in a 7-game series).
Well my friends, that simply ain't happening... not in the Tim Duncan era, not in the Kobe Bryant era and especially not in the Phil Jackson era. So let's not take too much into the Spurs 105-85 win over LA... for several reasons:
1. A heathy Lakers squad is virtually unstoppable - Not to sound like a Celtics fan and make injury excuses (BTW - they officially own the injury excuses business with the death of two players), but the Lakers have only lost TWO games with a healthy squad. Repeat, with a healthy Pau Gasol (who has missed 16 games so far), Ron Artest (missed 5 games with a concussion and still recovering) and Kobe Bryant (broken finger and back spasms in tonight's loss to the Spurs) the Lakers have lost ONLY TWO GAMES.
2. The Spurs NEEDED this win - First round elimination last year with a completely revamped roster and the defending champs rolling into town it was imperative that the Spurs get a W. You're looking at a playoffs level effort from the Spurs. Just imagine of they lost at home to a broken Lakers team... it wasn't happening.
3. Have I mentioned that Phil Jackson OWNS Greg Popovich in the playoffs? This can't be stated enough, but Phil Jackson's playoff series record against Greg Popovich is 4-1 which breaks down to an 18-8 game record for all five series. I agree that Greg Popovich is one of the best coaches in the modern era, one of the few who actually coach for the entire season rather than game to game... BUT... Phil Jackson DOMINATES Pop... and the numbers don't lie. But while we're here, 10 NBA titles to 4.
4. The Spurs are old. Sorry Spurs fans, but your team is old. Duncan is 33 (but a big's 33, years of contact down low is taking a toll, just ask KG), Manu is 32 (but an Argentinian 32, which looks more like a 36 with a faked birth certificate), McDyess is 35 (one of the key off season acquisitions to counter the Lakers size)... now Richard Jefferson is 29 and Tony Parker is a spry 27 so I'm sure everything is okay. Except that Duncan has worn down late in the last two seasons and what... he's going to suddenly bounce back late this season?
And I haven't even mentioned Michael Finley's carcass... which I believe was wished into the cornfield sometime in November to join Bruce Bowen.
And NO, Blair and his missing ACL's aren't going to be the difference-maker to counter the Lakers size this season. I actually LOVE the guy's feel for the game. He always seems to be in the right place at the right time. But he's not dominant enough to make a difference in a 7-game series.
5. Did I mention that Richard Jefferson is overrated? Other than Byron Scott, no other shooting guard/small forward has benefited from a Hall of Fame point guard more than Richard Jefferson. Jason Kidd MADE Richard Jefferson. Those open shots in the right places on the wing... Jason Kidd. Those sweet fill-in-the-lane dunks... Jason Kidd. Those easy drives to the hole... Jason Kidd. Sure Jefferson scored more points the past two seasons without Kidd in New Jersey and Milwaukee, but he was the offensive focal points those two years, and took a lot more shots... however... both seasons were spent lottery bound... while Jason Kidd is busy reviving the Mavs.
What is Jefferson doing this year? Looking to fit in an offensive system that doesn't cater to his skills, standing on the perimeter hoping to get a kick-out from Manu or Parker driving the lane or Duncan posting up. And it's no surprise to see his ppg. drop to the lowest since his rookie year. Not really what the Spurs (or the "NBA experts) envisioned when they traded for RJ. He was supposed to be that special piece to the puzzle... more like a round peg in a square hole.
So yes, write those "The Spurs are Back!" posts... write away and tell me how great they are. Tell me how they're the second best in the west. Tell me how they Lakers may lose to them in the playoffs. Tell me oh tell me...