Adios, San Antonio Spurs

by Lang Whitaker

Didn’t have time to surf the ‘net all morning and compile Links, but did want to get some thoughts posted. I’m very interested to see who makes the All-Star team. They’re announcing it on TNT tonight, the first time it was live on TNT instead of being leaked by the NBA before the announcement. I just hope Joe Johnson makes it. We’ve been backing him for a while and he is definitely one of the best players in the NBA right now. Should be interesting.

Moving on…

I hate to write them off so early, but I think we can safely say that the San Antonio Spurs, at least as they are presently comprised, should not be considered contenders in the Western Conference.

“Wait a second,” I hear you saying. “Who said they were contenders to begin with? The West belongs to Phoenix and Dallas, doesn’t it?”

Well, technically, sure. Those two teams have the best records in the West, but the Spurs have won three Championships in the last eight years, and they still have the best post player in the NBA in the Tim Duncan Robot. (By the way, if you don’t think Duncan is the best post player in the NBA, you were fooled.) Additionally, Greg Popovich is in my top active coaches list (along with Jerry Sloan, Avery Johnson, Phil Jackson and Mike D’Antoni), and I think RC Buford is an amazing GM. I’m not a Spurs fan per se — before last night’s Spurs/Jazz game, I hadn’t watched the Spurs in about a month — but I do respect the Spurs and the way they’ve fashioned a perennial contender (and money-maker) out of a small-market team.

I’ve always been of the mindset that the best teams in the NBA are contenders by default, and you don’t count them out until they prove themselves unworthy. And as I watched last night’s Spurs/Jazz game, it was pretty obvious that the Spurs just don’t have it this season. Their two options at center, Francisco Elson and Fab Oberto, bring nothing offensively and very little defensively. That’s not to say that Nazr Mohammed or Rasho Nesterovic were All-Stars, but at least those two guys could stand in front of the rim and block shots when the other Spurs funneled their guys along the baselines and to the hoop. Their other big summer signing, Jackie Butler, was wearing a suit and wasn’t active, which is probably where he’s making his biggest contribution this season. (How funny is it that a player — Butler — could start last season on the Knicks but he can’t even crack the top 12 in San Antonio?)

This lack of San Antonio center help wouldn’t bother me so much if Robert Horry wasn’t breaking down before our eyes. I know some people thought he was finished last year, but he played well until everyone else went small and just outran the Spurs. Last night, Horry looked like he had a pegleg out there, hobbling around. There was an inbounds play late in the game where Horry had to shoot a running three-pointer, and he caught the pass, ran a few steps, threw up the shot and then nearly tumbled over backwards into the crowd. Nobody hit him, nobody bumped him, but he just couldn’t keep his balance. He’s not totally done — he did nail a huge three down the stretch — but he’s not going to be able to keep up with Dallas or Phoenix during the Playoffs.

And unless they make some kind of move, neither are the Spurs. I mean, I guess they put Duncan at center and then use Tony Parker, Manu, Barry and Finley, but once Duncan gets in foul trouble they’re done. He’s their only serviceable big man. If they can find another scoring big somewhere — I can’t believe I’m writing this, but Tim Thomas would be a perfect fit — I’m taking all this back.

Also noticed how much Hubie Brown was drooling over Tony Parker. Who do you think loves Tony more: Hubie Brown or Eva Longoria?

And did you guys see Manu’s face last night? Still think Kobe didn’t hit him hard?