In the last couple nights we've seen San Antonio lose in the first round of the NBA playoffs for the first time in 12 years. AKA Timmy D's entire career. We also saw Utah get run by the Lakers. I don't know that these results were surprising to people that know the game. The surprising part was just how poorly these two teams played in getting eliminated. In my humble opinion this was the last rodeo for these two storied franchises. (at least for the foreseeable future)
The Spurs have 4 titles in the last 10 years. Nuff said.
While the Jazz don't have the championship pedigree they've been consistently good for a long long time. Since Jerry Sloan has been there they have produced the NBA's 2nd leading scorer of all time, the NBA's all time assist leader, and the NBA's all time steals leader. Pretty solid.
The Jazz are going to dismantled after this season, as J.A. Adande wrote about earlier this week. Their owner died (R.I.P. Larry Miller). Jerry Sloan is going to retire. Their radio guy is retiring. Carolos Boozer is going to opt out. D Will is gone in 2 years when his contract is up. The Jazz have Andre Kirilenko's contract for two more years. Aside from Raef LaFrenz, Kirilenko's contract might be the worst in the league. The Jazz will resign Paul Millsap this summer, but they'll have to overpay for him. If they resign Korver, who's contract is also up, they'll probably have to overpay.
A lot of people thought this was the best supporting cast Timmy D and Pop had ever assembled. Tony Parker is now the best player on the Spurs. Manu is the hugest douchebag in the league, but the dude knows how to win. Every other guy on the roster, aside from Drew Gooden, can knock down the three point shot. They can spread the floor out and let Parker penetrate and kick or finish. The Spurs will always be one of the top defensive teams in the league. The problem is that the Spurs are getting old and when you get old you get hurt. Manu and Timmy have each missed more games every year in each of the past 3 seasons. Tim Bowen is old and no longer effective as a defender. Kurt Thomas and Michael Finley are the same players they have always been, but their minutes are down because, once again, they're old. The other problem is that in today's NBA you need either speed and/or length. The Spurs really have neither.
To quote Roman Nagel from Ocean's 13, "Danny, I like you. And you Rusty. I mean, you've got style. You've got brio. You've got loyalty. Believe me, I'd love to go up against Greco and crush him...but it can't be beat. It can't be hacked and it can't be beat. You're analog players in a digital world."
Ok, so I got carried away with the bad movie quote. Not important. The Spurs do not have the style and they do not have the athletes to remain dominant in this league.
I'm trying to think how I should feel about the downfall of these two teams. I hide nothing about loathing both of these teams. The Jazz are my beloved Nuggets biggest rival. I went to college in San Antonio, and while there the Spurs eliminated the Nuggets from the playoffs 3 times. I hate both of these teams. Actually the only time I've been punched in my life was at a Nuggets / Spurs playoff game. A kid ran up to me, punched me and ran away. I looked at a nearby cop who just shrugged his shoulders and said "You're wearing a Nuggets jersey." I wasn't hurt bad, but I was bleeding. Weird right?
But these two teams sinking into mediocrity somehow makes me a little sad. These two cities are really similar. They are both 1 sport towns and they both love their NBA hoop. Trivia time: Can you name the other five cities where the NBA franchise is the only professional squad?
I think if you surveyed every NBA player they would tell you that Salt Lake and San Antonio are two of the five toughest places to play in the league. You always hear about how loud Energy Solutions Arena gets, but the AT&T Center is the loudest sports venue I've ever been to (except Coors Field when I was there for the Matt Holliday face plant in the Play In-Game at the end of the 2007 season). Make no mistake, football may be king in Texas but San Antonio, and everything south of the city, live, breathe, bleed and die with the Spurs.
When I think of successful franchises I think of coaching longevity. Long-tenured coaches always mean two things a.) that you win ball games and b.) that you have strong ownership. Jerry Sloan and Pop are the two longest tenured coaches in the NBA. As I said earlier, I really think that Sloan will retire. Pop is not retiring, and he's probably not going to shave any time soon either, and will be in San Antonio for years to come.
In my mind I compare these two squads to Steelers in the NFL. The Rooney's are the best ownership group in all of sports. Larry Miller was up there. I don't know the name of San Antonio's owner, which shows why he's good at his job. He snags his courtside seats, cheers, goes home, never makes a public comment RE: refs, players, etc. He lets his coach do the job. He is the anti-Mark Cuban. Miller is no longer there for Utah. The foundation is still there for the Spurs, but as with buildings, foundations crumble.
Time's up: Orlando, Portland, Oklahoma City, Memphis and Sacramento
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