For the opening half of Wednesday’s Game 5 in Oklahoma City, the San Antonio Spurs displayed all the experience, savvy and grit that helped them roll off 20 consecutive wins and reach the Western Conference finals.
After the loss, Tony Parker said he needed time to process the four-game blitzkrieg that victimized the NBA’s best team in the regular season. Tim Duncan tipped his cap to “a hell of a team” whose “talent was just overwhelming.”
When asked where San Antonio goes from here, Manu Ginobili said ”the same place we’ve been going the last eight years.
“We’ve been always old. We’ve been always criticized for that, and we still compete... We are fine.”
But the question everyone outside the San Antonio locker room is pondering is “Are the Spurs really fine?”
In a grueling, lockout-condensed season, the perpetually-old Spurs showed they are still one of the top teams in the NBA. And through two and a half rounds of the postseason they dismantled each and every foe. But now that the “overwhelming-talented” and young Thunder have knocked them out just shy of the finals, it’s time to take stock.
For as well as he played this postseason, Duncan is 36 years old and doesn’t move as well as he used to. At 34, Ginobili remains a constant injury risk due to his relentless style of play. For his part, Parker had an MVP-caliber season, but at times this season, the Spurs were forced to rely on his scoring more than they would have liked.
In DeJuan Blair, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, the Spurs have an influx of young talent that could develop into vital role players, but none appear to be front-line scorers or go-to superstars in the near future.
Among the NBA’s top coaches, Gregg Popovich has consistently displayed the ability to squeeze the most out of his roster, and there’s little reason to doubt he won’t be able to do it again next season.
But there’s also no reason to expect the Thunder will regress next winter — they should be even better. And whether it happens this summer or next, the Spurs are approaching a critical juncture at which allowing their veterans to ride off into the sunset could clash with the need to rebuild their roster for the future.