Four thoughts on the Spurs 2016-2017 season…….
Gregg Popovich is the only coach in the NBA who can punt a Western Conference Finals without criticism. Better yet, he’ll probably be labeled as a genius for doing so.
Who knows what really went into the decision to sit Kawhi Leonard. Maybe Pop weighed the probability of winning their Western Conference Finals match-up against Golden State as fairly low, especially once down 0-2. Maybe he thought the risk of playing Kawhi on a sprained ankle didn’t justify the reward of a low probability of winning the series.
I’m not arguing they could have won the series and Pop punted, I’m saying he knew they weren’t going to win and coached accordingly. The Spurs would have had to have been perfect with a healthy Parker and Kawhi to win this series, so winning truly is not the argument.
In any case, the Spurs end up with Bryn Forbes, a seldom used guard, playing major minutes in a closeout game at home of the Western Conference Finals.
The Spurs fell 129-115 to Golden State in Game Four at the AT&T Center on Monday night.
Pop punted. He treated the final three games of the Western Conference Finals like he treats the majority of the regular season. He ran a scrimmage, tried to gauge what he could from guys up and down his roster and will adjust accordingly. I suppose that’s the luxury of playing in the Conference Finals so often.
Success is gauged very differently in San Antonio. As a franchise the Spurs have missed the playoffs only five times in fifty years. This was a tremendously successful season for them. They won 61 games and played in the Western Conference Finals in the first season without Tim Duncan and with seven new guys on their roster. Ten years ago, most thought the end of the Tim Duncan era meant multiple trips to the NBA lottery. Most suspected they would bottom out. Instead, the Spurs move on from the greatest player in franchise history with another dazzling season. It’s the fourth time in the last six seasons the Spurs played for the West Title. Houston, Memphis, Oklahoma City and Golden State are the only other teams in the West to reach the conference finals during that stretch and none of them as often as the Spurs.
LaMarcus Aldridge was bad against Golden State. There’s no other way to say it. Here’s what we learned more than anything, the Spurs can’t win a title if he has to be their best player. Good news, he doesn’t have to be. The Spurs can win a title if Aldridge is their second best player. He still averaged 18 and 8 this season, so find me a trade that makes the Spurs better without Aldridge.
If this is the end of Manu Ginobili, it’s undoubtedly a hall-of-fame career unique unto itself. His stats lie. You are missing everything that’s good about sports when you look at Ginobili’s career through the analytical lens. He was authentic. He was cutthroat. Manu Ginobili played the game of basketball the way all fans want all athletes to play every game.