The Spurs had a great regular season, winning 61 games to finish with the best record in the West by a four-game margin. Unfortunately for them and their fans, they ran into a tough matchup with the Grizzlies in the first round and suffered only the second loss to a No. 8 seed in the best-of-seven era (and fourth all-time). It was a sad moment for a team that had greater aspirations this season.
In fact, it was bad enough to force one of the San Antonio's stars to claim that the franchise's championship window has closed. From the French paper L'Equipe, as translated on the FIBA website (via SB Nation):
Parker says that age has finally caught up with the Spurs.
"At the start of the season I said this was our last chance," he said.
"Tim and Gino (Manu Ginobili) are getting old. It's going to be tough to regenerate ourselves.
"We will always have a good team but we can no longer say that we're playing for a championship."
Parker's right -- it is very tough for an aging team to regenerate itself, unless its coach is Wolverine and its best player is a starfish. Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan often seem to have magical qualities, but I'm pretty sure regeneration is not one of them.
In all seriousness, though, Parker is probably right: Duncan is aging and can no longer lock down the paint, the roster lacks a capable big man to help him inside, and Ginobili's ankles could explode at any minute. But as the Mavericks have proven this season, aging teams seemingly past their primes can catch fire and exploit favorable matchups to move on in the postseason. Plus, it's not as if the Spurs' regular season was a mirage -- they still won 61 games playing in a conference with better teams, on average, than the East.
The Spurs can't stay pat and expect to win a championship next year, but they may not be as far away from postseason relevance as Parker seems to think. If Tiago Splitter develops into more of a post presence, Ginobili stays totally healthy, and Duncan doesn't see a terrible drop in his abilities, it's possible to imagine San Antonio with a high seed (and better luck) in next year's playoffs.
Or maybe, as rumored, they'll trade Parker for some new blood to reinvigorate the team. That's replacement, not regeneration, but it can work, too.
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- Manu Ginobili
- The Spurs
- Tim Duncan