The San Antonio Spurs had never, in the history of their franchise, trailed in an NBA Finals series until the last seconds ticked off the clock in Game 7 and the Miami Heat officially claimed the 2013 NBA championship. Spurs fans aren't exactly equipped to deal with failure in the Finals, and the fact that a single free throw from Kawhi Leonard down the stretch in Game 6 could have re-written history certainly doesn't help the healing process.
Spurs blog Pounding the Rock has provided excellent coverage of the team for the entire season, so of course their initial reaction piece provided a pitch-perfect response to a difficult situation:
This season was unusually cruel, though, and forces on me the usual mantra of the overly-involved: "It's just a game. It's just a game." The Spurs were one free throw away from their fifth championship, just one stupid free throw, but the sports gods were particularly brutal. We were on the wrong side of a historical series, like so many Malones and Stocktons, Birds and Magics were before us. How do you recover, you irrational fan, from the avalanche of what-ifs that assaults you at every turn? How?
The Spurs still have plenty of terrific players on their roster, and the emergence of Kawhi Leonard is the brightest beacon of hope for San Antonio fans hoping for another run at a title in 2013-14:
We have Kawhi Leonard, maybe the second best player of a Final series that featured six Hall of Famers. He has graduated from future to present, and I don't doubt that he will enjoy a long, proud career in San Antonio. He continues to burst through the artificial ceilings fans and media put on his talent - I am not sure such a ceiling even exists anymore.
We have Gregg Popovich. You can only overcoach when you actually coach, you know. I cannot imagine the Spurs without him at the helm, and I'm sorry that someday I will see him leave. We have a Front Office that will find the next how-didn't-we-get-that-guy-before-the-Spurs sensation. We have a damn good shooting coach, too, and Patty cheering from the bench.
We have the memories of a wonderful season, where the Spurs dominated a loaded Western conference, and rose to the top with utterly brilliant basketball. Don't let the last game invalidate a full season of joy, please.
If Tony Parker and Tim Duncan are up for one more big push, it would be crazy to count the Spurs for next year. The path may become even more difficult in the Western Conference, but San Antonio has crafted a tidy legacy in the modern era build around efficiency and execution. Are they too old to do it again? Isn't that what people said prior to the 2012-13 season?
We have a damn good team, guys. We took the champions to the very brink, game 7 of theNBA Finals. Ignore the little voice in your heads that says "This was it, we are too old." We have been too old for six years, but basketball is not that easy to predict. Let other teams rebuild - we will retool, fine-tune, nudge and polish. Maybe the free-throws will fall next year, and maybe Tony's hamstring will behave. And in the meantime, we will enjoy the process: another year of quiet dominance and bullet passes and ball movement. And when the playoffs roll around, we will be back in the thick of it.
Count on it.