Every great dynasty must come to an end.
No one can turn back the hands of time and after 9 seasons of championship contention, Father Time has finally knocked down the Spurs door.
This year’s Spurs had an older average age (of guys who played 15 minutes or more during the regular season) than Bird’s Celtics, Magic’s Lakers, Jordan’s Bulls, or Shaq’s Lakers in any of their final championship years.
2007-08 San Antonio Spurs
Manu Ginobili: 30 years old, 31.1 minutes per game.
Tim Duncan: 32 years old, 34.0 minutes per game.
Tony Parker: 26 years old, 33.5 minutes per game.
Michael Finley: 35 years old, 26.9 minutes per game.
Brent Barry: 36 years old, 17.9 minutes per game.
Bruce Bowen: 36 years old, 30.2 minutes per game.
Ime Udoka: 30 years old, 18.0 minutes per game.
Fabricio Oberto: 33 years old, 20.1 minutes per game.
Kurt Thomas: 35 years old, 18.7 minutes per game.
Jacque Vaughn: 33 years old, 15.4 minutes per game.
Average age: 33
Not to mention Robert Horry, who averaged 12.9 minutes per game during the regular season and 13.3 meaningless minutes in the Conference Finals. Horry is 37 years old.
After the game, Tim Duncan said the Spurs needed to “tweak a few things here and there” and “add a few pieces.”
Gregg Popovich insisted that “wholesale” changes weren’t necessary.
Pop said: “So when you lose, you’ve got to make changes, right? If we won, we wouldn’t have to do a damn thing. I think that’s too superficial of an analysis of any team at the end of the season. Every team makes some kind of changes. So we’ll look at our team and see what we need to do. We’ve made some changes every year, whether we won or we lost.”
But these changes are different than the changes any of the three previous Spurs title teams (2003, 2005, 2007) have made.
Their 1999 championship team featured six key players over the age of 30 (David Robinson, Avery Johnson, Mario Elie, Sean Elliot, Jerome Kersey, Steve Kerr).
It took San Antonio four years to rebuild and win another championship. Partly because of the Shaq/Kobe dynasty but also because it took time to develop guards Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.
With Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on the downside of their careers, the Spurs don’t have four years to rebuild this time.
Ginobili had his best season statistically but was hobbled by an arthritic ankle in the end. Tony Parker is as quick as ever. Duncan has three, maybe four seasons left at an elite level.
Bruce Bowen has a lost some of his lateral quickness and couldn’t keep Chris Paul or Kobe Bryant in front of him like he could in year’s past. Oberto was a non-factor in the Western Conference Finals and Kurt Thomas didn’t receive enough playing time until it was too late.
San Antonio needs to get younger and more athletic.
Particularly in the frontcourt.
Duncan averaged 17 rebounds over five games against Los Angeles. Point guard Tony Parker was the Spurs 2nd leading rebounder with 4 per game.
General Manager RC Buford has to be cursing the day he let go of Luis Scola. Scola, at 28 years of age, was a Rookie of the Year candidate this year, averaging 14 points and 9 rebounds per game. He would have helped the Spurs immensely.
Despite San Antonio’s age, they remain one of the league’s best defensive teams but they couldn’t sustain their defensive effort for a full 48 minutes in Game’s 1 and 5.
Led by Kobe Bryant, the Lakers came back from 20-point and 17-point deficits.
Game 1’s letdown had to have been particularly defeating and may have set the tone for the series.
So where do the Spurs go from here?
Jacque Vaughn and Robert Horry probably won’t (and shouldn’t) be asked to return.
San Antonio needs an athletic small forward who can create his own shot. I’m not convinced that Udoka is the defensive player many people believe he is so he’s expendable. Brent Barry or Michael Finley should be retained (one or the other).
General Manager RC Buford has drafted notoriously well but how many late first to second round Parker and Ginobili’s can one team be blessed with? How many of those guys are out there to begin with?
The Spurs have the 12th highest payroll ($70,034,327, $53,621,368 committed for next year) in the league. Owner Peter Holt may be forced to do the one thing that forced him to trade away Scola this season — grossly exceed the luxury tax threshold — for the Spurs to remain competitive.
With the Lakers, Hornets, Jazz, and Trailblazers primed to walk through the doorway Father Time knocked down, San Antonio had better rebuild quickly…before it’s too late.