Saturday, April 07, 2007

Why I Hate The Spurs (And Why Steve Kerr Needs To Chill)

Last night I watched Phoenix-San Antonio. Steve Kerr, normally my favourite basketball analyst on television other than maybe Hubie Brown (the games he and Marv Albert do just seem to be better basketball than the others), was in full-fellatial mode, talking up the Spurs as if there was no tomorrow. Every chance he got, he pontificated on their stifling defense, their work ethic, their championship mentality, how great Duncan is, why Dallas and most definitely Phoenix will struggle against them in the playoffs, how everyone knows their roles and no one ever tries to do too much, and how Tony Parker and Eva Longoria are setting an example for celebrity couples everywhere. After a while, it just started grating on me. For one thing, I hate the Spurs (more on this in a second). For another, Kerr simply forgot that there were two teams playing that game and occasionally, just occasionally, the other one might have warranted a mention in a context other than one that glorified the San Antonio's Red Army-outside-Stalingrad like defense.

I think San Antonio is the single most overrated team in the NBA. Not this or any year in particular, but generally speaking, over the last ten years, no team has gotten more un-deserved accolades from self-proclaimed basketball aficionados who think they are better than all us "casual" fans because they ostensibly see the beauty in the Spurs' game while the rest of us mere neanderthals are instinctively drawn to more high-profile, attractive teams. Here, however, are the facts:

The 99 Championship shouldn't just have an asterisk next to it, but the words "This really shouldn't count as a proper NBA season" in parentheses as well just in case somebody stupid misses the point of the asterisk.

Consider the fact that this was the first season after MJ's second retirement, teams played only 50 games, there were no training camps and the schedule dictated that teams sometimes had to play three nights a row, resulting in the most warped, parallel-universe NBA season ever. More importantly, consider that the best teams in the NBA that season were either over-the-hill (Jazz), too young/inexperienced (Kings), had pathetic coaches (the Lakers were coached by Kurt fucking Rambis), robbed by referees (let's not even talk about the Pacers-Knicks playoff series), or completely insane (Blazers). That the Spurs needed a miraculous, lucky shot by Sean Elliot over Rasheed's fingertips to even get to the Finals tells you how fortunate they should consider themselves. It was their year, but they weren't a championship level team. If you think this is sour grapes, I ask you to conduct the following thought experiment. Imagine a 7-game series between the '99 Spurs and (a) the 94-95 Rockets teams, (b) the 1991-93 and 1996-98 Bulls teams and (c) the 2000-02 Laker teams (oh wait, you don't actually have to imagine this one). Who would win? Please. That Spurs team had a second year Duncan, a soft-as-ever Robinson, and Avery Johnson starting at the point. Avery Johnson! I think I've made my point. The 1999 season was a fraud, and as such, so was the championship.

2005 was lucky as well

Again, they were fortunate that (a) they played a team in the Finals that maddeningly only showed up for quarters at a time (the cruise-control Pistons, as opposed to the 2004 always-in-your-face version), and (b) their biggest rival in the West internall combusted (this was, of course, the first season after the inevitable and long overdue Kobe-Shaq breakup). Duncan disappeared for stretches in the Finals in a way that true super-duper-stars (MJ, Hakeem et al) never do. If Detroit played like they gave a crap, they would have won that series in five, maybe six. The point to be made is that 2003 was the only year the Spurs actually deserved the ring.

No team gets away with more

I'm so sick and tired of hearing this "Bruce Bowen is the premier perimeter defender in the NBA" crap. Just once I want to hear a nationally recognized columnist/commentator call Bowen out for his dirty play. Everyone knows about the standing-underneath-a-shooter tactic that he employs so well, which both distracts the guy he's guarding in addition to significantly putting him at risk of a serious injury (remember the Vince-Bowen and Ray Allen-Bowen fights? That's exactly what they were about). What is less apparent but equally pissing off is the constant holding and grabbing, especially away from the ball, and double especially around screens. Bowen gets away with more than almost any defender out there because of his good-guy image (and the Spurs' collective good-guy image, no doubt). Of course he's going to hold you to a low percentage if he fouls you three times a possession and doesn't get called for it! That's not rocket science. The true great defenders in the league (Marion, Bell, even Igoudala) play defense with their feet and their bodies, and don't foul the guy they're guarding every 15 seconds. More importantly, when they
do foul, they don't get away with it. Bowen does.

It's not, however, limited to Bowen. Next time you're watching a Spurs game, please keep a count of the following things:

1. The number of times Duncan gets away with a push in the back just as a shot goes up, giving him prime position for an offensive/defensive rebound.

2. The number of times Ginobili flops and gets the call.

3. The number of times their bigs set moving screens.

4. The number of times Poppovich screams at the refs in a way that would get the Isiah Thomas' of the world thrown out, and yet don't ever warrant the Spurs coach a technical.

Despite nearly always getting the better end of the calls, the Spurs have this incredibly annoying habit of questioning every call, acting as if they never commit fouls. This is typified by the Duncan-Ginobili-Parker trio, who whine as much as any set of players in the league. Duncan especially gets that mopy, "who, me?" look that would look cute on a four-year old but makes me want to slit my wrist when I see it on the supposed greatest power forward of all time. Other than Detroit, there's no team that bitches to the refs more than these guys. And as I said, what is most egregious is that they get away with it.

Anyways, all this is to say, I hate the Spurs. I hate them so much that I am honestly considering rooting for Kobe and the Bryantaires if they meet in the playoffs (which they probably will). I never, ever, ever thought the day would come when I support a team with Kobe Bryant on it. Alas, such a day has come, and we owe it to the Spurs.

I also think the top three teams in the West have a really interesting dynamic going insofar as playoff preferences are concerned. It's obvious that Phoenix would rather play Dallas than the Spurs. I also think the Spurs would rather play Phoenix than Dallas. Finally, I think Dallas would rather play the Spurs than Phoenix, who seem to have their number and match up really well with them. All this is to say that the second-round meeting between the Spurs and Phoenix (barring an explosion from one or both of the AI-Melo combo and Kobe) will not just have the obvious effect on the teams involved in that series, but enormous repercussions on the Western finals. I'd like to see Phoenix win this year, if only because I think Nash deserves a ring the way he's played these last three years, but I would be satisfied with anyone really, as long as it's not the Spurs. We wouldn't want them winning a second championship in five years now, would we?


Anonymous said...

Iguodala? Seriously? I want to slap you.

And no, saying "even" before his name does not make it okay.

Anonymous said...

And you need to take off this approval bullshit. Enough. Farooq isn't going to post anything inappropriate (or at all) anymore. And in the extremely unlikely eventuality he does - you can take it off.

This is ridiculously authoritarian.

And you (obviously) don't need to publish this.

Ahsan said...

dude, you need to chill. first of all, igourdala is an EXCELLENT defender. do you not see that as a statement of fact?

secondly i think the approval thing is working out quite well. it also keeps away spam sham.

if you care to read my posts and comments on liberalism and democracy, you will see there is not an authoritarian bone in my body.