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Crawling Up the Rankings

Ah the San Antonio Spurs - the decrepit, back of the bus, heroes of yesteryear whose epic fall from basketball grace has landed them in the bottom of the playoff brackets. How often have I sat and listened as many an ESPN commentator listed them as a thing of the past, a has-been team with no chance at making a run deep into the playoffs. How many times have I been forced to endure the redundancy as analyst after analyst continually references Tim Duncan as some doddering shadow of his former self, and harp on the Achilles heel of Manu Ginobili’s…well, everything below the waist. And yet, despite the subtle insistence that this year’s Spurs will somehow ride depressingly off into the sunset leaving behind only traces of the memory that was championship 2007, I have yet to see a single sign that the Spurs are down for the count.

At this point, I’m sure you are thinking “But Steve, that’s crazy! Haven’t you seen the playoff standings? What about Michael Finley?” To this I say, yes, the Spurs are not in their optimal place amongst the standings, and yes, it’s true, the Spurs have had their trials in the face of adversity, but then again, who hasn’t? True, Michael Finley left to join with the Boston Celtics, but let’s face it, when was the last game he actually contributed as a Spur? And true, the Spurs have lost more than a few games to opponents they should have beaten (the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers come to mind), but every team loses at least one game they should have won (the crippling, double digit humiliation the Dallas Mavericks incurred at the hands of the dreadful New York Knicks and the playoff contending Boston Celtics' own stinker against New Jersey just to name a few), and the Spurs have already shown that they are not going to be brought down by games that go awry, and moreover that they recognize that there are going to be games like that in every season. Last year, the Spurs dropped the season series to Milwaukee, and let’s face it, last year’s Bucks were not exactly the break out team they have proven to be this season. But even with losses like that, the Spurs of last year were still expected to do very well in the playoffs. Their actual performance…well, that’s not the point. The point is, the basketball community still held the Spurs in high regard, treated them like a championship contender, and respected their abilities. That love, however, seems to have evaporated into the air, and even though the Spurs are back to playing good ball – forcing the Hawks to an overtime thriller and beating the Thunder on the road, the love has been slow to return. Even still, a near win and a clear win make for a pretty decent start to the hardest portion of the schedule, though admittedly the best is yet to come – so to speak.

Ultimately, I, like many, am resting my hopes on the coming days and on the thundering resurgence of Manu Ginobili and my own continued MVP vote Tim Duncan. If the two of them can keep playing like they have for the past few weeks, then maybe, just maybe, the Spurs can squeak out the type of momentum they need to go roaring into the playoffs and who knows, maybe even to another title.


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