Tony Parker out for the playoffs. Tim Duncan retired and happy. His replacement, LaMarcus Aldridge, has been dealing with a heart condition that has zapped his strength. And, Manu Ginobili looks lonely as the only member of the “Big Three” still playing. Despite being up 2-1 against the Houston Rockets in their western conference semi-final series, the critics have been circling the Spurs like they’re wounded and ready for the picking. The NBA has been wondering for years how much longer Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and his ball club could routinely challenge for NBA titles and now the question appears stronger than ever. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate: Is the Spurs’ run over?

Houston Rockets’ James Harden defends as San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) positions for a shot during Game 2 in a second-round NBA basketball playoff series, Wednesday, May 3, 2017, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Green: San Antonio just finished 61-21 in the regular season and we’re asking are they done? As long as Popovich remains in place and all-star forward Kawhi Leonard continues to insert his name in the conversation as best player in the NBA then the Spurs will continue to be in contention, annually. Parker will miss the rest of the playoffs with a calf injury and we don’t know if Ginobili or even Parker for that matter will be back next season. But, it doesn’t matter. Popovich has created a machine with San Antonio. They’re the NBA version of the NFL’s New England Patriots and they both use the same business model. They build their teams around one solid anchor and find bargaining pieces to fill in the gaps. The Spurs aren’t done, they’re just getting started under the new era of Leonard.

Riley: I love Leonard’s game and his ability, but the NBA has changed so much over the last few seasons that even Popovich and the Spurs will have trouble competing for a title. They have the regular season mastered, and their head coach knows how to get the most out of his team over the course of 82 games. But, the NBA season is settled in June and the Spurs haven’t sniffed success in a few years. Despite the presence of Leonard, the Spurs might not be done being competitive but their championship runs are on hold until further notice.

Green: They’re two wins away at press time from advancing to the Western Conference finals and we’re debating whether or not their championship run is done. Listen to that and tell me if it makes any sense. San Antonio is just as formidable as they’ve been despite not being as talented. Popovich’s best trait has always been working his system around his best players and San Antonio will just retool like they always do. Parting ways with Ginobili will allow the team to find minutes for younger and fresher legs and Parker will become a free agent after next season at the age of 34 years old. San Antonio will have no choice but to become younger and more athletic and pairing that with Leonard should keep the Spurs contending for years to come.

Riley: If we’re just going to assume the Spurs are going to successfully retool then we might as well suggest that for Oklahoma City and the Los Angeles Clippers, the last two teams to extinguish the Spurs from the postseason. Three seasons is a long stretch in NBA terms and that’s the last time we saw the Spurs win a title. This isn’t the same team, and the depth and talent just isn’t on the levels of a Golden State or a Cleveland.

 

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk