Every year in every sport, some team is called a “team of destiny.” This year, that label applies mostly to the San Antonio Spurs, who are almost being perceived as a Cinderella team, despite the fact this is the fourth NBA Finals appearance for Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan collectively as the Spurs’ “Big Three.”
Now I don’t believe in teams of destiny — I’m a firm believer that teams improve their chemistry through momentum and that chemistry is what propels them to overcome seemingly impassible obstacles, not the momentum itself. This applies especially to the playoffs, and thus these teams are naturally perceived as “destined” to win it all. That phrase typically goes hand-in-hand with Cinderella teams, but the Spurs wouldn’t be considered the latter if they weren’t playing the Miami Heat in this year’s title series.
Having said that, the stars have indeed aligned for the Spurs in these playoffs, which could easily be the last for Duncan, especially if he wins his fifth ring. For a team that last won a title in 2007, getting back now just doesn’t seem like a coincidence, and that’s coming from the most non-superstitious sportswriter in America.
Duncan is 37 and Ginobili is 35, so the clock is ticking for these future Hall of Famers. Thus, the Spurs really needed short series and good matchups in the playoffs to get plenty of rest before the Finals. It seemed too easy: They swept the hobbled, discombobulated seventh-seeded Los Angeles Lakers and the overmatched, offensively-challenged fifth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies to go along with a series win over the young, inexperienced sixth-seeded Golden State Warriors in six games. The sweep against Memphis in the Western Conference Finals was especially critical because it gave San Antonio nine days’ rest before Game 1 of the Finals.
Not only that, but what the Spurs couldn’t control ended up in their favor as well; the Indiana Pacers took the Heat to seven games, two members of Miami’s Big Three were injured along the way and then two of them got into a verbal squabble through the media. So now Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are both hurt and apparently not happy with LeBron James, which is great for the Spurs, who are finally healthy across the board and certainly in good spirits.
Basically, everything that needed to go right for the Spurs’ last hurrah did, so now all that’s left to do is play one last series the way the Denver Broncos played Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII with 37-year-old John Elway at the helm. But here’s the thing about the Broncos of the late 1990s: they may have caught all the right breaks, but they were also the best team on the field in those title games. Contrary to popular belief, the same applies to Duncan and the Spurs this year on the courts of the American Airlines Arena and the AT&T Center.
With all things considered, this is the Spurs’ last chance to win a title with their current core because of the way things lined up this postseason, if nothing else. In other words, it’s now or never, fellas.