When Russell Westbrook was lost for the 2013 NBA playoffs with a knee injury, the immediate phrase “it’s now or never, fellas” began to float around South Texas as the San Antonio Spurs realized their closing championship window was being held open a tad longer by luck. Then whoever was writing the fairytale story forgot how those typically end and San Antonio was left speechless.
Now, a year after the Spurs endured that gut-wrenching loss to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals, tragedy has once again prolonged the Oklahoma City Thunder’s taking of the torch as king of the Western Conference. Or at least that’s what the Spurs are thinking.
On Friday afternoon, it was reported Serge Ibaka will miss the remainder of the postseason with a calf injury. Although he underwent an MRI, “calf injury” is all we got from the team and media reports. Regardless, the Thunder are again down a primary starter in the playoffs and the Spurs are again speechless, albeit this time for good reason.
Last year was supposed to be it, everyone said. It was the absolute last hurrah for the Spurs, a team that “defied age” to casual fans, but actually rebuilt its core with young, smart players while no one noticed. Yet here they are with a second straight last chance at a fairytale ending, or at least one that involves Tim Duncan.
What’s ironic is Duncan, the man who shouldered much of the blame for the Spurs’ last-second loss to the Heat, is in the final year of his contract. If you’re one of those folks who believes in things like destiny, then this is shaping up to be an even better story than last year.
The Heat will be back in the Finals — you’re foolish if you think the Indiana Pacers can advance — and now it looks as if the Spurs will be, too. But now there is no certainty of next year for San Antonio because Duncan isn’t under contract for the 2014-15 NBA season. It’s almost as if the Spurs were supposed to come up short in 2013 so he would come back for his actual last hurrah.
Well, that’s at least what die-hard Spurs fans are believing…or at least hoping.
The phrase that was arguably overused last postseason in South Texas was supposed to be meaningless following Game 7 of the 2013 Finals, but now it’s even more applicable and will likely never be applicable again for San Antonio’s Big Three: It’s now or never, fellas.