NBA AM: Spurs’ Window Closed?
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San Antonio Spurs’ power forward Tim Duncan had the opportunity to become just the second player in NBA history to win an NBA Title in three different decades. With the seconds winding down in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals, it appeared inevitable that both Duncan and Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich would achieve that goal. Unfortunately for San Antonio, Miami HEAT guard Ray Allen nailed a fiercely contested 3-pointer, Miami capitalized in overtime and on we went to Game 7.
With a game-high 37 points and team-high 12 rebounds, James spurred the Heat to a 95-88 Game 7 victory over four-time champion Duncan and the Spurs. Miami secured their third NBA Championship over the past seven years along with the second-straight NBA Title in the James-era.
“The obvious word is ‘disappointing’,” Duncan told Sam Amick of USA Today Sports. “Tough end to the game. We made some bad decisions, missed some shots. I don’t know what to say. Just give credit to the Miami Heat. LeBron (James) was unbelievable. Dwyane (Wade) was great. I just think they found a way to get it done. We stayed in the game. We gave ourselves opportunities to win the game, we just couldn’t turn that corner. They made more plays down the stretch, bottom line.”
Duncan led San Antonio with 24 points and four steals while grabbing 12 rebounds in a losing effort. At 37-years old in his 16th NBA season, speculation has begun as to whether Duncan will return for season number 17 in San Antonio.
As far as HEAT guard Dwyane Wade is concerned, Duncan is clearly one of the best of all-time despite falling short on his fifth NBA Title.
“Tim Duncan is one of the greatest players of all time,” Wade said. “If I’m able to do what Tim Duncan did at 37 years old, I’m happy. That guy is a warrior.”
Wade continued by bask credit on the Spurs, inaugurating Miami’s third championship by showering credit on the four-time NBA champion Spurs.
“It took everything we had as a team,” Wade told The Associated Press. “Credit to the San Antonio Spurs, they’re an unbelievable team, an unbelievable franchise. This is the hardest series we ever had to play. But we’re a resilient team and we did whatever it took.”
Spurs’ head coach Gregg Popovich, in typical Pop fashion, lessened the blow with pop-media manipulation (no pun intended) and a philosophical view of where this team goes next.
“From the minute we left the arena, it was about mental recovery more than anything, and putting things in perspective, getting to the point where you slap yourself and you don’t cry about it and pity yourself and move on and realize that somehow or other you earned two chances to win one game to be NBA champions,” Popovich said. “That’s pretty cool to have that opportunity. So that’s been the emphasis, to get to that point so that cup fills up again and past is past, and go compete.”
The reality is that San Antonio mainstay Ginobili’s over $14.1 million comes off the books this summer and the Spurs’ salary count will stand at less than $49 mill heading into next year. This means that San Antonio could be in the market for a marquee free agent, whether or not Duncan and Popovich stick around for the future.
The emphasis was on the 37-year old Duncan and cohort Popovich to seal the fifth championship in franchise history but the onus could be on the duo to step out of the picture in favor of the future heading into next season. While unlikely, the All-NBA First Team selection could decide his professional future is sealed and could bring his career to an end via retirement this summer. However, Duncan has two years left on his contract at over $10.3 mill per season so leaving that type of money on the table appears unlikely.
This is true especially after having to stomach to bitter taste of losing in the NBA Finals for the first time in his career.
Either way, San Antonio has plenty of decisions to make this offseason with some of it’s key contributors eligible to bolt this summer. The likelihood is that, even at 38-years old, Duncan returns next season along with Popovich to make one final run at a remarkable fifth NBA Title.
The return of pending free agent Ginobili – especially after his manic close to Game 7 – is much more up in the air.
LeBron James Silences Critics, Again?
With an outstanding performance in the most crucial game of all of the 2012-2013 NBA season, it’s prudent to evaluate just how James performed in the most important game of his life. Considering his game-high in points, the way he carried his team in the crucial fourth quarter and his poise in the clutch; it’s difficult to find holes in James game after the 2013 NBA-Finals MVP’s performance.
For instance, after struggling from the perimeter and having the Spurs dare him to shoot from distance in the 2013 NBA Finals, James drained five 3-pointers in Game Seven en route to his second-straight championship. Love him or hate him, back-to-back Finals MVP’s have sealed James’ legacy as one of the greatest players in the history of the NBA.
“Listen, I can’t worry about what everybody says about me,” James told the Miami Herald with confetti all around him. “I’m LeBron James, from Akron, Ohio, from the inner city. I’m not even supposed to be here. That’s enough. Every night I walk into the locker room, I see a No. 6 with James on the back, I’m blessed. So what everybody says about me off the court, don’t matter. I ain’t got no worries.”
In total, James nailed five of 10 3-point attempts and 12 of his 23 overall field goals in the most important game of his life to this point. The 28-year old James also scored four of the last five points for the HEAT in the crucial waning seconds of Game Seven, propelling Miami to the third championship in franchise history.
“I work on my game a lot throughout the offseason,” James said. “I put a lot of work into it and to be able to come out here and (have) the results happen out on the floor is the ultimate. The ultimate. I’m at a loss for words.”
While off the floor many of James’ head-scratching decisions can still be debated, his performance on the floor cannot. The reigning NBA and NBA Finals Most Valuable Player came up huge once again on the game’s biggest stage and let his play do the talking.
Blunders like The Decision still resonate in most NBA fans’ mind’s but the reality is that we are witnessing the evolution of the best player in the game today. Hate if you will, and I’ve done my fair share, but James continues to prove time and time again that he is the top player of this era.
With a second NBA Title over the span of three straight Finals’ appearances, it’s time to quit pinning every game as the game that defines LeBron’s legacy.
That time has come and gone.
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