KSAT Ball Hog Blog: Spurs' titles tainted?
While we wait a month until the Spurs play their next playoff game thanks to the Bobcats, I mean the Jazz not putting up much of a fight, I thought it would interesting to look at a recent article that somewhat discredits the Spurs four championships. Big surprise right?
Grantland.com editor-in-chief and ESPN everything Bill Simmons wrote a column last Friday titled "The Footnote Title." It was a list of 20 NBA champions that won the title due to the misfortune of others whether it be injuries, refs, suspensions, guys hitting fire extinguishers a la Amare, etc. This year's Derrick Rose injury is an example.
Here's where you may ask: RJ how many Spurs titles made the list? How about all four in the top 14! I understand if a list like this is done, it has to have teams on it, but all four Spurs title teams? Might as well put a giant asterisk next to the Spurs logo.
For the record, I'm a big Simmons fan and read his stuff from top to bottom. This dude knows his hoops and even wrote an entire book about basketball while I struggle to get through a blog, but I get the feeling he's still bitter about his beloved Celtics not getting the first pick in the '97 NBA Draft and thus not getting one Timothy Theodore "Tim" Duncan.
Here's where the Spurs titles fell on the list: '03 at 14; '07 at 13; '05 at 10; '99 at 2. You can talk me into '07 and '99 being there, but not '03 and '05. Let's dissect.
The '99 season was a train wreck because of the lockout, but why should SA be punished for the rest of league not being ready for the season even if they didn't think there was going to be a season. (I just became crossed-eyed)
SA went 31-5 after a slow start and 15-2 in the playoffs. Yeah, a 46-7 run including playoffs. Let's not forget SWEEPS over a Lakers team with Shaq (and a young Kobe), and a really good Blazers team. The Knicks were the hottest team in the playoffs and the Spurs crushed them. No one was beating San Antonio in '99 whether it was a full season or not.
In regards to the '07 season, I'll give Simmons credit because he does say this Spurs team was one of the NBA's best in 15 years, but he brings up the Horry hip-check on Nash in the West semis, which led to the Amare and Diaw suspensions. Phoenix was never winning a title. They played no resemblance of defense during the Dantoni era.
Was it a dirty play by Horry? Heck yes, but Phoenix still gave up two games at home and lost in six. Simmons points this out himself so why have the team on the list? I would argue breezing through a weak Jazz team in the West Finals and the Cavs with a still not ready LeBron in the Finals were reasons to be put on the list, not the Phoenix series.
Now the two title seasons I thought should NOT have made the list. Lets start with the '03 season.
The crux of Simmons argument is Chris Webber got hurt during the Kings-Mavs series in the West semis. Then Dirk got hurt in the West Finals against the Spurs. Two big breaks that helped SA bring home the title.
Again, I love Bill Simmons, but how do you not mention the Spurs beating the 3-time champion Lakers in the West semis. That trumps anything else that happened during those playoffs. Until then, I thought beating that Lakers team was nearly impossible.
Fisher crying on the bench, Horry's in-and-out shot in Game 5, Duncan's 37 and 16 in Game 6. How does SA not get credit for this? The Finals versus the Nets were rather forgettable and no one outside of Jersey and SA probably watched, but again, you beat the Shaq-Kobe Lakers in their prime. End of conversation.
Now the '05 squad which ripped my heart out. I took offense to this argument because Simmons mentions the Spurs-Pistons finals only came about because of three fluky incidents: The Palace Brawl which knocked Artest out for the season and crippled Indy's chances, the Suns' Joe Johnson breaking a facial bone in the playoffs and D-Wade getting hurt in the East Finals against Detroit.
Simmons considered all three of these teams better than the Spurs and Pistons. Allow me to debunk please.
As a Detroit fan, I know what that team was about and no one can convince me the Pacers were better. The Pistons beat the Pacers in the East semis that year and had beaten Indy the year before with Artest. They beat Miami in the East Finals by winning twice in South Beach. The Wade injury cost the Heat Game 6, but he played Game 7 at home. Detroit WAS the best team in the East.
Here we go again with the Suns argument. They got smoked by SA in the West Finals. Healthy Joe Johnson or not, the Suns went down 0-3 to SA and lost all three home games. The Spurs even beat the Suns at their own game winning Games 1 and 2 by scoring more than 110 points. They were easily the best team in the West.
So yes, the '05 Finals were played by the best two teams, two defensive powers that went toe-to-toe. The Wallace Brothers-Duncan battles were epic, the Horry dagger in Game 5 killed me, Detroit holding the celebration with a gutty Game 6 win revived me, and Duncan carrying the Spurs in Game 7 put an end to a great series. It was also the first time two previous champs had met in the Finals since 1987.
In fairness, Simmons did have a few Celtics teams on the list so he wasn't completely biased. But no way you can discredit four titles in nine years. A lot of things have to fall any champions way. That's the beauty of the game, you can't predict injuries or suspensions, but the fact the Spurs put themselves in position to win multiple titles over a decade is an accomplishment in itself.
Spurs fans, you have my permission to put a footnote on this Bill Simmons article.
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