I LOVE my SPURS. Everyone & anyone who knows me will know that I am certifiably crazy about the Spurs. In junior high and high school, I used to have this belief that if I watched the Spurs AFTER finishing my homework, they would win, if I didn’t they had a higher chance of losing. I went to jr. high and high school from 96 – 2001, the mid and tail end of David Robinson’s career & the beginning of the Duncan era. Needless to say, I was a straight-A student, graduating at the top of my class. When the Spurs went deep into the playoffs, it was the beginning of summer vacation so I couldn’t blame my hw theory on those playoff losses because I had no homework.
I remember making aluminum foil antennae with my brother, taking turns finding the right hot spot to watch any games of the 96-97 season when it was broadcast on KSAT 12, the home of the Spurs during that season. That was when we won 20-something games, putting out a line up with Dominique “now the slow motion” Wilkins & Cadillac Anderson. I remember watching the lottery that year and the Spurs miraculously getting the 1st pick. I remember running up and down I-35 next to the Alamodome as the entire highway was filled with honking Spurs’ fans and a Mexican guy sitting in the back up a pick up truck screaming “SPURS~~~~” and handing me a beer after we took down the Knicks in ‘99 for our first championship.
As Spurs’ fans, I know we had it good for the past 15 years or so. Heck, since we got Duncan, we haven’t missed the playoffs. There are teams dying to be playing in late April. I know this isn’t gonna last forever either. I know Duncan is a once-in-a-generation type of a franchise player, I know Manu no longer has the explosiveness and I know Tony no longer has the speed. But goddammit I love my Spurs.
But watching this series against the Memphis Grizzlies, I think I have the right to chastise my guys for their lack of heart, passion and EFFORT. I don’t care if you miss & brick your shots, I don’t care if you go after the 50/50 balls and lose, I don’t care if you are getting the short end of the calls… what I do care about is EFFORT, just EFFORT and the Spurs are not showing it. IF the ball is lose on the court, don’t try finesse it up for a fast break, go get yourself some rug burns like Malik Rose used to do. If you get beat on a defensive assignment, don’t hang your head, get angry and upset like Avery Johnson used to do. If you miss a wide open three, don’t shrug your shoulders, be passionate & be willing to make up for the play like Mario Elie used to do. If you get picked off from closing out on a 3-point shooter, go fight through that screen like Bruce Bowen used to do. If you get pushed around in the paint and lose out on a rebound, put on some GOD DAMNED elbow pads and push back like the 40 year old Kevin Willis used to do! Where’s the E. F. F. O. R. T.?!?!
The Spurs of the past 10+ years were not always the most talented, or the biggest, the strongest or the fastest, but the one commonality in all those teams was that they were the hardest working bunch of guys on the NBA floor on any given night.
Out of my most painful Spurs’ memories of the Duncan Era, two plays stand out the most. If you are a Spurs’ fan, you know them by the monikers : “.4″ and “the Manu foul.” If these two plays went to the Spurs favor, we could have possibly seen the Spurs pull off a 5-peat with a chance for a 6th STRAIGHT championship in 07-08, when we had the “sleep on the tarmac” episode before facing the Lakers in the WCF.
But the Spurs’ current playoff predicament against the Grizzlies is even MORE UPSETTING for me than the “.4″ or “the Manu foul.” Why? because during the two of the most upsetting moments of the Duncan-era, the Spurs still showed tremendous effort.
Do you remember the EFFORT of the Spurs before Fisher’s .4 shot? Spurs fought tooth and nail and scratched out a 1 point lead with .4 seconds left after Duncan shot a fading-left-and-back 18 footer over the outstretched arms of Shaq in his prime. And on the Lakers’ inbounds play, the Spurs executed their defensive strategy by denying Kobe Bryant the ball with sheer effort and MANU closed out on Fisher the best anyone can in that situation without fouling and really contested the shot. There was EFFORT and I could live with that.
On the “Manu Foul”: Well, people forget, SA was down 3-1 to the Mavs that series, and we were down by 20 in game 7 before a furious comeback led by Manu Ginobili. It was Manu who gave the Spurs a 3pt lead in the closing seconds before giving up this AND-1 to Dirk for the tie and the eventual loss in OT when Tim Duncan started cramping up. Manu got that foul going out with an all out EFFORT to rotate and block Dirk’s shot. Despite the loss the Spurs showed TREMENDOUS EFFORT and that’s all I can ask for as a diehard fan of this team. I can swallow a tough tough loss because the team’s effort is the glass of water that I need to pass the giant horse pill that playoff losses usually are.
But what the Spurs are showing now against Memphis? This is unacceptable and the Spurs, no matter how old, or slow, or tired or hurt they are, need to be held responsible for their absolute lack of effort. You can’t expect to win a playoff game with regular season intensity and energy. We deserved to get our asses handed to us in Game 4 because we had absolutely no one and I mean NO ONE, from Pop all the way down to the 12th man, who matched the passion and effort of the Grizzlies. Heck, if you are James Anderson and is just waving a towel at the end of the bench, you better be waving that towel more furiously and clapping louder than the Grizzlies’ 12th man… whoever that may be.
Yes, Spurs – you’ve given us some great memories & moments and I am forever grateful to you. And you know what? You don’t owe us anything, but look at yourselves in the mirror because you owe yourselves a lot more EFFORT than what you are giving now.
Always and Forever – GO SPURS GO!!!