Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 4/24/12
SAN ANTONIO This should not have happened. The San Antonio Spurs should not be the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Not with a roster that is in full-on transition mode. Not with their best player taking quarters, halves, entire nights off not in that figurative "he's getting lazy" way either, but in that literal "he's sitting on the bench in his warmups" way. It should not be happening as Manu Ginobili's bald spot expands like the hole in the ozone layer. We are all doomed, or at least the Spurs should be. And yet they are not. The Spurs are the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference playoffs, having surpassed that upstart bunch in Oklahoma City, the Thunder. But wait a minute was it not a mere year ago that the Thunder advanced to the Western Conference finals? And was it not that same year the Spurs lost in the first round to Memphis? And was this not all a sign that it was finally time for the old generation (Gen X) in the West to be washed out and replaced by the Millennials of @KDTrey and @russwest44? Because the aging Dallas Mavericks won it all last year, and where are they now? Seventh place, that's where. Washed out like angsty grunge music. Yet here are the Spurs, No. 1 again. Tim Duncan still dresses like it is 1999, in his baggy jeans and boxy short-sleeved plaid button-downs. But on nights he plays as of Tuesday that was 58 out of 64 nights, or 90 percent he is still 90 percent of perhaps the greatest power forward ever. Duncan, 35, averages 15.4 points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes, numbers which are partially misleading because he often takes a seat as soon as a game looks like it has been decided, a practice which began as soon as the season did. Ginobili's minutes are down, too, but at 34 years old he's still good for about 13 points, four boards and three assists. You think Tony Parker is old, but he's only 29, and he says he gets goosebumps when the home crowd chants "M-V-P" at him. That's it. Those are the "Big Three," if you want to call them that. It was sort of accurate last year, and their collective length of tooth is both the reason they supposedly lost to the Grizzlies and the reason so many people are so quick to dismiss the Spurs this season, regular-season record be damned. They were the No. 1 seed last year too, you know, and look what happened. But this dismissal is a mistake, and it is a mistake for the same reason it was a mistake to assume the Spurs would fade into oblivion after their first-round exit last spring. Lakers forward Metta World Peace articulated that reason in six words. "Pop's a hell of a coach," he said. That's Gregg Popovich, who has pulled off quite a trick this year. He has 12 players who average at least 19.2 minutes. Five of them are between their first and third seasons in the NBA. The Spurs are old, but they are also young. They are led by veterans, but they depend on youngsters. To the big question of what has changed for the Spurs between last year and this year, why we should believe they aren't about to get cut down again, that's it. The Spurs aren't actually all that old this year, they have a bunch of pieces and they have a coach who has been creative in fitting them together. "Early in the season Manu got hurt, so it forced Pop to play Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard," Parker said. "At the beginning of the season there were a lot of questions about how they were going to play, and everybody stepped up. Right now we can see the benefit of that, because right now we're playing Danny Green 20 minutes, 25 minutes and we didn't expect nothing from him at the beginning of the season." Instead of a 30-year-old Richard Jefferson shooting 39 percent and a 36-year-old Antonio McDyess spelling Duncan for 24 minutes, as they did in the playoffs last year, the Spurs have Green (24 years old) on the wing, making 43 percent of his 3-pointers, Leonard (20) coming off the bench for energy and rebounds and Tiago Splitter (27) averaging nine and five instead of six and four. And none of that even mentions starting center DeJuan Blair (23), who averaged 12 minutes and 4.3 points in the playoffs last year, and now nine points and five boards in almost 21 minutes. It sounds hokey to introduce this idea into an NBA discussion, because the league is so star-driven, but the Spurs win not because of their stars but because of their extraordinary teamwork and feel for each other. That has its limitations, as we all observed last season, but the Spurs addressed those issues. They found a way. It was a new way. Sort of. I asked Parker recently whether he thought this would have been possible on another team, one that didn't have a core like San Antonio's that had been together so long. "I don't know," he said. "All I know is San Antonio. That's how we do stuff here."
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Jim Ross’ wife Jan dies from injuries due to Vespa crash

Report: Larry Brown to meet with LIU Brooklyn about coaching job

Report: Jay Cutler garnering 'zero' interest around NFL

Paul Millsap to opt out of contract, become free agent

Martellus Bennett calls out NFL to do more to build up communities

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

NBA disciplines Raptors’ Serge Ibaka, Bulls’ Robin Lopez for fighting

Jason Day tearfully withdraws from PGA event to be with ailing mother

Matt Barnes on Derek Fisher chants: ‘I’m sick of that s—’

Brent Musburger admits he once bet on a game he broadcasted

Jeff Hornacek: Knicks will run triangle ‘exclusively’ next season

Reese Witherspoon to speak to women’s gathering at NFL owners meetings

The 'Duke schadenfreude season came early this year' quiz

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Box Score 3/22: Team USA is heading to the championship

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Steph Curry pushes OKC's buttons

Lingering issues for each 2016 MLB postseason team

The 'With teammates like this, who needs rivals?' quiz

Re-ranking the Sweet 16 for the NCAA Tournament

Box Score 3/21: WBC semis are bat-flipping fun

What you need to know for the World Baseball Classic semis

NBA Western Conference bottom feeders to watch down the stretch

MLB players most likely to break out in 2017

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The Aesthetic: The world of player exclusive sneakers

Which Sweet 16 team should you be rooting for?

NBA Referee Hotline Bling: Steph Curry pushes OKC's buttons

Lingering issues for each 2016 MLB postseason team

The 'With teammates like this, who needs rivals?' quiz

Re-ranking the Sweet 16 for the NCAA Tournament

What you need to know for the World Baseball Classic semis

Eastern Conference bottom feeders to watch down the stretch

Eat, Drink, Watch: A weekend of March Madness and more

The 'Who will ruin your glorious bracket this year?' quiz

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker