Don’t count out San Antonio in the NBA playoffs


San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich and point guard Tony Parker have won the NBA Finals before. With a possible No. 2 seed in the West Conference, the duo may do it again in 2012. Photo by: Tiago Hammil / Flickr

The NBA Playoffs are quickly approaching with just a week and a half remaining in the regular season. To think it wasn’t too long ago that NBA enthusiasts like myself were in doubt that there would even be a season.

Now everyone knows that the East is a two-team race (maybe three if you consider the resurgent Celtics a legit contender) with the Bulls and the Heat. If you’re a regular Couch Side reader or one of the few Twitter followers I have, you know which side I’m on.

As for the West, well everyone since the beginning of the season has assumed that Oklahoma City was destined to meet either Chi-Town or South Beach in the NBA Finals. Everyone assumed that the old guards, namely the Spurs and the aforementioned Celtics, didn’t stand a chance in the compressed, lockout-induced season.

But here they are, Greg Popovich’s boys in the silver and black just as they always are. With a week and a half remaining, the Spurs are just a game behind OKC for the top-seed in the West. The old guys are here and they’ve got the young, athletic Thunder in sight.

How could this be? How could a team that relies heavily on geezers be one of a handful of legitimate title contenders in a truncated season? Well it starts at the top with Pops. The Spurs are led by the best coach in the league this side of Tom Thibodeau (ok I admit that was a little biased). As much as I love Thibs, let’s give Pops his due. The guy knows how to coach and now that Phil Jackson is probably doing who knows what at his home in Montana, there isn’t an active coach that has more rings than Popovich. In fact he’s the only active coach with multiple titles to his name and he has four of them.

Say what you want about Popovich, but he knows what he’s doing. After all, he’s been under question recently for sitting out his Big Three for the second time this season when his team entered a game with an 11-game winning streak! Who’s to question this guy though? I know I’m certainly not.

Speaking of the Big Three, before Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen; before LeBron James, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh; there was and still remains Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker in San Antonio. The Spurs trio has won three championships together and appears poised for a fourth this summer. Yes they’re closer to “not five, not six, not seven” titles than the Heatles will ever sniff.

Duncan was said to be too old. Ginobili was said to be too old. Parker was said to be too old (although I never understood that because he’s only 29 — just two years older than LeBron). Duncan was coming off by far his worst season of his career, Ginobili suffered yet another injury this season and Parker has never been given the credit he deserves. Yet Duncan has been exceptional this season, at times showing glimpses of vintage Timmy D, in short minutes and Parker has had one of his best seasons of his career this year. Those two have carried the Spurs this season with limited services from the oft-injured Ginobili.

But that’s not the reason why they will beat the Thunder, yes I said beat the Thunder, and represent the West in the Finals. No, there is so much more to love about this team this season as they’ve got all the components you look for in a championship team.

They’ve got size in DeJuan Blair, Tiago Splitter and recently acquired Boris Diaw. They’ve got shooters in Gary Neal, Matt Bonner and Danny Green. They’ve also got one of my favorite young players in Kawhi Leonard. Never heard of these guys? That’s fine because the Spurs have guys that know their roles. Add that to a healthy Duncan, Ginobili and Parker heading into the playoffs and the best coach in the league and why is anyone surprised that the Spurs are in the position they’re in now? And I haven’t even mentioned the always-combustible Stephen Jackson. All in all they’ve got nine players averaging at least eight points per game.

Should we have expected anything other than another excellent season from the boys from San Antonio? They’re not flashy, which stems from Popovich who may be one of the most boring coaches in the league. But there’s no denying they’re true professionals.

Give me the Spurs in the Western Conference Finals over the Thunder even if the Thunder manage to hold onto the number one seed in the West. Let OKC steal all the glitz and the glamour with KD, Westbrook and the sports’ new Bearded One aka James Harden (move aside Brian Wilson). In the end, the Spurs will be the team representing the West.

Thunder Up? I beg to differ. As long as they don’t beat my Bulls.

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