On the heels of a 5th NBA Championship and complete dismantling of the Miami Heat, the San Antonio Spurs have established a legacy that few if any teams in the modern era can match. They are from a small market just down the road from Dallas and while the Mavericks boast one of the best organizations and coaches in the league along with one of the best records over the last decade, the Spurs have managed to upstage them.
Take solace, Mavs fans. The Heat were mocking the Mavericks before they got their butts handed to them not so long ago and while the Spurs may be rivals, they are a class organization. But there’s more reason to be happy than just that.
Unlike many Mavericks fans, I was a Spurs fan before the Mavericks even existed, so I don’t dislike them the way many MFFLs do. I remember seeing the Iceman and Artis Gilmore along with the Bruise Brothers and UT-ex Johnny Moore back during the years from before the Mavs hadn’t entered the league right though the early years of the struggling expansion franchise. Being from Ft. Worth, that didn’t stop me from becoming a Mavericks fan and enjoying the excitement as the Mavericks grew from an assemblage of cast-offs to a team that came very close to making the NBA finals behind Mark Aguirre and Rolando Blackman.
But I never learned to despise the Spurs the way some Mavs fans seem to and I save my disdain for the Lakers and the Heat. So seeing the well run, well organized and classy Spurs beat up on the Miami Heat may not be as satisfying as the Mavericks 2011 Championship but it’s a hell of a lot better than last year. Even more, sharing the healthy respect for the Spurs that you find around the league, there is one unavoidable observation about this year’s playoffs that provides optimism for next season. The simple truth is that the Mavericks came close to beating the Spurs in Round 1 and were the only team that gave the Spurs a substantial challenge, taking them to seven games. Considering no one gave them a chance to win more than one game, the implications shouldn’t be lost. This Spurs team is one many will rightly consider to be the best NBA Champion in a very long time.
There will be a quite a bit of in depth analysis of exactly why Rick Carlisle and the Mavericks posed such a problem for the Spurs and it shouldn’t be relegated to knee-jerk dismissals along the lines of the Spurs being too rested or not taking the first round seriously, neither of which has any credibility if you know who the Spurs are and consider how important it was to them to avenge last year’s loss. There’s much more to it than that and Bobby Karalla does a fantastic job of breaking it down on Mavs.com, so I won’t rehash his analysis but I recommend it to understand why, from a basketball standpoint, the Mavericks gave the Spurs fits.
Indeed, the Spurs are a great and somewhat unique team. They have demonstrated that being in a small market doesn’t have to keep you from being the best team in the NBA, not to mentioning running a great franchise or keeping a great coach for over a decade. All the more reason the Mavs, arguably the league’s second-best franchise over the same time period, have a good shot at preventing the Spurs from defending their crown next year.