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article imageOp-Ed: NBA: Choking Spurs lose 6th straight, unworthy of title

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 2, 2011 in Sports
San Antonio - On Friday night, the San Antonio Spurs showed their five-game losing streak to the Houston Rockets, and after playing to overtime, left town choking, gasping and out of air over their latest debacle, confirming they are unworthy of playing for the title.
To their credit, it took the Spurs an overtime effort to produce another wilting performance, a 119-114 setback, but regarding the matter of season records, it was another loss. Their latest effort at making an opponent feel good went to the Houston Rockets, a feel-good moment going to a team barely playing .500 ball and one unlikely to make the post-season, unless Memphis follows the Spurs lead and performs its own implosion act. That’s another unlikely.
For those out there wondering what’s gone wrong with the four-time former champions, the list is long, but the current wrongness permeates the team, including the coaching.
Once upon a time, the Spurs had a four-game losing streak, thanks to Tim Duncan’s injured ankle and head coach Gregg Popovich’s decision to tank a game by resting three additional starters in that fourth loss.
Everything would be better when they all returned “healthy” to face, uh, the Boston Celtics, a far superior team that commenced to deliver them a knockout blow. It was the first five-game losing streak in the Duncan era.
Not to be outdone by themselves over that distinction and still staggering from Boston’s blow delivered a night before, San Antonio improved upon its losing streak during their current and distinct style of March madness by making complete fools of themselves on April 1.
One or two, maybe even three, players performing at a sub-par level might be anticipated during stretches, but now we see a Spurs team with the majority of its players performing at that sub-par level. The obvious question is why. That leads to some hard observations and some even harder questions.
The validity to a concept of transforming an all-star point guard, arguably one of the top three in the league, into a three-point shooter from the deep corners can best be summed up by a short sequence late in the fourth quarter against Houston, when Tony Parker delivered not one, but two three-point air balls.
Taking the driving element of the Spurs offense, the attacker who makes all things happen, and placing him in a spot-up position to shoot corner threes is, quite simply, bad coaching. Forget the political spin from coaches that it is designed to improve his game. We are talking about one of the top three players in the world at his position.
Where has San Antonio’s once-daunted low post game gone? As the game changes, teams adjust or fall by the wayside. Once dependent on Duncan, one of the most efficient players in the history of the game at the power forward position, a lightened work load has no doubt prolonged Duncan’s career, but with that decision has come the belief by opponents that there is no longer a need to respect, much less fear the Spurs offense.
Another issue facing the Spurs, and it has faced them for three years now, or since Popovich decided to give quality time to a one-dimensional player, is the placing of far too much emphasis on three-point shooting from someone whose shooting disappears each season after about the 60th game, Spurs coaches continue letting Matt Bonner have huge negative impacts on games that should be going into the win column.
Double that up with the fact that he has never been able to play defense and all one can do is ask why. Why is this player still turning his back on opponents who have the ball? Why has he been given the green light to launch threes whenever he touches the ball? Why is he still in San Antonio, much less the NBA?
Apparently Popovich was so pleased with Bonner’s offensive performance against the Celtics, a 3-for-9 bricklaying effort from three point land, that he decided to give his star bricklayer a chance at redemption against Houston. That redemption turned into a rather sordid affair that we were forced to endure, if we wanted to watch the game.
Against Houston, Bonner launched five shots from beyond the arc, each one transforming itself into a brick by the time it clanged against the rim. He is now 3-for-14 in the last two games in the Popovich system of bigs shooting threes.
Once again, the Spurs will never win another championship as long as Bonner receives the quality time he receives. This is not a complicated game.
The San Antonio spin, if one believes the team’s beat writers, is that Tiago Splitter, a most valuable caliber player from overseas and who the Spurs were finally able to coax to south Texas, is a disappointment. Yet, the reality is the only disappointment over the whole Splitter affair is a wasted season in his basketball career, thanks to a coach entrenched in a belief that new players must earn their playing time. By sitting on the bench.
Adding to the Friday night disaster in Houston was a Spurs team that turned the ball over 17 times, including a crucial turnover with less than a minute in regulation and three turnovers in the five-minute overtime period.
Champions do not play basketball the way San Antonio currently is. Snake bit is an understatement. The once-proud San Antonio Spurs have lost their swagger and instead, have embarked upon a pattern that has become extremely old. In a league where everything is winning, the Spurs currently offer nothing. Unless there is an immediate turnaround to the current fiasco, a franchise with four championship banners hanging from its home rafters will not add a fifth this season.
If the Spurs are to regain any sense of composure before the regular season ends, it will have to start in an early game on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns. However, as Spurs fans continue inching their way toward the ledge, it might not be a bad idea to take the lead from their team. Do a little gasping.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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