We can all breathe a sigh of relief–the Heat’s run of titles is over. Yes, they could be back next year, but we can forget about the Heat joining the illustrious threepeat club. The Heat may, publicly at least, claim to be satisfied with their four year run, but the media’s view of the Heat’s Big 3 is more complicated. Sure, they were just the second team in NBA history to reach four straight Finals, but coming away with just two isn’t exactly what LeBron and company expected. This year was supposed to be the epic rematch. It was supposed to eclipse the grueling seven game series that we enjoyed last year. Instead, we had a stinker. Well, not really. Just about everyone, aside from Heat bandwagoners, who also happen to reside in Miami, enjoyed watching the Spurs humble the Heat.
The focus will inevitably be on the Heat and their future, or lack of it, but it should be on the excellence of the Spurs. The Spurs played at a level unlikely to be witnessed any time soon. Their ball movement was reminiscent of the Showtime Lakers, and they got whatever shot they wanted, whenever they wanted. At this point, anyone who claims the Spurs to be boring can be safely ignored. They play the most exciting brand of basketball in the league, and it’s not even close. They don’t have the vicious alley-oops of the Clippers. They don’t have daily top 10 plays that Westbrook and Durant generate for the Thunder. But they consistently move the ball in a way rarely, if ever seen in the NBA, or any level for that matter. Soccer may call itself the Beautiful Game, but the Spurs showed the world just how beautiful basketball can be when played right. The Spurs have superstars, even their own aged Big 3, but they get contributions from nine or ten players every night. LeBron, Wade, and Bosh are often given credit for taking ‘paycuts’ in order to play together. In other words, they valued winning over money. But how much, really? They’re each still making nearly $20 million per year. The Spurs on the other hand, really did take significant paycuts–Parker, Duncan, and Ginobili made $12.5, $10, and $7 million respectively this year. Parker and Duncan especially could have easily demanded larger contracts, but instead they allowed the team to spend money on other contributing players. Splitter got a nice deal. Danny Green got a long-term deal. And the Spurs had extra money to add Belinelli last off-season. That is in addition to the guys like Kawhi, Diaw, Patty Mills, and Matt Bonner who each are significant contributors. This Spurs team, from top to bottom, is one of the deepest teams we’ve ever seen, and it’s because the stars were willing to take much less than their worth.
Moving forward, there had been talk of Duncan and Pop riding off into the sunset. But given their absolutely domination in the playoffs, that seems foolish. There’s no reason for the Spurs to not be the Vegas favorites going into next season. Even if the Heat added Carmelo. The Spurs are in rare territory, a more successful version of the Patriots in the NFL. They can simply mold any player into a real contributor, who will put the team ahead of any personal statistical ambitions.