By RICK SOLEM
It’s redemption time for the San Antonio Spurs.
Last year’s NBA Finals were a fluke.
Had Ray Allen not hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in Game 6, it would have been over.
Had Tim Duncan just made that layup in Game 7, it would have been over.
Had Manu Ginobli not been the worst player on the court all series, it would have been over.
Had the NBA Finals been a 2-2-1-1-1 home-away series, like it is this year, it would have been over.
Had LeBron James just stayed in Cleveland … wait, what?
There are even rumors that both Ginobli and Kawhi Leonard were both injured for last year’s Finals.
This year, Ginobli is playing like Ginobli of old … or young, if you will. Leonard just made Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant look like the third-best player on his team. He was the MVP?
Will Leonard now shut down LeBron James? Will Danny Green shoot 90 percent from beyond the arc?
The Spurs’ bench is deeper. They appear more rested. They’re healthy. Their coach is an evil genius. Tim Duncan is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.
I love the Spurs. Some say they’re not exciting, but if you love basketball – actual basketball – you love watching the Spurs. Parker has this uncanny ability to slither his way through the lane and either score or find a way to get the Tiago Splitters to score.
Ginobli does this as well, but it’s his passes that really leave you in awe. Leonard is starting to become a name, and it’s about time. He’s elite on both ends of the court and we should stop being surprised when he makes the opponent look foolish.
And, of course, there’s Duncan. What can you say about him? Nothing. There’s nothing to say. He’s as boring a superstar as there ever will be. He makes bank shots and hook shots. He blocks shots with ease, as to make them look unspectacular. His free throws look stupid. He’s gangly. Old. Won’t go off for 40-20-10. You just know what you’re going to get, and to most, that’s boring. Coaches, teammates and fans who love the phrase “talk is cheap” or “let your game do your talking” love Duncan. Everyone else loves the spectacular, not the reliable, dependent, consistent.
So, this looks like it could be Duncan’s going away party. One last hoorah, carrying the team on his back.
The problem, however, is this also looks like it could be a defining moment in James’ legacy, as well. It feels like he’s been holding something back for most of the season.
This championship would mean a three-peat. James would be part of something only Bulls (twice), Lakers (twice, once in Minneapolis) and Celtics (an eight-peat for crying out loud) have done.
And if you’re picking between a 38-year-old center on his way out and a 29-year-old forward trying to prove he’s the best of all-time, who are you taking?
-Miami in seven.
I hate myself.