No Game Is an Island: The Long and Winding Road

Posted by Rob Mahoney on February 24, 2009 under Previews | 7 Comments to Read

The Dallas Mavericks visit the San Antonio Spurs
7:30 CST

I’m not sure what to make of Mavs-Spurs anymore.

The 2006 playoff series remains my favorite that I have ever witnessed.  The history between these two teams over the last decade is undeniable, even if the Spurs have always acted like they have an older brother complex with the Mavs.  The games this year between the two have been incredibly entertaining.  But where are the sparks?

This could be an incredible case of imposing my own view of the “rivalry” onto the teams, but I just don’t pick up the same vibe.  The energy is there, but it’s on a completely different wavelength.  As the Spurs have aged slowly and now find themselves trying to sneak into the backdoor of championship contention, and as the Mavs have dropped off greatly from the 2006 days, has the matchup lost its mystique?

Tim Duncan used to be the enemy.  Now, while I still hate the palms-up “Who, ME?!” foul reactions, I respect him as the greatest power forward to ever play the game.  Tony Parker is still there, but for some reason I find him much less irritating.  Manu Ginobili is still there (although he’s injured for tonight’s game), is sometimes sickeningly good, and…yeah, I still hate him.

It could be any number of factors, really.  I’ve liked Roger Mason since last season and the dude has ice water in his veins.  His work ethic is amazing, and in classic “root for the underdog” fashion, I can appreciate how far he’s come to get to SanAn.  I would have preferred if Michael Finley hadn’t gone to our division rivals after the Mavs cut him loose, but I’ll never forget his work as a pillar of this franchise’s legitimacy.  George Hill is a likable rookie from a small-time school that’s actually two schools sharing one campus.  I would never say that I like the Spurs, but I’m just not sure that I hate them anymore.

With most of the headliners static and a few new faces, there is one name that is conspicuously absent from the Spurs’ success this season: Bruce Bowen.  The vicegrip that Bowen once had on the wings of the league has loosened considerably, as a function of his reduced role and reduced abilities.  He can still hit the corner three that makes your head sink into your hands and your shoulders slump, but his relative fall into irrelevance is both cause for the Spurs’ defensive fall-off and my growing indifference towards the franchise.

What was it that characterized the Spurs as the NBA’s evil and necessarily juxtaposed them opposite of the white knight Mavericks?  And, more importantly, why has the dynamic changed?  Is it the fall of a dynastic titan or the gradual disappearance of villanous basketball’s poster boy?

  • Chaz

    I think a lot of the rivalry was also built on the Mavs competing with them for the top spot in the division/conference/etc. The two teams were clearly the crop of the division and thus the intensity was there. A lot more stronger teams have made things a wash. Plus the bitter SA/PHX series has made that rivalry overshadow Mavs/Spurs. I still remember it was against the Spurs in the regular season that Dirk went down and luckily recovered like a madman to get the Mavs into the playoffs. I think a lucky(unlucky?) pairing with the Spurs in the playoffs would reignite it, especially if the Mavs could prove the upsetters.

  • http://projectvibe.net boogie

    Duncan the GOAT PF? You trippin man. I guess everybody born in the late 80s don’t realize how the Mailman revolutionized the position. Next you’ll be taking a page from Jemele Hill and say some crazy ish like Kobe is the best ever. Cmon man… snap out of it! If this wasnt such a good blog, I’d have been outta here for good just from that one comment alone! lol

  • wacc_attack

    part of it, i think, is that we finally did beat them in a meaningful game. up til that very memorable series, we never could get over that hump. we would always get our hearts torn out, chewed up, and spit back out. the win was the climax of the rivalry, and it was never quite the same again. the chase is always the most exciting part. once you get what you’ve been craving for so long, where do you go now? that game 7 can never be topped. it had that “oh man! we’re killing them! we’re up big! 20 pts before halftime?! on the road?! they’re so done…”. then it had that “cannot believe im watching this…we blew it again….”. and finally there was that “AND ONE!” priceless.

  • Charles

    How is Duncan not the greatest of all time? Has never been short of excellent throughout his career. Defense, Offense, character guy. And he didn’t have one of the best execution PGs of all time feeding him every trip down the floor.

    Plus, let’s not forget: four rings man, FOUR. Yeah you can go ahead and complain about how everyone from the 90s had to deal with MJ, but the reality is still 0 rings vs 4.

  • mike

    The west is ruled by the Lakers now. The Spurs and Mavs used to play for who was the best of the best. now its just another game of two teams who are a long shot to win the finals.

  • http://projectvibe.net boogie

    @ Charles,

    That’s just it. Put the 2000 era spurs against the bulls of the 90s and I gar-on-tee a duncan with naked fingers.

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