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. In fact, on Friday Hoops Habit's Tyrone Bowman highlighted that the Spurs are not only perennial contenders but that they were arguably a couple of plays away from 4 straight championships.
But there is hope for Mavs fans. The Heat were actually mocking the Mavericks before they had their butts handed to them in 2011 and while the Spurs may be rivals, they are a class organization. But there’s more reason to be happy than just that.
For basketball fans growing up in Texas in the Sixties before the Mavericks came into being, San Antonio was an exciting and unlikely place for great basketball. The Iceman and Artis Gilmore along with the Bruise Brothers and Texas-ex Johnny Moore all played back during the years from before the Mavs hadn’t entered the league right though the early years of the struggling expansion franchise. Once the Mavericks arrived, they 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. Nevertheless, there is still some leftover affection for some basketball fans from that era even if they ultimately embraced the Mavs. Besides, how much easier is it to hate on the Lakers and Heat?
Seeing the well run, well organized and classy Spurs beat up on the Heat may not be as satisfying as the Mavericks 2011 Championship but it’s a heck of a lot better than last year's result. 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. There is no need to rehash his analysis but it should be recommend reading to understand why, from a basketball standpoint, the Mavericks gave the Spurs fits, especially since none of the NBA prognosticators are considering the Mavs a top contender in 2015.
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.