HANG TIME, TEXAS – If you’re the Spurs, you have to stand up and cheer every time LeBron James spots Dwyane Wade slipping in through the back door and whips him another laser beam pass. You had to just throw your arms over your head and shout on Tuesday night as Bron-Bron and D-Wade took turns filling up the highlight reel with a parade of dunk after dunk.
If you’re the Spurs, you want the Heat. Actually, if you’re the Spurs, you need the Heat, for their heat and for your legacy.
Hold on. Nobody’s dismissing the other half of the Western Conference bracket in Oklahoma City. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden will give San Antonio’s Big Three of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili all they can handle beginning on Sunday in a series that should be close, intense and dripping with entertainment.
But if you peek just a little bit ahead and if the Spurs are able to advance to The Finals for their fifth time, it’s only the South Beach Strutters who can finally deliver what the San Antonio dynasty lacks with the general public – respect.
Think about it. When the Spurs won their first title way back in 1999, it was the first lockout season, coming at the end of an abbreviated 50-game schedule that led Phil Jackson to attach an asterisk. What’s more, when they made it to The Finals, the Spurs met the Knicks, a lowly No. 8 seed playing without Patrick Ewing that they dusted off in five games.
When the Spurs returned to The Finals in 2003 for their second title, the site was a turnpike exit in New Jersey and the opponents were the feisty-but-not-up-to-the-task Nets. The third championship in 2005 was claimed in a tense, seven-game war, but over a Pistons team that was just as gritty and defensive-minded (and just as fatal to TV ratings). Ring No. 4 was a ho-hum, yawn-inducing 4-0 sweep of LeBron and the seven Cavs’ dwarfs.
The knock for years against the small-market Spurs is that they have been dull with all of their defense. Now they are up-tempo, high-scoring and entertaining and what they need is a Finals opponent that can bring in the national TV and provide a high-profile foil.
Enter the Heat.
No team in today’s NBA makes the blood boil more on the love-hate meter than Miami and no high-profile roster would provide a better canvas to paint their latest masterpiece.
Indiana? Please. A Spurs-Pacers series might get lower ratings than C-SPAN. If the Spurs were to beat Boston in The Finals, the knock would be that outside of Rajon Rondo, the Celtics’ offense requires a walker and oxygen tanks.
Beating Miami would get the Spurs all of the anti-Heat support that Dallas received a year ago. More important, the larger audiences that Miami would draw would be coming at just the time when the Spurs transformation into an offensive-minded team that shares the ball has hit its peak.
If it’s possible for a franchise that has already won four championships to be under-appreciated, this is it. But suddenly there’s a way to change that with triumph that would stamp their legacy.
Bring on the Heat. Nothing would make the Spurs hotter.