SAN ANTONIO — It’s been a long year since those 28 seconds slipped from their grasp like Waterford crystal smashing onto a concrete floor.
If that painful experience from Game 6 of the NBA Finals hasn’t lived in the forefront of their everyday existence, neither has it climbed down completely off the backs of the Spurs.
“I don’t know that that’s left any minds,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said Saturday, with his team on the cusp of turning the page. “But I don’t think it’s what you or why you do it.
“We try to put our best team together. Those [players] are thrust into their moment more often than we are. But our commitment to this group doesn’t change because of last year. We still have to put the best team can together with them, for them, and then it’s fun to see them play well have success.”
Buford joked about looking down the line to a future when Tim Duncan has stopped playing and coach Gregg Popovich has followed him out of the locker room.
“We’ve already got Tim’s successor picked out,” Buford said laughing.
“I think we’re always considering it. I don’t know that you’ll know what the opportunity is. Hopefully you’ve built your program to be as flexible as it can be at the time that opportunities are created.
“I can’t predict when that will happen and know when one of the great players of all time and one of the great coaches of all time leave, not knowing how you’re gonna fill those shoes.”
It was suggested that it will feel strange one day walking through the door of the Spurs’ training facility knowing that Duncan and Popovich are not inside.
“Who says I’ll be walking in?” Buford cracked. “There have been worse ideas.
“It will be numbing, changing. Those are the people you worked with, battled with, committed ourselves to as they’ve committed themselves to the rest of us. That will be hard. I don’t know why we’re talking about this.”
The NBA Draft came just five days after the Heat closed out the Spurs’ miserably lost opportunity in Game 7 last June. Then free agency began on July 1, followed by summer league. There were plenty of times to look back and feel the pain, just not right away.
“We’re still in a mourning period,” Buford said. “It’s not any time that begins and ends.”
It could end as soon as Sunday with the Spurs taking a 3-1 lead into Game 5 at the AT&T Center.
The Spurs insist that their motivation every moment of this season has not been about seeking vengeance from the Heat.
“In my case, not that much,” Manu Ginobili said. “I face every season the same way. If we win it. If we lost it. If we lose in the first round. I love doing what we do. You do love it more if you do well and you win. So in my situation I didn’t really take this season thinking that we have revenge because we lost. I just played the same way.”
It was, according to Duncan, one more lesson.
“I think we go back to last year and we learn from that,” he said. “We’re 30 seconds away. We feel that we have it in the bag and it slips out of our fingers.
“So I think we learn from that and we draw on that and we say, hey, it’s not over till it’s over. Our goal right now is to just win one more game. We’d love to do it [Sunday]. We’d love to do it in one game. But luckily we’ve put ourselves in a situation where we have a couple opportunities and we’re going to take whatever it takes.”