Since joining the San Antonio Spurs Spurs, Manu Ginobili has been in 205 playoff games. Every single one of them occurred with Tony Parker playing as well. With the French point guard down for the rest of the postseason (and who knows for how much longer), it feels that another piece of the dynasty is falling apart.
Manu Ginobili on Tony Parker: “It’s going to be the first playoff game I play without him. It is a little bit strange, a little sad, too.”
— Tim MacMahon (@espn_macmahon) May 5, 2017
The Spurs have won 5 NBA championships since 1999, all with Gregg Popovich on the sidelines and Tim Duncan on the court. Parker and Ginobili were a part in 4 of these titles: 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014. With Duncan retiring after last season, Ginobili tilting between staying and retiring for the last 3 or 4 years, while Parker has declined fast over the last two or three years with injuries playing their part too, the end was going to come. But you’re never fully prepared, and it always hits a fan straight in the stomach without warning.
The Spurs no longer belong to Parker and Ginobili. Patty Mills is probably the best point guard on the roster. Kawhi Leonard is the team’s go-to-guy and borderline MVP, while LaMarcus Aldridge and others play a much bigger part. But Parker and Ginobili, while not being the only players on the team with a connection to recent history and especially their most recent title, represent, along with Popovich, the remaining link to the Great Spurs, a concept that began with Duncan joining David Robinson in the late 90’s, and hasn’t really dies out.
With or without Ginobili and Parker, the Spurs are going to be good. I’m not sure they get through the Houston Rockets which would mark a third straight season of missing out on the conference finals. Will they be great – championship great? The keys are in Popovich’s hands, if he stays for a while longer, which isn’t a certainty. Leonard is a quiet superstar to build around with ease. That doesn’t guarantee the kind of success Spurs fans have gotten used to over the last 20 years. More than just a nostalgic tear jerker, Ginobili referring to going on the court without Parker signals that the most famous version of the Spurs is almost gone forever, with an uncertain future waiting beyond the day both of them are no longer playing.