Timothy Varner from the super-duper fantastic Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell was kind enough to answer a few questions about the relationship Oklahoma City and San Antonio share.
DT: Oklahoma City has been said to be mimicking the Spurs model. I take that as get three cornerstone players, make sure you keep them and build from there. Looking at OKC from an outside perspective, do you think they’ve got three comparable cornerstones to Duncan, Parker and Ginobili?
TV: That’s a good question. Right now, the answer is obviously no. But projecting forward, the Thunder absolutely have the makings of the a future Big 3. Here’s what scares me: Sam Presti is not done. Durant is just scratching the surface of awesome he will be become. The better he becomes, the greater success his surrounding cast will enjoy. But honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the third member of your Big 3 is yet to arrive. What if someone like Jeff Green becomes a 4th star, rather than the 3rd? Going forward, I actually like the Thunder’s chances of becoming a dynasty more than Portland’s.
DT: What do you see as the reason the Spurs have lost to the Thunder the last two? Lack of focus? Poor coaching decisions? What is it?
TV: I think the Thunder won because they’re a good team. Scott Brooks deserves Coach of the Year recognition, even if he doesn’t win. And Kevin Durant is an extremely difficult guard for San Antonio. It’s true that Popovich coached a weird game last time ’round, but more than anything the Thunder just played better basketball for the aforementioned 96.
DT: Where do the Spurs go from here? Is this the type of team that will pull the whole “rally the troops” thing without Manu or will there be less fire in their bellies to make a good run? The team is getting older so is there a fear of running out of time?
TV: Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are once in a generation players. They can’t be replaced. More and more, I think Tony Parker is in that category. So, yeah, Spurs fans hear the ticking of the clock. No amount of future cap space will compensate for the diminishing Duncan. The Spurs will still compete this season. Some would call that rallying the troops. I think they’ll push into the Western Conference Semifinals. That’s a safe bet. They might sneak into the Conference Finals. Keep in mind, they’ve played without Manu Ginobili for most of this season, with injuries to Duncan and Parker too, and will still finish with 53 or 54 wins. Amazingly, this season is one of the lowest points of the Tim Duncan era. Going forward, I think the Spurs will compete for championships so long as their core is healthy–will they be healthy? That’s the big question.
DT: Russell Westbrook for Tony Parker straight up – would you do it?
TV: I wouldn’t do that trade, but with no disrespect to Westbrook. He’s a phenomenal player. Parker, however, is an elite point guard. He’ll receive MVP votes for his efforts this season. He’s won three championships, once taking home a Finals MVP trophy. He’s approaching his prime. You’ll throw up over this suggestion, but I’d not even take the phone call unless the offer was something like Westbrook, Green and filler. Tony Parker has carried this team on his back all season, and look at their record.
Big time thanks to Timothy. Be sure to check out 48 Minutes of Hell tomorrow to get the Spurs’ perspective following tonight’s game. And be sure to stick with it throughout the playoffs too. Awesome blogs like that can make following the playoffs that much more fun.