Three of a kind

It is hard to believe almost 14 days have passed since the Spurs let their dream of a fifth title slip right through their fingers.

Two weeks later, and the sting of the loss still resonates deep in my consciousness. Perhaps it will take some more time to let it go.

Strangely, the lingering thought of, “what if Kawhi Leonard or Tim Duncan grabbed a rebound as time wound down in game six?” no longer applies.

I have – and I think most fans of the silver and black have – come to realize such things happen in basketball. That is part of the game.

Tim Duncan could have snagged a rebound in the final seconds. Kawhi Leonard could have, too.

Heck, while we are at it: What if the team sank three crucial free throws in the latter moments of game six?

There would no doubt be a soiree like no other on the Riverwalk to this day.

Alas, it was not to be.

“So it goes,” in the immortal words of Kurt Vonnegut.

With all of that being said, the struggles the team had in the final two games of the year does not bother me as much.

Rather, it is one very stark realization:

This may have been the final go-round for the Big Three – Manu Ginobili, Duncan and Tony Parker.

Many Spurs fans do not remember a time when the team did not have the Big Three.

Those fans do not realize how lucky they are.

Over the past decade, the play of the Big Three has been transcendent; their game has been world-class.

To some, their game is downright boring.

Say what you will. The fact of the matter is the Big Three for the San Antonio Spurs are a group which consistently gets the job done.

However, two weeks ago, they did not. Perhaps that thought is the most damaging.

In all three of the titles won with Ginobili, Duncan and Parker at the helm, the Spurs have always had a penchant to get the job done. They used their youthful exuberance and high-intensity style of play to push past the New Jersey Nets, Detroit Pistons and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

But in the series with the Miami Heat, I saw a much different group.

For most the Finals series, the Big Three showed their age. They showed a vulnerability many had not seen before.

Gone was the youth they held when they were winning titles and conquering the basketball world.

Instead, they only showed glimpses of their former greatness.

By the end of the series, it just seemed they ran out of gas. The relative youth of the Miami Heat proved too much to overcome.

Now, the team has arrived at a crossroads.

For the past few seasons, the Spurs have done a tremendous job of squeezing every bit they could from the Big Three.

However, it seems they now must prepare themselves for life after Duncan, Ginobili and Parker.

Thus far, the franchise has done a fairly adequate job of finding the next wave of Spurs superstars.

Leonard has proven to be a scoring asset, along with a defensive stalwart. Tiago Splitter has the size to contend with the big men in the middle. Danny Green has the smooth touch from beyond the three point arc, something he showed with gusto during the Finals.

All they need is just time to develop. They need the guidance.

I truly believe the Big Three’s next challenge will be to mold the next group behind them.

Such is the toughest thing to realize.

It is hard to say if the Big Three can make one or two more title runs before the proverbial window closes.

I would not put it past them.

However, if this is the last time we see the Big Three on Finals stage, all I can say is this:

Thank you. Thank you Manu, Tony and Tim for taking all of us on one last thrilling ride.

We all just wish we could have seen everyone ride off into the sunset, with the Larry O’ Brien trophy in hand.

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