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A retrospective for a rivalry that could have been

The Warriors-Spurs rivalry as we know it is done, but did it really ever get a legit start?

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San Antonio Spurs v Golden State Warriors - Game Five Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Shame on it all!

As the final seconds ticked away in the Golden State Warriors/San Antonio Spurs series, two things made themselves painfully clear and more certain by the tick of the clock:

  • This rivalry as we know it is officially no more.
  • Fans have been robbed of a rivalry that could have been dynamic and intriguing for years to come.

You had to be delusional (or Earl Watson) to believe that a Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs team could beat the Warriors in four games out of seven. Granted, the Warriors have been looking vulnerable without the presence of Stephen Curry in the lineup. However, the rest of the core in Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green proved to be more than enough to advance.

The series was nothing more than a five-game exercise in monotony and inevitability. It was devoid of ingrained and competitive animosity.

No spice.

No shade.

Nothing at all.

Sadly, the news of KGO sports reporter Mike Shumann allegedly stealing Warriors’ Director of Security Ralph Walker’s jacket was about the most interesting moment of the series due to the bizarre circumstances.

You can also make the same argument for last year’s Western Conference Finals if we’re really keeping it a buck here. When Leonard went down and the Warriors evaporated a 25-point deficit, Game One and the series was ultimately over. The Warriors, who the Athletic’s Marcus Thompson eloquently depicts as doing pull ups on the bar that the Spurs set, were now the standard.

Even before last year’s matchup, the Warriors had surpassed the Spurs. However, the difference between the matchups before this series was a bit of competitive fire and intrigue around it. The shame of it all is that the reason for the demise of this rivalry is rooted in the Warriors’ rise and the Spurs’ inability to adjust to a changing league. Granted, the Spurs continued to remain in the conference mix, but they really didn’t (and don’t) have the offensive firepower to coincide with their defense.

The Spurs defined winning and embodied a winning culture for the past two decades. With 21 playoff appearances and five NBA titles, you can't argue about their methods with those kind of results. However, as the Warriors and their small ball and fast paced offense began to take over the league, the Spurs kept their same principles and, unfortunately, the same personnel.

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, who are arguably headed for the Naismith Hall of Fame when they are done playing, have nearly exhausted their last legs. The Spurs let a complementary player in Jonathan Simmons go in free agency, and they didn’t pursue Chris Paul hard enough over the summer when he made it known that he wanted out of LA. Instead, they continued to rely on their old, but effective system with older players. Again, San Antonio won this way. However, it only helped them mostly in the regular season in recent years.

It’s hard not to wonder what would’ve happened had the Spurs signed and developed the personnel that Houston has now, for example, to challenge the Warriors between that epic six game series and now. These two teams could have been trading Western Conference titles and trips to the Finals for years. The regular season and playoff games would have been more intense and more competitive.

Now, the Spurs are a team in influx They will have to decide what to do about the Leonard situation. After the tragic death of his wife Erin and in addition to the stresses of the job, will coach Greg Popovich ever think about coaching another game again?

Is this for sure the end of an era as far as the Spurs being a perennial contender and the Warriors’ premier rival is concerned? Right now, all signs are pointing to an emphatic “yes”.

On the other hand, as they showed in the fourth quarter of Game 5, the Spurs are a resilient and proud basketball team who “put up a hell of a fight,” according to Kerr in his postgame interview.

That kind of fighting spirit that the Spurs possess is a spirit that doesn’t just fade that easily. Instead, it dusts itself off and regroup.