The winter of the Duncan Dynasty

by

For as long as I can remember, I started every San Antonio Spurs season with the belief that the team could win the NBA title.

Partly because of my youth — I was in elementary school during the David Robinson-Avery Johnson days. And also because of the quality of the teams, especially the ones Tim Duncan led as I’ve grown into adulthood.

But now, in September 2010, I’ve finally lost that feeling. To me, the San Antonio Spurs are no longer title contenders. Some will scream “blasphemy” and close their browser windows in anger. Others will think “duh” and wonder why it took me so long to open my eyes. But admitting the Spurs’ time has passed ain’t easy.

It’s not the end of the world, for the Spurs to have little shot at championship number five. That’s the beauty of the NBA. We get to watch DeJuan Blair defy traditional models of effective big man. All while trying to implement a jump shot into his game. And we can see what George Hill can improve upon this year, after making so much progress last summer.

I’m fortunate to get a chance to watch Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili on a nightly basis, both nearing the end of their careers, do what they do better than most ever have. Tony Parker, he of the only-28-years-old-and-still-in-his-prime fame, should be out for blood this season. Somehow Parker turned into a bit of a villain in the past year for some Spurs fans and without a concrete reason.

We also get to see Tiago Splitter, the international man of mystery, discover his status in the best basketball league in the world, after being the top dog in the second best basketball league in the world. Then there’s James Anderson. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy will make his home in the land of the Longhorns and Aggies and Roadrunners and Bobcats (eat ‘em up cats). If he works as hard as we hear, Anderson won’t have trouble making fans.

Unfortunately, the league passed San Antonio by. The Lakers feature five players significantly above average. Two of whom, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol, could be considered in the top 10 players in the NBA. The Boston Celtics have four potential All-Stars on their roster. The Miami Heat boast three top 15 players (or top 25, depending on your opinion of Chris Bosh) who are all in their primes.

Several months ago, blogger Matt Moore went on one of his Twitter rants, this one about the Lakers (I can’t find it to link to, the guy has over 30,000 tweets). This was in February or so, and Los Angeles wasn’t playing well. He said that in the end, talent wins out. The most talented team wins the NBA title. And sure enough, the Lakers were champs in June.

These days, the Spurs don’t have that quality. They are still a very good team. San Antonio will probably win 50 games again in 2010-11 and extend their streak of 50-win seasons. They’ll be a team that no one wants to play, be it December or May. But they will never truly be a threat for the title.

It’s strange not to expect a championship at the end of the season. I know at some point, I’ll get sucked in and think, “hey, this team might actually have a shot.” But it will be short-lived. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Only one team out of 30 goes home celebrating when all is said and done. San Antonio fans should feel blessed they experienced that outcome four times.

But the team will go about their business as usual, preparing as if they have another shot at the title. Because in reality, they do. I’m just one person with an opinion, albeit with an outlet for that opinion. The Spurs will fight tooth and nail for that fifth ring. I’m just here to tell you that if they fail to get it, don’t fret. There’s plenty more reason to follow along this season.

  • annie

    Andrew

    I didn’t know Duncan had already retired! When did this transpire? Please inform.

    Conjecture doesn’t always yield the purported outcome.

    Everyone is enamoured with the Lakers led by one of the biggest hypocrites on the planet in Bryant and that snark Jackson. And I hadn’t realized that the Heat were already crowned Eastern Champs with the Lakers winning it all! If that were so, then why even bother playing the games if the conclusion is foregone

    I think perhaps you need to be reminded of one thing- all things come to an end. And whether it is this year or next, it will come. For the Lakers, Celtics, and the Heat as well. Having 3 young studs as the Heat do may not necessarily translate into a 70 win season culminating in a championship. We will see won’t we how it transpires once as Sherlock Holmes said in 2009= the game’s afoot

    My dad told me once that you have to have talent, a coach that doesn’t ruin it and you have to be lucky but at the right times. And whose to say those can’t happen for the Spurs?

  • annie

    Andrew

    one last thing– since Timmy is in decline as you adamantly state, then does that transfer to your blogging as well? Will you blogging decline as you age?

    Since you debunk what other’s response has been,
    then why must your interpretation be the correct one? For after all, if Tim is declining and the team is not worth our support because well there’s no Pau Gasol or LeBron James, then why bother.
    Because don’t you need this declining team to write about?

  • Jim Henderson

    Andrew,

    You’ve taken some flak from a number of the Spur faithful on this thread. So, just FWIW, I want you to know that I think this was one of the best posts that I’ve ever read on the 48MOH, and there’s been a number of very good ones. Keep up the good work. Most of us appreciate a sensible, sincere, balanced post even if it reveals things about the Spurs current status that may jar to some extent our sensibilities as a fan. Thank you.

  • spursfanbayarea

    Cant wait for this season to start. Im more excited about this team than our last two teams for 08 and 09. We have a great group of young, athletic, veterans on this team. Spurs had a terrible luck last year with injuries and still managed to get to 50 wins. With a little bit of luck and avoiding the injury bug, easily see the spurs getting to 55 wins this year. Also if Jefferson can play at half the level he used to, it will be a big improvement for the spurs.
    Unlike many on here I am forecasting a great year for the spurs. Parker will be playing like a bat out of hell. Nice additions all around. For all the doubters out there, when june comes around dont forget your gloom and doom and then be jumping on the bandwagon.

    GO SPURS GO! 2010-2011 NBA CHAMPIONS

  • Bert

    I’ve never seen so much hate on a post here at 48. You’re suppose to comment the writings, not attack the writer.

  • andy

    i’ve seen plenty of vitriol here, but get perspective people, seriously. i echo jim in that it was an intelligent, introspective look at how one approaches and leavens one’s expectations for the team. i disagree, but i appreciate it nonetheless.

    @annie
    “one last thing– since Timmy is in decline as you adamantly state, then does that transfer to your blogging as well? Will you blogging decline as you age?”

    you know annie, i bet his skills will decline when he hits 90 or so. my grandpa’s writing skills declined later, but he wasn’t a blogger, which my blogging friends tell me is a lot tougher than our sweatpants, takeout, and smeary-fogged glasses mental images make it out to be. take a deep breath.

  • DieHardSpur

    @Jim –

    If you will notice in my post:

    “I believe there are only about 6 teams (plus wildcard) in the league at any given time that have the ability to win it all.”

    There is one wild card in there. Whether it is Houston, Portland, or Orlando…

    Like it or not – the Spurs improved over the summer. I think we can all agree on that.

    When the Author states “To me, the San Antonio Spurs are no longer title contenders.”

    I take that as we have no chance of winning a title – I dont think he is correct in that statement.

  • Tyler

    I think some are missing the point here:

    No one is giving up on this team.
    No one is saying we have no chance at a title.
    No one is saying this season won’t be exciting.
    No one is saying we don’t have good things to look forward to.

    All the writer is saying is that our prime (as a team) is probably behind us (I think we can all agree on that) and that the likelihood of a championship in the coming seasons is probably lower than it has been in awhile. That’s not to say we can’t claw our way to one last title – every single one of us still holds out hope for that, even the writer!

  • Tyler

    @ annie

    “And whose to say those can’t happen for the Spurs?”

    No one here is saying that. Did you read the entire piece??

  • Manol Pedralvez

    And of course, he does. The Spurs are the surprise package of the new season: underrated, ignored, not given a second look, which from where we sit, is just the way we like it. Then again, as we’ve been saying all along, wait till San Antonio takes to the floor…

  • SEAN

    Well your are right about Duncan era comming to an end in about 3 yrs but you are wrong about this team not having quality shot at title,you proved it in your article (haha)If you going to say age stops the spurs well you better look at your nba finals teams (Lakers- Boston)they are both older than spurs team this season,kobe is 32,fisher 36,rest lakers starters is 30/Allen 35.Garnett 34,Pierce 32,both o,neals 31,38.So what makes these guys fountain of youth over Parker 28.Duncan 34,Ginobilli 33 ,nothing.kobe bryant was so bad in last final game,it was ron ron who saved them and i am willing to bet he wont hit those shots again.Boston oldest team nba should won that. game.Rest spurs team fall at 2 at (3o)jefferson,bonner,rest team is 25 younger.if you want talk about youth as title contender then miami is only team.THIS TEAM HAS LEGIT SHOT AT TITLE

  • Jim Henderson

    DieHardSpur
    September 16th, 2010 at 6:28 am

    “Like it or not – the Spurs improved over the summer. I think we can all agree on that.”

    Yes, well, so have most of our prime competitors, which is something that apparently you, and many others on here fail to admit.

    “When the Author states “To me, the San Antonio Spurs are no longer title contenders.”

    I take that as we have no chance of winning a title….”

    If one considers Andrew’s post in its entirety, and views this line you quoted in its proper context, one can see that what Andrew in fact intends by that line is that the Spurs are not “bonafide” title contenders this year. In other words, their chances are so slim that they’re not “real” contenders. The line was not meant to suggest that the Spurs have NO chance at a title this year, as the quotes that I provided you in my previous post clearly attest to.

    Tyler
    September 16th, 2010 at 6:45 am

    Exactly right.

    SEAN
    September 16th, 2010 at 7:51 am

    “If you going to say age stops the spurs well you better look at your nba finals teams (Lakers- Boston)they are both older than spurs…”

    Boston has two starters, one an all-star, under the age of 26 (Perkins, Rondo), and they have three likely “non-rookie” rotation players all under the age of 28 (Davis, West, & Robinson).

    LA has two starters under the age of 30, one an all-star (Gasol), and one on the verge if he can stay healthy (Bynum), and they have four non-rookie rotation players age 30 or below (Barnes, Blake, Brown, & Vujacic).

    The Spurs have just ONE starter and all-star under the age of 29, and three non-rookie (although Splitter is technically a rookie, and Blair is a “young” 2nd year man) likely rotation players (Blair, Hill, & Splitter).

    We have fewer “young” starters, and our quality youth are younger and less experienced than the reserves of Boston or LA.

    Thus, we have more unknowns than do either Boston or LA, and overall less talent. As a result, we have a chance at a title this year, but it’s very slim, and impossible to expect with any reasonable degree of confidence.

  • SASilverandBlack

    The Greatest Spurs Team of All-Time

    If you haven’t done so already, you should go to ESPN.com to create your all-time starting five on your favorite team. My all-time starting five for the Spurs was tough to choose from, but here they are:

    C David Robinson
    The Admiral was THE reason I fell in love with the Spurs. He exemplified class, leadership, and integrity that trickled down all the way through to his teammates. He was such a dominant force night in and night out. I was so happy for him when he went out a champion in 2003.

    PF Tim Duncan
    This is a no-brainer pick. Not only is Timmy the greatest Spur to play the game, he is one of the greatest players ever to play. Four championships, two MVPs, three Finals MVPs, a boatload of All-NBA Team honors on offense and defense, etc. The accolades go on and on. Big ups to MY MAN!!!

    SF George Gervin
    One of the pure scorers in the history of the NBA. The “Iceman” could fill the bucket in bunches. His patented finger roll was a thing of beauty that made grown men cry. He once averages 33.1 PPG in 1979-80. He held the record of points scored in a quarter with 33 (now tied with Carmelo Anthony). Just a scoring machine.

    SG Manu Ginobili
    This was a tough decision to pick Manu over James Silas and Alvin Robertson. One of the main reasons I did so was I grew up with Manu. I didn’t see Silas and Robertson play. In addition, the Spurs are a different animal with a competitive, feisty Manu Ginobili on the court attacking opposing defenses.

    PG Avery Johnson
    The little big man was the Spurs’ floor general for their first title in 1999. He, along with David Robinson, was among my favorite players to watch and another reason I love the Spurs. He knew how to carry himself on and off the court. He is the franchises assist leader. I wish him well in New Jersey with the Nets this season. It was tough to choose him over Tony Parker, but it had to be done.

    So those are my five greatest Spurs of all-time. Who are your five favorite Spurs?

  • SASilverandBlack

    Just throwing that out for discussion. Enough for the ifs and maybes, let’s look back on what was and still can be!!!

  • DieHardSpur

    Jim,

    You, i believe, are missing the point of the article.

    If he believes we are not contenders, how could he believe we could still with a title.

    You are contradicting yourself.

    I can be a contender, and not a champion.
    I can not be a champion if i am not a contender.

    With his statement, “To me, the San Antonio Spurs are no longer title contenders.” he is essentially saying we have no chance.

    Every F-150 is a Ford, but not every Ford is an F-150… it is the same concept.

  • Jim Henderson

    DieHardSpur
    September 16th, 2010 at 12:06 pm

    You apparently refuse to look at the post in its entirety. Instead you dissect certain sentences for “logic” in the literal sense, and as a result your points are taken out of context.

    The quotes of Andrew’s that I provided you CLEARLY point out that Andrew was NOT suggesting that the Spurs have NO chance at a title, but just not enough of a chance for it to be very meaningful.

    “With his statement, “To me, the San Antonio Spurs are no longer title contenders.” he is essentially saying we have no chance.”

    No, in the context of the entire article he is saying that “for all intents and purposes” we are no longer title contenders. That is different than we have “no chance”. A “title contender” is typically reserved for those teams that have a “decent” shot at winning it all. Andrew is simply suggesting that we no longer have a “decent” shot at winning it all. And I agree. This does not mean that he or I believe that we have NO shot. It’s just that our shot is so slim that the Spurs can’t really be considered “bonafide” contenders to be NBA champions this year.

    Please focus on taking the context of the ENTIRE article into account. You’ll see that Andrew was clearly NOT suggesting that the Spurs have NO shot at a title this year.

  • ChillFAN

    Organize your best reaction points. When you need to write more than 5 lines, it’s obvious you don’t know what your talking about. 4 year olds, dude!

  • ChillFAN

    I love the guys spirit, but AJ would not start over TP on the GOAT Spurs team. Aj was literally so terrible in 1999, other teams refused to guard him on jumpers; he never made them pay until the last game of the Finals. Those of us watching remember a horde of frustrating misses.

  • Jim Henderson

    ChillFAN
    September 16th, 2010 at 2:56 pm

    Organize your best reaction points. When you need to write more than 5 lines, it’s obvious you don’t know what your talking about. 4 year olds, dude!

    What are you talking about?

  • ChillFAN

    @Jim Henderson, I meant it to no one in particular, but long Replies (in Sept no less) are uninformed and BORING. Less has more impact. Yes, size matters.

    I botched the quote, “8 year olds, dude.” from the big lebowski, responding to Jesus Quintana’s challenge. Long replies dumb down the blog.

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    I’m fascinated by all this quibbling over an otherwise fine article. But it’s there all right: “They (the Spurs) will never be truly be a threat for a title.” We might as well consign San Antonio as a group of also-rans. What has been said has been said. No turning back on that one.
    On the other hand, I know that our esteemed writer would like to be proven wrong.

  • quincyscott

    SASilverandBlack

    As a little man myself, I naturally rooted for Avery Johnson (until he became a Maverick). I’m glad he got his ring and silenced his many doubters. He was a fine floor leader for us in 99, along with Mario Elie.

    However, it would not be a close call for me to pick Tony Parker as the Spurs best point guard ever. I know there are people who like to harp on Parker (and I am not saying that you are one of those people, just pointing it out). I know he has that pretty boy, married-to-a-starlet status, French accent, rugged shave and chin butt that all combine to rub some people the wrong way. And I will even admit to having done a bit of eye rolling myself in response to the above. But Avery’s homespun Louisiana style can kind of grate on my nerves, too, so for me it’s a wash. I think there is no comparison if you ask me who is the better player. The truth is that Avery Johnson had two or three top notch seasons as a Spur. Parker has been a solid point guard for a decade now. He has been an All Star, and a Finals MVP. Parker is of course the better scorer, but frankly he’s also a far better defender than Johnson ever was. Some may complain that Parker does not pass enough, looks too much for his own shot, is too small. I don’t actually agree with any of those positions, but even if I were to accept them as weaknesses, every NBA player has weaknesses. If we’re talking Johnson and Parker, I think Parker’s shortcomings pale by comparison. The team took a noticeable stride forward the day Parker started playing for us, as a nineteen year old. And he has worked hard to get better. He helmed three championship teams, and he’s not done yet. There’s no Spur point guard who can come close to matching those accomplishments.

    Tony Parker is not the second coming of Bob Cousy. I don’t even know that he is a great point guard. But he’s a great player, and he’s the greatest point guard this franchise has ever had. I think Johnson gets the nostalgia vote from a lot of Spurs fans. Maybe Parker will feel more love once he’s retired.

    For the record, here are my choices for Greatest Spurs. I cheated, and didn’t even include a point guard. And I listed six! I guess my thinking is that I believe that all of the following should have their numbers hanging from the rafters when it’s all said and done:

    David Robinson
    Tim Duncan
    George Gervin
    Bruce Bowen
    Sean Elliot
    Manu Ginobilli

  • SASilverandBlack

    I realize Avery over TP is not a sexy pick. I picked him mostly for nostalgia’s sake. I just loved watching AJ play.

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  • quincyscott

    SASilverandBlack

    That’s as it should be. A favorite player is a favorite player, for a lot of impossible to quantify reasons. For me, I don’t think there will ever be another Spur that means more to me than Bruce Bowen. His value to the club was not usually measurable in numbers and stats. But the value was real, and is proving very difficult to replace. And I loved watching him play. I’m sure a lot of people would rather watch paint dry than watch Bruce Bowen play basketball, but I think his game was beautiful.

    When I was kid I really enjoyed the Celtics. I had a lot of respect for Bird, McHale and Parrish, and I recognized that they were special. But my favorite, the irreplaceable Celtic for me, was Dennis Johnson. Rest in peace. Man, I could not take my eyes of Dennis Johnson, on either end of the court. He put on a clinic of how to play the game in all of its subtleties. Every great team needs those “roll player” guys who complement the talents and fill in the gaps of their superstars. DJ, AJ and Bowen were just as necessary to those championships as their more high profile teammates. I’ve always enjoyed the contributions of those kinds of players.

  • adrian

    it doesnt matter if you say its the end but in reality its the beginning, we have a good team young people and we will figure a way to utilize the toros for our benefit, and we have won championships when they say we arent talented enough. the thing about spurs fans your gonna love them if they finish last or win the ship. this is only the beginning. the new spurs are developing but until tim manu and tony are gone we are the old spurs with 4 titles and chance to win. i’ll take that any day than teams that have 0 chance. GO SPURS GO.

  • Jim Henderson

    ChillFAN
    September 16th, 2010 at 11:23 pm

    “Long replies dumb down the blog.”

    I don’t agree. Vacuous, pithy responses “dumb down” the blog much more than longer responses backed up by relevant data, analysis, and commentary. Substance is what matters, not length.

    Manolo Pedralvez
    September 17th, 2010 at 1:32 am

    As I just got through explaining the DieHardSpur, one must consider the entire post in context. Thus, to address your quote one must look at the line earlier in that same paragraph:

    ” San Antonio will probably win 50 games again in 2010-11 and extend their streak of 50-win seasons……..

    “……..They (the Spurs) will never be truly be a threat for a title.”

    As you can see, Andrew is clearly talking about THIS YEAR, not “forever” about the Spurs prospects for a title. In addition, the word “truly” is important. What “truly” indicates is that the Spurs do not have a “bonafide”, or a “reasonable” chance at a title this year. I contend that those that disagree with that assessment are rejecting reality. We would need far more than our fair share of luck to “truly” contend this year, and of course nobody can realistically count on that. On the other hand, we don’t need to “consign ourselves as also-rans” just yet. There remains some legitimate reasons for “hope” when you look at some of the youth on the team. It is possible (though not likely) that three or more of our young players surprise to the upside this season, and if a team commitment & chemistry can also come together on the defensive end, “dark horses” can emerge. But I just wouldn’t bet on it, that’s all. And I think that’s what Andrew is essentially saying in his piece. That plus that we still have a team that will compete night in and night out, and will be enjoyable to watch. We should be thankful for that.

  • spursfanbayarea

    @Jim
    “I contend that those that disagree with that assessment are rejecting reality.”

    So now you are the expect on what is an individuals perception of reality?
    Funny how Greg Popovich is excited about this teams chance at a title.
    Popovich stated that he is excited about this team and feel they have an opportunity at a championship. So you must think he is rejecting reality. Wow, a championship coach with 4 rings has lost touch with reality, while the all mighty Jim Henderson is the know all end all. Hilarious

  • Jim Henderson

    spursfanbayarea
    September 17th, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    “So now you are the expect on what is an individuals perception of reality?”

    I don’t claim to be an expert. I gave an opinion. And yes I’m asserting that those that think the Spurs have just as good of a shot as anyone other than the Lakers and Heat are in denial. And there are many on this board that appear to come close to that definition.

    “Funny how Greg Popovich is excited about this teams chance at a title.”

    That’s the job of a head coach. You can’t claim that he’s an “objective” observer that has no vested interest.

    “So you must think he is rejecting reality.”

    No you’re making a declarative assumption, which is illogical in this case.

    “Popovich stated that he is excited about this team and feel they have an opportunity at a championship.”

    I never said that the Spurs don’t have the “opportunity”. The very fact that they’re going to play the games represents an “opportunity”.

    And by the way, Popovich also said that 10 other teams think they have the opportunity as well. So again, the question is how strong of an opportunity? I say not very strong, and of course Popovich wasn’t asked that question. And in his “media role” as a head coach he would not directly or honestly answer such a question even if it were posed by the media. That would be stupid, and counter-productive as a coach.

    Look, once we get into camp with our team, I’m not saying not to be optimistic. It’s the only way to go at the point. And besides, we’re not the Warriors or the T-Wolves. We do have some outside shot at getting a title, and as a member of the Spur organization it is incumbent on them to work their magic the best they can, and try to capitalize on any unexpected opportunities as they arise. I wish the team luck this year, and I think they will be even more enjoyable to watch than last season. It should be an interesting season, but I’m try6ing to go in with balanced expectations as a fan. And again, I think that’s what Andrew was getting at in his piece.

  • rob

    quincyscott

    Great point regarding quality role players on a team. It’s expected that the “stars” perform at a high level. Without the “Microwave” Detroit doesn’t win a title. Without Dennis Johnson the Celtics don’t win. Without Cooper the Lakers don’t win.

    That’s what’s exciting about this year’s Spurs team. They have a bevy of players that could step up to that level of consistent contributor. More so now than in the past 3 years.

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  • Ed

    So the 4 title year for the Spurs they had the most “talent”? Seems I remember EVERYONE pointing out all the more talented teams (Phonix anyone?) that would thwart the Spurs title hopes. “Talent always wins out”? I don’t think so. If that were true Miami has the next 5 years wrapped up already, right? No, in truth the best TEAM wins. Every old guy playing at the “Y” will tell you it’s the execution, not the “talent” that wins. The Spurs need a defensive revival and some 3 pt shooting to get back to contender status, they have the talent and system on offense. Personally, I enjoy watching more talented teams come up against a good system and get frustrated. It makes me smile.

  • Pop-a-vich

    5th nba title

  • Michael L

    I disagree!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Never forget that basketball is round, and it’s not the end until the Fat Lady sings.

    Since Spurs won it all in 2007, we hadn’t had one year where all of the big 3 were healthy. Yes, it had been that crazy!!

    Ever since Manu was clearly playing hurt in 2008 playoffs, and then Lakers got their break to Finals (where they were served by Boston).

    IMHO, the Spurs fans (you and me) had NOT been HUNGRY enough, ever after 2007. We really need to show how *HUNGRY* we are for another championship!!!!

    Come on. A lot of these are about hearts. If you look at it objectively, Spurs and Celtics are similar (in a way that I would say they copied us ^O^), while Boston actually are older, but the major difference we hadn’t played the top-notched defense that Spurs had made its name before!!

    Let’s go to get the 5th ring for Duncan!!

  • http://www.yahoo.com TITO

    This guy has no idea what he is talking about; he should stop hanging from kobe’s scrotum THe spurs have gotten better plain and simple. Blair Splitter Anderson NEal plus Manu Tim TOny and Jefferson equals Championship # 5

  • http://www.yahoo.com TITO

    Gary Neal is the Guy to watch he is better than Hill! That guy can score.

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  • Jman

    How d’ya like em now? ::laughs:: Best team in the league. Represent!

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    @Jman

    I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t see this start coming, but we can’t get too carried away. Have to see how this team fares against the Lakers, Celtics, etc. And see how they look going into the playoffs. But it’s been a fun ride so far, hasn’t it?

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