Much to the displeasure of Spurs' fans everywhere, the San Antonio Spurs were knocked out of the first-round by the Dallas Mavericks (4-1) in front of their home crowd.
It may have brought an end to a dynasty, but for a second (as painful as it may be) let's go back and analyze why they lost amd just who could have helped them.
In layman's terms, their solution involved the third team of the Texas Triangle, the Houston Rockets. Just for a moment, just imagine if Ron Artest was draped with silver-and-black.
At 6'7" and weighing around 265 lbs., Artest had the size to guard Dirk in the paint and out on the perimeter. He also could have contained Dallas playmaker Josh Howard from wreaking havoc on the Spurs.
His physicality and stalwart-toned body would have been invaluable for San Antonio on defense, especially because Josh Howard was still mending his sprained ankle and a few good, hard fouls and bumps would have done wonders for San Antonio's intensity and sent tremors through the body of Howard, affecting him psychologically.
Howard scored 28 and 25 points in Game One and Game Four, respectively, and went to the line 28 times in the Mavs' four victories over the San Antonio Spurs. He concluded the first-round by averaging 18.8 points for the series.
Now, what if Ron Artest what would have been guarding him? Let's deduct five points from Howard's average because of Artest's defensive prowess which would drop down his average 13.8 points per game.
Add in Artest's 17.1 points, 40 percent three-point shooting, and his lock-down defense, and the outcome of all five games certainly would have been different, possibly swinging in favor of the Spurs.
In essence, it's a 22-point swing, which would have been huge considering the margin of San Antonio's defeats for the series averaged out to only 10.2 points.
Another area Artest could have helped in was three-point shooting. As I mentioned above, Ron-Ron shot 40 percent from long-range, a mark that was tops on the Houston Rockets for the year.
The Spurs, however, only shot 33 percent from the three-point line in their first-round series against the Mavs' and in their last their losses they shot a disdainful 17-of-61, though they housed both Roger Mason and Matt Bonner.
Artest has the foot-speed to keep the pesky Barea out the paint, and just for good measure, he would have delivered a few plows that would have sent JJ Barea sprawling, which would have taken "air out of the tires." Teams must also account for his toughness, and he would have been able to safeguard Tony Parker and really dig in to Erick Dampier for threatening to lay-out Parker.
Then there's his willingness to buy into a team's philosophy and, believe it or not, he has been on his best behavior with the Rockets and you can imagine how enthralled Greg Popovich would have been to have a competent two-way; something Bruce Bowen never was.
Plain and simple, it would have created a new identity for the Spurs.
Throw in the platter of stars already there (Tony Parker and Tim Duncan), and they would have had enough firepower to overmatch the Dallas Mavericks and certainly give the Denver Nuggets a few problems in the second round as well.
For more food for thought, if the Spurs had the trio to begin the season they would have been more dangerous. Mash that with the contributions from Manu Ginobili and they would have easily garnered the No. 2 seed, perhaps even the best in the Western Conference.