The San Antonio Spurs, yet again, will not have a chance at defending their crown.
With a 100-92 Game 5 loss in Los Angeles to the Lakers Thursday night, the Spurs' season came to an abrupt and inevitable end.
For a franchise that has won four championships since 1999, how would an inevitable end at the Western Conference Finals be possible?
Because, in addition to being an experienced playoff team, the Spurs are now old.
And it's not something that "just happened." Everyone gets older with time, it's a fact of life. The Spurs, as an overall unit, have gradually gotten to be an old team year-in and year-out for the past few seasons, despite their enormous success.
If you check out the team's roster on its nba.com site, you'll find that eight of the 15 listed players have been in the league for 10 seasons or more.
Only four players were born in the 1980s (Matt Bonner, 1980; DerMarr Johnson, 1980; Ian Mahinmi, 1986; Tony Parker, 1982). Of those, only one (Parker) sees legitimate playing time.
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are now in their early 30s, and are still more-than-capable superstars, but are far more inconsistent than in years past.
Just look at games during the 2008 NBA Playoffs.
Duncan scored just five points in Game 1 against the Hornets. He scored 18 in the next contest. In Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers, Ginobili scored just seven points on 2-8 from the floor. In the very next game (in San Antonio), Ginobili scored 30.
See the inconsistency?
San Antonio was blown out three times in New Orleans, something that would never happen to the "experienced" Spurs. It does happen, however, to the "experienced and old" Spurs.
Brent Barry, Bruce Bowen, Michael Finley and Robert Horry (the Spurs' three-point threats) have combined to play for 50 NBA seasons. All are close to retirement, obviously.
Tony Parker's point guard backups (Jacque Vaughn and Damon Stoudamire) have a combined 22-year NBA career.
Old? Definitely check.
The Spurs blowing 17-point leads in playoff games didn't happen in years past, but it does now. The experience is still there, yes, but the "old factor" now outweighs the experience.
The Spurs will still compete at a high level for the next few years because of its big three, but as they continue to get older, playoff wins will decrease. Wins in the regular season will decrease.
The Spurs have been the most successful NBA franchise of the last 10 years, but it's now time for younger squads (like the Lakers, Jazz and Hornets) to take their place atop the Western Conference.
The Spurs are just too old to stay on top for much longer. That's the bottom line.