The Last Ride: 5 NBA Teams With Only One More Shot at a Championship
It is as much of a nightmare to some players as it is a motivation for others; thus, it can ruin a team's chances in that given season, discouraging players with their team—or worse—their career.
Yet, it can also make a team into a special unit, together in the mission of winning a championship in the year that many call their last opportunity.
What makes that season so special is that no one the "a" in "last" to become an "o". In other words you don't want what is already your last opportunity to devastatingly become your lost one as well.
Every year at least one or two teams in the league will have coined the phrase by the end of the summer. It's not so much a criticism as it is fact, hope, or even pity.
This year though, when the power in the NBA has shifted to an extent unparalleled to anything ever seen before, or even in American Sports (I say this because Real Madrid was what Miami is now before Miami was what it is now), more and more teams are facing the dilemma of knowing that this season could easily be their last actual chance.
Some of the teams have faced it before (Boston, San Antonio), and some are new to this criticism (Dallas, New Orleans, Phoenix, Denver).
Either way, these five teams will not surrender this year, and will hope that in their last true chance they don't fail.
San Antonio Spurs
You knew the Spurs would be one of the teams on this list. Heck, you won't find a list similar to this made in the past three years that doesn't include the Spurs.
Duncan is not getting younger, neither are Parker and Ginobli.
But here's the difference: this year when we label the Spurs as a team facing now or never: In years past, the Spurs would still be a two or three seed still considered one of the top teams. People just thought of it as their last season as a powerhouse.
The Spurs are no longer a powerhouse. Last season, they actually only made the playoffs because of a couple of victories here and there.
Perhaps the Spurs won't get any worse; but without any key acquisitions it's hard not to see the Spurs stumbling unless the big three turn back the clock.
And that's what's scary...
We can assume they make the playoffs this one last year, but after that does anybody really think the core of Duncan, Ginobli and Parker can hold up the listing Spurs?
That will be hard to swallow for Spurs fans because they lack young talent, save George Hill (who is highly overrated). The rebuilding process will be long and harsh.
Their regular season last year should have secured themselves a place on this list, but beating the likes of Wade, James, and Howard to find themselves in the Championship once more demonstrated the intensity and skill this squad has.
Yet Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen's physical and mental abilities have decreased.
Pierce has an advantage, as his whole career was based on slow movement and a silky smooth step back. But he's also on a steep decline in his otherwise very successful career.
Adding Shaq obviously hasn't made them any younger. If their team starts off slow we could see a disappointed Doc Rivers, who has already contemplated retirement, leave the team.
Honestly, the only thing that will keep the Celtics in playoff contention in two or three years will be Rondo running the point. Other than that, this is seriously the last year their self proclaimed "Big Three" will be able to handle Miami's new three, or even teams like Orlando and Atlanta in the East.
Hopefully they can take advantage of this last possibility.
The Mavericks knew this day would come because of Mark Cuban's reluctance to focus on attaining younger prospects in the face of his aging team's repeated failure to win a ring.
His failure to realize this resulted in the oldest starting line up in the league, and a team that stands one more chance—and a slim one at that—to bring home the gold.
Last year the team had its 13th straight 50 win season. Amazing yes, but the championship drought has been even longer.
Sure, they could have beat the Spurs in that first round match up, but they failed to. And even if they had, could their veterans have run with the Suns, or match Bryant's Lakers?
No way in hell.
This is a team with no one getting better except for a young cat named J.J Barrea, who does not have house hold name potential, and that's saying something.
Dirk is still going strong, but he is getting weaker, and evidently so are Kidd, Butler, Marion, Howard and Terry.
Even Cuban seems to have lost a little of the flair that has sparked kind of past Maverick teams.
The Mavs have to realize that their window of success and opportunity to win a Championship may be closing faster than other teams. Failure to step on that podium this June will mark the end of this dynasty's chances at a title.
And sooner or later, Cuban will have to move on with younger players, with them trying to accomplish what this group of players could not.
Here's the depressing part: the Suns would have been on this list even with, arguably, their best player from last year still on the roster.
But he left, leaving Nash to figure out how to manage eleven unproven players with talented yet not special players like J-Rich and Grant Hill.
In my opinion, the Suns shouldn't be on this list; not because they have more than one season to win it all, but because they don't even stand a chance this season. Therefore, they shouldn't be marked as a team with "one more chance."
But then I thought a bit more and figured that with a point guard like Nash and, in my opinion, a coach as good as Gentry, any team would stand even the slimmest chance.
And, in a way, that's what this list is all about.
Teams realizing this is their last year where that slim chance even still exists; and for the Suns, while that chance may be smaller than others on this list, it still exists.
And with existence comes hope.
But after this season, Nash may retire, or his skills may deteriorate without him realizing it.
Either way, he will no longer be a force after this upcoming season.
And that marks the end of this Suns "dynasty."
*(If Alan Gentry had come along earlier, would Nash's fingers be ring-less? I don't think so).
New Orleans Hornets/Denver Nuggets
Generally, I would let these two teams have their two separate slides, but their situations are so similar I wouldn't dare waste my time doing it.
They both have the same kind of squad: one top five NBA player surrounded by one or two good players and either talented or useless role players.
And both teams face the same scenario: their star players finally realized that they are in the prime of their careers and have their best shot at a ring as well.
And with that came the realization that a ring with this team may as well be impossible.
They're both almost sure bets to leave unless, and as my Mother used to say, "this is a big unless," their teams come home with a ring.
In my opinion, they both have a slim, yet decent chance at winning it all.
But before ending this slide, I would like to present one final "catch".
Both players witnessed the criticism that James' debacle brought him, and neither would like to follow in those footsteps. This might give their teams a chance of resigning them when they are free agents.
Just something to think about.