Now if you want to crown the San Antonio Spurs as the next NBA champs, then crown their butts!
Thank you, Dennis Green, but Balls won’t go there yet.
It seems that a lot of people are crazy about the Spurs right now and for good reason. Since the close of last season, they re-signed Tim Duncan, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard, brought in LaMarcus Aldridge and David West as free agents and acquired Ray McCallum in a trade. Not bad.
But commissioner Adam Silver shouldn’t call off the 2015-16 season and here’s why: The Spurs are so old, they play bingo on weekends. Every game they play is an old-timers’ game. They’re also older than they were two months ago, when they pooped out in the first round of the playoffs.
Let’s not forget that the Spurs lost free agents Marco Belinelli, Cory Joseph and Tiago Splitter, who were in their rotation last season. And that they also lack rim protectors.
Then there’s Aldridge, who shot 33 percent last postseason, the biggest reason why the Portland Trail Blazers went one and done in the playoffs themselves.
Some players are so widely acknowledged to be underrated, they tend to be overrated. Aldridge is one of those guys. He’s a dependable rebounder but an ordinary shot-blocker and screen-roll defender. His greatest value comes as a mid-range scorer at a time when the 15-footer has all but become extinct. Championship expectations are new to him.
Oh, and let’s not forget the what’s-their-names . . . Yeah, the Warriors, who are the Champs until proven otherwise.
If the Spurs are fresh and healthy come playoff time, they’ll be a tough out, no doubt. But they’re a lot less likely to be that than the Warriors, who still have all that depth and talent and youth on their side.
THREE’S COMPANY: Don’t snooze on the Los Angeles Clippers, either. Provided that DeAndre Jordan hasn’t left for another team by the time you read this.
The other team in Los Angeles returns the same core group that came within one victory of the Western Conference finals last season. The difference is, the Clip Joint beefed up its anorexic bench since then. Veteran Paul Pierce gives it a proven shotmaker who thrives in big moments, while loudmouth Lance Stephenson offers versatility and a competitive edge.
The Clippers may not be done yet. Speculation is that they’ll dangle Jamal Crawford in return for a reserve big man, their biggest need. Also available are free agents JaVale McGee and Amar’e Stoudemire, who may interest the Warriors as well.
Balls’ way-too-early prediction: The playoffs will be a three-team Western shootout next season.
JUST SAYIN’: For entertainment purposes, the NBA free agent period was even better than many regular-season games. If some sports network turned the drama into a monthlong reality show — with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban as the host, of course — it couldn’t help but be can’t-miss television.
SO LONG, SNAKE: Too many times a prominent athlete has to check out before he gets his due, and so it is with Ken Stabler, who hasn’t been a Hall of Fame finalist in 12 years.
Beyond a doubt, Stabler was among the best quarterbacks of his time. But a Hall of Famer? Probably not. Of the 10 quarterbacks most similar to Stabler statistically, only Joe Namath is in the Hall of Fame, and that’s mostly because of his role in Super Bowl III, one of the most significant games ever.
Although his career numbers in a defense-driven era are better than what they appear today, Stabler wasn’t the focal point of a balanced offense that featured one of the best lines ever. Three of his signature plays are a scramble (1972 AFC playoffs), a wounded duck (Sea of Hands) and a fumble (Holy Roller). He wasn’t the prolific pocket passer in the mold of Dan Fouts, Dan Marino and Johnny Unitas, for instance. All the guy did was win football games.
JUST ASKIN’: Know that crazed Giants fan who head-flopped into McCovey Cove to fetch Joe Panik’s homer the other night, letterman jacket, long pants, shoes and all? Does that count as one splash hit or two?
LATE TO THE PARTY: Here’s what else that works against Stabler in
the debate: He was a late starter, literally.
Stabler didn’t become a regular until he was nearly 28 years old, when he replaced Daryle Lamonica early in the 1973 season. If he had a couple or three more peak seasons, his career achievements would be even more impressive.
There’s also the quota system that some Hall of Fame voters consider in their selections. The Raiders had nine future Hall of Famers in the mid-to-late 1970s — 11 if you include coach John Madden and owner Al Davis. That’s a lot for a team that has one Lombardi Trophy to show for its glory days.
Still, Stabler is likely to get more Hall of Fame consideration in the next few months albeit for the wrong reason.
LET’S DRINK TO THAT: But if there’s a Hall of Fame wing for fun-lovin’ gun-slingers, then Stabler deserves to have a bust next to Namath, Bobby Layne and Sonny Jurgensen, no questions asked.
YOUR TURN: “Ken Stabler was a great quarterback in his prime, and besides, he was the coolest dude. Beautiful women loved him and he fell off his share of barstools. God, those Raiders were a piece of work.” — John Dillon, San Bruno
(You can have the live-ball era. Balls will take the 1970’s NFL every day of the week and twice on Sundays.)