JaVale McGee severely outplayed LaMarcus Aldridge in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)

JaVale McGee severely outplayed LaMarcus Aldridge in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. (Jacob C. Palmer/S.F. Examiner)

Say buh-bye to the Spurs, a team of the past

While Balls wonders if the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors should play 4-against-5 to make the conference finals watchable …

This isn’t the Western Conference Finals that the Warriors will put to rest today, girls and boys. More like a funeral. It marks the last time they’ll have to face the
San Antonio Spurs as they have been known all these years. Because the Spurs as a legit championship contender are dead if not yet
buried.

See, the Spurs need a makeover. They’re a franchise weighed down by too many bad contacts, too much age.

Kawhi Leonard is among the best half-dozen players in the Association, a legit star that a franchise can build around. But then who? In a league dominated by younger stars and fresh legs, Pau Gasol, Manu Ginoboli, David Lee and Tony Parker have seen their best days. At 31, LaMarcus Aldridge is no spring chicken, either.

Here’s the rub: Slow Antonio lacks the financial wiggle room and trade pieces to remain relevant in the near future.

According to Spotrac, the Spurs are projected to be $25.7 million over the salary cap for next season with 11 players under contract. That all but rules out a quick fix in the trade and free-agent markets.

Of the few big shooters available, who in his right mind would want to hitch his future to a mid-market team on the decline, anyway? Indiana Pacers star Paul George is believed to want Los Angeles, for example, and don’t be surprised if the Lakers want him back.

Expect the Spurs to make a few minor moves in the offseason while they pray that an up-and-comer like Kyle Anderson or Dejounte Murray morphs into another Leonard-type difference-maker. Yeah, like they’ll get that lucky again.

The hard, cold fact is, the Spurs scare few if any teams, the Warriors least of all. Remember when the Dubs couldn’t win in Alamo City to save their souls, 33 losses in a row? Throw out the game that their B team lost there late in the season, and they will take a three-game win streak at AT&T Center into Game 4.

Now, a moment of silence, please. May the Spurs rest in pieces.

NO SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: As the apologists remind us, the Spurs are without Leonard, their best player. Put away the Kleenex already. They deserve to be where they’re at right now.

Start with Aldridge.

If ever there was a game for Aldridge to live up to his $84 million contract, Game 3 was it. He finished with 18 points on 7 of 17 from the field, five measly rebounds and a team-worst minus-27 in 28 minutes.

Ex-Spur David West read Aldridge like an open book. The guy couldn’t turn to the middle, couldn’t maneuver out of a double-team, couldn’t do much of anything, really.

Wait, it was even worse than that.

Would you believe emergency starter JaVale McGee outplayed Aldridge, for goshsakes? McGee outscored the Big Easy 16-6 in the first half. Yep, the same McGee who has played for the veteran minimum of $1.4 million this season.

JUST SAYIN’: Aldridge plays so upright, Balls woke up with a stiff back this morning.

HEY, LOOK … McGee even canned four free throws in six attempts!

LIKE OLD TIMES: So desperate was Spurs coach Gregg Popovich for a jump start, he started Anderson over Gasol as part of an ultra-small lineup.

That’s $2.15 million in, $16.2 million out, for those of you hoops geeks scoring at home.

Gasol was on the floor at the outset of the fourth quarter, when the Spurs still had a faint pulse. The old Spaniard proceeded to throw up 16- and 25-foot airballs and allow West to blow past him for a 3-point play on which he committed a lazy reach-in foul. Then he took his boo-boo face to the bench with his team in a 17-point hole.

YOU’RE HIRED! Warriors interim boss Mike Brown made the call of the game midway through the second period, when he stuck with Stephen Curry despite three fouls. Curry and friends promptly rewarded his trust with a 24-8 run that put the Spurs to bed for the night.

In the second half, Brown wisely took out frustrated player-coach Draymond Green after his fourth foul. Think Brown knew that Green was a technical foul waiting to happen, which would have put him within four of a suspension? Green tried to wave the coach off, but he would have none of it.

Uh, is it too late for Brown to be Coach of the Year?

POLITICS AS USUAL: The anti-Warriors bias that infects the league continues to border on the
ridiculous.

The Warriors won 67 games in the regular season, a half-dozen more than any other team. Yet one wouldn’t know it to see the All-NBA First Team, which doesn’t include a single one of their players.

The biggest snub was at small forward, where Leonard was chosen over Kevin Durant for no good reason whatsoever. By any measure, Durant was a better all-around player. Statistically, he had a wide edge in field goal percentage, rebounds, assists and blocked shots. Leonard outdid him in one category — steals. The rest was pretty much even.

Granted, Durant sat out 20 games late in the season. By then, his dominance had been established. Let’s not forget that Leonard was unavailable for eight games himself — and his team won ’em all.

Oh, and the one person who didn’t vote for Cavaliers world-beater LeBron James as a first-teamer should have his privileges revoked, too.

YOUR TURN: “[Zaza] Pachulia is good, but at this point, he should be spelling McGee. McGee has earned it. We look so great when he is in there! Blocks, dunks, screens, athleticism, energy, passing, and he has a decent mid-range shot. What more could you ask for?” — Steve Benjamin, Santa Rosa

Got an opinion? A gripe? A compliment? A compliment?! Send them to pladd@aol.com, and who knows, you may get your name in the paper before long.

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