MIAMI — Bienvenido a Miami, pro basketball fans and, really, anyone in sports not yet tested or caught here in Biogenesis country. Okay, and you, too, lingering LeBron Haters of America, who have yet to realize that holding on to resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for someone else to get sick. Get over “The Decision” already. It’s so 2010.
This is where Tim Duncan, whom teammates Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph watched win his first championship when they were 7 years old, tries to turn back Father Time and also where James aims to prove the Spurs are no longer his daddy when it comes to the Finals.
It’s a great matchup featuring the four-time MVP attempting to exact revenge on many of the same players who swept his Cleveland Cavaliers in 2007, when ’Bron was admittedly “20, 40, 50 times” worse than he is now.
Six years ago his training wasn’t complete. Now the man is a Jedi.
San Antonio, of course, is anchored by Duncan, whose own coach once explained his decision to rest his center by writing “Old” under the Did Not Play portion of the pregame lineup card.
“He is old,” Gregg Popovich blurted out Wednesday before the Spurs practiced. “. . . Older than dirt.”
Indeed, Timmy is 37 and about calcified by now. He still tilts his head quizzically during news conferences and responds to each question with the combined excitement of Alan Greenspan and Spock.
But he can become just the second player in league annals to have won titles in three decades (John Salley won with Detroit in ’89 and ’90, the Bulls in 1996 and the Lakers in 2000). Well, that only happens if Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili run circles around a dinged-up Dwyane Wade and the Heat’s perimeter defense and the Spurs’ role players are up to the task.
Oh, misconceptions. You need to know about misconceptions before this series:
The Heat is cool, hip and young to the Spurs’ fuddy-duddy old: Nope. Contrary to popular belief, the Spurs did not arrive here on the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria. Yes, Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are a combined 103, and they remember when the Dead Sea was just getting sick. But Miami actually has an older roster — an average age of 29.9 years (second-most ancient in the NBA behind the Knicks) vs. the Spurs’ 28.2 years (the sixth-oldest roster in the league.)
The Spurs’ rotation players — Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal, Danny Green and Leonard — are all in their 20s. Beyond young bucks Norris Cole and Mario Chalmers, Ray Allen (37), Chris Anderson (34) Mike Miller (33) and Udonis Haslem (32) have much more wear and tear than the Spurs’ role players.
ABC will intersperse clips of ’90s all-stars during the 2013 Finals: No again. But when cutaways of Juwan Howard on the Heat bench and Tracy McGrady on the Spurs bench are shown, it’s easy to understand the confusion.
Right now you’re thinking, Wait, how are those two still collecting a paycheck to play in the NBA? Did Pat Riley and Popovich go on archaeological digs?
T-Mac is actually just 34 years old. He played in China last season, and the Spurs signed him in mid-April, making him eligible for the playoff roster. Get this: After eight years of playoff basketball in Toronto, Orlando, Houston and Atlanta, McGrady was part of his first postseason series victory when the Spurs swept the banged-up Lakers in the first round. He even got minutes in the final game.
Juwan is Jurassic. He’s 40 and was actually asked during media day by a Washington reporter, “What are you doing here?” (To which he responded, “I work out. I’m pulling my weight.”) Juwan also gives great pep talks. See Game 5 against Indiana. As the lone survivor from a draft class that included recently retired Grant Hill and Jason Kidd, Howard is still ageless. He literally looks 30.
Their rosters reflect their cities’ identities: Hardly. Miami, gateway to Latin America, a cosmopolitan melting pot if there ever was one, has an all-American roster, with a dude from South Dakota who can shoot coming off the bench.
San Antonio, meantime, deep in the heart of Texas and with one of the highest concentrations of military personnel and veterans in the nation, is led by a center from the Virgin Islands, a point guard from France and a shooting guard from Argentina. Nando de Colo and Boris Diaw are also French. Splitter is Brazilian and possibly part Cyborg.
Commissioner David Stern, in his final season, would love to see the small-market Spurs demonstrate the league’s financial parity: Actually, that trophy presentation would be an awkward moment. The commissioner fined the Spurs $250,000 earlier in the season for a “disservice to the league” when Popovich sent home his three stars and Green to rest before a big home game vs. Memphis via a commercial flight, which meant they were missing the team’s fourth game in five days — at Miami on TNT.
“Have you booked any Southwest flights between now and Game 1 and Game 2?” Duncan was playfully asked Wednesday.
“To go home?” he asked.
“That’s a shot at the thing earlier. That one slipped right by me.”
Yes, Timmy, it did.
The rest prior to the Finals, coupled with Miami’s seven-game scrap with Indiana, will help the Spurs to their fifth title and first in six years: No. In a free-flowing, much more aesthetically pleasing series to watch than either conference final, LeBron is better and more polished, and the Heat’s defensive intensity will simply be too much for San Antonio to overcome. ’Bron gets revenge. Miami in six.
For previous columns by Mike Wise, visit washingtonpost.com/wise.