The San Antonio Spurs played this season like they wouldn’t need new parts for a while yet. Bolstered by the offseason acquisitions of David West and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Spurs went 67-15 and started the playoffs with a 4-0 Grizzlies sweep. But the Spurs saw their weaknesses exposed in the second round by a young, lightning fast, exceptionally strong OKC Thunder. For the first time in memory, San Antonio struggled to find open players and even to get off shots. Not only did the Spurs repeatedly fail to recover on defense fast enough to match the Thunder’s sprint-outs (even after made baskets), but on offense the selfless San Antonio machine registered just 19 assists — after dishing 39 in Game 1. Point guard Tony Parker (6 points) hadn’t been nullified this way since LeBron James stifled him in the 2014 NBA Finals.
The Spurs crushed the Thunder 124-92 to open the series, but things changed fast. Just as they will likely change fast this summer for San Antonio. The Spurs sorely lacked youth, strength, quickness and penetration as the series wore on. They were short players who can defend full-court and create shots on their own when the system gets clogged by ferocious defense like OKC’s. Charlotte guard Jeremy Lin brings all those ingredients to a roster. Lin, who will explore the NBA market (again) this summer, used this past season in Charlotte to prove he can defend at a top level (after being wrongly maligned for not having that ability) and to remind everyone that he can create his own shot and consistently get to the line with penetration. San Antonio did neither against the Thunder, shooting just 16 free throws as a team in Game 4. Lin has been looking to play for a contender. He also owns, as Spurs culture demands, a reputation for team-first play. Last week the Spurs didn’t look like they needed a lot of help. Today, Jeremy Lin looks like a good fit.