Heading home early: Men in black

San Antonio SpursJoe Murphy/NBAE/Getty Images

How many more times will we see Tim Duncan's crew deep in the playoffs?

Matt McHale, writing on Basketbawful, has been watching the San Antonio Spurs for years. He was enraged when Robert Horry hip-checked Steve Nash into the scorer's table in 2007, and thrilled to see a team win so much by playing the right way. But, McHale says, with the Grizzlies leading the Spurs 3-1 and poised to be a rare eighth seed to win a series, an era is ending:

It's over. It's really and truly over. We never felt totally safe counting the Spurs out because Duncan and the team had been too good for too long. Look! They keep winning 50 games a season! Look! Duncan's numbers are still on par with his prime! They still look and act like the Spurs. They must still be the Spurs.

No. No, they aren't.

I'm sad. Really and truly sad. It feels like something is passing away. I am a fan of NBA basketball. Over the last decade-plus, I have followed the Association as closely as almost anybody. Duncan and the Spurs -- sometimes heroes, sometimes villains -- have defined (or helped define) a full third of my life on this planet. Now they're fading away. Not only that, I realize now they have been fading right before my eyes. For years.