May 19th, 1999. Western Conference Semifinals. Game 2. San Antonio, Texas. San Antonio Spurs vs. Lakers. The Admiral, Shaq, Timmy D, Kobe, Sean Elliot, and a pre-.04 Derek Fisher.
I was 14 and can still feel the electricity. Spurs playoff games in the Dome, particularly during that 1999 run was something to behold. Bear in mind, the Spurs had not yet captured that elusive NBA title or even a Finals appearance. The city was hungry.
Back on that day in ’99, I somehow managed to get courtside while the Lakers were going through pregame. A ball rolled my way, and I drained a 3-point shot from the corner of the Alamodome. No kidding. It was the highlight of my sports-filled life.
San Antonio and its fans ate that day, ate the rest of that month, continued feasting into June, and indulged over the next decade-plus. All of San Antonio remembers the players who played parts in the championship runs of '99, '03, '05, '07, and '14.
Aside from the Big Three and David Robinson, fan favorites of all shapes and sizes came and went and contributed in each a unique way. The roster was stacked year in and year out with a supporting cast that adapted to the ever-changing style of the NBA. As Spurs fans, we came to expect it.
In fact, we ended up spoiled. I suppose an NBA dynasty will do that to you. When you get spoiled, you forget. You forget a second-round playoff game, even if it was against the Lakers. You forget what it felt like to be hungry, to not have expectations and just want a shot. You forget what it was like to look up in the rafters and not see a Championship banner.
Fast forward to 2021, where the Spurs have missed the playoffs in consecutive years for the first time ever. All those headliner stars are gone. David and Tim are in the Hall of Fame and Manu is probably still on a banana boat someplace in the Caribbean. Everyone from the glory days is gone. I think Spurs fans may be remembering what it feels like to be a little hungry again.
Well, almost everyone.
There is one player who remains as the lone fan favorite from the last championship team. A 3-point assassin, much like my 14-year-old self as referenced earlier, who defends players like a pesky bug you just can’t seem to get rid of. He relentlessly laces it up night in and night out and continues to be that spark plug off the bench he has become known for.
His name is Patty Thrills Mills, and he is a free agent. So, I ask you, Spurs fans, do we buy or sell number eight? Is it time for Patty Mills to ride off into the sunset which effectively ends any reminiscing of championship lore? Or does he stay and serve as a leader to this youthful and promising roster we have in front of us today?
What are the pros and cons of retaining Mills?