What Boston Can Learn from the San Antonio Spurs

An aging core of Hall of Famers. One of the best coaches in the NBA. A young group of exciting but unproven players. One of the best big-men in NBA history. A city that struggles to draw high-profile free agents. A series of dramatic playoff runs that ended in bitter defeat.

After reading the qualifications above, you're probably not sure if I'm talking about the Boston Celtics or the San Antonio Spurs. Though it might come as a surprise, I'm actually talking about both.

The last survivors from an era when the Detroit Pistons dominated the East and the Los Angeles Lakers weren't a complete train wreck, The Celtics and Spurs have eclipsed their original shelf-lives. When Danny Ainge brought in Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, the Big 3 were supposed to have a 3-year window. When Tim Duncan was drafted at #1 in 1997, few people expected him to be an All-Star at age 37, let alone on a championship caliber team.

As Boston showed in it's shocking run to the 2010 Finals and near defeat of last year's champion Heat, and the San Antonio has shown in its continued dominance of the West, both can still compete. However, the question remains: do they have the firepower to go all the way, or are these old dogs just too long in the tooth?

Watching San Antonio's game 4 loss to the Golden State Warriors, I couldn't help but remember Boston's gutwrenching Game 7 losses to the Lakers and Heat, where the Celtics led most of the way until old legs caught up to Ray Allen, KG, and "The Truth."

As great as the Spurs have been these last 5 seasons, they've suffered hugely disappointing playoff losses every year since their last championship. Their attempt to repeat in '08 ended in a 5 game loss to the Lakers in the WCF. In the first round of 2009, they lost in 5 games to the 6th seeded Mavericks. In the second round of 2010, they couldn't even win a game from the Phoenix Suns. In the first round of 2011, they were utterly humiliated by the 8th seeded Grizzlies (6 games). And last season, after taking the first 2 from OKC on a 20-game winning streak, they lost 4 in a row to be booted from the conference finals.

When you look at recent championship teams, they all had young, explosive talent who could play 40 minutes a night without wearing down. Last year's Heat had two of the game's most explosive players in LeBron and D-Wade (also one of the game's dirtiest). The 2011 Mavericks had Tyson Chandler patrolling the paint while J.J. Barea wreaked havoc on the perimeter, and they were initially labeled as "old and slow." Before that, The Lakers had a guy by the name of Kobe Bryant.

Even with Rondo, Boston only has one player who can physically overpower defenders (Jeff Green), and certainly no one to protect the rim (22nd in blocked shots). While the Spurs have more agility, their opposition is still notably quicker.

Despite his mistakes, Danny Ainge has managed to assemble a solid young nucleus in Rajon Rondo, Avery Bradley, Jeff Green, Brandon Bass, and Jared Sullinger (The jury's still out on C-Lee, Crawford, T-Wil, and Fab).

However, he has to decide if that's enough athleticism and durability to realistically compete, even if KG and Pierce stay and he can make some quality signings. If the Spurs can make it to the Finals despite their old core and lack of a young star, maybe there is still hope for the Celtics. If San Antonio makes another early exit, it could signal that the KG era in Boston is over. Though no two teams are the same, if the Spurs, who are very deep and 100% healthy, can't win, I don't see how the Celtics can.

Follow Jacob on Twitter @TheReelJZ