The resumes on paper look outstanding. The coach has won 50 games in a season 13 times, including a lockout-shortened season last year. The centerpiece (no pun intended) has made his case for the greatest power forward of all time, with career totals of almost 24,000 points, over 13,000 rebounds and more than 2,500 shots swatted. The point guard and the sixth man were pioneers in this current generation of players born and raised outside of the United States, each adding a unique dimension to the team.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich chats up Tim Duncan. (Photo courtesy of TheEpochTimes.com)
Yet and still, many yawn at their success, complain at their competitive level and hope like hell we rarely see them on TV.
Such is life for the San Antonio Spurs, the most consistent franchise in the NBA, maybe in this current generation of professional sports. The Spurs (NBA champions in 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007) are not exciting by any stretch of the imagination, they aren’t overly dominant bullies, they just…do what they do. And what they’ve done in the Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili/Gregg Popovich era is nothing short of remarkable. They are currently up 2 games to 0 against the Kobe Bryant-less Los Angeles Lakers in the first round of the NBA playoffs and seem poised for another Western Conference Final showdown with the young guns in the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder.
But that doesn’t excite anyone. The Spurs have picked up where the staid, snore-inducing Utah Jazz teams of Karl Malone and John Stockton left off, winning games and making deep playoff runs in mundane fashion. That, more than anything, has something to do with the fact San Antonio is the most disrespected team amongst the perennial NBA powers. That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate what they’ve done and what they’re doing.
Duncan, who turns 37 today, came in the league playing at a high level in 1997, and save for a “is he finally done” 2010-11 season, has done damage to every well-known big he’s gone up against. At 6-feet-11 and 260 pounds, Timmy doesn’t bully his way to the low block, dunks and pounds his chest or sneers at a hapless defender. He uses his size in craftier ways and of course has the most consistent banking hours this side of PNC.
Photo courtesy of SlamOnline.com
Belgian-born and France-raised Tony Parker, who was more known for being married to Eva Longoria (not sure I understand, but okay) than his point guard play, has been the most consistent floor general not named Chris Paul. Parker hits the outside shot with regularity, still can get to the basket when he wants at 30 years old and has his own signature shot, the tear drop.
Photo courtesy of MySanAntonio.com
Meanwhile, Parker’s backcourt running mate, Manu Ginobili is the one guy who once upon a time might’ve been thought of as Mr. Excitement in San Antonio. Coming over from Argentina in 2002, Ginobili became the Spurs’ sixth man and one of the league’s best in short order, combining a fearless drive and slash game with a consistent and demoralizing “dammit, he’s open” three-point shot.
The coach of the Spurs might be the least exciting of them all. Gregg Popovich spent time in the Air Force and was always involved in basketball, first becoming the Spurs’ general manager in 1994, then naming himself head coach early in a fruitless 1996-97 (the one that got them Duncan). Since then, all the man they call “Pop” has done has won over 900 regular season games, closing in on 200 playoff wins, the coach for all four Spurs championships and is a two-time NBA coach of the year.
But Pop has proven to be unintentional comedy with his short, curt responses to the in-game interviews with sideline reporters (which I agree with him on, those are pointless) and his constant resting of his older players, including one instance against the Miami Heat earlier this year that drew the ire of league commish David Stern.
Still, what works for Popovich has worked for the Spurs, even if it bores most every one else. So the question is, will we look back fondly on this run San Antonio is on when it ends? Will we be able to appreciate their consistency in this era of rebuilding and reshaping teams every other year? I would hope so, and I speak as someone who watched the Spurs last night while recording his own podcast. I wasn’t distracted doing the show (for the most part) because the game wasn’t exciting.
But it ended with a familiar result – a San Antonio Spurs victory.