Words by Phlip
Look, I have been saying for 3 seasons now that the Spurs were on the wrong side of a recently-closed championship window…
For 3 seasons now, Gregg Popovich whips his troops – sometimes a Motley Crew to say the least – into shape at the right time and they are legitimately contenders to come out of the Western Conference.
Part of me wants to go on about what they have(‘nt) done this offseason to maintain or gain from their position of last season. The override comes in that it was no fault of their own that they did not go any further than they did in the first place. They were uninvited guests at the party in how they swept the playoffs before falling victim to the simple fact that OKC was “arriving.” With that in mind, they are in the enviable position to hold pat and come back at a similarly unchanged OKC team equipped with a coach who we can consider it “criminal” not to have more than only one Coach of the Year award on his resume.
The Spurs retained Tim Duncan for his farewell tour after he (by his own admission, jokingly) considered testing the free agent waters. Tony Parker should be fully recovered from his injury sustained during a fight between Drake and Chris Brown (which I personally believe included a lot of slapping and womens’-tennis-style grunts), DeJuan Blair will continue to overachieve from a position he is entirely too small for with no , and Manu Ginobili and Stephen Jackson will continue to be Manu and Stephen for better or worse, but mostly for better. As ever with San Antonio squads, there will be a collection of names we only barely know that give huge contributions in spite of their lack of notoriety. I say that to say that Popovich is a MASTER at getting starter-level contributions out of players who’d be best served as 6th-man on nearly any other team in the NBA.
Next we’re supposed to remember that San Antonio is one of those “small market” teams whose delicate profitability the lockout was supposed to be protecting?
FACT: the number one means to profitability for any team – small or major market – in professional sports is simply winning. San Antonio embodies this in that the only time they really hurt for wins between 1990 and now was when David Robinson got hurt and missed 76 games and Sean Elliot missed 43 and the ghost of Dominique Wilkins could not carry the team.
Then Gregg Popovich controversially fired Bob Hill, hired himself as Head Coach in his place. 7 months later, Tim Duncan was brought into the fold and the rest, as they say, is Hall-of-Fame history.
I know what this seems like; I am crediting the guy running the show with the continued success of the organization from the moment he took the reins. This is one of those cases where all is exactly as it seems. Popovich was GM and VP of Basketball Operations at the same time from 94 until 96, when he dropped the VP from his name and added Head Coach in its place. He was STILL GM and Head Coach at the same time until 2002. I am of the opinion that the GM of this team is fully by committee and that the 63 year-old coach will have the job for as long as he chooses to keep it.
He leaves a wake very similar to Bill Parcells in the NFL. I say that to say that his former assistants (and former Point Guards as well) go on to coach well in the NBA themselves.
So yeah… as long as Gregg Popovich draws breath and calls shots in San Antonio, expect them to be a lock for the second round of the playoffs in that season.