The San Antonio Spurs, despite not usually considered among the three teams to win the NBA title this season (Bulls, Heat, Thunder), despite not having any MVP caliber players, might just finish on top of the Western Conference with home advantage chances heading into the postseason.
It’s hard to point on one reason for the Spurs being this good for so long. Gregg Popovich and Tim Duncan should be the main reason. Ever since Duncan’s arrival in the 1997 NBA draft, the Spurs have never missed the postseason, won four NBA titles and even more impressively to some, have simply won more than anyone else in the big four of north American sport leagues.
Even more impressive? The Spurs’ current 15 year-run is better than any other team in NBA history. Greater than the great Lakers teams and great Celtics teams of the past. The Chicago Bulls did win six NBA titles in the span of eight years, but not even the Michael Jordan era was able to beat the Spurs’ impressive record.
The Duncan-Ginobili-Parker train keeps on pushing, defying age and opinions. More likely than not, San Antonio will stumble early in the post season. They shouldn’t be worried against both the Rockets or the Nuggets, but later on they won’t have enough, in my opinion, to beat the Lakers, Thunder and the Grizzlies in the series. I think they’re better than the Mavs and the Clippers.
But although this may be a testament to Tim Duncan’s influence and dominance as a player, showcased more rarely these days than in the previous decade, I think it’s Popovich that stands as the biggest and most important figure in the whole Spurs dynasty, still looking for its first title since 2007.
It’s not easy keeping a team running so well for this long. Especially in a small market like San Antonio. The NFL, NBA and NHL, unlke Baseball, are built so there will be parity. Caps on salary and such. Draft based on results. The Spurs lucked out in that dimension. David Robinson missing most of the 1996-1997 season translated into the first pick in the draft, and Tim Duncan came along.
But Popvich hasn’t had a lottery pick ever since, but they haven’t missed the post season ever since. Teamwork and role players. It hasn’t been enough since Duncan has dropped down from an All-NBA level, not enough to win the titles. Not enough for long playoff runs usually. But the Spurs are probably the best proof that the most important thing in sports is having smart people calling the shots – The GM, Head coaches and all that. Great talent is easy to spot. Making the most of it? That’s an art form.