Month: June 2012

Rethinking Legends: The Curious Case of the San Antonio Spurs

Old saying, “Big man make big genius.”

You could make the case that the Spurs and Popovich really benefited from some “good fortune.” They beat LeBron’s Baby Back Baby Back Cavs in ’07, and won it before that only after Shaq fled the West and the behest of the best terrified little suspect ever to get interrogated in the great state of Colorado.

This is arguably the biggest single win in Pop’s entire career:
(Somewhere Rick Fox is screaming for some recognition of his value in ’02.)
Lake Show down 25 come back and can’t close the deal.

If Pop’s Corn loses game, and we’re talking about:
1) Strike-shortened ’99 vs. Knicks san-Ewing (they didn’t ever really get props for that)
2) Finally Pushing Through in the West post-Shaq (beating a three-time champion?? about time!!)
and 3) The Baby Back Bron Bron’s (nothing to see here, keep it moving)

I guess you never know when YOU’RE GAME FIVE is going to come.

Popovich is legit in my book — I’m just sayin’. I’m most inclined to respect them for that knock down, drag out battle with the Detroit Pistons in ’04-’05. No one watched it except for the teams and their immediate families, but I heard it was good. Pop’s last minute switch of Bruce Bowen on to Chauncey Billups was as fine a coaching move as has ever been executed in the NBA Finals. It was swift, brilliant, and decisive.

It just makes me wonder how badly all these franchises actually want to win. I mean — is he competing against 32 teams or is really more like 5 teams? And if so, shouldn’t the Spurs win in a 5 team competition, given that they have Parker, Ginobili and Duncan? Pop’s had 14 50-win seasons, and he’s always had either Robinson or Duncan or both. Should they have beaten anyone besides the Pistons at the height of their powers? Should they have lost in the first round in two of the last 4 years? Should they have more than 2 Finals appearances over the past 9 seasons if their only real competition in the West has been Dallas and Los Angeles?

Since 2003:

Lakers 2-2 in Finals
Dallas 1-1
Miami 1-1
Boston 1-1
San Antonio 2-0
Orlando 0-1
Cleveland 0-1

The only teams on this list without a premier scoring big man are the Cleveland Cavs and last year’s Miami Heat.

LA and SA have won 9 of the last 13 titles with either Shaq, Duncan, Gasol or Bynum patrolling the middle. The other winners were fueled by Rasheed Wallace, Dirk No-no-no-notorious Nowitzki, and KG.
Maybe all we know for sure is that Popovich is a much better coach than whomever runs the carousel not named Carlisle in Dallas, and that he’s a better coach than Bill Fitch was in Houston. What if only 3 teams in the entire Western Conference (before this season) were committed to long-term runs at championships — or what if only 3 teams had big men who could score almost at will? What if the short list of Shaq, Duncan, C. Webb (as a King), Garnett (as a T’Wolf), Dirk, and now Garnett was really all the competition that needed to be measured?
And, to be fair, the same measure can be applied to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavericks, the Celtics, and the Heat. Apparently, it can no longer be applied to the Pistons. Is it more impressive to win against 5 or 6 legitimate contenders or is it more compelling to win in a league where more teams have a true chance to compete for all the marbles?

What do you say?