A machine by definition is a tool that consists of one or more parts, and uses energy to achieve a particular goal. There is no better way to describe the San Antonio Spurs. They are a brilliantly functional mechanism that confounds teams and analysts alike. Let’s be clear, they’ve been a bit lucky by winning the NBA Draft Lottery twice, snagging David Robinson and Tim Duncan, but they’ve also pieced together the right supplementary parts in order to sustain prolonged success, Drafting Tony Paker in the bottom of the 1st round and Manu Ginobli with the 57th overall pick. The NBA is a player’s league and you cannot win without horses, but Greg Popovich as a coach and leader has separated himself from the pack. He is the best coach in the NBA, and it’s not close. It’s impossible to get marquee free agents to come to San Antonio, and yet Popovich and General manger RC Buford have cultivated an atmosphere that not only develops young players, but is also attractive to veterans who are chasing a championship at the end of their careers. Over the years their roster has been chucked full of rookies and castoffs that other teams didn’t deem worthy of roster spots, yet seem to flourish in a Spur uniform. Popavich should get into the Hall Of Fame for winning a championship with Avery Johnson as his starting point guard in 1999. Situations like these are where their machine-like proficiency begins to come into focus. They plug in spare parts around their main cogs and moonwalk to another 60 wins season.
On the floor, even with all of the talent that they have procured over the years, it begins and ends with the greatest Power Forward of All-Time, Tim Duncan. He will never have the numbers of Karl Malone, but his overall impact on a game, a playoff series and a season is what makes him great. He’s the most unselfish superstar of the past 20 years, he doesn’t care if he gets shots, rebounds or the assists, he just wants to get the win and his teammates follow suit. Any player that flashes a selfish streak is put in line or shipped out of town quickly. The hardest part of coaching a professional sports team is getting star athletes to subjugate their personal agendas for the good of the team, but the Spurs have been able to do this better than any other team in the sport. It seems like the Spurs are very similar to the New England Patriots in the respect that they never give the public any indication that there are problems or turmoil inside the locker room. Hopefully they don’t continue to encounter the same problem of dominating in the regular season and falling short in the playoffs that it seems like the Patriots are currently suffering from.
Starting with their first championship in the 1999 strike shortened season it seems like media critics and fans alike have been on a mission to constantly strip the Spurs of the credibility. They have played in the two lowest rated NBA finals in the history of the league in 2003 and 2007, and have never been able to attract eyeballs like the league’s traditional powers and superstar teams, but they are winner’s none-the-less. They are called boring and in the earlier part of the last decade they did play a less than entertaining brand of basketball where they wanted to grind their opponents into the ground with great defense and stellar post play. They consistently led the league, or finished in the top 3 in defensive efficiency (points allowed per 100 possessions), using elite wing defenders like Stephen Jackson, Sean Elliot and Bruce Bowen to funnel opposing players into the paint where David Robinson and Time Duncan were lying in wait. Coach Popovich has reinvented the current version of the Spurs into a fast paced, frenetic offensive killing machine that is in the top 7 in Pace(Possessions per game) and offensive efficiency(Points per 100 possessions), while still strangling opposing teams with the 3rd most efficient defense in the league. While Duncan is still the leader of the group, Tony Parker has taken the lead for the 2013 Spurs team because of shooting guard Manu Ginobli’s injuries and is having an NBA caliber season. This goes to show how the coach and superstar players of the spurs are able to adjust their focus and keep on humming along like a well-oiled machine.
Sometimes in sports, as in life, we are truly blessed to watch a certain player, team, or game. Although the Spurs fell short of winning the ultimate prize last season, their 20 game win streak that started at the end of the season and continued into the second game of the conference finals was truly something to behold. It seemed like the ball never stopped moving offense, and they were throttling their opposition on defense, as we all marveled. It’s too bad that it seems like the Spurs carry the stigma of being a boring team, with a boring superstar, because they have been playing very exciting basketball for the past 2 or 3 years. With young studs like Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, Gary Neal and Kawhi Leonard melding perfectly with the Spurs big 3, it seems like coach Greg Popovich has pulled yet another rabbit out of the hat. There are when you have an idea that you’re working on fate just drops the perfect example for the case that you’re trying to make right in your lap. When MVP Candidate Tony Parker suffered a severe ankle sprain in a 130-102 demolition of the Sacramento Kings, which will sideline him for a month, they shook it off like nothing happened two nights later and delivered a 39 point beating to the Detroit Pistons. This next man up philosophy that the spurs have adopted makes them extremely dangerous and a great deal different then every other team in the NBA. The spurs are a machine, made up of large and small parts, that functions in perfect congruence, which has allowed them to always be greater than the sum of the parts. It’s truly a beautiful thing to watch.