San Antonio became the mecca of basketball when they won their first championship back in 1999. The team was led by David Robinson and a young Tim Duncan, who slowly embraced one half of the iconic Twin Towers. Duncan also knew that he would step up to the plate when the Admiral decides to hang up his jersey.
Four more rings and a couple of fresh faces welcomed a new era of Spurs basketball. French sensation Tony Parker was selected 28th, and Argentinean firecracker Manu Ginobili landed 57th. Together with Duncan, they formed the Big Three and became one of the most respected and highly regarded force in the league. The three gelled and carried the franchise to what it is now.
Head coach Gregg Popovich and the rest of the Spurs’ front office have proven time and again that they can still wield their magic stick come Draft time. This became a fad for almost twenty years, and they did so without a lottery spot after they drafted Duncan. Popovich and company have an eye for international players, there’s no doubt about that. Ginobili, Parker, Davis, Diaw and now, Luka Samanic is poised to be there in the list. They invested in these players, as well as some of the best and brightest homegrown talents: George Hill, Derrick White, Dejounte Murray, the list goes on. With the exception of The Admiral and Old Man Riverwalk, the Spurs have no real “superstar” that dominated college tournaments, or fans producing a ton of mix tapes to hype them to popularity. The Spurs flew down the radar, shied away from the spotlight and nurtured their players so that when they come out of the locker room and into the court, they know what to do, they know the system and they play their roles.
AN ALLIANCE OF SUPERSTARS
In 2010, LeBron James decided to take his talents to South Beach and joined the Miami Heat. Here he teamed up with his draftmates Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. The Boston Celtics also formed their own “super team” by signing Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce. In 2016, Kevin Durant, who somewhat believed in the saying, “if you can’t beat them, join them,” signed with the Golden State Warriors where Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are making a name for themselves.
They won championships, yes, but their team didn’t last long. LeBron went back to Cleveland where he won another championship. The Celtics just faded away into the horizon. And we all know what happened to the Warriors. Durant moved to Brooklyn to join Kyrie. LeBron is with the Lakers, although he didn’t really lived up to what was expected of him. There’s the Clippers with Kawhi and Paul George. The list goes on.
What about the Spurs? Come to think of it, the biggest move the team made was when they acquired LaMarcus Aldridge to step in the hole left by Tim Duncan. The other was when they traded Kawhi and Danny Green to Toronto in exchange for DeMar DeRozan and the gang. Other than that, the Spurs remained calm and collected. They didn’t hop into the “Join me” bandwagon and tried to persuade a legitimate superstar to join them. Instead, they kept the roster intact and added some important pieces. Not superstars in their previous teams, but role players. These are the ones that gave their teams the boost and the energy to work harder and grab that loose ball.
Yes, the Spurs are old school when it comes to basketball. We’re not talking about the age or whatnot, but the way the organization handles its business both on and off the court. They could’ve chased free agent superstars this summer, but they chose not to. LA and DeMar are superstar players in their own right, but they’re not like a LeBron or an Anthony Davis. They’re low-key stalwarts who know how to play the game of basketball in its purest essence.
Pop is old school. His plays are one of the best in the league, especially when it comes after a timeout. Despite the run and gun and the expansion of talents that even centers can now shoot threes, the Spurs maintain a solid ball rotation regimen and solid defense. There is and will always be chemistry within the Spurs lineup even though they have a bunch of new faces. It is a cohesive response of the players who knows what it feels like to represent one of the most storied franchises in the NBA.
Every team has an identity. The Spurs have one, too. It’s slow, but it runs on full steam. It is precise as it is beautiful. Having one, two or even three of the best players in the league doesn’t spell success all the way. They are great as long as they remain healthy. The same goes with the operation. Spending too much on a player will hurt your bench.
The Spurs chose to be subtle this year. There were no fireworks, no front page news of some big signing. It is the Spurs identity, and the NBA and its fans love it. For now, it’s time for the young guns to show what they got. The vets are there to show them the way, lead them to where they want to go, but it’s their show now.