It’s clear that the San Antonio Spurs are gearing up for one last hurrah before 37-year-old Tim Duncan hangs up his basketball shoes.
With a 2-0 lead in the Western Conference Finals against the Memphis Grizzlies, the Spurs are setting themselves up for one more NBA Finals run with fundamental basketball. It’s not hoops for your nightly highlight reel, save for an occasional Tony Parker magical shot that’s usually done more out of an emergency rather than sheer artistry.
The Spurs are simply playing together as a team. Even when they lost leads, like they did in Game 2 against the energetic Grizzlies, the Spurs still found a way to win because they stayed together.
Sure, Manu Ginobili will still have his occasional wild forays that coach Greg Popovich has apparently learned to accept. But the Spurs cover up their shortcomings and make adjustments along the way.
This teamwork has been borne out of years of playing together for championships and the way Popovich recruits his cast. Duncan, Parker and Ginobili are one of the best basketball trios to ever play. They’ve won titles together and obviously want one more before they go on separate ways.
The other members of the team are selected not only based on their basketball talent but on the strength of their individual characters.
ESPN courtside reporter Doris Burke (from whom many of our budding local courtside reporters should learn how to make concise reports and ask good basketball questions) reported in Game 2 that Popovich works on bringing out the character strengths of each player, regardless of whether one is a Duncan or a benchwarmer.
This emphasis allows the team to overcome adversity and employ a system that Popovich feels is suited for his current roster.
In an April 29 Sports Illustrated profile on Popovich, prolific basketball scribe Jack McCallum explained that the Spurs’ defensive system is anchored on a team concept.
Quoting Sacramento Kings assistant coach Jim Eyen, McCallum explained that the Spurs “take you where they want you to go so they can load up. And once the ball is on the sideline they don’t make it easy for you to reverse it. You almost never go one-on-one against them. You’re going one on five.”
On offense, the Spurs are a clinic on how to creatively use the pick and roll. It helps that Duncan off a pick is a triple threat that can score or pass off to an open teammate. But the entire team sets good picks and moves well without the ball.
Parker will run circles around his defender, run him into a pick that frees the screener for a glide to the basket. The thing to watch is that Parker can do scoop or behind-the-back passes to the screener or cutter. You can only do this when you have trust and faith in your teammates.
The finals could be a “generational thing,” as the young people like to call differences between them and older folk nowadays.
If Miami hurdles Indiana’s bold challenge and the Spurs finish off the Grizzlies, then we’ll get an engaging finals not between generations but between two basketball systems that have produced winners this season.