The Spurs have won 20 straight games, 10 of them play-off games. For the last ten years the team has been built around three men, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker. They are coached by a former Air Force officer, Greg Popovich. With the singular exception of Parker’s marraige to the over-hyped shrew named Eva Longoria, the Spurs do not live in the tabloids, or even much on sportscenter. They have endured injuries, Ginobili in particular, and disappointments including last year’s first round loss to Memphis, but during their run, they have won three titles(2003, 2005 and 2007), and at this moment appear the favorite for a fourth. The game is fickle, an injury, a missed shot, momentum turns and the Spurs may not reach the final, but that doesn’t diminish the value of what the Spurs represent a foundation of good people, committed to playing the game the right way, as a team that does the little things not just for themselves, but for each other.
Below is a paragraph from Bill Simmon’s after he watched the Spurs dismantle the Clipper’s after going down 24 points in the first half.
“And once you build a foundation that strong — when guys aren’t just teammates but friends, when nobody looks at their numbers, when everything revolves around the question, “What’s the best way to win today’s game?” — everything else is cake. On Saturday, the Clippers played their best possible basketball for the first 12 minutes, nailed the Spurs with every conceivable haymaker and had their fans standing and screaming. You couldn’t have scripted a better first quarter. The Spurs never flinched, chopping the lead to 15 and eliciting the first of many panicked Clippers timeouts. Watching the Spurs and their bench reacting to that moment (totally locked in, totally expecting the Clippers to cave), you could just tell where the game was going. I even tweeted about it. Great teams know they’re great. They trust the process. Scores don’t matter, crowds don’t matter, momentum doesn’t matter — eventually, the process will win out. And they know it.”
The process is playing the game the right way. Everyone on the team accepting their role and with that the responsibility of their role. They play for the guy next to them recognizing the power of collective commitment. They play the percentages of the game. That if you and your teammates defend every trip, box out every trip, run the floor both ways, communicate, share the ball and get a good look every trip success follows. It is not an esoteric secret, but rather an ability to unwaveringly execute the demands of the game for the length of the game.
It is not ego’s and alpha dogs or taking games over, but a subtle self-awareness of one’s abilities and limitations, and those of his teammates. This is honesty, the foundation of trust. Over ten years, the Spurs nucleus have forged a foundation of trust unrivaled in the league. A trust so profound it is seemlessly adopted by new players coming into the team. I hope for all they represent the Spurs win the title this year, but I know whether they win or lose their foundation will not allow them to point fingers or assign blame. They will accept the outcome of these play-offs as one because that is who they are.