“The Spurs frustrate teams cuz it’s like playin against your gym teacher and his friends. All fundamentals!” — Comedian Damon Wayans posted on Twitter
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is normally very reserved whenever he has to address his team’s greatness. But during the 2012 NBA playoffs, after the Spurs outgunned the sports betting world’s favorite team Oklahoma City in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, even Popovich was impressed with the 120 points and the 55% shooting.
“We’ve had good ball movement with other teams that we’ve had here. But I think the combination of penetration and pitch, post up with Timmy [Duncan], this is probably the best that we’ve had,” Popovich said. “Other teams were more halfcourt. This team has more pace to it than what we’ve had in the past.”
What’s the secret to the Spurs’ outstanding ball movement? “Well, when you have Coach Pop screaming at you everyday it’ll make you pass the ball,” said Parker. He’s always big on you have to find a better shot.”
Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili may be on the downside of their careers, but the rest of the Spurs are either in their prime years or are just scratching the surface. San Antonio is one of the deepest teams in the league (a legit 12-man rotation) and as long as the Spurs stay the course they could very well make another strong run for a title.
Tony Parker enjoyed the best season of his NBA career in 2012 and the offense now goes through him 99% of the time. Parker has become a more complete player and has done an outstanding job of finding a balance between scoring on his own and running the offense the way Popovich wants it.
“It’s always been a battle my whole career as the point guard. Pop wants you to score and then he wants you to pass then he wants you to score, then he wants you to pass. It always goes back and forth,” Parker said. “The biggest room for me to improve is find a happy middle between scoring and passing, and find that good balance. I think over the years I got better at it in finding my spots and when to score and when to pass the ball.”
“He’s been there and he’s done that. He understands this system, like in the back of his hand. He knows where everybody is supposed to be,” said former Spurs guard Steve Smith, who believes the difference with Parker is his patience.
“He’s always been one of the fastest guys, but now he’s letting plays develop,” Smith said. “He’s slowing down and he has his head up. He’s beating guys with the pass, he’s beating guys on hesitations, and he understands angles one of the best in the business finishing in the paint. Reminds a little bit of Rod Strickland. Point guards who can get into the paint and finish over bigs. And the game is coming easy to him. Above all, he’s healthy.”
One player the organization is very high on is rookie forward Kawhi Leonard. His rise from bench guy to starter allowed the Spurs to dump Richard Jefferson. Leonard drastically improved his outside shot and his defense got better as he got more comfortable with his role. He may not be Bruce Bowen yet, but he’s close.
“Kawhi Leonard is a real quick learner,” Popovich said. “He’s got a work ethic that’s real impressive, and he has no fear. He’s enjoying guarding the guards he’s had to guard all year long. It’s been a great experience for him and as the year as gone all along I’ve learned to believe in him more and more. Now I just wish he knew our plays.”
Popovich added, “[Leonard] is learning to know what’s a good shot and what we don’t want him to do, but that’s gonna take more time. He hasn’t been here long enough for that. But give him credit, he’s not afraid. He inserts himself into the game and, yes, we were surprised he’d come along with his shot.”
“It doesn’t always go exactly as planned, but good players get it done.”
The Spurs have owned the best record in the regular season the past two seasons. Obviously the playoffs left a bitter taste in their mouths, but coming up short against Memphis and Oklahoma City the last two seasons shouldn’t be the nail on the coffin for arguably the model franchise of the NBA.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter @onemanfastbreak.