Beyond the Key Episode of the week
By Jeremy Fitch- Writer and Analyst
It seems as if the San Antonio Spurs have fought off “father time” for years at this point. As we all know, in the realm of sports, “father time” is undefeated. How incredible to see what the Spurs have done with Tim Duncan through the years! Six years ago, we were all saying that Duncan would retire within the next two years. Well, let’s look at how those predictions have turned out!
Tim Duncan is still a walking double-double night in and night out, and it’s impressive to see how he does it! Even with the minutes’ restriction he has during the regular season, he makes every minute he is on the floor count. He looks to his teammates before he looks to score for himself. With such unselfishness, it makes everyone around him better. I think it has allowed for the younger players who could have been praised as “the guy” on other teams, buy into the Spurs system. The best icon on the Spurs for this is Kawhi Leonard, who has never been selfish about getting the ball. He knows that within the offense he will get his opportunities and he takes advantage of them! One thing that he has truly bought into which some stars struggle with is the defensive end of the floor. Earlier this week, he was named this season’s NBA defensive player of the year. Greg Popovich, head coach of the Spurs, has done some amazing work, but I think when the team views leadership and buying into a system, they see Tim Duncan as the cornerstone. When these players could be the main star somewhere else, they choose not to, in my opinion, because they see how successful Tim Duncan has been if you are willing to buy into team basketball.
Everyone says the Spurs are not good for the NBA playoffs because the team is boring to watch. I would beg to differ. They play the game the way it should be played. Tim Duncan is still considered a star in this league, but do you see him begging for more money? The answer is no, each year he takes less money so that the team can get players that will buy into a system that has taken the Spurs to countless titles or NBA Finals appearances. Have you ever seen Tim Duncan complaining about minutes through his career? What about getting the ball more often? No, he never does. He earns each point, rebound, and assist through team basketball. The way the Spurs play, it does not appear as if a play is designed to set up one individual player. Another thing you usually see in the Spurs’ offense is that at least 3 players have touched the ball before a shot is taken. While people tend not to watch the Spurs during the regular season, everyone saw the passing display they put on against the Miami Heat last season in the Finals. Basketball coaches at all levels desire to teach their players this style of play and have them buy into their system. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest things to get players to do with the way the game has evolved in recent years.
Many people don’t take the time to realize this, but Coach Popovich was not always the big name coach that everyone considered a legend. He was a Division 3 coach for Pomona-Pitzer in 1979. To go from a college D-3 coach to an NBA Hall of Fame coach with 5 NBA championships is certainly an impressive resume to say the least! To go from a D-3 program that few people have heard of to having the respect of three legends in their own rights in Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker is quite the storybook ending. I always do wonder how much respect players had for Coach Popovich in his first season in the NBA (1988-1992) as an assistant for the Spurs, under Hall of Fame Coach, Larry Brown. Who would have guessed such success at that point for Greg Popovich?
We see too many times in the NBA today that the stars complain about not getting the ball enough or they always want big money. Once they get that big money they usually do not live up to the contract. Tim Duncan is a great example of buying into team basketball. He is a coach’s dream player, and a player that Coach Popovich has had the honor of teaching the game to.
As always, thank you for reading here at Beyond the Statistics!