Doug Robinson: The San Antonio Spurs are a team everyone (outside of Miami) can root for
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
There’s an axiom in the sports-writing business that states: No cheering in the press box.
Good thing I’m not in the press box.
The NBA Finals are underway, and I have just one thing to say about that: Do everyone a favor, Spurs — beat the Heat.
Do you really need to ask?
Cheer for the Spurs because they’ve done everything the right way and the difficult way and the classy way and the small-market way and succeeded against all odds. In case you don’t believe me, I talked to a guy who knows — Dennis Lindsey, who was the Spurs’ assistant general manager until the Jazz hired him as their GM last summer. We’ll be hearing from him in a minute, but, meanwhile, where was I?
Cheer for the Spurs because they’re the anti-prima donna team, and that’s no accident. Sure, they have a couple of future Hall of Famers; they just don’t act like it. They’ve checked their egos at the door. They’re surrounded by a bunch of no-name players who are willing to play supporting roles. Cheer for the Spurs because when it comes to picking players they believe character matters as much as a jump shot and good feet.
“Coach Pop (Gregg Popovich) likes to say he wants players who are over themselves,” says Lindsey. “He wants players who have the appropriate level of humility. They’re not necessarily looking for the next big contract; they want to be part of something special. They give up minutes or the ball and serve a role where the coach sees them fit. They’re the same things you learn in kindergarten: Work hard and share the ball; it’s a real team. Even some of the primary players who are in decline have adjusted. They’re playing around Tim Duncan instead of through him like they used to, and he’s allowed it to happen. The players they bring in are easy to coach; they’re good people; they’re compliant. You can sustain things when you have high-character people.”
Cheer for the Spurs because they’re a small-market team in a league that has created a system that allows the rich, big-market teams to collect stars and dominate the competition. The haves lure players away from the have-nots with fat contract offers, using those teams as farm clubs. We all know this. In three decades only eight teams have won a championship. Two teams have won more than half of the league’s total championships.
The rich get richer or stay rich, because the league does not have the NFL’s revenue-sharing arrangement. If the Green Bay Packers were in the NBA, they’d be gone. And forget all that talk about how the revamped luxury tax is going to change the league — at least one league executive told me it’s not going to make much of a difference in the world of haves and have-nots.
Cheer for the Spurs because they give hope — however small — to small-market teams, including the Utah Jazz. The Spurs have advanced to the playoffs 16 consecutive years and won four championships. The NBA would downplay the correlation between market size and championships, but rarely has a champion come from the bottom half of teams ranked by market size (the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971, the Portland Trail Blazers in 1977). And the Spurs have been able to do it despite rarely having lottery picks (three since 1987).
“Think about the longevity of this run,” says Lindsey, “and there have been no major scandals, just quality people who play hard and are unselfish and play evolving roles. They’ve been able to bridge that gap where they are limited in their ability to trade and draft.”
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