Two of the Spurs needs (center and small forward) have been discussed and debated ad nauseam. There is, however, another missing piece on the Spurs roster that is a common denominator of all championship teams over the last 15 years (and beyond) that we’ve yet to delve into. Let us discuss.
The player I’m referring to is the team’s resident dirty player. If you’re turned off by the expression dirty feel free to refer to this player as gritty or badass motherfucker if you’d like. Every championship team has at least one of these players. The least likeable the team the more likely the team is to have multiple dirty players.
What am I talking about when I complimentarily refer to a player as dirty? Simply put; when the player is on your team you love him for the exact reasons that opposing fans hate him. Take our beloved Bruce Bowen. Yeah he kicked and kneed and got under people while they were in the air but I never once thought, “Come on Bruce that was cheap…” He made each foul count and made use of all his body parts. To Spurs fans he was a great physical defender and to the rest of the league he was dirty.
The other characteristic that accompanies dirty players is selflessness. A dirty player dives for lose balls, defends, sets screens, gives hard fouls, rebounds, deflects passes and draws charges; all aspects of basketball that do not get public high praise. But above all a dirty player does not mind being the bad guy for the betterment of the team and I can not overstate the importance of this. For one playing against a dirty player is hell. Few can dismiss being knocked on their arse after an attempted drive to the basket. Also the bad guy player takes pressure off the teams star players. He absorbs all the boos and recieves most of the negative attention by press and sometimes referees. The stars can play like stars without worrying about being tough guys.
Last 15 NBA Champions and their dirty player(s):
2009 LA Lakers: Derek Fisher
2008 Boston Celtics: James Posey
2007 San Antonio Spurs: Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry
2006 Miami Heat: James Posey, Alonzo Mourning, Udonis Haslem
2005 San Antonio Spurs: Bruce Bowen, Robert Horry
2004 Detroit Pistons: Rasheed Wallace, Ben Wallace
2003 San Antonio Spurs: Bruce Bowen
2002 Los Angeles Lakers: Derek Fisher, Rick Fox
2001 Los Angeles Lakers: Horace Grant, Ron Harper, Rick Fox
2000 Los Angeles Lakers: Ron Harper, Rick Fox
1999 San Antonio Spurs: Mario Elie, Jerome Kersey
1998 Chicago Bulls: Denis Rodman, Ron Harper
1997 Chicago Bulls: Denis Rodman, Robert Parish
1996 Chicago Bulls: Denis Rodman
1995 Houston Rockets: Otis Thorpe
You’ll notice that some players where on championship rosters but not consistently the teams dirty player. Robert Horry for instance was on the ’95 Rockets squad but I did not include him as a dirty player for that team. The reason is that it takes years to master a craft. The hustle might be there at age 23 but the know-how and unwavering focus and not give a shit attitude usually comes with experience. Very few players come into the league ready to play dirty; it takes a while.
If we sign Tiago Splitter and draft Stanley Robinson or Paul George (my two draft hopefuls) we’ll still be one badass short of a championship roster. Here are some dirty players or players that could embrace the dirty role that are either free agents or possibly viewed as expendable by their current team.
Depending on who we resign, the way we draft, and of course whether or not we sign Splitter, any one of the players above could be the missing ingredient for championship stew. Feel free to add to the list.