After a recent win over the Warriors, I read a comment by David Lee that could have been uttered by any Spurs opponent in the last ten years. Most people would consider it a weakness. I revel in it. What Lee said was:
"They're a very frustrating team to play, I don't go out there feeling like they're a better team than us. When you play the Lakers, you look at their size and say it's going to be a tough game. I feel like we match up well with the Spurs. I feel like they're a beatable team"
When I see fans of other teams state "We aren't scared of your team". I think "Welcome to the club". We don't scare anybody and we never have. This is the biggest reason we seem to have that "random player from the other team's bench that has a career game".
(more after the jump)
Metaphorically, you can imagine each game as a house demolishing contest (stick with me for a minute here). Some uber-talent laden teams are like a mobile crane with a wrecking ball. The Spurs are twelve good men with sledgehammers. When the crane is working perfectly, it isn't much of a contest. But, sometimes the crane is low on gas because the owner has been driving it too much or too hard. Sometimes a track isn't working well because one of its joints are broken. Sometimes the ball wants to do all of the work itself without getting the boom involved (or the driver, or the pivot or ...). It turns out that the crane rarely works perfectly. Anyway, the houses are always more scared of the crane then the men. But, at the end of the year, the men have often taken down as many houses (or more) than the crane. If you are watching a contest between the crane and men, you are never comfortable because you know that when they finally get that crane working, it's all over. It is hard to be a fan of the men and easy to be a fan of the crane. Ultimately, rooting for the men takes a certain type of personality. One that knows that you always lose on paper, but, not that often in the real world.
What attracts me to this Spurs team is the simple fact that when they win, they almost always earn it. Everybody on the team from the coach down to the last guy on the bench knows that wins come from effort. Nobody on the other team is going to intimidated into submission. People describe our players as "crafty", "unflappable", "smart", "sound" and "experienced". Nobody uses terms like "unstoppable" or "dominant". Teams like the Heat, Celtics and Lakers get a tangible benefit from their reputation. When they put together a six minute run of exceptional play, you can visibly recognize a letdown in their opponents. The time it takes the other team to recover is worth real points. Conversely, when the Spurs get a 10 point lead, you rarely see the same letdown in the other team. It may give us heart problems, but, I will take the team play any day.
Finally, let me leave you with some interesting data. Lets look at the team salary rank for all of the NBA champions since 1999. I have also included a % that compares the actual team salary to the luxury tax level (enforced in 2003, estimated for 2005).
Year Team Salary Rank % of Luxury Tax Level
2010 LA 1st 130%
2009 LA 6th 109%
2008 BOS 6th 109%
2007 SA 9th 99%
2006 MIA 15th 97%
2005 SA 24th 77%
2004 Det 17th 98%
2003 SA 17th 76%
2002 LA 12th
2001 LA 6th
2000 LA 4th
1999 SA 9th
If you look at LA, they have always won with enormously talented teams. Unlike the Knicks, they get what they pay for. The Spurs, on the other hand, have gotten the most out of what they could afford (particularly in 2003 and 2005).
I do not know how this season will end. I know I will be proud of the team and entire organization for consistently overachieving.