When you think of the San Antonio Spurs, the words "new, fresh, or change" are not the first descriptors that come to mind.
But the real secret of the team's continued success in regular and post season play is the ability to do just that...the intelligence and aptitude to acclimate to an evolving and ageing team of players and dynamic NBA league.
How do the Spurs do this?
The first key is to have a solid foundation.
This foundation includes both the team players and coach.
For the past 10 years, the Spurs trio of future hall of famers, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, have played in 150 playoff games together, the most playoff games played together as an active trio in the NBA today.
Not to mention, the Spurs have the highest playoff winning percentage since Tim Duncan joined 16 years ago.
How long you ask?
This is his 18th year....the next longest tenured coach has been going for five years.
This year's team is again first place in the Western Conference.
(Not surprising...although the majority of ESPN analysts never sees this coming somehow when doing preseason rankings for the last 18 years)
Key differences of this team than last?
Spurs fans know that the beginning of the team's long standing success used to be due to defense. The Spurs were the half-court, grind it out, defensive juggernauts of the NBA...however this has changed over the past five years with a faster paced offense with the emergence of Tony Parker leading the team and Tim Duncan taking more of a backseat role.
This season the Spurs are ranked 2nd in defense and 8th in offense ratings.
The indisputable key to taking the Spurs to the next level is the development of the rising star Kawhi Leonard.
While the 22 year old, Leonard, has always been known to be a lock down defender since entering the league, he has gradually been asked to do more on the offensive end and has responded. He continues to be a threat to reach double digit figures in rebounds and points each game, along with contributing to a team high over one and a half steals a game.
With the gradual ageing of Ginobili and Duncan (both with 2 more years on their contracts), Leonard might be the Spurs' best second offensive weapon after the team's MVP candidate, Tony Parker.
Another help to the offense has been the addition of sharp shooter Marco Belinelli to play at shooting guard. This adds to the Spurs' shooting guard list of Danny Green and Manu Ginobili. All three could potentially be starters for respectable NBA teams.
Lastly, and I believe to be the most underrated key to the Spurs' success is the development of the Spurs' bigs.
In particular, I am referring to the play of Spurs' veteran center, Boris Diaw.
He has been asked to step up his offense this year and to be more aggressive by Coach Pop. In response, he has nearly doubled his points per game thus far this season and is a major threat to opposing teams as he has great vision for passing and a very accurate three point shot.
The biggest threat this Spurs team brings to the table is a balanced attack.
A balance that Coach Pop has been teetering with for the last 18 years, and one that has earned him two coach of the year awards, the highest winning percentage in the NBA, and not to mention four NBA championships.