I thought we could all use a pick-me-up after a tough home loss and, at the risk of overdoing the 'Spurs are boring' meme, decided to post some thoughts about it.
I'm sure that we're all tired of hearing ignorant fans -- ones who think dunks and blocks that send the ball into the third row are important -- complain that the Spurs are boring. That seems to be less the case this year, possibly because more casual fans got to see Pop's Spurs 2.0 brand of basketball in the playoffs and Finals last season (and because more analysts/sports commentators have resisted the urge to call the Spurs boring).
A recent variation on this meme crops up whenever a key player is out with an injury, or Coach decides to start the 2nd team in a SEGABABA, and the Spurs still play well. "Same old Spurs," they say. It doesn't matter who's on the floor for San Antonio, they still play the same way and win, say the pundits... as if players are just cogs in Coach Popovich's basketball-winning machine.
But the reality is, they do play differently depending on who is on the floor. The players adapt to the strengths and weaknesses of the teammates they're playing with, the plays they run are different, even the defensive schemes are different. For example, I love Patty Mills' game, but he doesn't bring the same thing to the table as Tony Parker. Much less running the opposing guard ragged coming off multiple screens without the ball as TP does, but much more sneaking open for threes. Boris Diaw doesn't have Tiago Splitter's stout "just try and shoot over my outstretched arms" at-the-rim defense, but his active hands are highly disruptive to both shots and passes.
So it's never really the "same old Spurs." The only constants are excellence and winning.
And that, at its core, is what I believe to be the source of the misperceptions. People who don't understand (or bother to understand) what the Spurs do, or all the hard work they put into their jobs, get irritated with San Antonio's track record of success, and use "boring" as the ultimate put-down. All they're doing is announcing their ignorance, but when you're ignorant, you don't even know that you are.
It could be worse. Many teams with traditions of long-term success -- the New York Yankees, the "America's Team" Dallas Cowboys, the New England Patriots, the Lakers, the Celtics, etc. -- have built large anti-fan bases simply because of their dominance over rivals over years, if not decades.
The difference is that the Spurs (perhaps consciously?) don't have a polarizing figure to whom anti-fans can rally against. Tim Duncan? They complain about whining and bulging eyes at disputed calls, but no one questions the quality of the Big Fun's game, even in the twilight years of his career. Tony Parker? He's hated because he's French* and had a TV-star wife. But few knocks are about his game, especially after he worked hard to develop his mid-range shot. Manu Ginobili? Flopping. Even though there are far more egregious examples of bad acting in the NBA... and again, much respect for his BBIQ and drive to win (not to mention 1.3 'head-shakers' per game).
So without anything substantial (basketball-wise) to b!tch about the Spurs, the anti-fans are left only with 'boring.' I think what they're really saying is: "I can't find anything real to criticize about the Spurs, but it's sooooo boring to see them beat my team every year. STOP IT, please!"
But for a Spurs fan, the Duncan/Popovich era continues to be a treat. Winning is anything BUT boring.
*Born in Belgium, but still a French national. Though, it probably doesn't make a difference to Arnold Rimmer.
Another word for boring is predictable... and recently, I heard a sports commentator say something to the effect that we love sports because they are unpredictable. That's true, to a certain degree... sports would indeed be boring if one team always won every game (though the Harlem Globetrotters seem to get away with it, lol).
So I'm not in any way suggesting that the Spurs are so predictable that they win all the time (though I expect it of them). And I've argued above that they don't play the same way every game, regardless of personnel. But I do love their consistent, "pounding the rock" approach to basketball (and most likely, other aspects of life).
In a way, the Blazers are the flip side of this coin. I've felt for years that they've drafted well, made good personnel decisions, and were 'dangerous' in the sense that, on any given night, they could blow away whatever team they faced. It just seemed like they had bad luck with injuries, that's all. But this year, even though they seem to have escaped the injury bug (despite playing their starters heavy minutes), I still see the same kind of inconsistency: Two wins over San Antonio, two losses to Phoenix. "Signature" wins over the best of the West, but losses to Philly, Minnesota, New Orleans.
That kind of inconsistency might make for an exciting season, but also a very frustrating one. Houston is another team that I feel is maddeningly inconsistent... and those kinds of teams make me appreciate the Spurs that much more.