First, let's keep this in perspective. This is entertainment. It's not life or death. OK?
But what we have just witnessed in the last month was something glorious, awe-inspiring, and yes, Virginia, game-changing in terms of the perception of NBA basketball.
Four times in the previous thirteen seasons grit, tenacity, and clutch performances led to the quintessential moment in the sport, raising the Larry O'Brien trophy. Each celebration validated the organization, commanded (by earning it) the respect of their peers, and left the media scratching its head and fumbling for words befitting the singular excellence, this new paradigm.
All too often we dwell on the event and ignore all that came before; the numerous details that, like the finest timepiece, go into its manufacture and performance. Like: discovering and (culturally) understanding players scouted from all over the world; listening to your core players and trusting that their judgment is in the best interest of the team; knowing that injuries are inevitable - some minor and nagging, others strategically significant - and that there should always be someone available, and ready to step in, imbued with the "corporate knowledge"; that during the regular season (which is never actually regular), there is little room for hubris - sometimes you may fall in order to fight better another day; that you must always be, simultaneously, learning and teaching from your play, never settling (risking complacency) on your accomplishments, as if the other guy isn't paying attention and making adjustments.
This is starting to sound like a fan's-take on Kipling, but having followed this lot for so long, and even now, a week after the latest and greatest rock-shattering, I'm still so inspired, and proud to be a Spurs devotee that I need to put down all I can of what I've witnessed/surmised that substantiates everything between the precious few lines of what Pop says. Because this "new paradigm" (see above) is out of the bag, baby. Allow me to digress:
I was out and about yesterday, casually attired in Spurs logo black T-shirt. I walked into Radio Shack, then later Office Depot. No puffery, chest-thumping (very Spurs-like, I must say), just minding/tending to my own bidness. Well, in each store, the first sales person who caught site of my badge of honor just had to engage...and away we went: they, extolling the Beautiful Game, and I, nodding and punctuating with learned insights gleaned from these virtual pages. Can't wait to take my landlocked (it's the ATL after all) River Walk victory tour next June.
So, I'm back:
While I wish I could give a hug to each and every member of this entourage (Will Sevening, I'm looking at you), I'll have to let my words sub for now. See, there's this paradigm thing.
With me, it goes back to a November night in Miami in 2012 that led to a-charity-of-their-choice landing a cool quarter mill when Pop decided that the Big 3 and D. Green would head home from the Sunshine State to rest for an upcoming intra-divisional game, instead of succumbing to be David Stern's schedule monkeys against the Heat. While just another day at the office for The Aserbic One, this grand affront to the business face of the NBA (the outgoing Commish) has proved to be the ballsiest, most progressive act of his coaching career.
To anyone who still thinks this was the flippant, petulant, iconoclastic Pop sticking it to the league and its indomitable autocratic boss, well, they're probably half right. CIA-Pop was making a statement (though not like Nuke Laloosh, "Declaring myself with authority"). Like throwing down a gauntlet...if the gauntlet was a Cabernet.
For many moons we have seen the Spurs HR department go viral across the land. Forever, it seems, we've allowed the media narrative to fawn over the individual player "whose hands the ball should be in" at crunch time, all the while ignoring the team(s?) painstakingly, persistently, adjusting the delicate yet highly efficient gears that, in the hands of a true craftsman could/should/would run with the best.
And so they did. Once so sure in 2012 that #5 was in reach, yet humbled to learn that 20 straight wins was just a beginning; only to shed the bitter taste of last year's devastating loss as one (One) possessed, and on a mission. I've got another shirt (y'all do too, I bet) that proclaims from within the camo "We Will Be Heard." Amen to that.
Good to great indeed. NBA, are you still listening?