Have you watched the Spurs at all this year?
What do you see?
The exchange between a reporter and New Orleans Pelicans head coach Monty Williams was brief, but said it all. In three words Coach Williams likely summed up what's going on across the NBA. Coaches, GM's, players and owners are naturally focused on the goings on inside their own organization, but who could blame them for sneaking a peak at what the Spurs are putting together in San Antonio?
In a week where Kobe Bryant arguably extorted $50 million from the organization he professes to love, I thought it would be a perfect opportunity to highlight what makes things different in San Antonio. And what's happening for this team right now should cause many sleepless nights for NBA men across the country.
Marco Belinelli is a career journeyman, yet somehow he's playing as if he grew up in The Program. The effortless way he finds his spots and flows with the offense makes me dream about my Sega Genesis and how I could've dominated all the kids with Marco and Manu in NBA Jam back in the 90's.
When Marco finds Boris underneath or blocks a shot out of nowhere, what do you see?
In three short months Patty Mills transformed himself from a towel waving sideline cheerleader, into a reliable backup for Tony Parker. The 2013 Spurs offense doesn't seem to miss a beat when Tony is on the bench, which is quite different from years past. This has to be a scary thought for the rest of the NBA. When Tony leaves the game and Patty leads the team to a 30-14 2nd quarter, as he did against the Pelicans Monday night, what does Scott Brooks see?
Tiago Splitter is 6' 11" and has become one of the more dominant defensive big men in the NBA. Yet he only has 6 blocks on the season. How can you be dominant on defense with only 6 blocks you ask? Here's Pop to explain.
He's always in a great position, he doesn't make many mistakes and he's where he needs to be. He doesn't foul inordinately and he understands spatial relationships and how to do his work early to help us. He's always at a top level energy wise...He's learned individual players well and he's put in work to understand how he might individually limit them or what their strengths are and how to take them away. He's been a good student of the people he plays against.
What do you think the guys that dig beyond a stat line see in Splitter's defensive play? I'm not talking about the ESPN Top 10 Plays of the Week guys, I'm talking about the guys that really know the game and understand there's a reason why these big men that go up against the Spurs tend to underperform. What do they see?
Tim Duncan is the greatest Power Forward to ever play the game, but he's gotten off to a relatively slow start this season. Yet there he is, night in and night out, approaching the game with the enthusiasm of a kid about to start his first little dribbler's game. When the lights go down for pre-game introductions, there's little Timmy, sprinting to the basket. He jumps up and hangs on the rim for 10 or 15 seconds in total darkness. Then he runs over and does some hip bumps and waits for his name to be called. In the 90 seconds before tip-off, there he is cradling the ball like it's the Christmas present he always wanted.
While sitting on the bench he and Pop will sometimes argue. The TV cameras don't pick it up but I imagine it's little Timmy, telling the coach to relax a bit. He'll then grab the player that just felt the wrath of Coach Pop (usually it's Jeff Ayres or Danny Green) and give them a few fake punches to the gut and rub their head.
As halftime winds down, he sits beside Pop on the sideline and they both stare at the floor in silence. Monday night, Monty Williams succinctly explained the Spurs in three words. But for this pair, that's three words too many. They sit in silence for a few minutes until Pop pats Tim's leg and they both stand because it's time for Spurs to go back to work.
And when the game is over, whether he scored 2 points or 30, there's Duncan waiting for all his teammates at the end of the court. He gives them all a backward high five or fist bump as they run past him on their way to the locker room. And every night for a brief moment, the greatest Power Forward to ever play the game sheepishly looks around the arena soaking it all in before he puts his head down and walks off the court. And every time I watch that routine, from his pre-game rim hanging, until he disappears into the tunnel ...
I see Spurs.