The 2013/14 NBA title is something no Spurs fan will ever forget. Not only were the same players avenging a heartbreaking loss from the year before but they did it while playing some of the best basketball any of us had seen. The ball and player movement was precise and beautiful, every play showing both talent and selflessness. It was the pinnacle of what the reborn Spurs were supposed to achieve.
A year later and after injuries and a fantastic performance by the Clippers prevented the Spurs from continuing their quest for the repeat, a must-read article by ESPN's Jackie McMullan recaps the journey that led to that championship. Everyone from Duncan to Popovich recount how the loss of 2012/13 fueled that run and how surprising it was even to the players the level they managed to achieve.
The best thing about McMullan's excellent article is probably the fact that it includes the term Gregg Popovich used to refer to the style the Spurs played, per Brett Brown:
"Pop had his own name for it: Summertime," Brown says. "It's when you're playing. Just playing. The ball's moving, and the game's flowing. You make a decision to shoot it, pass it, drive it. 'Point five.' That was the directive. You've got half a second. You've got a good shot, but he's got a great one. So you pass him the ball, and there it is. It's Summertime."
McMullan gets exclusive insight into how the Spurs' offensive execution was not only designed to help them mask the lack of a dominant star but also affect the play of LeBron James:
It was also going to put additional, taxing responsibilities on the 6-foot-8, 240-pound frame of LeBron James, who played the game with the brute strength of an NFL linebacker. Making that powerful body rotate and switch and fly toward a bevy of 3-point shooters? By Pop's way of thinking, that was, by far, the best way to "contain" LeBron.
"You bet," Popovich says. "Let's say you have a great offensive player like Steph Curry. You want to make him work on defense, but to do that you need a great one-on-one player to give the ball to. We don't have a Kevin Durant, a LeBron, a James Harden, so we have to do it with pieces. And the only way to do that is to move the basketball and make the people guarding you move with it."
The article also has comments from Pat Riley, Warriors' GM Bob Myers and Suns' GM Ryan McDonough on how the way the Spurs played affected the league as well as a lot of other great nuggets about that amazing team. It's well worth your time, so go read it now.