I’m a different type of dude.
Most people would call a dunk basketball’s most exciting play. Me? I’m a sucker for a bounce pass. Especially a bounce pass to a trailer, in transition. There’s nothing more aesthetically pleasing than a perfect dish, not even the latest Blake Griffin air-bound adventure.
Some people enjoy crossovers, and I can see why. They’re fun, and cool. But give me a nice backdoor cut any day. Or a well-executed box out. Or a Kevin Love outlet pass. Or a seamless defensive rotation. Or even a crisp, extra swing pass to the corner for an open three-pointer.
I told you, I’m different. That’s why I’m so fascinated by the San Antonio Spurs.
I don’t need a team to possess three new stars, joined together in free agency to collectively attempt what they couldn’t accomplish alone. I don’t need a winning-crazed superstar with five rings, who hogs the ball and verbally spars with his coach and may or may not be the greatest winner in sports today. I don’t need a rookie freak of nature who won’t stop dunking, or a spindly Durantula of a man who can score for days, or a Rose who can jump over or through any opponent yet can’t find his way to the free throw line. I don’t need a black semi-Jew who’s rebuilding Madison Square Garden as a rocking basketball venue, and I don’t need a white rebound vacuum.
All I need is five players, listening to their coach and functioning as a single unit with tremendous teamwork and principles. That’s why I love this Celtics team, and that’s why I so appreciate the Spurs. It doesn’t hurt if that unit has Manu Ginobili, a magician who Bob Ryan compared to Paul Pierce, one of the oddest, greatest cross-racial player comparisons I’ve seen in years; Tony Parker, and his blazing speed, atrocious teammate skills (read: Brent Barry’s wife), and teardrop floater from heaven; Tim Duncan, all his fundamental wonders, that pretty bank shot off the glass, and his unwillingness to do anything but win; Richard Jefferson, and his “throw my pride out the window” mentality, which resulted in a summer spent by Gregg Popovich’s side; and DeJuan Blair, the beastliest man with no ACL who just happened to ruin Ronny Turiaf’s yesterday night.
How are you not fascinated by this compelling cast of characters, who play basketball the right way and succeed by putting the team first (and, not to mention, only)? How are you not captivated by Gregg Popovich, the Bill Belichick of NBA coaches? See cog, sign cog to contract, fit cog into system. That’s Popovich’s motto, or at least the motto I just created for him. No matter who plays in San Antonio, whether it be Stephen Jackson or Matt Bonner, Pop fits him into the system, and the system keeps running flawlessly.
Yesterday night, down ten points with three minutes remaining in the game and Tony Parker at the line for two free throws, Pop subbed his big guns out of the game. He made an excuse that the Spurs had another game tonight, and he wanted to keep his players’ legs fresh. And I’m sure that was part of Pop’s plot.
But Sebastian Pruiti of NBA Playbook noticed something else — on the three possessions prior to Pop’s substitutions, the Spurs’ defense was somewhere between “Toronto Raptors 2009-2010″ and “Rasheed Wallace 2009-2010.”
If you don’t believe Pop saw that as an opportunity to teach a lesson, you don’t recognize Pop’s brilliance. Every moment — up 35 with two minutes left, or tied with three seconds left — is a teaching moment. His teams take those lessons and learn from them, and become machines of habit.
I watch Pop’s teams play, and I recognize the beauty. I wish everyone else would, too.