Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tim Duncan and The San Antonio Spurs Defy Critics and Age

"Timmy has been a consummate professional from the day he got into the league. This isn't anything new for him, playing with the passion he's playing with. He loves basketball, he loves his teammates, and he decided again he needed to be more aggressive when the overtime period came." 

--Gregg Popovich, head coach of the San Antonio Spurs, discussing the high level of play that his All-Star center, Tim Duncan, has displayed as a 37-year old veteran in these 2013 NBA playoffs. Duncan was particularly effective during times that the team needed his scoring during crunch time in their playoff series with the Memphis Grizzlies. 

The San Antonio Spurs are in their fifth NBA Finals since 1999. They are 4-0 in NBA Finals. Last night, they swept the Grizzlies, a team that was expected by many to win the series. San Antonio has been in eight NBA Western Conference Finals in the last 15 years. During that time, the Spurs have had a regular season winning percentage of just over 70% and have 71 more wins that any other NBA team.  
Experience is a key factor in the Spurs success.
“We’ve been together for a long time,” first team 2013 All-NBA player Duncan said. “We have a lot of plays to work from and a lot of experience to work from.” 

Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have played in 28 playoff series together, winning 97 postseason games. Only the Los Angeles Lakers' combination of Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Michael Cooper won more.

Head Coach Gregg Popovich has experience and his confidence in his players to rely upon.

“I have a great deal of confidence in them,” coach Gregg Popovich said. They’ve earned that. They’ve been together, they’re all very competitive. They may or may not do something perfectly, but they’re going to do it to the best of their ability. That allows one to go to bed at night and deal with whatever the consequences are.”

“We don’t panic,” Tony Parker, who scored 37 points in the clinching game against the Grizzlies said after Game 3. “We know what we want to do. We made a lot of great plays at the end of the game last night.”

Ginobili described it as "corporate knowledge," an institutional memory that resides in this trio that has played together for more than a decade.

“We know how we feel without even having to say a word,” Ginobili said. “And that’s important. And we have five pieces that are very important to what we do that are new.”

As the team has aged, the Spurs have had a successful transfusion of new blood into their team. Tiago Splitter, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green have contributed in their roles as playoff contributors of rebounding, defense and 3-point shooting. However, the core of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili keep the whole thing together.

“It’s the core group and new pieces, just being altruistic and trying to help out,” Ginobili said. “Pop being very communicative and very clear on what he wants. It’s the whole package. But of course, Tony, Tim, Pop and me, we know each other very well and it’s easy to communicate.” 

The Spurs emphasize team play, flexibility and unselfishness, a lesson that the Memphis Grizzlies will try to learn.  

“They play so well together that any adjustment we'd make, they'd make another one,” Memphis point guard Mike Conley said. “We'd play them well for about 18 seconds on the shot clock and then [Parker would] make a play. You know, that's why he's one of the best and they're headed to the Finals.”

“They hit the big shots, they got the big stops, they had an answer for every run,” Memphis' Quincy Pondexter said in admiration. “That’s a championship team. We’re going to learn from the things they do.”
“We will learn,” Memphis center Marc Gasol confirmed. “We have already started learning. They do a little bit of everything.”
“They play basketball the way it’s supposed to be played,” Pondexter continued.

As with every other Spurs team, aggressive defense is a defining element.  

“It's just effort. There's no magic,” Spurs Coach Gregg Popovich said of his interior defense. “We didn't come up with some new defense to guard them. But we were aggressive, we did a lot of denying, a lot of pressure on the passer who was trying to deliver the ball, whether it was high-low or from the wing, and we fronted and three-quartered and showed a lot of looks on the post.”
Finally, the Spurs have one meaningful intangible: motivation.  The team has a vow that keeps them focused.  The players want to win a fifth NBA championship for Tim Duncan. 
“I think everybody on the team,” Parker said, “we really wanted to do it for him.”

Excerpts from NBCsports.msnbc.com (5/28//2013) SBNation.com (5/28/2013), LAtimes.com (5/28/2013), HuffingtonPost.com (5/26/2013).ESPN.com (5/26/2013).

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