“Those three guys have a lot of character and they make it easy for whoever we bring in to adjust and understand their role on the team. They help me do my job.
“Actually, it’s more important what they do than what I do as far as making those players feel comfortable, not intimidating them and giving them the time and the space to form their own games around them. They’re responsible for allowing that to happen over the years."
--Gregg Popovich, talking about the Big Three of the San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili, the evolution of the franchise and its winning tradition.
The 2013 NBA Finals will begin tonight. This much anticipated match-up will pit the NBA most consistent and respected franchise of the last 15 years, the San Antonio Spurs; against perhaps the most scrutinized, criticized, and talented team in the league the past three years, the Miami Heat.
The Heat have the MVP and best player in the world, LeBron James. James can single-handedly take over a game and a series. The Spurs have an experienced, well-oiled machine that relies on precision, execution, and team play.
Asked to explain the team’s continuous success, Popovich said: “It’s a total function of who those three guys are. What if they were jerks? What if they were selfish? What if one of them was, you know, unintelligent? But the way it works out, all three of them are highly intelligent. They all have great character.”
The San Antonio Spurs have been maligned for years for being old and boring, too long in the tooth to be considered serious championship contenders. However, it has been the Miami Heat that have looked old and tired in their Eastern Conference final against the Indiana Pacers. The Spurs' last NBA championship was earned in 2007, while the Heat are defending champions. Despite having the NBA's best regular season record including the second longest winning streak in NBA history, the Spurs appear to have the momentum and an increasingly strong support base in the media.
The Spurs bring a structure, a system, a culture and a strategic approach to sustained winning that has been unmatched in all of sports in the last three decades. Will this be enough to overcome a team brought together via free agency to win and win now? Will an organization built for the long haul be able to beat a superstar-oriented team of hired guns?
We have as many as seven games to watch and learn. Enjoy the battle.
Excerpts from nytimes.com (06/02/2013 & 06/05/2013).