In the Spur of the Moment
The Legacy of the San Antonio Spurs
Wow, what a year it has been for the San Antonio Spurs. Everybody knows the Spurs are never ever messy. On the contrary, the Spurs have embraced the example of and strongly been influenced by the greatest Spur of all time, Tim Duncan. Following their cue from Tim, the Spurs have always been about team success, results over flash, professionalism, and excellence.
However, as you may notice, different elements of the Spurs way can cause friction, an imbalance or a straight up disaster, as we all witnessed this season.
Long too wise and shrewd to be caught up in controversy, the San Antonio Spurs, for once, was at different times, the stars of a de facto NBA reality T.V. show.
In 2015, the Spurs based on winning percentage became the winningest team in NBA history. Admittedly, this is the kind of stat or record that might only be temporary. However, its relevance is more to do with the way it affirms the Spurs’ way of doing things.
During the 2016-17 season, the Spurs were the only team to challenge the world champion Golden State Warriors. Kawhi Leonard lead the way with the Spurs up 21 points with just under eight minutes left in the third quarter. Until Zaza Pachulia’s controversial play forced Kawhi out of the game.
Controversy in San Antonio
In 2017-18, with Kawhi’s quad injury keeping him off the court for all but nine games. The Spurs faced their toughest season in recent memory, with the Spurs, once again the Spurs, temporarily being out of playoff contention.
However, the Spurs’ commitment to and tradition of excellence (as alluded to above) may have been their undoing. Arguably, the championship pedigree of the Spurs caused them to panic when faced with missing the playoffs. As well as breaking their (18 years) streak of at least 50 wins, which dated back to the 1999-2000 season.
Waiting, being patient and giving your players the time they need is one thing. However, doing so when your well respected medical staff advise your player can play is a totally different story. Especially when the legacy, historical records, and tradition you hold dear are at stake.
As mentioned in an earlier article, the rift between Kawhi and the Spurs was likely caused by the Spurs indirectly criticizing the severity of Kawhi’s injury and his reluctance to play.
With Kawhi, despite Pop’s earnest attempts at resolution insistent upon being traded. It looked to many a basketball fan and savant that finally the success of the soaring Spurs had come to an end. Several articles produced from April to as recently as a few days ago have affirmed as much. Perhaps because Kawhi so well fits the role of heir apparent to his predecessor Tim Duncan.
Nevertheless, truth be told the San Antonio Spurs have dodged a very real bullet. Admittedly, the trade: Demar DeRozan and Jakob Poetl for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, does involve some lost ground for the Spurs. However, once again, Kawhi only played nine games last season and still, the Spurs made the playoffs and won 47 games.
The Spurs Persevere
The ceiling with DeRozan as compared with Kawhi may be lower. However, the Spurs with DeRozan, new rookie Lonnie Walker and the rest of the crew will likely remain relevant. One of the Spurs’ key strength has been alchemy and the ability to repeatedly turn draft picks into gold.
That strength will likely continue. Speaking of gold, the influence of the Spurs on other successful NBA teams is notable. Steve Kerr consciously applies lessons learned during his time as a Spur to his Golden State Warriors.
The Spurs to their credit have, in addition to figuring out how to be one of the most successful teams in NBA history. Have been an example to other NBA teams of how winning is done. Whereas thus far, the Warriors have simply been too hard to duplicate.
The San Antonio Spurs’ empire is far from over and will likely be resurgent in the near future. Thus far the main challenge the Spurs still need to overcome is what to do when Pop decides he’s ready to retire from coaching.
If the way the Spurs cheated death with the Kawhi trade is anything to go by. The Spurs are likely to keep up their sensational run for many more years to come.