Spurring for Victory in San Antonio

Alexander Frost

The San Antonio Spurs are my favorite sports organization. Hands down. No other organiza-tion has the quality of executives, coaches, play-ers, owner and execution that the Spurs possess. In the past two years they have been consistently at the top of the Western Conference, despite their age and lack of a young ‘superstar’ power at this point, all while maintaining a relatively low salary. This competitiveness has gone relatively unnoticed by media sources, but the Spurs are a team to be reckoned with.

One of the most interesting things about the Spurs is their coach, Gregg Popovich. He is con-sidered by many to be one of the best coaches in the NBA, and possibly even NBA history. He has built a perennial contender that won its first four championships in an eight year period, all under his watch, making the Spurs fourth on the all-time list of championships won in NBA history, behind only Boston, the LA Lakers and Chicago. He has developed the talents of three fu-ture Hall of Famers, Manu Ginobli, Tony Parker and one of the greatest NBA players of all time, Tim Duncan. His coaching has allowed the Spurs to transform from their old defensive and me-thodical style to their new high scoring and rapid shot-taking play. He has been willing to do anything to ensure success, even going as far as benching his top veteran players and essentially forfeiting games to ensure a healthy playoff roster, something he did as recently as the last Utah Jazz game, when Duncan, Ginobli and Parker all sat out. He is in a two man race for Coach of the Year with Tom Thibodeau, and has the Spurs playing some of the best basketball in the entire NBA.

The biggest strength of the Spurs at this point is depth. They are one of the few teams in the NBA that can go 12-deep without any notice-able dropoff in ability and play. After the afore-mentioned stars, the team boasts impressive roleplayers in Kawhi Leonard, Matt Bonner, Patty Mills, Dejuan Blair, Gary Neal, Stephen Jackson, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter and even Boris Diaw. The only other NBA team that has this type of depth is the Chicago Bulls, but I’d argue that the Spurs are deeper. The Spurs have had nights in which their top 12 players all get multiple points, rebounds, assists or blocks, and have shown that it’s tough to slow the entire team down.

The question that everyone wants to know about the Spurs is if they can recover from last year’s disappointing loss to Memphis with a re-turn to playoff form. The Grizzlies beat an injury riddled Spurs team without a healthy Ginobili in six games in the 2011 playoffs, a disappoint-ing Spurs loss but not a particularly surprising one. Before the series, I had said that the Griz-zlies were a highly unfortunate matchup for the Spurs, as their depth matched up well and the Grizzlies strengths played well to the weak-nesses of a Manu-less Spurs. This year, however, things will be different. Currently slotted to play the Mavericks, the Spurs are healthier than they have been in a good while and poised to make a deep playoff run. If the team can stay healthy, they should be able to dispatch any of the teams in the bottom half of the Western Conference without much trouble and should not encounter a Grizzlies-caliber team until the second round. The Spurs have had success against the Grizzlies without Zach Randolph this year, and have split with the Thunder, but neither of these results re-ally indicate much in terms of the playoffs. When push comes to shove, I believe that the Spurs will get into a slugfest with either the Lakers or Grizzlies in the second round of the playoffs, and the winner will give the Thunder a run for their money in the Western Confer-ence Finals, potentially even defeating the regular season champs.

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