View Full Version : Enjoy the Rental Cup Spurs.

06-20-2003, 08:08 PM
Link (http://www.indystar.com/print/articles/7/051284-3157-036.html)

I think this guy has no idea what he is talking about. There is nothing rental.

It will get tougher for Spurs

June 17, 2003

SAN ANTONIO -- And now, a quick message to fans of the world champion San Antonio Spurs.

Enjoy your Larry O'Brien Trophy.

It's a rental.

There's a reason the only people muttering the term "dynasty" Sunday night were some of the hometown TV types. That's because nobody in his sober mind looks at these Spurs and sees a dynasty in the making.

"Let us just enjoy this one for now," said general manager R.C. Buford in the hours after the Spurs' Game 6 victory over the New Jersey Nets.

That's a good idea, because as long as the Lakers are still employing Shaq and Kobe, as long as the Western Conference continues to field no less than five and even six teams with reasonable title aspirations, nobody is going to produce a dynasty in the next couple of years.

Chances are, the Spurs are going to be better next year than they were this year, and yet, their chances to repeat likely will be diminished. Tim Duncan will be back. Malik Rose and Stephen Jackson and Manu Ginobili will be back. And with $15 million in salary cap space becoming available -- really, is that fair? -- the Spurs can go get Jason Kidd or Jermaine O'Neal, or a combination of slightly lesser players who will improve their already imposing lineup.

The Spurs' problem is purely geographical.

They're in the West.

Where the Lakers will come back hungry, at least if Shaq is serious about following his dietary restrictions. The big guy has hired a personal trainer and promised he will come back smaller.

Where the Sacramento Kings should have Chris Webber back and healthy the next time that team makes a postseason run.

Where the Dallas Mavericks, who may have been just a Dirk Nowitzki injury away from a title, remain one decent big man away from reaching this point.

Where the Houston Rockets, led by the rapidly-improving Yao Ming, look like a perennial contender.

And who knows? What if Minnesota finds a way to surround Kevin Garnett the way the Spurs surrounded Duncan? Or if the Portland Trail Blazers learn how to behave and start to deliver on their ample promise? Even the Phoenix Suns, a team in perpetual search of a low-post presence, have a lot of the important pieces already in place.

The Spurs should enjoy it while they can. Because it won't last, and because they surely deserve it.

There's no genius involved in winning the draft lottery and picking David Robinson and then Duncan. The genius comes in the way the Spurs have surrounded their stars with the right kinds of athletes and the right kinds of people. If you don't think chemistry matters, you weren't watching this series.

Look at this unusual roster.

Duncan and Robinson are not just run-of-the-mill stars. They are consummate teammates, rare birds in this me-first league. Time and again in these Finals, we heard stories like these: When Menk Bateer joined the Spurs, Duncan went out of his way to learn some Chinese phrases.

After Game 6, Stephen Jackson, once viewed as an uncoachable player, got emotional as he spoke about how Robinson "showed me how to be a man on and off the court." These are special players who happen to be special people.

There are journeymen, notably Bruce Bowen and Game 6 hero Jackson.

There are two international players, neither all that highly regarded around draft time. Tony Parker was chosen one spot behind Indiana's Jamaal Tinsley, and Ginobili, the Argentine who made so much noise at the World Basketball Championship, was a second-round pick.

And there are veterans, lots of them, and all of them the kinds of men who were willing to embrace diminished roles for the good of the team. Is there a classier group than Steve Kerr, Kevin Willis, Steve Smith and Danny Ferry?

"It is an eclectic group," coach Gregg Popovich said. "They are the strangest backgrounds you can imagine, both individually, on the planet, and basketball-wise.

"That's why I said, even at the beginning of the playoffs, we didn't know where we were going to be this season because there were so many unanswered questions. . . . They're all very competitive, tough-minded."

They are champions, worthy champions.

But only for now.

06-20-2003, 10:26 PM
i agree, the rental comment is weird.

one long blue sock
06-20-2003, 10:35 PM
Hey, atleast somebody outside of Dallas thought the Mavs could win it. I dont get why all the announcers and writers give no credit to the Mavs, they won 60 games, made it to the western conference finals, and still get no respect.

06-20-2003, 10:42 PM
they are just jealous i/expressions/face-icon-small-wink.gif

one long blue sock
06-20-2003, 10:49 PM
Or just high(Walton), although at the end of the year he started to become a fan.

06-21-2003, 05:48 AM
i dont know what you all want from the guy,he said some smart stuff.i pretty much agree with what he said.

06-21-2003, 09:22 AM
If the spurs don't make a big splash in free agency. Then the world championship is wide open between LA, Sacramento, Dallas, and San Antonio. The guy is nuts when he said that houston will make a jump to perenial contenders, especially since they haven't been to the playoffs since scottie don't left.

06-22-2003, 01:34 AM
Link (http://www.sportingnews.com/voices/sean_deveney/20030616-p.html)

Another article from CNNSI where the author feels spurs did not actually deserve the championship.

Scenes from an accidental championship
June 16, 2003

Sean Deveney
Sporting News

Tony Parker was getting an earful.

It was the third quarter of Game 5 of the NBA Finals, and his coach, Spurs roughneck Gregg Popovich, was unhappy with Parker's uninspired 2-for-6 shooting and was -- ahem -- reminding Parker that he probably should be playing better. Thing is, moments like this tend to bring out the Air Force background in Popovich, adding a ten-hut! air of authority to his tone, a tinge of redness to his face and a whole lot of volume to his voice. Parker silently absorbed the onslaught.

"We're going to make a book of Popovich-Parker speeches that I'm going to give to him to read over the summertime," Popovich says. "Lord knows what the hell I told him."

Of course, Parker probably does not know, either. The prodigy from France may be the Spurs' second-leading scorer and the team's best player after MVP power forward Tim Duncan, but at the same time, Parker often bears the brunt of Popovich's temper. He has done it through his eventful two years in the league, in good times (which have been very good) and in bad (which have been very bad).

"We've got a relationship a little bit like a father and son," Parker says. "He's very hard on me. He's always screaming on me. Sometimes he's kind of crazy; he hurts my ear, he screams so hard. He just keeps screaming and screaming -- you do something good, and he's still screaming."

Certainly, mid-June is no time for mollycoddling, and even as Popovich and his counterpart, Nets head coach Byron Scott, were trying to guide their clubs through the gantlet of The Finals, they were forced to take teaching breaks for the long-term health of their oh-so-young teams.

When you're handling a group of players built around Duncan and a veteran frontcourt but driven by a backcourt of the 21-year-old Parker, third-year point guard Speedy Claxton, third-year shooting guard Stephen Jackson and rookie Manu Ginobili, screaming is a must. And as the Spurs plodded past the Nets to a 4-2 triumph in The Finals -- using a 19-0 run late in Game 6 to come from behind and finish the job -- the timely shout was the best teaching tool available.

The result of such youth and naivete, on the part of both teams, was a Finals that had folks other than just Popovich screaming in agony. Pretty basketball and skilled players were in short supply, and viewers found more exciting things to watch ("What do you think, honey, NBA Finals or more reruns of The Pretender?").

Seven of the 17 regulars in this series had three years or fewer in the NBA, the kind of callowness foreign to a league that has been, at championship time, dominated by veteran teams such as the Lakers this decade, the Bulls in the 1990s and the Lakers and Celtics in the 1980s. Inexperience often led to ineptitude and had NBA great and ABC analyst Bill Walton, in the halls of the Nets' Continental Airlines Arena at halftime of Game 5, wondering, "Where has the shooting gone? Can't anyone make a shot anymore?"

No matter how poor the shooting, though, no matter how ugly the series, the inscription on the Larry O'Brien trophy won't be changed, and there will be no asterisks in the record book. This is the Spurs' championship, and they won't be giving it back.

Still, this year's finalists seemed to be vying for the accidental championship, with injuries to stars Dirk Nowitzki of Dallas and Chris Webber of Sacramento -- and even, to a lesser extent, Rick Fox of the Lakers -- having paved the way for the coronation of a team that was not quite ready to be a champion.

Certainly, the series left the impression (or maybe the hope) that these were not the best two teams in the league. Good teams, sure, with the potential to remain atop their conferences for years to come. But for 2003, with so many of their most significant cogs so green, the Nets and Spurs put together a series only an amnesiac could love.

"It's not pretty," says second-year Nets center Jason Collins. "But it's still The Finals. And we're here, no matter if it's ugly or what."

After Game 3, Popovich observed, "We have set offensive basketball back about 15 years." To that, Coach, we say: if only. Fifteen years ago, in the finale of the 1988 Finals, the Lakers beat the Pistons, 108-105.

The Spurs and Nets would have needed five periods, sometimes six, to get to that score in this Finals. Go back 50 years, Coach, when the Knicks lost to the Lakers -- the Minneapolis Lakers -- in the Finals finale, 91-84, and you'll be in the ballpark.

The litany of offenses to offense committed by the Spurs and the Nets is long. In Game 4, New Jersey managed a 77-76 win despite putting up 11 points in the third quarter and enduring a 7-minute scoring drought, reflecting a series with enough dry spells to shame the Sahara.

The teams set a Finals record for lowest-scoring half by going into the break at 33-30 in Game 3, and the Nets added another record by bumbling their way to nine points in the second quarter of that game. The Nets and Spurs failed to reach 20 points in 19 of 48 combined quarters in the series.

New Jersey scored 492 points; the second-lowest in a six-game series in Finals history had been 520 points. The Nets shot a measly 37.0 percent, just above the 35.5 percent record low set by the Celtics in 1958.

Not that the Spurs were much better -- they shot 43.1 percent. Speaking in Boston after receiving a lifetime achievement award from the New England Sports Museum, Celtics Hall of Famer Tom Heinsohn said of Games 3 and 4, "That was the worst display of offensive basketball I have ever seen." Ouch.

Of course, the coaches in the series spin things differently -- it was the great defense on both sides, not offensive bungling, that kept scoring low.

"Might as well get used to it," Nets coach Byron Scott said midway through The Finals. "It's going to be a defensive battle; it's going to be low-scoring, and you're not talking about teams that can't score. You're just talking about two teams that just compete on the defensive end."

Maybe so. Over the last two years, the Spurs and Nets have been excellent defensive teams. The Spurs are particularly effective at keeping opponents out of transition -- a strength of the Nets and a tool they had used to score 21.8 fast-break points per game in sweeping through the previous two rounds -- because they send four players back on defense once their shot goes up.

It was clear from the beginning of The Finals that between the Spurs' fast-break defense and the Nets' fast-break offense, defense would prevail. The Nets averaged just 15.5 points from their fast break.

Well-laid defensive plans aside, there has been much hand-wringing in recent years about the decline of shooting in the league, and these Finals could be used as Exhibit A in the case of the disappearing jump shot. The defenses adjusted accordingly, making things even uglier.

Popovich says he detests zone defenses, but with the Nets unable to make perimeter shots, he put the Spurs into a zone more in The Finals than he had all season, clogging the middle and forcing the Nets to shoot. They couldn't.

"If they can't make shots," Jackson says, "then they don't want to see us in a zone. It just makes sense to use it then."

The shooting woes are, in part, attributable to the youth on both sides -- guys like the Spurs' Jackson, who hit three crucial 3-point shots in the 19-0 run, and Parker and the Nets' Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin figure to get more consistent with their shots as they get older.

But what does it say about a league where players who have not had enough years to develop the basic skill of a jumper are playing key roles in The Finals? It's nice to have young players serve as the future of the league, but it's not very nice when those players are forced to be the present, too. Series like this one are an offshoot of an NBA that is getting ever younger.

"I've seen a dramatic lowering of the number of guys who can really shoot that midrange shot," says retiring center David Robinson, who was a rookie in 1989-90. "When I first came in, there was a lot of guys who could make shots, open shots, from about 17 feet-make them on the move. Now, it seems like there are a lot more extreme guys, either guys who can stand there and shoot 3s or guys who can get to the rim, but not many guys who are really good in-between shooters.

"I think, a little bit, some of the more fundamental skills are lacking in a large percentage of the players."

Claxton smiles at the memory of it, watching NBA games when he was a kid, seeing scores in the triple digits on both sides of the dash. might be nice to get back to that kind of basketball.

"It's a lot more fun to play that way," he says. "But this is what we have, so, you have to work with it. We have built up a good defensive team, and we take advantage of that. As long as we keep winning, you can't argue with that."

Both teams have the youth and talent to keep winning for a long time. The Nets are set, provided they can lock down their pieces - namely, Kidd -- and allow Jefferson and Martin to blossom.

On the other side, the Spurs have the capability to build even more this summer. The Spurs' centerpiece is Duncan, who had 21 points, 20 rebounds, 10 assists and eight blocks in the game that clinched the championship.

In addition, the team's roster is the envy of the league. Including Duncan, it's made up of eight free agents and four returnees -- Malik Rose, Bruce Bowen, Ginobili and Parker, who will be paid a combined $25 million next season. The team will have about $17 million to spend on outside free agents, the continuation of a plan hatched five years ago, before the Spurs' championship in 1999.

The idea has been to keep Duncan alongside another star player - until now, that has been Robinson -- and allow the team the flexibility to bring in cheap, overlooked and underrated talent.

In that sense, the likes of Parker, Ginobili and Jackson are part of a lineage extending back to previous Spurs reclamation projects Avery Johnson, Jaren Jackson, Terry Porter and Mario Elie. For the first time since Duncan and Robinson were matched in 1997-98, the Spurs will spend the summer not looking through the free-agent scrap heap for talent but through the free-agent A-list for that second star player to pair with Duncan.

"It's a little bit different for us," says San Antonio general manager R.C. Buford. "This is something we have planned on for years now, and we have been very fortunate in the years in between, getting Tony Parker and Manu and Stephen Jackson. You can make plans, but you need to have things break right for you, too. We had been looking toward this summer for a long time, and we knew it was going to be an important time in building a championship team. But we certainly did not expect to be in The Finals just before it happened. We have been lucky, to be honest."

Lucky, true, as the Nets were in becoming East champs the past two years. Kidd fell into their laps thanks to a trade with the Suns, after all. But, also like the Spurs, New Jersey was forward-thinking. The Nets made a wise trade by landing Jefferson and Collins for Eddie Griffin two years ago, and they still have the rights to promising teenager Nenad Krstic of Serbia-Montenegro.

For their part, the Spurs long have kept their eyes on this summer as their time to really complete a championship team. "It doesn't happen in one season," Popovich says. "In January, February, I told our local guys we are going to be a lot better the next year or year after."

So will the Nets, most likely, meaning that this year's accidental champions, in the future, could defend their title against their accidental rivals.

Let's hope things get a little prettier next time around.