The San Antonio Spurs are the reigning Champions of the World. But this season, the Spurs face a new challenge…
The San Antonio Spurs are the reigning Champions of the World. The tenured professors of the NBA have just spoiled the senior year of LeBron’s “college years.”
But this season, the Spurs face a new challenge: staying motivated. Last season, motivation was a cinch. And, the Miami Heat pulled off an absolute heist when they won in 2012.
In 2013, Pop needed to make one of the few questionable coaching decisions of his career, Kawhi needed to miss a clutch free throw and Duncan needed to miss a layup he has made a billion times.
If any of those things went differently, Ray Allen would have never hit the shot of his career and saved LeBron’s legacy. It was a basically unfathomable sequence of events that gifted Miami the title.
The Spurs had been up three with less than 20 seconds remaining and handled the finish worse than Rob Ford handled being mayor.
It was so unexpected, so dramatic and so un-Spurs. Things like this happen to other teams. Starry-eyed rookies, not grizzled veterans squander leads.
Spurs leads are usually more secure than Fort Knox, but they gave up the title like the iCloud surrendered J-Law’s nudes. As surreal as it was watching Miami win, it was a Dali masterpiece to watch the Spurs lose.
Thus, during the 2014 campaign, order needed to be restored to the force. Popovich adopted the thousand-yard stare of General Patton and used the regular season as a playoff boot camp.
He conserved the starters’ energy by playing them for limited minutes and gave the benched players a disproportionate slice of the minutes-pie to build their confidence.
With no one playing more than 30 minutes per game, the Spurs became a basketball utopia. Their 2014 regular season should be shown on a loop in the Louvre, for it was among the most beautiful things man has ever done.
To close the season, they won 22 of 26 games, essentially doing an extended haka for the rest of the league.
In the playoffs, the slightly creaky core was well-oiled and the supporting cast had spent 82 games getting ready for its close-up. In short, the Spurs were in a better position to win than perhaps ever before.
Then, they went on a rampage only rivaled by Beatrix Kiddo. After a brief scare with the Mavericks, the Spurs dismissed the Blazers and Thunder and emerged relatively unscathed from the cage match of the Western Conference.
They met Miami in the Finals and slaughtered them, 4-1. It was never close. It was a clinic in ruthless, gorgeous execution. The vengeance was complete. The Spurs had established themselves as the most unique dynasty ever. They have won a title an average of every three years for the past 15.
After the championship, Tim Duncan said, “It means a lot to me,” which is the Duncan equivalent of the Cuba Gooding, Jr.acceptance speech. Nothing else needed to be proven. Everything was once again harmonious in the basketball universe.
But, although basketball enlightenment had been achieved, the league will not stay in this state of nirvana. The newest reincarnation of the league is but hours away from birth. Everything has been reset to zero, and the Spurs will have to climb quite the mountain to remain kings of the hill.
Unlike last year, landing on the cruel side of fate does not motivate the spurs. They have just unequivocally dismantled their stiffest competition. They are fresh from conquest and fed by the spoils of victory.
But, they risk falling victim to a fate that has felled many great teams. Champions become complacent in their greatness and get surprised by a rowdy bunch that has been stewing in grudge juice all off-season. If the Spurs are not careful, it could happen to them.
But, the Spurs are not like other teams. They are the crown jewel of the NBA. From the front office to the edge of the bench, they do it right. They are the kid in high school who was simultaneously the lead in the play, the quarterback and the valedictorian.
Perhaps the only log that can get the Spurs sufficiently hot is the fact that this is likely the last go-round for the magnificent Pop-Duncan-Parker-Ginobili quartet. These transcendent maestros have one last chance to play their unique symphony.
Kawhi is a fresh Finals MVP and Danny Green is a three-point cheat code, but this season will likely mark the end of the greatest dynasty since Russell’s Celtics.
Ring the bell; school is back in session, and the Spurs have one last lesson to teach. Pay attention.
by John Flynn
This post originally appeared at Elite Daily. Reprinted with permission.
John Flynn is a college student born in Sacramento, California. You can follow him on twitter @flynndecent and see his blog at https://fohnjyn.wordpress.com.