Top 5 Reasons the San Antonio Spurs Can Still Win an NBA Championship
Although many naysayers think the San Antonio Spurs are too old to win another championship with Gregg Popovich and the Big Three (Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili), there are still plenty of reasons why these “old-timers” can still hang another championship banner in the AT&T Center.
A team needs more than athleticism and dazzling dunks to win an NBA Championship—just look at the Los Angeles Clippers. The San Antonio Spurs have it. Here are the top five reasons why the Spurs have at least one more in them.
If you don’t think this is enough of a reason, you’re crazy.
This boldly honest, dry-humored graduate of the United States Air Force Academy is by far the longest tenured head coach in the NBA. With Gregg Popovich as their coach, the San Antonio Spurs have the best winning percentage over a 16-year span (1997-2013) of any other NBA team and also have the best record of any team of the four major sports (NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL).
Yeah, just think about that for a second.
He has two NBA Coach of the Year Awards (2002-2003 and 2011-2012), joining only seven other coaches to receive the award more than once. He also ranks fifth in NBA history for most titles as a head coach with four.
This guy is a winner.
Not only does he obviously know his basketball, the man has an exceptionally rare ability to form bonds and relationships with his players.
His players respect him and want to play for him, which makes him the most valuable part of the San Antonio Spurs championship run.
For most descriptions of the Spurs, experience is a nice word for old—but not now. Experience is what the Spurs have on younger teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Golden State Warriors (a team they beat in the Western Conference Semifinals this past season.)
Thirty-seven-year-old Tim Duncan, 36-year-old Manu Ginobili, and 31-year-old Tony Parker have experienced glorious victory several times. Duncan has held the Larry O’Brien Trophy over his head on four occasions while Ginobili and Parker have accomplished the feat three times.
These guys know how to win.
Most people think because the Spurs don’t throw down windmill dunks they’re “boring.” Let me just say, winning is not boring.
The Spurs may be the “old men” of the NBA, but their experience has beaten their green counterparts several times. With the addition of several up and coming youngins like Danny Green, who broke Ray Allen’s record for three-pointers made in the playoffs, and Kawhi Leonard, who gained national recognition during the playoffs last year, the Spurs definitely have another title in them.
Known as the Spurs’ secret weapon, Kawhi Leonard is a budding star in the NBA. At just 22 years old, Leonard had the daunting task of guarding LeBron James throughout the Finals. Leonard could definitely hang—holding LeBron to 7-of-21 shooting during Game 3 of the 2013 NBA Finals.
But this even-keeled kid with straight-back cornrows is a straight-up athlete. Although he posted disappointing numbers during the NBA combine, he is obviously athletic. Check out his dunk on Mike Miller in the Finals last year.
In his sophomore season last year, he averaged 11.9 points per game and 6.0 rebounds. He only improved during the playoffs, averaging 13.5 points per game and 9.0 rebounds. In the NBA Finals, Leonard averaged 14.6 points and 11.1 rebounds and 2.0 steals.
When the Spurs needed a score or a rebound or a steal, Leonard seemed to always be there with his never-changing soft, quiet look on his face.
In a Q&A with Spurs fans, via NBA.com, Leonard’s future Hall of Fame coach Gregg Popovich had this to say about him:
I think he’s going to be a star. And as time goes on, he’ll be the face of the Spurs I think. At both ends of the court, he is really a special player. And what makes me be so confident about him is that he wants it so badly. He wants to be a good player, I mean a great player. He comes early, he stays late, and he’s coachable, he’s just like a sponge. When you consider he’s only had one year of college and no training camp yet, you can see that he’s going to be something else.
Known as the silent assassin, Leonard is projected to be the future face of the Spurs.
Looks like we’ll be seeing those cornrows for a while.
The Big Three
Many think the Spurs’ Big Three are passed their primes—that they’re too old to win another championship, but I don’t think so. Yes, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are aging, but they are far from through.
Tim Duncan, the three-time NBA Finals MVP and two-time League MVP, who has been a part of all four of the Spurs championships, is one of the best—if not the best—power forward in NBA history and has been the face of the Spurs dynasty.
Last season, at 37, Duncan averaged 21.3 points and 11.9 rebounds per 36 minutes of play, which is probably a more accurate view of his stats as his minutes decline. He also shot a career best 81.7 percent at the foul line.
Tony Parker, who also has an NBA Finals MVP trophy and has been a part of three of the four Spurs championships, averaged 20.3 points and 7.6 assists per game (0.1 less than his career high) last season. He also shot a career-best 84.5 percent from the free-throw line.
Parker has actually gotten better with age and even garnered some MVP buzz last season.
Then, there’s Ginobili. The Argentine had the worst season of the Big Three. He made horrific decisions and turned the ball over way too much for the entire postseason. He just wasn’t the same Ginobili we have seen over the years.
But, I still believe in Ginobili. The energetic guard is a spark for the San Antonio Spurs. His unpredictability is what makes him great. Even amidst a horrific postseason, he had 24 points and 10 assists in the Spurs' Game 5 win in last year’s finals. It was his first 20 and 10 game since 2008.
Ginobili’s flame is flickering, but if he sparks at the right moments, the Big Three will be very difficult to beat.
Duncan, Parker and Ginobili were winning games and championships way before LeBron James went to South Beach to form another Big Three. These three are the original big three, and their success has been big.
This Big Three, if healthy, can lead their team to yet another championship.
Game 6 was a heartbreaking, devastating loss for the Spurs. Literally seconds away from cementing their legacy as a dynasty by winning a fifth championship trophy in 15 years, Ray Allen snapped their hopes with one shot and three points.
This game haunts the Spurs. Every time they step on the court, start a practice—probably even when they go to the mall or the grocery store—they are reminded in some way that they were one play away from being the best team in the NBA last season.
They were merely seconds away from silencing all those “the Spurs are too old” naysayers.
“I think about Game 6 everyday,” Coach Pop told Buck Harvey of The San Antonio Express-News.
I’m sure every Spur does.
This is the motivation; this is the drive for success this coming year—the determination not to be “completely devastated,” as Manu Ginobili told reporters after the game, via Brett Pollakoff of Pro Basketball Talk.
The Spurs will be determined to win, determined to never feel the feeling of Game 6 ever again.