By Shawn Muller-
(CBS) Too slow.
Boring to watch.
No, I am not talking about the Chicago Bulls.
But I have heard these terms thrown out there early and often when people are describing the San Antonio Spurs.
Quite frankly, a lot of it is true.
The Spurs can be a boring team to watch. They are getting up there in the age category. And yes, they also appear to be walking in concrete boots when they are out on the court from time to time. By no means are the Spurs the prettiest girl at the ball — and there is no way that they will win any popularity contests amongst NBA fans — but San Antonio wins basketball games, plain and simple. And if there was one NBA franchise that I would like to see the Chicago Bulls try to emulate more than any other moving forward, it would be these Spurs.
When I see the San Antonio team play, I always ask myself: “What do the Spurs have that the Chicago Bulls don’t?”
Solid point guard? The Bulls have that.
Is it that the Bulls lack of a true number two scorer? I don’t think so. I think Luol provides a decent second option.
How about a lack of depth? Well, that can’t be it either because the Bulls have a deep bench.
So what is it then that makes the Spurs seem like they are a step ahead of every other franchise, even though they are one of the oldest teams—and the most “unsexy” team– in the NBA?
Continuity and getting the “right” players to buy into the system.
I don’t know what is in the water down there in San Antonio, but no other franchise in the NBA gets its players to buy into a system better than the Spurs organization.
In today’s NBA, players jump from franchise to franchise faster than a steroid-infused Roger Clemens fastball in the pursuit of the all-mighty dollar. Loyalty has gone the way of the Dodo bird, and, instead of staying with the team that drafted them, many star players are now looking for the easiest route to an NBA title by trying to pair up with their best buddies.
Quite simply, dollar bills and friendship bracelets are a higher priority amongst today’s players than winning. Sure, players might say winning is still the most important, but, well, I will just let you draw your own conclusions there.
Just a couple of summers ago, Bulls fans were clamoring for Lebron, Dwyane Wade and/or Chris Bosh to come to Chicago. Lately, visions of Dwight Howard pairing up with Rose are at the top of the wish list. But, if you look at the Spurs and how they have done things, there is no need for the Bulls to succumb to the superstar free agent route.
Chicago just needs to continue doing what they have been doing. The Bulls have had the best record in the league for the past two seasons, and they have gotten to that point by resembling a San Antonio Spurs team rather that a superstar-laden Miami Heat team.
The Spurs don’t play the “money and me” game, and they certainly don’t care for super egos running the team. They never have and they seemingly never will.
San Antonio is once again in the thick of the title race, and they are not on the verge of winning championship number five due to a free agent spending spree, or by Tim Duncan convincing his best buddies to come play with him.
They are accomplishing what they are because of great stability within the organization.
David Robinson was a Spur for his entire career. Tim Duncan will play with the Spurs for his entire career. Even Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will most likely finish their playing days in a San Antonio uniform.
That doesn’t happen out of sheer luck.
It happens because players buy into a franchise. They buy into the city. They buy into their teammates. And—most importantly—they buy into what the head coach is selling.
This is business model that Chicago needs to follow. The Bulls need players that are willing to buy into the franchise, the city, their teammates, and their head coach. San Antonio isn’t doing something that no other team can do. They just play the game the way it is supposed to be played and they win.
Coaching too needs to be just as consistent as the lineup. While some are ready to see Tom Thibodeau gone after two seasons in Chicago, I say, “why’? After a horrible 17-47 record in his first season as the Spurs head coach during the 1996-97 season, Gregg Popovich has never finished lower than second place in the division and has never missed the playoffs.
People talk about Phil Jackson being the coaching guru of NBA basketball all the time, but what Popovich has accomplished may be a little more impressive than what Jackson was able to do?
I’m not trying to downplay Jackson’s accomplishments. I mean the guy did win a ridiculous eleven championships during his time as a head coach. But I will say that I think Jackson is given way more credit for his coaching prowess than he should.
Popovich is chasing title number five this season. While five titles still wouldn’t even approach Jackson’s number, it would place him in a tie for third all-time with Pat Riley and former Minneapolis Lakers head coach John Kundla, and four shy of Red Auerbach’s nine.
Will “Pops” catch Jackson? Not likely.
But unlike Jackson, Popovich never had a team with players like Michael Jordan and a Scottie Pippen in the same starting lineup. He never had the luxury of coaching a team that was anchored by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant. Sure he was blessed with having David Robinson and Tim Duncan playing together for his first two championships, but nothing he has had since can compare to the advantages Jackson had.
I have a feeling that there are/were multiple coaches that could have won eleven championships if they had the privilege of seeing arguably three of the top ten players of all-time (Jordan, O’Neal, and Bryant) suit up every night as well as a guy that is probably a top thirty player (Pippen). And it’s not like Jackson’s Bulls and Lakers teams were just those four players and nobody else. Both teams were deep.
Has Tony Parker been good? Yes he has. Has Manu Ginobili been a blessing for the Spurs? Absolutely. But let’s not act like these two guys were hyped-up upon their arrival into the league. They were unknown foreign players that the Spurs took a chance on and it worked out.
Instead of wanting Thibodeau run out of town, let’s see what he can do when he has a lineup that isn’t completely decimated with injury. He has already proven he can coach, so let’s give him some time instead of searching for the next best thing. San Antonio didn’t do that to Popovich after his first season, so Chicago must not do the same after Thibodeau’s second with the Bulls.
Every year you kind of expect the Spurs to drop off in the standings, but it never seems to happen. Why? Because the core of this team has been together longer than any other in the league playing for a coach they believe in, and bring in players who are willing to put their egos to the side in favor of winning basketball games.
So go ahead: Keep calling the San Antonio Spurs “boring”.
Continue telling yourself that they are “slow”.
And keep on believing that they are “too old”.
I guarantee you that they won’t mind it one bit.
And I wouldn’t mind it one bit if people said the same thing about the Chicago Bulls. Especially if it meant seeing the type of success San Antonio has seen over the past 15 years.
Shawn Muller has lived in the great city of Chicago for 7 years. He is a 2002 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and, in October of 2010, Shawn received his certificate in radio broadcasting. In his free time, Shawn enjoys spending time with his wife Melissa and 3 year old daughter Ava, catching any live sporting event, and traveling. Check out his radio show, Grab Some Bench with Muller and Bangser” every Thursday night at 8:30 P.M., at www.blogtalkradio.com/spmuller24. Read more of his blogs here.