Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Spurs Re-Defining Success in the NBA - Owning the Heat

In the NBA playoffs, it's pretty clear that in forty-nine states people are rooting for Tim Duncan and the San Antonio Spurs. And then Miami Heat fans are, of course, casually but not devotedly cheering on Dwayne Wade's Miami Heat, featuring the services, or "talents," of Lebron James. It's been so easy to root against the Heat because of the feeling that this "Dream Team" with a "Big Three" was put together to provide Lebron with a championship team that he could never develop on his own. And the dependence on the "Greatest player on the planet," but one who will never be as good as Michael Jordan, does not endear the team to true basketball fans.

That dependence on a superstar is why the last two victories by the Spurs have been so enjoyable - they represent basketball at its purest as a team game. Certainly, the Spurs have a genuine team of superstars built around a mega-player in future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan. But watching the team play as a unit that passes and passes and passes, but never over-passes, until they get a shot has been so satisfying in the way that would do Hoosier's coach Norman Dale proud. And the team magic of Coach Pop and the Spurs provides hope for NBA fans that the Spurs dominance will lead the NBA in a new direction, away from the Lebron/Carmelo-style, and toward the purity of a Tim Duncan led team.

This idea was well developed in a "hopeful" piece by Denver Post sportswriter Chris Dempsey who is "Hoping the Spurs Spark Better Basketball."

The Spurs play a beautiful game of passing and movement, a work of art worthy of inclusion in The Louvre. It's FC Barcelona, circa 2012. It's jazz. Basketball, as the Spurs have put on display in a demolition job of the defending champion Miami Heat thus far, should look just like that.
And yet their brand of basketball, a free-flowing, constantly moving ballet is the exception to the rule the NBA is transforming into. The game is pushing more toward pop than jazz, steering itself into a formulaic game. Shots should be taken from here, here and here, not there or there. Players should be played in these combinations, not those. 
No exceptions. No improvisation. No jazz. Just pop.
So, here's hoping.

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