Instead of reading a similar nuts-and-bolts-style preview, like the dozens of previews that will undoubtedly flow forth from the internet in the coming days, I present to you something a bit different:
Reasons Why I Love the San Antonio Spurs:
1. The San Antonio Spurs are not the Miami Heat.
2. The Miami Heat will be in the Finals for the fourth straight year. This is two-too-many years in a row for any team.
3. The San Antonio Spurs have Manu Ginobili, who continues to drop jaws with his passing artistry and who always plays with a sense of the moment and with just enough reckless abandon.
4. As demonstrated in the video below, the Spurs come in various shapes and sizes:
- little Spurs: Patty Mills
- stubby Spurs: old Patty Mills
- sharper-nosed Spurs: Manu Ginobili
- dull-nosed Spurs: Aron Baynes
- soft-and-round Spurs: Boris Diaw
- funny-shaped Spurs: Matt Bonner
- strapless Spurs: Gregg Popovich
5. The Miami Heat have the best player in the galaxy. It’s too easy to cheer for the team with the best player in the galaxy.
6. The Spurs have Kawhi Leonard, who is a defensive genius starting to find his offensive game, and whose hands are a topic of conversation and game-planning.
7. Team unity is a thing of beauty.
In an era and media culture that often promotes the individual over the team, the Spurs play a brand of basketball that illuminates the selfless nature of the game. Not that the Heat don’t. LeBron James is nothing if not selfless at this point in his career. The difference between the Spurs balance and the Heat balance is that the Heat balance disappears without LeBron. Remember Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals? The Heat offense becomes a tilt-a-whirl without LeBron as its heartbeat.
On the flipside, Tony Parker’s ankle flared up in the second half of Game 6 of the West Finals. What happened? Boris Diaw and Manu Ginobili facilitated and the Spurs offense was more fluid than ever. The Spurs dominate for many reasons: talent, dedication, depth, determination, courage. The list of descriptors goes on endlessly. I used to want any team other than San Antonio to win. Three championships in five years was too much for me. In June of 2007, it felt like the Spurs were undeniable. Impossibly good. Tim Duncan’s steady steam-rolling ways took some of the joy out of the game when you were jones-ing for an upset. They were still Duncan-focused in those years, as they should have been. Parker and Ginobili had their stretches, but it was Duncan’s presence first. It’s now been seven years since that stretch of rings. The new Spurs are not the old Spurs, a fact that many casual fans do not seem to grasp. Parker’s pick-and-roll stylings, the passing of Manu, Boris Diaw, and Splitter. The corner shooting of Danny Green and Kawhi, and now the turbo-charged Patty Mills off the bench. This team has too much offense to handle. It is why they survived the West. Last year’s memorable seven-game Finals with Miami adds to the drama of what this year’s Finals might bring.
There will be time for other Western Conference teams to get here. Let’s not write off the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Los Angeles Clippers, or the Golden State Warriors. They will remember these last two years as the Spurs’ Golden Age. The Western Conference will bid farewell to Duncan, Pop and Ginobili and the Spurs will have a new era with Parker and Kawhi leading them. For now, let’s take a minute and appreciate the Spurs for what they are doing and what they’ve done.
8. Gregg Popovich press conferences as minimalist performance art.