First, some reflection
We rarely ever get the chance to marvel over a team that defines perfection.
The 2013-14 San Antonio Spurs — or at least the team that showed up on Tuesday — is the closest to it I’ve had the blessing to see.
Some franchises draft individuals that translate into selfish players, or just can’t grasp the correct mindset. Other franchises draft guys with questionable attitudes, who are immature and result to childish antics on the court.
Then, there’s the anomalous group that always does the right thing.
I’m not even sure you can call it a group, as it only includes one franchise.
San Antonio headlines the NBA, and it’s not because of their flash, their excitement, or the amount of viewers they draw for the NBA and Adam Silver.
It’s because they play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, and this 2014 team should be placed in the Basketball Hall-of-Fame for their unblemished style.
Is that going too far?
No, because this team is the paragon of winning. Someone should compile film of their playoff run from the second round vs. Portland to the end of these Finals, and give it to any young individual or team aspiring to form a basketball career.
There’s also another angle to it.
Trading for the supreme pieces to go around your Big 3 (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili) is just as large of a piece to the puzzle.
Kawhi Leonard has been a humble and soft-spoken player since his playing days at San Diego State. He lost his father in 2008 before his college career began, and used basketball as his escape. Not only was it the chance for Leonard to fight through emotional pain, but it became the ladder to success for the 18-year-old learning the game.
Now, at almost 23 years old, Leonard can’t complain about his circle of professors.
In many ways, Gregg Popovich has been there as a father figure for Leonard. He’s given the youngster praise for being the Spurs’ successor, and also delivered the proper criticism when needed. They say you should always be your harshest critic.
With Popovich, that’s not humanly possible. He will rip you up and down the sidelines if he sees fit. He’ll even play mind games with his words to the point where you don’t know if he’s trying to teach you something …. or be a jerk. What people need to grasp, however, is that it’s all for one common goal. The hope to shape a player into one that has accountability, and the awareness of what could happen if you stray away from team basketball.
Just three years into his career, Leonard is the latest to mold into a figure Popovich loves.
Being told to play more aggressive and more willing to take outside shots isn’t something typical in a Finals series. Leonard, however, needed the confidence boost. He’s not 29-year-old LeBron James with 11 years of superstar play under his belt. He’s still a kid, and Popovich had to drag him in the corner — figuratively — to raise his chin up.
When asked to be more assertive on offense, Leonard answered the call. Who truly hasn’t answered Pop’s call through the years? If you don’t, you’re getting heckled in practice the following day.
Thanks to the words of encouragement sent to Leonard, the Spurs find themselves two wins away from a fifth championship banner.
A lot more went into the victory on Tuesday, and it’s best to dive right in.