SAN ANTONIO —
It takes communication. It takes trust. It takes commitment to do what the Spurs do. It also takes a willingness to think outside the normal parameters of team building, to consider players that don’t fit the prototypical mold.
“When you look at a basketball player and you’re trying to evaluate someone, in my opinion you’ve got to look past the typical biases and preconceived notions on what an NBA player is and should look like or should be; what their pedigree or path should be and really get down to the guy’s talent and character and work ethic,” said forward Matt Bonner, who played in Italy and was acquired in a trade from Toronto. “Is this person going to make our team better and can he play? I think when you do that you can get a more accurate portrayal of a player and what their value potentially could be.”
The commitment to drafting and developing came early for Buford and Popovich. Situated in small-market San Antonio, they knew they couldn’t afford to throw millions at the free agent market every summer to fill holes in their roster. They certainly got lucky getting the No. 1 pick in 1997 when Tim Duncan was available, but their moves to surround him with a championship-caliber supporting cast all came the hard way.
Game 6 is Tuesday night in Miami, where Duncan will have a chance to win his fifth title 14 years after his first. Along the way he has gone from the focal point to a supporting role, all thanks to the system the Spurs have in place.
“I think development is a big part of that,” Buford said. “The better prepared you can be to fill in the holes behind that success of an aging group, the smoother the transition might be.”