By Clay Horning
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Yes, it is difficult to root for the team that eliminated your team.
It seems like it should be easy, but as the Sooner Nation can surely explain, falling short at the Cotton Bowl or Bedlam doesn’t make folks around here Longhorn and Cowboy fans.
Nonetheless, the NBA Finals begin tonight and you need a team and that team should be San Antonio.
Following are five reasons to root for the Spurs rather than the Miami Heat, and none of them will be the fact that when the team that beat your team wins it all, it makes your team look better. Consider that one a bonus reason.
1. Tim Duncan: Maybe the coolest thing about Duncan, beyond his being born in St. Croix and staying in school for four years and earning his degree — what a concept — is that it’s hard to remember him being so dominant and yet he’s pretty much been the best player on the court season after season after season.
Early in his career, he was the man, averaging at least 20 points and at least 11 rebounds in each of his first eight seasons, and even then the most shot attempts he ever averaged was 18.3.
Since, he’s remained terrific, yet more of a complementary player, averaging 18.6, 20.0, 19.3, 19.3, 17.9, 13.4, 15.4, 17.8 and 15.1 points per outing, with rebound averages ranging from 8.9 to 11.3.
He’s like the power hitter in the twilight of his career who still smacks 25 home runs and drives in 90. He’s never stopped producing and he’s always facilitated teammates.
2. The era: Here’s a question making the rounds. What’s more impressive, what the Heat could do, going to the NBA Finals four consecutive seasons and winning three straight, or what San Antonio could do, winning a fifth title in 16 seasons.
What the Heat could do is amazing. Threepeat wasn’t even a term until Michael Jordan pushed it upon the nation. Also, what San Antonio has done and could do is still less likely and more impressive.
Because dynasties, every one but Auerbach’s and Russell’s Celtics, burn out. The Bulls won six titles in eight years, going back-to-back-to-back twice. The Lakers won five under Phil Jackson. Also, the Bulls slid from champions to irrelevance quickly and, take a look, so have the Lakers.
In all but the strike-shortened season of 1998-99, when San Antonio went 37-13 in the regular season and won its first title, the Spurs have never won less than 50 regular season games and only failed to make it out of the first round of the playoffs three times. Nine times they’ve won at least two series and reached the conference finals.
It’s stunning and amazing and might never happen again.
3. No mercenaries allowed: Probably the closest thing San Antonio’s ever had to a hired gun is Robert Horry, and yet he was never anything more than what Ray Allen has been to the Heat.
The Spurs have done it the old fashioned way: through the draft. It’s where they picked up Manu Ginobili with the 57th overall pick in 1999, where they found Tony Parker with the 28th pick in 2001, and Duncan with the first pick in 1997.
Has anybody else ever drafted three contemporary eventual Hall of Famers whose draft selections added up to 86? Probably just the Spurs.
4. Greg Popovich: You can make a great case that Pop’s done more to get what he’s gotten out of his teams than Phil Jackson ever had to do to get what he got out of his.
Jackson’s believed to be the greatest ego manager in the history of the game, yet he’s never been thought of as a great adjustment guy, a great X’s and O’s guy, or, for that matter, a guy who’s had to massage an entire unit toward greatness.
The Spurs’ driving forces have gotten older and have needed more and more complementary help, all of which has been guided by Popovich, to maintain their greatness.
Think about it this way.
What did Phil Jackson ever do with an aging Jordan, an aging Shaq or an aging Kobe? Nothing, because he had those guys in their prime.
All that and the guy’s hilarious, almost without saying a word.
5. Miami, really: Do you really want to watch the Heat win again? Do they really excite you? Yes, LeBron has become more likable since “The Decision,” and Dwyane Wade’s been there the whole time kind of like Duncan, Ginobili and Parker have always been Spurs, but do they really do anything for you, really?
They’ve always been more fun to watch lose than win. This time’s no different.
Follow me @clayhorning
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