Every NBA team has a strategy and plan of attack, but the the on-court play rarely ever resembles the play when it’s drawn up on the whiteboard. The San Antonio Spurs is the NBA team that comes closest to that ideal.
As you compete against opponents with the combination of smarts, length, speed, athleticism and experience as NBA players have, details and milliseconds matter. Execution, discipline, and timing are what separates the great teams from the very good ones. San Antonio’s coach Gregg Popovich gets this and he drills his team on those details.
What makes the Spurs Good?
So what makes the San Antonio Spurs so good? They’re good taking a game plan and turning that piece of paper into real life. The Spurs’ game plan is predicated on three things:
- Continued Movement
- Make the right pass at the right time
- Shooting open shots
There’s more to it, but those are the main factors I see. The funny thing is that it’s quite similar to what other teams focus on it’s just Popovich holds each player to the highest standard of that plan of attack.
If a player doesn’t do it exactly as Pops envisions, they’re getting chewed out. For example, I imagine that each Spur has designated comfort zones on the floor where they are free to shoot the ball. If the player doesn’t shoot the ball in this region and Popovich thinks he should have, I guarantee that Popovich pulls him out on the next play and asks him, in the Popovich way, why they didn’t shoot the ball.
The University of San Antonio
The benefit of a game plan is if you have the right players are all on the same page — it’s unstoppable. If players are making the right passes and hitting shots in their comfort zones, then lanes open up and the right passes become more clear. And that means more open shots for your teammates in the places they’re most comfortable in which increases the likelihood of easier shots. Welcome to the University of San Antonio Spurs.
And that’s what happened last night in the first half. The San Antonio Spurs were intensely focused on the game plan. Last night was the example of what happens when a team is on the same plan of attack, and in rhythm. Team “Bad for TV Ratings” scored 41 points on 87% shooting in the first quarter and it was something to behold, so behold it again below:
At one point, San Antonio hit 19 of their 21 shots from the field, missing just two shots. It was both frightening and beautiful at the same time.
Why do people hate the Spurs so much?
If they’re so great, why are the Spurs so disliked?
Outside of the polarizing Manu Ginobili, the reason why NBA fans hate the Spurs so much is simple: The players, from Tim Duncan to the last player on the bench, are no more than a cog in the system. Matt Bonner, Patty Mills and Tiago Splitter don’t look like one another, but they might as well be “X” o “O” because that’s how Popovich sees them.
Popovich’s game plan and strategy is so thoroughly executed, it mutes the personality and individual skills of the players. You’re not watching Tony Parker so much as you’re watching his game blended into a larger strategy. And who wants to watch that? As much as the Spurs game plan is lauded, it’s what makes the Spurs a “boring team” to some fans.
In the NBA, the supposed championship formula is a a superstar coupled with another superstar, and role players to fill in the gaps. The Spurs are different; yes, they have their all-stars in Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili, however, they are just a part of the concept. That’s why Duncan, TP, and Manu seem to sit a lot more than other star players. The system needs them, but the system can also win games without them.
On any given night the system allows the other Spurs a chance to shine if they execute correctly. In game 3, it was Kawhi Leonard’s and Danny Green’s turn, along with Boris Diaw.
I’m not saying that these players are not special on their own, they’re just not as important as the overall team. Especially when we’re talking about the San Antonio Spurs.