The San Antonio Spurs are the best team you don’t pay any attention to. Known for efficient defense, rebounds, and a little slower pace, they’re the team people keep expecting to go away, but they never do. Having never in their entire history gone two years without being in the playoffs, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that at 16 consecutive seasons, the Spurs have the longest active streak of playoff appearances in the NBA.
There are a couple of strands that run through the Spurs’ history. One is All-Star forward Tim Duncan; the other is two-time NBA Coach of the Year Gregg Popovich. The two have been in more postseason series than any other coach/player duo in NBA history. They share a mutual trust of each other and a weariness with the media.
There is a clear understanding of what it means to be with the Spurs. You show up to work you don’t make excuses and you put in whatever time you need to be successful.
Pop, as he is known, doesn’t have a lot patience for reporters.
“I don’t think Tony [Parker] or I care how much credit anyone gets, you guys can write what you want,” Popovich said.
Or maybe he just thinks reporters ask bad questions.
“You guys, you guys stay up all night thinkin’ of these questions? Geeze Louise!” he wisecracked.
The 37-year-old Duncan deals with the press not like a man who is a leader in seven NBA postseason stats categories, or like a guy who has been called the best power forward ever. Rather, he is sheepish and soft spoken, dodging eye contact. He answers questions quickly, with humility, and without overreaching or speculating.
“I’ve been doing the same thing for a long time, not much variation to my game,” Duncan explained.
It’s this low-key attitude that has been the hallmark of the Spurs on and off the court. Their business-like play has gotten the Spurs labeled as boring to watch, with Duncan as the dull, predictable face of the franchise, a persona reflected in the headlines of The Onion:
Tim Duncan Offers To Do Taxes For Entire Spurs Team
Tim Duncan Calls Out Geometric Angle Needed To Make Bank Shot
Tim Duncan Hams It Up For Crowd By Arching Left Eyebrow Slightly
Tim Duncan Around If Any Spurs Have Questions About Sequester
Chad Nackers is the sports editor at The Onion. He admits that the stories running on the site about Tim Duncan are based only loosely on the athlete. Nackers says Duncan comes off as the nice guy in the NBA – a distinction that is kind of boring.
“Tim Duncan announces shoe deal with Florsheim,” Nackers narrated hypothetically. “It’s not even an athletic shoe. It’s like a really dull, comfortable shoe you would wear if you had to be standing up all day.”
NBA.com writer Scott Howard-Cooper says if Duncan and the Spurs lack the bombast and personality of some teams, it is by design.
“Personality is very important to the Spurs,” Howard-Cooper said. “They’re an organization that steers away from problems. That’s been at the core of their consistency. It’s not a place that has to deal with issues. There is a clear understanding of what it means to be with the Spurs. You show up to work you don’t make excuses and you put in whatever time you need to be successful.”
Howard-Cooper doesn’t think the Spurs are boring to watch, and he believes their success has as much to do with the front office as it does with the players.
“The players are what are making this happen, but it’s the front office that is getting the players, and that’s a huge part of what has happened here through the years,” Howard-Cooper said.
Spurs general manager R.C. Buford has chosen well, despite the disadvantage of routinely drafting at the bottom of rounds. All-Star point guard Tony Parker was a late first-round pick and Manu Ginobili was drafted late in the second round. Howard-Cooper said the Spurs front office has always known what it is doing. The proof?
“Look how many rising executives get hired away to work at other teams. Look how many coaches get hired out of San Antonio to go be coaches at other organizations,” he argued. “People know the background of this organization and they want that at their organization.”
The Spurs also excel from a business standpoint. The value of the team quadrupled in the past 16 years, going from $122 million to $527 million, according to a recent Forbes article written by Webster University economics professor Patrick Rishe, who named the Spurs as North America’s Best-Run Professional Sports Franchise.
“The metrics weren’t overly complicated,” Rishe explained. “Simply looking at the historic fact that you have a team that [has] 16 consecutive years with extremely high winning percentage, making the playoffs, 50-win seasons – something that you just haven’t seen, certainly in the NBA, but for that matter, when you look at other sports.”
And as for the rest of the playoffs, expect more of the same from the Spurs, on the court and in the interview room.
“Here’s the one you guys didn’t ask that you always ask ‘This first game… on a scale how important is this first game?’ Nobody’s asked that one yet,” Popovich quipped.