The best franchise in professional sports is a topic that has always led to big debates. Organizations like the Patriots, the Yankees and the Lakers always come up. The Nets found out the hard way that there is another franchise that can lay claim to that title: the San Antonio Spurs.
In recent games before this weekend’s NBA All-Star game and other activities, the Spurs pounded the Nets 118-86 without the services of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili. The Spurs followed that up with a 103-89 road win over the Bulls without Duncan, Ginobili and Tony Parker. Nets coach P.J. Carlesimo, a former Spurs assistant, attested to the Spurs’ greatness.
“[Greg Popovich] would tell you it’s all personnel, but it’s both. It’s clearly personnel first,” said Carlesimo. “It started with David [Robinson] and Timmy. Those two had been the constant going way back. Clearly, when you add a Parker and a Ginobili, you’re talking three of the elite players in the league and winners.”
The Spurs have had a great core in place for many years. In spite of that, Popovich has never committed his team to just one style. Said Carlesimo: “The core has stayed the same. They were primarily a defensive team for a long time. They played two bigs and whaled on you. Then they kind of got to where they were an offensive team. But they’ve always had a blend of both.”
The Spurs have the type of situation most teams can only dream of. So how far are the Nets from reaching that level? They have two All-Star-caliber players in Brook Lopez and Deron Williams to build around. No, we didn’t forget Joe Johnson, but Lopez (24) and Williams (28) are both under 30 years of age and figure to have many good to great years left.
The key for Nets GM Billy King is establishing a group of solid players around Lopez and Williams. Popovich has done a masterful job of building around his three stars. Kawhi Leonard, Tiago Splitter and former Long Island high school star Danny Green are the latest group of super role players to surround Duncan, Ginobili and Parker. The Spurs, incidentally, had the league’s best record (41-12), through Monday’s games. Need we say more?