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Don: I think this is the ONLY great 17 year run characterized by a single coach and a single starter. The ONLY one. Simply unprecedented. One other remarkable thing about this run of coach/player/superstar and many many changing parts: Their style of play has changed ...and changed dramatically over this run. In the early years Duncan was the hub of the offense and was a "twin tower" with David Robinson. Robinson, who had been a huge star in his own right graciously moved from being the offensive highlight of the team and put even more effort into defense...and Tim Duncan was the offensive focus. Then over many years the team changed and kept changing in composition...and over the last several years especially as Duncan has aged the focus of the offense changed considerably. Between the Robinson years and the more recent years...a different offensive focus arose as Parker and Ginobelli became stars in their own right and style and partook in 4 of the 5 championships while becoming stars in their own right. Parker significantly evolved as he added passing to his repertoire and his remarkable ability to penetrate, along with developing a reliable jump shot. Ginobelli is a remarkable player in his own right. In the last couple of years the team evolved again. This particular team this year remarkably showed off an exquisite passing attack spread throughout the team. So many players contributed in this thorough passing attack. Really remarkable that an entire team participated. I particularly found it fascinating in that Tiago Splitter, who looked like a big stiff to me, became the recipient and the passer of so many effective incredibly quick "touch passes" that resulted in baskets. Was he capable of this before he joined the Spurs? I doubt it. Finally this article expounded on advanced metrics by stats.com that chart things like "miles run by the team" spacing, and other advanced metrics that work to explain this transformation. The spurs outran the Heat by almost 1 mile in their 3rd and 4th games...and outpassed them by over 100 passes per game in that dominant stretch. Of relevance here: within the world of basketball, and often publicized, Coach "Pop" is well noted as a foodie. Last year, after losing the championship, two long time assistant coaches left to take over other pro teams and two new assistant coaches joined the team. One thing they noted was that at team and group preparatory meetings there diets were going to change from beer and burgers to wine and fish and finer dining. Maybe its Coach Pop's foodie obsession that has helped fuel this extended period of excellence. Were the Spurs that great in this series or the Heat that bad? I'm not sure. But it was a dominant victory during a long stretch of excellence.
"LeBron James's Injury Could Lead to Nightmare Scenario for NBA's Broken Playoff Format" by Ben Golliver on washingtonpost.com The NBA Western Conference has become dominant in recent years, winning nearly 60% of the games against the Eastern Conference - worthy Western Conference teams are missing the playoffs due to lesser teams from the Eastern Conference squeezing in with better conference finishes.
Except for one day in January.
It almost hurts to see the Lakers at 12-51 this season, after going 21-61 last year. Still, they're a championship franchise, and they'll be back, eventually. I hope. Today, I happened to be looking at the 2003-2004 LA Lakers. Their four leading scorers in points-per-game were: 1. Kobe Bryant 2. Shaquille O'Neal 3. Gary Payton 4. Karl Malone For those of you who are counting, these four account for: 1. 56 NBA All-Star Games 2. 32 All-NBA First-Teams 3. 21 All-NBA Defensive First-Teams 4. 9 NBA All-Star MVPs 5. 4 NBA MVPs 6. 4 NBA Scoring Champions and ... 7. 120,660 Points Scored (Kobe will add some more to this figure by year-end) Consider that only 5 players in NBA history have scored over 30,000 points in their careers, and these 4 averaged over that amount! This is truly awesome; however, the four played in only 20 games together that season - Malone went down with a knee injury, and Bryant was distracted by legal issues. Nevertheless, they got to the NBA Finals, losing to the Detroit Pistons in a series that featured a match-up between two ex-Clemson standouts, Horace Grant and Elden Campbell (well, I won't say it "featured" the match-up; merely that it existed).