Spurs Chip-Walking at a Steady Pace

A relatively healthy “Big Three” and super-sidekicks Tiago Splitter, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard let off an emphatic “Don’t f—ck with us,” to the rest of the NBA.

They probably took their time saying it, but it was surely loud enough to hear in Miami.

Greg Popovich was criticized and sometimes even ridiculed for his decision to rest his veteran players and at times not even have them accompany the team to certain road games.

As supreme a mastermind as Pop is, the prevailing thought was the Spurs “Big Three” are aging and injury-prone and the combined minds of Red Auerbach and Tex Winters couldn’t prevent inevitable deterioration. Duncan, Ginobili and Parker have all fought injuries and age in winning four NBA chips since ‘99. They’ve been busier than T.I. when he first came home, and early playoff exits in previous years exposed their weaknesses.

Most organizations would have panicked, but the NBA’s model-of-consistency franchise didn’t. They stayed the course, added some pieces and kept the pace.

San Antonio is all about pacing.

Nothing is new to a team that is playing in its 8th Western Conference Finals in 15 years. San Antonio fully comprehends the intricacies, nuisances and emotional somersaults of NBA playoff basketball .

Popovich knew his decisions wouldn’t sit well with the league. He got ripped by fans and NBA Commissioner David Stern for his late-November decision to send stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili and role player Danny Green home to San Antonio for rest before a loss to the Miami Heat on national TV.

The way Pop saw it, those folks were concerned with being entertained and making money. He took a bullet for his team, maintained the pace and the ultimate goal of being rested enough to compete to the fullest.

The Spurs learned a few lessons in ‘11 when Memphis waxed them in the first round in six games.

They faced a grim reality last season when a top seed, 20-game winning streak and 2-0 conference finals lead against OKC turned into mush. In both instances, they lost the battle of attrition.

They’ve since adopted the mentality of marathon runners, lying low when needed and picking up the pace when the stakes are the highest.

It’s pretentious for most teams to assume that they’ll run deep in the playoffs, but we all know it’s good money that the Spurs will make noise if the “Big Three” is healthy enough to rock-n-roll.

It’s all guitar strings and crazy things so far in these playoffs as the “old” Spurs are balling harder than the super-talented but oft-injured cane-walkers they were.

While other teams’ playoff dreams were decimated by injuries to key players, the Spurs are on a full tank and dispensing ass whippings like the one they gave Memphis in Game 1 of the WCF on Sunday.

Memphis got gutted in every aspect of the game. From trey-bombing to post and penetration presence to passion, heady plays, speed and clutch shots.

The stat-line says it all. Zach Randolph scored two points and Marc Gasol was on mute. The “Bash Brothers” were inconceivable victims of the oppressive excellence of the Spurs symphonic pacing.

The Grizzlies are going to come back with a vengeance based on pride alone. But if the Spurs stay the course and remain healthy, it’s obvious they are a well-oiled machine that can cut cats Pacino style—on any given Sunday.

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.