San Antonio Spurs’ quiet success could be a model for Washington Wizards


Tim Duncan, left, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were members of the San Antonio Spurs when the team won the NBA championship in 2007. They’re trying to do it again this year against the Miami Heat. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBA/Getty Images)

The National Basketball Association (NBA) Finals begin Thursday between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat.

Most hoops fans are wondering whether the Heat and superstar­­ ­LeBron James can repeat as NBA champions. But I think it’s a good time to look at the San Antonio Spurs. I hope our Washington Wizards notice how San Antonio has quietly built one of the great pro teams in any sport.

You don’t believe me? Take a look at the Spurs’ record in the past 16 seasons. San Antonio has won four NBA championships (1999, 2003, 2005 and 2007). The Spurs have also won at least 50 games during every 82-game regular season during that time.

To show you how tough it is to win 50 games, think about this: The Wizards have not won 50 games during the regular season in the past 34 years!

What makes the Spurs so good? It all starts with Tim Duncan, their 6-foot-11-inch center. If the Spurs are the quietest super team in basketball, then Duncan is the quietest superstar. For 16 seasons, Duncan has been playing the game the right way. No chest-thumping or fancy stuff, just winning basketball. Duncan can score, rebound, pass and play defense. Duncan is so solid in every part of the game that his nickname is “The Big Fundamental.”

Of course, no player can do it alone. Duncan has plenty of help. Tony Parker is as good as any point guard in the NBA. He averaged more than 20 points a game this season while hitting more than 52 percent of his shots.

Manu Ginobili is a tough veteran scorer who is not afraid to take the big shot.

But the key to the Spurs’ many years of success is their knack for picking up little-known players who make big contributions.

You have to be a real hoops fanatic to have heard of Danny Green, Tiago Splitter or Kawhi Leonard. Green led the Spurs in three-point baskets. Splitter was second in rebounding behind Duncan, and Leonard is a second-year forward who did a little bit of everything for San Antonio this season.

And like every player on the Spurs, Green, Splitter and Leonard pass the ball. The Spurs do not put up with selfish players.

One more key is that San Antonio does not change coaches very often. Gregg Popovich has been the Spurs’ head coach for 17 seasons. During the same time, the Wizards have had 12 head coaches.

So if the Wizards want to be winners, they should try to be like the Spurs. If they do, they might even end up as champions.

Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is the author of 19 sports books for kids. His latest basketball book is “Real Hoops.”

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