Playoff season draws near for both the NBA and the NHL. As brackets are constructed and fans speculate, we always endure days of TV analysts giving their bogus opinions. OK, not all of the material from TNT, ESPN and other major sports broadcasting giants is foolishness masquerading as intelligent thought but why do so many so-called “experts” always forget about or count out the Spurs? San Antonio has done everything one can ask of a professional sports franchise. The Spurs are competitive every year. They’ve won multiple championships and they play a very unselfish brand of basketball. So, with such a great track record and current success, why is there such a lack of appreciation and confidence in the squad’s future championship prospects? Well, I believe there are multiple reasons. Some are more speculative than others but all of them are unfair and shouldn’t factor into the coverage and analysis of the team.
The first reason that the Spurs are undervalued is because of the players on the roster and the style of play. This is for no other reason than both don’t lend themselves well to what sports networks cut together for highlights. The Spurs don’t have a LeBron or KD that can dominate a play with their athleticism, particularly when dunking. San Antonio relies on ball movement, depth and intelligent shots, (although Manu Ginobli occasionally disrupts that flow), traits that rarely make the nightly recap on Sports Centre. Some absence in the nightly sports news is expected, especially when teams like the Clippers rely heavily on beating teams with athleticism but when a franchise wins at least 50 games every season, it warrants a little more time in the spotlight than a 30-second mention at the end of all the highlights. Plus, the Spurs do have some athletic players, like Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard, which make highlight reel plays on a nightly basis and the league’s fan base is showing a greater appreciation for team oriented basketball, rather than simply tuning in for the latest isoplay from Carmelo Anthony.Basketball fans like the Spurs, casual fans like the Spurs and it’s time for the NBA to like the Spurs.
The second reason the Spurs are undervalued is their geographical location – San Antonio. Networks always cater to larger or sexier markets, like New York, Los Angeles and Miami but still focus on smaller markets when those teams win. Oklahoma City is the best example from the past few years, while Golden State is enjoying a similar increase in coverage. Yet the Spurs have won more games than any other franchise over the past 20 years and are still placed on the back burner when it comes to prime time. I’ve never been to San Antonio, so it’s entirely possible that the city itself is dried turd getting even drier under that hot, Texan sun but that doesn’t justify passing over the best team in basketball.
The third reason and keep in mind my conspiracy hat is on, is that the NBA hates Gregg Popovich. Yep, it’s that simple. The league office, the owners and especially the media, all hate Coach Pop. The resting of players when they’re healthy and grouching his way through interviews has seeped into the minds of those who control the coverage of the league. I understand, to an extent, how frustrating these things are for the league and the media but they ought to rethink how this actually has an effect on the league. His team is always great and always plays a pure style of basketball, so that brings the league great publicity. His grouchiness is incredibly entertaining, just skim through YouTube for a few minutes and you can find hours of Pop content.
Finally, his decision to rest starters has generated media coverage and sparked debates over whether professional athletes should rest to prevent future injuries or dress every possible game to reward the paying customer. All of these factors help promote the league. Why not maximize the potential? Systems are greater than talent, building is done through the draft and teamwork trumps ego. That’s the San Antonio Spurs, the best team in basketball over the past decade and a strong contender once again this season. Hopefully after they win backto-back championships for the first time, the Spurs will cement themselves in history as Pop and Tim Duncan walk off into the sunset. Perhaps then, the experts will shower them with praise other than when it’s just convenient.
Photo cred: http://intrasport.info/2014/08/04/when-no-respect-is-good-san-antonio-spurs/