June 18, 2014
The Blueprint of the Spurs and What It Can Do For Us
Recently, we were engaged in a conversation with a group of friends about the NBA championship series between the San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat. The Spurs had a commanding 3-1 lead and we were discussing who was the most worthy recipient of the finals’ MVP trophy. Of the four very knowledgeable hoops fans in the conversation, all four made a fairly valid argument for a different player. In the end, the trophy was rightly awarded to Kawhi Leonard. But the fact that many other players could have arguably been bestowed the honor is a true reflection of what a beautiful brand of team-oriented basketball the Spurs put on display. Another name that was then thrown into the mix of the Spurs’ most valuable person during the finals is head coach Gregg Popovich.
Turning the coaching conversation closer to home, it’s easy to take pot-shots at the newly minted Kia “Kamao” and their somewhat dubious decision to hire Manny Pacquiao as head coach. That discussion can be saved for another day and excused with the disclaimer that, while the NBA and its teams are in the business of selling basketball, Kia is clearly in the business of selling cars and made their coaching decision accordingly. Lacking the deep pockets of its American counterpart, the PBA has always faced the necessary evil of corporate owned teams. In a league populated with teams bearing company names rather than city names, it’s inevitable that the goal of winning games will sometimes be sacrificed for the goal of selling products.
There are no conflicting goals, however, for coach Chot Reyes and his Team Philippines heading into the 2014 FIBA World Championship. While winning the gold is beyond the dreams of even the most optimistic, putting Filipino basketball on the map on the world stage is possible. The prevailing wisdom in sports is to bet on the team with the most talented player. Gregg Popovich and the Spurs turned this notion on its head with their team-oriented, ball-moving demolition of the Heat.
Chot Reyes and his staff would do well to follow suit. Most would agree that, judging by sheer individual talent alone, the Spurs faced a deficit against Miami—a deficit that was more than made up for by the whole team buying into system brand of ball on both the offensive and defensive end. Good shots were passed up for great shots, regardless of the player and irrespective of egos. Multiple players were cycled through defensive assignments, as Popovich sought the best options on the court at any given time. Similarly, Team Philippines will be overmatched on a talent level by nearly every team in Spain boasting rosters bloated with NBA players (the recent naturalization of Andray Blatche notwithstanding.)
Qualifying for the 2014 FIBA Championship in itself was a fantastic accomplishment and we’re thrilled that our team will be competing in Spain. While facing such overwhelming steep odds, it’s always possible for a team to adopt a “happy-to-be-there” attitude. We hope that come August, the joy of “being there” is washed away by pride of country, an underdog’s spirit, and a total sense of team unity.
Coach Reyes and his staff have their work cut out for them, as words like chemistry and unity are easy enough to talk about but very difficult to implement. It can be done, however. It might be a little easier now that Popovich and the Spurs just gave us the perfect blueprint.
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