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Up three-games-to-none in the 2007 Finals, the Spurs are all but a lock to close out the Cavaliers with another win, making Robert Horry one of the winningest players in NBA history.
“When you mention the name Robert Horry,” teammate Brent Barry said at Wednesday’s media availability session, “you think championship. It’s a remarkable thing to be part of one championship, let alone seven. That’s pretty impressive.”
Impressive, too, is the company Horry will keep – and pass – when he celebrates a title for the seventh time in his career, the most ever for any player who won a title with a team other than the Boston Celtics. Just as impressive is the list of players he’ll leave behind, those who captured only six championships during their playing days: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Bob Cousy – all on the list of 50 Greatest Players.
For Horry, though, all that winning never gets old.
“People are like, ‘It’s old hat for you.’ No, it’s not old hat for me and I enjoy it to the utmost just as much as Michael (Finley, a first-time Finalist) is because in my eyes, I’m passing one of the players I grew up admiring – Scottie Pippen. If we can win this ring and I can get my seventh ring, that’s going to be like a feather in my cap because I enjoyed watching him play throughout his career and to pass him, one of the players I admired most. It would be a great thing for me.”
If it’s such a great thing, then why does Horry keep his collection of six tucked away in a drawer in your bathroom?
“Because that’s the only place I had that I could put them in a drawer together,” he laughed, telling a group of journalists it’s “where they could be together.”
Horry recently moved his crown jewels from a spot in the closet to the bathroom, but either location seems fitting given the attention – or lack of – the Spurs players pay to the rings of their own that they’ve won.
“It’s so funny that, since I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a guy wear a ring. I’ve never heard Tim (Duncan) talk about a ring. None of the guys talk about a ring. They just talk about going out and winning games and winning a championship.”
But it’s not as though the players aren’t proud of their accomplishments and what they have to show for those past conquests.
“I just wear two of them,” Horry modestly remarked. “I wear one from the Lakers and one from the Rockets. They’re kind of big and gaudy.
“The only time I ever put them on is if I’m doing a charity event or something. It gives me something to talk about other than, ‘Oh, I’m here for this, this.’ You get tired of talking about the same thing at charity events, so it’s like, ‘This is the ring we won here ... ’”
For the Spurs to win a ring here in Cleveland on Thursday night, they may have to play their best game of these Finals yet to fight off a team that’s just looking for its first win to stave off elimination.
“Well, I don’t think that they need a Knute Rockne for Popovich, put it like that,” the Spurs coach said of keeping his team motivated and focused for Game 4. “They’re in the NBA Finals. I would depend on their character and their experience to understand what that means. So if we do not win tomorrow night, it’s not going to be because they weren’t focused. It’s going to be because the other team was better that night. I don’t worry about that.”
And Cleveland might just be better, if only for a night. They played perhaps their best game on Tuesday, falling just short as a long LeBron James triple rimmed out. And while many believe the Cavs are deflated and will be no match in the close-out contest, don’t think the Spurs are taking their competition lightly.
“It’s hard to close people out,” Horry said, “regardless whether you're sweeping them or ending the series, period. It’s hard.
“The hardest thing to do is kill a wounded animal. They’re wounded and they don’t want to go home. They don’t want their season to end, so they’re going to pull out every reserve piece of energy they have left. They’re going to come out hard. Plus, it’s really hard because we’re in their building.”
Hard, yes, but when you have a guy like Horry on your squad, you must like your chances of completing the sweep. After all, Big Shot Rob has been on the last two teams to go 4-0 an NBA Finals series – the 1995 Houston Rockets and the 2002 L.A. Lakers. Only five other teams in NBA Finals history have ever swept an opponent.
One indication that this Spurs team could be No. 8 is the fact San Antonio is playing some of its best basketball of the season, having steadily improved since the All-Star break to peak at precisely the right time.
“The Houston team I was on,” Horry said, comparing his current team to his previous dominant squads, “we were just rolling. We just hit the right stride at the right moment. And the Lakers team, we were rolling again. You just have to get in that groove and I think we’ve gotten into that groove in the Utah series and hopefully it will continue to keep us moving.
“But, it’s hard to sweep people. You hope that it can happen because you want to end a series as soon as possible because so many things can come into play: an injury here, sickness here. So you just want to play to try to win.”
Play to win: It's what the Spurs do. Even if you can't tell by looking at their bare fingers.