Shootaround Access: Wolves vs. Spurs
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The Spurs rolled through the Oklahoma City Thunder last night, posting a 105-93 win over a team tied for the second most wins in the NBA. That victory put them on the brink of yet another 50-win season, a feat San Antonio could accomplish tonight at Target Center when they face the Wolves.
Reaching that milestone would mean San Antonio has never had fewer than 50 wins during a full season in the Tim Duncan Era—a stretch that dates back to the 1997-98 season. During that time they’ve never had a win percentage lower than .610 (2009-10) and they’ve only had fewer than 50 wins during the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. That year teams played only 50 games, and the Spurs won 37 of them.
When Wolves assistant coach Terry Porter ended his career, he did so with three years playing in San Antonio under Gregg Popovich and the glue of this 16-year, four-championship run: Tim Duncan. Those were the first three years of this current 50-game winning streak. San Antonio has found a way to essentially build around Popovich and Duncan while maneuvering from a frontcourt-heavy tandem of Duncan and David Robinson into a dangerous perimeter squad led by Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
They’ve maintained excellence regardless of circumstance.
“You go with Pop, he’s been unbelievable with the system he has in place,” Porter said. “This stretch they’re in, right now, it’s just a proven point. They have multiple guys down; it’s next man up. Everyone has to pick it up a little bit more. Everyone knows what’s expected of them, everyone knows their roles, playing hard. They have to do it every day.”
When you’re talking dynasties, the Spurs have one of the most consistent runs of success in NBA history. Compare this current 14-season stretch of 50-win seasons, a streak in which they’ve won four titles. That’s more consistency than Michael’s Bulls (nine 50-win seasons in 11 years, six titles), Magic’s Showtime Lakers (12 straight seasons, five titles) and Larry’s Celtics (nine straight seasons, three titles).
Much of that has to do with Duncan, who likely will not play tonight due to the team’s second consecutive game in as many nights. But it is Duncan that continues to provide the consistency this team has come to know during his tenure, and all signs indicate this team is not ready to slow down just yet.
“He’s been a guy I’ve looked up to for a long time,” Wolves center Greg Stiemsma said. “Where they’ve been consistently good for a long time, he doesn’t get too fired up or too down about things. He’s always kind of even keel.”
Stiemsma said Shaquille O’Neal was the player he idolized most growing up, but Duncan is a player who has influenced his game. Seeing how Duncan does the little things off the court to keep his body prepared for the long NBA season year after year is a crucial ingredient.
“You see guys in the league for 15-plus years and still playing at a high level—anytime you can take something away from those guys it’s only successes ahead of you,” Stiemsma said.
This run began with San Antonio already possessing a Hall of Famer in Robinson on its roster, and Porter said the Admiral played a “big brother” role do Duncan early in his development. That helped pave the way for Duncan not only learning to be “Mr. Fundamental” but also a quiet but effective team leader.
“I think David was a great resource for him over the years as well as all the other veterans that Pop ha done a good job of surrounding him with over the years,” Porter said.
If the Spurs have a healthy Tony Parker and keep the rest of their team off the injury report, San Antonio has once again put themselves in position to try and add another title to their already consistent and decorated dynasty.
“I mean, it’s incredible,” Stiemsma said. “I think it really says a lot about the system, too. When guys buy in and you execute and take care of the detail things, that can really bring you a lot of success.”