With The Finals Over, One Last Look Back At 2013-14

I could listen to the San Antonio Spurs talk all day. It really doesn’t matter which player or coach is talking, and it doesn’t really matter what they’re saying. Their underlying message is always dipped deep in the common philosophy of team accountability, belief, hard work and the old “we’re going to win today” approach.

When you watch them play, like we did during this postseason, we saw it in their actions. The Spurs were excellent during the 2014 playoffs and capped things off on Sunday night by winning their fifth NBA championship in 15 years—beating the two-time defending champion Miami Heat 4-1. Just 12 months after suffering such a devastating loss to that same Heat team in the 2013 Finals (leading late in Game 6 before losing in OT, then dropping Game 7), the heat displayed through their actions, again, exactly why they are and have been champions for so long.

But when you listen to their words, you understand why. Take, for instance, what Manu Ginobili said during the Spurs’ trip to Target Center in April.

“We don’t take anything for granted,” Ginobili said. “We go and compete every day. Sometimes it’s not easy. Sometimes the opponents play better than you and you lose and you just shake their hands, but we’ve been very reliable this year and steady.”

San Antonio’s past 17 years look like this: five NBA titles, a 950-396 regular season record (.706 winning percentage), 11 .700+ seasons, four 60-win seasons and not one year winning fewer than 61 percent of their games. No franchise in NBA history has put together a streak that matches the Spurs in that regard.

They do it with a humble, tenacious approach.

“It’s just a good combination of experience, youth, great coaching and accountability,” Ginobili said. “We do want to do good, we care for the team, for our teammates, and I think the front office is doing a good job of mixing it up.”

So congratulations to the Spurs and another championship season. Last night was fun to watch, not only seeing a champion respond and rise, but the emotion on the court. Hearing the Spurs’ president and CEO reference how his wife has been the “mother of this team for 17 years,” seeing Tim Duncan with his kids, and the incredible team reaction when Kawhi Leonard won the Finals MVP award were all lasting impressions.

As we say goodbye to 2013-14, here are a few other lasting impressions I had from this past NBA season. Here’s to another great one in 2014-15!

  • At Timberwolves.com, we got spoiled this year having a chance to talk to some of the top basketball icons in league history. A few that stand out to me are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Dominique Wilkins and Elgin Baylor. Getting a chance to talk hoops and history with these guys was a privilege, and it’s something both myself and John Focke will never forget.
  • The power forward position was a hot topic throughout the season because, well, we’re seeing a new age of 4s coming of age and heading into their primes right before our eyes. We in Minnesota got a chance to see Kevin Love doing work first-hand, and it prompted me to write Part I and Part II of “The Road to Today’s Power Forward” series over All-Star Break. All-Star Weekend gave me the chance to talk with a great deal of past and present NBA personalities about the position’s past, present and future. The power forward has changed a great deal over the past few decades, and it was fun breaking it down.
  • This year was the Timberwolves’ 25th season celebration, and as a way of looking back we broke down Bill Musselman’s impact as the team’s first coach, and we also highlighted a group of six players and assistant coaches who were here during Musselman’s two seasons that eventually became NBA head coaches.
  • This year was also the Timberwolves’ 10th anniversary of their Western Conference Finals run, and we took a look back on that memorable season as well as Kevin Garnett’s Game 7 performance against the Kings in the Western Conference Semis.
  • On the Wolves’ bench, coach Rick Adelman retired from coaching after 23 seasons in the league—the final three with Minnesota. Flip Saunders took over earlier this month.
  • On the court, Corey Brewer’s 51-point effort was the highlight of the season. It was as brilliant as it was unexpected, and even he was surprised in the locker room afterwards. Those types of moments make sports so fantastic and unpredictable.
  • Kevin Durant showcased night-in and night-out why he was this year’s Most Valuable Player. His performance 48 points against the Wolves on Jan. 4 (and the way he took over in the fourth) was a prime example of that.
  • The Heat once again proved they are the best in the East, winning their fourth straight conference title. But this year, the Spurs were too much. Now, one of the storylines I’m looking forward to most is how this Miami team responds. Does it stay together? Does it find a way to regroup and march back to the Finals in 2015—just like the Spurs did this year? A clear mark of a champion is how it bounces back. This is Miami’s chance to do just that.

Enjoy our offseason content, beginning with our Timberwolves Draft Central and continuing through Summer League, free agency and Training Camp. I hope you’ve enjoyed this season as much as I have, and I’m excited to see what next year brings.