Consistency is one word to describe Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli, Greg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs. Since the 1998-1999 season, San Antonio has managed to become a dynasty without ever winning back-to-back championships. Each and every time the Spurs have been counted out by the sports media, they have come back. They also have done so without missing a single playoff berth in 17 years. Now, with the San Antonio Spurs signing Tony Parker to a new three-year contract extension, it essentially extends the life span of the most successful franchise since the Chicago Bulls of the 1990s.
Parker, who is the youngest of the big three, while having a decrease in his production, put in an efficient 2013-2014 season. He averaged 16.7 ppg and 5.7 apg while shooting 50 percent from the field. Additionally, he also averaged his second-best season from the three-point line with 37 percent from the arc. The former Finals MVP no longer is a player who can impose his will on the game, but Parker serves as the most consistent player on San Antonio. Yet again, he has proven to be perfect for Popovich’s system by being, like Duncan, completely selfless and only having one goal — to win.
San Antonio re-signing Parker came across merely as a blip on the radar. His signing was nothing compared to the sensationalism of the Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James, and even Chris Bosh signings. This is how San Antonio has always been treated. They are the ultimate underdogs, despite their history of winning. Every year, critics think that the Spurs are on their way out of being a contender. Instead, last year happens. They win another championship. After all, this is a team that continues to evolve. Just like how David Robinson took a backseat to Tim Duncan when he arrived on the team, the stage has been set for San Antonio’s future once again. Parker, who still is a reliable second or third option, may very well be the support to Kawhi Leonord in years to come, once Duncan and Ginobli most likely retire after the 2014-2015 season. As a result, the Spurs have quietly extended their life span by keeping Parker past the big three era.
San Antonio is not a team that showcases extensive flash, unlike the past teams of the Los Angeles Lakers or, more recently, the Miami Heat. Unlike those squads, the Spurs have executed a long period of success by playing basketball the way in which it was intended to be played — through fundamentals and team play. It started with the alignment of the twin towers of David Robinson and Tim Duncan, followed by the integration of Tony Parker at the point, with Manu Ginobli as their unpredictable scorer. More importantly, none of this would have happened without Greg Popovich, who has enacted a systematic approach that has been proven to work.
What really separates the Spurs from the other teams in the NBA is that they have proven to be a team that continues to adjust to the times. In a league that has leaned towards the prioritization of its star players, the Spurs are the odd team out. Season after season, they continue to mold young talent. From their big three, to past role players such as Bruce Bowen and Stephen Jackson, to this year’s Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, Popovich has created a system that enables him to adjust his strategy year after year. The reason why he is able to do this is that, unlike a superstar team such as the Oklahoma City Thunder, his top players do not need to play 40-plus minutes per game. This past season, Tony Parker logged the most minutes during the regular season at just under 30 mpg. In the playoffs, on the other hand, Duncan logged in just under 33 mpg, which is more than enough to allow the 38-year-old the rest he needed.
While past championship teams have focused on upgrading their squad, San Antonio has done the opposite this offseason. Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, and Matt Bonner, the key free agents on the Spurs, have all been re-signed. Despite all the media attention the Cleveland Cavaliers receive, with the re-signings of the Spurs’ principle players, San Antonio should once again be the team to beat in the NBA. They realize that if their system is not broke, there is no need to fix it. By keeping their roster intact, they will once again head into an NBA season with the deepest roster in the NBA.
The problem is for the rest of the NBA. When Tony Parker signed a new contract extension with the San Antonio Spurs, it only extended the life span of the most successful team in the NBA. Once Duncan, Ginobli, and possibly Popovich approach the end of their careers, these Spurs show no signs of slowing down. As much as the rest of the NBA wants to see a rebuilding project in San Antonio, it is more likely that they will be seeing a Spurs team that will continue to be the team to beat for the foreseeable future.
Commentary By Simon Mounsey