San Antonio Is A Brilliant Organization

Andy Lyons

The Spurs, from top to bottom, are run as well as any team since Red Auerbach's Celtics.

We have always pulled for Shane Battier; we have admired him since before he signed with Duke. In many ways he's epitomized not just what basketball should be but what one should aspire to in other ways as well.

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Yet in the NBA Finals, we found it impossible to pull against the San Antonio as the Spurs systematically and continually dismantled Battier's Miami Heat, culminating in a masterful Game 5 performance.

Thought by many to be too old, including us, the Spurs turned that around and made Miami look ancient.

That suffocating defense the last couple of years? Gone.

Miami had nothing to stop San Antonio's brilliant offensive performance and the Spur's defense was magnificent.

And here's where San Antonio totally trumped the Heat: a brilliantly constructed bench.

Danny Green wasn't an instant success in the NBA, having scored 40 points in his first (and last) season with Cleveland.

With the Spurs, he's become a tremendous weapon.

Like Green, Patty Mills was a second-round pick who spent his first season - part of it anyway - with Portland. After the 2011 lockout, Mills took off for Australia and China, before signing with the Spurs.

Unlike the aforementioned, Kawhi Leonard was a high draft pick - but the Pacers. The Spurs conned them into a trade and now he's the Finals MVP.

Big man Tiago Splitter was a first round pick, but only the 28th.

Tony Parker was also the last pick in his draft, 2001 (the same year as Battier).

Some of the players taken ahead of him: Eddy Curry, Eddie Griffin, DeSagana Diop, Troy Murphy, Michael Bradley and Joe Forte.

Manu Ginobli was, unbelievably in retrospect, the 57th pick in his draft.

But San Antonio has acquired players like nobody's business (in this year's draft, the general expectations are that players like KJ McDaniels, PJ Hairston, Mitch McGary and DeAndre Daniels may still be around. The team has a history of smart late picks; don't be surprised if it happens again) and they've fit into the system magnificently.

Watching these Spurs play is a bit like watching the Celtics of the Bird era, or the Cowens/Havlicek era, or even the Knicks of the Willis Reed era.

There's no flash (okay, Larry Bird had some major flash, but it was usually in the context of winning or at least making a point) and the ball movement has been absolutely superb. You can be the fastest guy in the world but you still can't move as fast as the ball should.

In an era when dunks and individualism are celebrated, San Antonio has underscored the undeniable truth of the game: a group which plays smart and together, which prizes team success over that of the individual, can overcome a more talented opponent.

The US forgot this for a time and was reminded of it in international play when international teams began to beat our national teams like a drum.

Not coincidentally, San Antonio has eight players from other countries, and while Tim Duncan was born an American citizen, he learned to play on St. Croix, where there are just around 50,000.

It's about as obscure a beginning as a basketball player can get, and from there to a five-time NBA champion?

What the Spurs have built and accomplished beggars belief.

It's very near the end now - Duncan, Ginobli and Parker are all getting old - but people have said that for several years.

San Antonio has enough depth to make another run, and being the smartest team in the league, will find help this offseason again. Don't count them out.

The sad thing to us is the end of Battier's highly unusual and brilliant career. We can't remember anyone quite like him.

Being famously well-spoken, Battier's move to ESPN is natural. He'll be an instant hit there and will make basketball commentary vastly more entertaining.

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