Originally written on Project Spurs  |  Last updated 4/27/13
On the opposite side of the Western Conference playoffs bracket, but only a state away, the Oklahoma City Thunder are reeling from the loss of guard Russell Westbrook for an as of yet undetermined amount of time. Should it prove longer than a week or two, the prohibitive Western Conference Finals will likely see their season fall short of lofty expectations.  In Los Angeles, regardless of what happens against the San Antonio Spurs, the Lakers season fell apart the moment Kobe Bryant fell to a gruesome Achilles injury.  It was a seemingly harmless play, a step that Bryant had made thousands of times before in his basketball career. And like that, whatever hopes the Lakers had reclaimed for a playoff run in the second half of the season ended.  That an entire basketball season could be determined by one misstep, one random collision, is proof enough that so much of what determines an NBA champion is actually out of the hands of the team that wins it.  For all that we can quantify in what factors into success, the one element we have no control over is perhaps the most important--luck. Every championship run comes with a healthy amount of luck, whether that shows itself in terms of good health at the right time, bad health for the right opponent, falling on the right side of a playoff bracket, or simply finding a ball bounce the right way at a key moment.  For those intrigued by the possibilities Westbrook's injury leaves for the San Antonio Spurs, note that the Spurs themselves are one wrong Manu Ginobili or Tony Parker step away from the opportunity to not even matter. Yes, the Westbrook injury, should he be out an extended period of time, makes the path to the NBA Finals a little easier than it would have been, but the Thunder were hardly the Spurs most troubling opponent in the first place. It's been their own health. It has been six years since the Spurs last won a title, and still the Spurs are viewed as the league's model franchise despite the lack of what claim to be the only success that matters. Over that time the front office and coaching staff have not lost any touch in building the roster, and their processes are no less successful than they were when they were winning championships every other year.  Instead the playoff failures can be traced back to an injury to Manu Ginobili in a loss to the Lakers, an injury to Ginobili that kept him out of a playoff series against the Mavericks, a yearlong bout of injuries to Tony Parker and a first round injury slowing the momentum of Ginobili against the Phoenix Suns, the wrong matchup and a fluke injury to Ginobili against the Grizzlies, and an impossible shot or two from James Harden last year against the Thunder.  The Spurs have also been on the beneficial end of this, missing out on a dangerous Dirk Nowitzki-led team twice, once due a Nowitzki knee injury and a second time due to the Mavericks finding the wrong matchup against the Golden State Warriors. Against the Phoenix Suns, the Spurs rarely had to play a Steve Nash-led team at full strength due to a combination of injuries and suspensions.  Over the long haul, part of what has made the Spurs so successful is the acknowledgement of luck in their success. They were fortunate in drafting Tim Duncan, they were fortunate in finding Ginobili and then Tony Parker. During their playoff runs they had relatively good health. In acknowledging the role of luck, Gregg Popovich and RC Buford have also rarely overreacted to it.  To win a championship you absolutely need good fortune, but you also have to be prepared to take advantage. That's why the Spurs have kept this core together with tweaks around the fringes of the roster even as some called for a rebuild over the past six years. It's why Popovich continues to rest players throughout the season, even as some question its effectiveness given the amount of injuries incurred over the years. You control what you can and adapt to what you can't. In terms of luck, you can do things to shift the percentages in your favor, but ultimately everything is out of your hands. In Westbrook's injury, the Spurs suddenly have an opportunity in a vulnerability to the Western Conference's best team. All the work during the regular season has been in preparation to take advantage of such an opportunity, and as the Thunder and Lakers have proven, all it takes is one step to take that opportunity away.
GET THE YARDBARKER APP:
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

DeSean Jackson: Revis, Sherman can't stop me

Rob Gronkowski on Patriots LB Jamie Collins: ‘He’s a freak’

Ray Allen won't officially retire in case he gets right offer

Cam Newton on taking hits: I'm not a ballerina

Warner impressed by progress made by pupil Kaepernick

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Yordano Ventura threatened Jose Bautista on Twitter

Giants GM confirms he has spoken with Jason Pierre-Paul

Sam Bradford on target to start season opener for Eagles

NFL official: Footballs known to have leaks 'right out of the box'

Bills suspend assistant coach for first six games of 2015

Trent Richardson has 50-50 chance at making Raiders roster

Oregon was only team drug tested during CFB Playoff?

Five 2nd year NBA players ready to take the next step

John Daly wants to be US Ryder Cup captain

Rodgers appears in another Olivia Munn workout video

Matt Hasselbeck is still getting random drug tests

Five teams that won at the MLB trade deadline

What should be expected from Aaron Rodgers in 2015?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is waiting for Tim Duncan to match him

Report: James Harden received $200 million offer to join Adidas

Adrian Peterson, son featured in Vikings' 'Family Day' tweet

July's best and worst players in Major League Baseball

Why TCU and Baylor will again dominate the Big 12

NBA News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
the YARDBARKER app
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Notre Dame doesn't need a conference

Rex takes jabs at Jets' management

Sanchez: It's 'crazy' to call Chip racist

Ronda Rousey calls out Cyborg

Five most underrated players in the NFL

Five potential NFL salary cap casualties this preseason

Winners and losers of the 2015 MLB trade deadline

Pirates do Pirates at deadline: Neat little moves

Mets acquire Cespedes from Tigers

Ranking the NFL’s 32 head coaches

Five worst baseball trades since 2000

Examining the state of the NFL

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker