Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  Last updated 5/28/13
When the Los Angeles Lakers landed Dwight Howard in an August trade, we immediately called the Western Conference a two-team race. If the Lakers didnt emerge from the West, surely it would be the Oklahoma City Thunder of Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and a year of Finals experience. And the San Antonio Spurs? Please. Give us a break, we said back in October. Their window closed in, like, 2009. They havent been to the Finals since 2007. Theyre old, boring, irrelevant and pretty much just useless. Their top players are Tim Duncan, whos about 100 years old in real life and 217 in NBA years, and Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. What have those guys ever done? OK, no one really disrespected the previous accomplishments of Duncan (four championship rings), or Parker and Ginobili (three apiece), but we all just figured that little slice of American history had run its course. The Spurs possessed enough experience, talent and depth to put together a nice regular season, we all assumed, but no way do they have the legs to last when it matters. And talk about dull, man. The Lakers added Howard and Steve Nash to Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. The Thunder banished James Harden to Houston on the day before the regular season. The LA Clippers, armed with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, added Jamal Crawford and were already considered everyones favorite darkhorse. The Spurs? They did nothing last summer other than select someone with the second-to-last pick in the draft -- quietly going about their business while Hollywood celebrities danced and the good folks of Oklahoma City coated themselves in white, all in anticipation of the season ahead. Well, guess whos going to the Finals, kids? Oh, weve already heard all the excuses. The Lakers were injured and disjointed all year, and never got a chance to come together in the playoffs when Bryant tore his Achilles tendon. And there may be some merit to that. Or how about Westbrooks knee injury? Surely, the Thunder became considerably less imposing without him. But that has little to do with the Spurs, or what theyve accomplished. They have been at their best when it means the most, giving the Memphis Grizzlies, and those before them, a lesson in basketball as its described in an encyclopedia. The Spurs pass, they cut, they backdoor you into embarrassment. Theyre equally effective inside or out, and possess perhaps the leagues craftiest point guard in Parker, who blows past everyone and makes everyone else just look so much better. If it werent for Miami Heat star LeBron James, Parker would have to be considered the postseason MVP. Then theres Duncan and Ginobili, both of whom can stink all game, then come back to kill you at the end. On top of all this, the Spurs are better-than-solid defensively, with shooting guard Danny Green not only developing into one of the NBAs most lethal 3-point marksmen, but a guy who harasses opponents into utter frustration. Others such as big men Tiago Splitter, Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw are less-than-flashy, but force nothing, staying within the system and totally comprehending the Gregg Popovich way. All of the Spurs seem to know that if Popovich coached somewhere like LA or New York or Boston, hed be mentioned in the same sentence as Phil Jackson and Red Auerbach much more frequently -- that he is perhaps the largest reason this team of run-of-the-mill (and probably over-the-hill) stars continue to confuse and irritate a basketball planet thats obsessed with turning the fundamentals into a highlight reel of infinite gushing. Now, some folks will continue with their excuses. They'll continue to talk about the key injuries to other teams, and call the Spurs nothing more than a band of that took advantage of circumstances. Thats fine. The Spurs dont care. Never have, never will, and while the rest of us are sweating over The Next Big Basketball Moment, they just keep doing their thing. Basically, the Spurs just keep creating that moment, leaving the rest of us to genuflect over the things with considerably less substance. They just keep playing basketball the right way, the Popovich way, the way that actually wins. Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO
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