After the media onslaught when the San Antonio Spurs beat OKC in six games for the Western Conference championship, so much was made of Tim Duncan’s remarks regarding the Finals. “It’s unbelievable to regain the focus after that devastating loss last year,” said the player dubbed “Old Man Riverwalk,” as he clutched the Western Conference trophy, “but we’re back here and we’re excited about it. We got four more to win. We’ll do it this time.” Later on, he admitted, “We’re happy that it’s the Heat. We’ll be ready for them. . . we’ve got that bad taste in our mouths still.”
The media reaction was . . . well, it was conveyed immediately to San Antonio’s opponents to, hopefully, start a series of incendiary remarks between the Heat and the Spurs. If you haven’t realized it yet, that is one of the main ploys of the media, which only makes sense, because if they succeed, the stories more or less write themselves. I mean, why do all the work when the players, many of whom have no idea they’re being played, are only too glad to do the work for you? In this case, however, the best response the members of the fourth estate could elicit from Miami was a completely honest and appropriate quote from LeBron James. “His comments don’t bother me,” said James. “Once you get on the floor, you’ve got to play. We want them, too.” So it means playing is more important than talking?
Boo. That means the guys covering the games would actually have to work. For this Finals, the work turned out to be, time-wise, a great deal less than anticipated, as the Spurs made short order of the men from South Beach, winning the series in five games. So much for Tim Duncan’s bulletin board material. Fans who consider that kind of “smack” to be relevant to the outcome of the game (as long as it’s not in poor taste), don’t understand (elite) athletes or athletics, for that matter. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the best team wins (especially in a best-of-seven series) and the reasons they do so are talent, unselfishness, discipline and preparation, i.e. coaching. A little luck doesn’t hurt the cause, either (especially in the case of injuries and, maybe a key call or two). Of course, there have been upsets but in those cases, all of the above apply, with the exception of talent (which is why it’s regarded as an upset).
The coaches must be on the same page and the game plan must be repeated over and over - so the players are on that same page as well. It’s not nearly as simple as it sounds. Since so many of SportsCenter’s Top 10 highlights revolve around individual moves and high flyers, finding unselfish players is proving more and more difficult. I can’t recall even one of the numerous San Antonio possessions in which the ball was passed more than five times making that Top 10 list. Yet, if someone had asked any of the Miami defenders to rate the degree of difficulty between 1 and 10 (1 very easy, 10 extremely hard) that it took to defend such a possession, let’s just say no one should be surprised if the answer would be at, or very near, double figures.
There are t-shirts that have T-E-A-M spelled vertically on the back with the, now, familiar slogan T-Together E-Everyone A-Achieves M-More. In today’s world sometimes it seems as though the acronym stands for: