The NBA Players Association gave out their second annual awards for the NBA, covering 14 separate categories, in which the San Antonio Spurs were named to three of the categories.
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The players awarded three of those awards to our beloved Spurs players. Tim Duncan won for “Most Influential Veteran”, Gregg Popovich won for “Coach You Would Most Like to Play For”, and Kawhi Leonard won for “Best Defender.”
Duncan winning is not as much of a surprise, because he is the ultimate teammate, and has been for 19 years in the NBA. Duncan also has gotten credit from players and coaches throughout his career. For all the times Spurs fans have felt slighted, Duncan has been the exception to that rule. He has always gotten the respect he deserves. In fact, NBA players and coaches have always praised him for his professionalism, as well as his greatness.
Oct 12, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Tony Parker (right) talks with San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich (left) during the first half against the Miami Heat at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Popovich is not as surprising, because he too has gotten plenty of respect in recent years from players, coaches and the media. However, he didn’t always get the respect he deserved. Phil Jackson said the Spurs 1999 Championship, needed an asterisk after it. The year the Lakers swept the Spurs in 2001 Western Conference Finals, Jackson referred to the Spurs coaching staff led by Popovich as “The Simulator Crew”, because none of them played professionally.
As Popovich’s Spurs ousted the Lakers in the 2003 Western Conference Semi Finals, and went on to win three more titles over the next five years, Jackson and others had less negative things to say. I still believe that once Popovich helped get the Spurs back to the Finals in 2013, after being written off year after year despite their proven success and tenacity, cemented his legend.
Any detractors after that who called Popovich out for benching Duncan late in Game 6 of those 2013 Finals when the Spurs were a rebound away from another Championship, were silenced a year later when Popovich and the Spurs redeemed themselves with Championship number five against that same Heat team. Since then, even with earlier round losses to the Clippers and Thunder, criticism of Popovich’s role in those losses is not very common.
Leonard, “The Defending Two-Time Defensive Player of the Year” getting best defensive player is a “no brainer” right? Right I say, you say, the media who voted for it say, but not everyone. The NBPA didn’t even have Leonard in their top four defensive player list last year! That is ridiculous! That is even worse than saying Harden should have been MVP over Curry last year.
The NBPA did in fact vote for James Harden as their MVP. This year they got it right, and therefore lend their organization’s opinions a bit more credibility. The fact that they didn’t even have Leonard in their top four defensive players list shows that it is still a bit too much of a political, popularity contest when it comes to players giving out their own awards (not that the media hasn’t been guilty of politics and popularity in their voting over the years too).
This year, the NBPA at least got a lot closer to the mark in terms of accuracy in assessing three of the San Antonio Spurs, and where they rank.