The San Antonio Spurs style of play has been labeled as “boring”. They are not like teams that are known to be flashy, they just go out and do one thing, play basketball the right way.
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Regardless of where you fall on the spectrum — whether you are an adamant appreciator of ball movement and the collective strength of a team over the singular greatness of an individual — the Spurs are a team that is highly scrutinized and, at the same time, highly appreciated.
Even the most derisive basketball fan would agree that these Spurs are an elite team. Unless they are completely naive, that is. But do the Spurs play beautiful basketball?
Does “beautiful” in this context represent an utterly unstoppable player careening to the rim with impunity as time wanes? Or does “beautiful” constitute a synonymous group of five players, moving, reacting and feeding off each other as one unit?
Well if we use soccer as a model — it is considered the beautiful game, of course — then the Spurs deserve to be considered as basketball’s beautiful team.
The Spurs don’t have the one definitive star that dominates national narratives. The Spurs don’t have elite athleticism. I would contend, however, that the Spurs’ athleticism is very subtle, unbeknownst to the naked eye. Though, during the offseason they have made moves to become more athletic, seeing their play against the more athletic teams in the NBA has yet to be seen.
Nov 1, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich reacts during the second half of a game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
They don’t contain the requisite qualities that compel the casual fans to swoon with anticipation and awe.
Instead, they just continue to operate with indifferent, mechanical inefficiency. But what really makes the Spurs beautiful is their adherence to team, work ethic and flexibility.
The Spurs are flexible with everything; rotations, minutes, shot opportunities, everything. If Danny Green is having a good shooting night, you know who will dominate offensive possessions. Green is coming off of what possibly was his worst season on the offensive side of the ball. But, that did not derail him and take away what he can do on the defensive end.
The torch has been passed over to Kawhi Leonard. During last season, he showed that he was willing to be the ‘go to player’ for San Antonio. But he did not attempt every shot down the floor. He knows his role and lets others get involved.
Perceptions do not prevail in the Spurs’ system; they are, essentially, irrelevant.
And that self-confidence is pretty refreshing in this era of the NBA. I’d even venture to call that confidence beautiful.
But, hey, that’s just me.