The San Antonio Spurs need to get to Miami Heat levels of conditioning
Early in one of the greatest sports movies of all time, Herb Brooks guarantees the young men of the 1980’s U.S. Men’s Olympic Hockey team that, while they might not be the best team heading to the Olympics, they’ll be the best conditioned. “The legs feed the wolf, gentlemen,” Brooks says. There’s a lesson in there for the San Antonio Spurs.
When it comes to drafting and developing young players, the Miami Heat and the Spurs are about neck and neck. But where Miami undoubtedly has an advantage over the Spurs and the rest of the league is in their otherworldly strength and conditioning program.
Every player in the NBA is already a world-class athlete but the strength and conditing coaches down in Miami have built a reputation around the league for being the best of the best.
You don’t have to look hard to find players telling stories of the grueling offseason workouts that the Heat put their players through. Dion Waiters famously opened up about them in his article for The Players Tribune and James Johnson credited Miami’s conditioning for helping him have one of the best seasons of his career when he was there in 2016.
The Spurs offseason workouts are already paying dividends, just look at the improvements that Luka Samanic and Lonnie Walker have made. But in order to return to the top of the Western Conference, the Spurs need to start holding themselves to the same Spartan-like standards that the Heat do.
San Antonio Spurs should aim to be the best-conditioned team in the league
The Miami Heat training program doesn’t sound overly complicated. From what we’ve heard from players who’ve gone through it involves running seemingly endless wind sprints, flipping tires, and pushing weighted sleds in the South Florida heat. And that’s just to prepare for training camp.
The sadistic workouts pay off in the end though. If you watched the Heat relentlessly pursue the Celtics around the court during the Eastern Conference Finals there’s no way that you can question the conditioning of this team. That’s the level the San Antonio Spurs should aspire to get to.
This is the perfect time for the Spurs to set a new goal of usurping the Heat as the NBA’s best-conditioned team. With a young and energetic team that’s proven that it can play well at a high pace there’s more reason than ever for the Spurs to lean into their strength and conditioning.
Over the final eight games of the regular season, the Spurs were playing at the fourth-fastest pace in the NBA. They also had the sixth-highest net rating in the league over that same time period. Those are both big improvements from the middle of the pack spots the Spurs found themselves in for both pace and net rating for much of the season. Good things can happen to this team when they get out and running.
San Antonio has rarely been one of the fastest teams in the league. You have to go all the way back to the 2012-13 season to find them in the top-ten teams in the league in terms of pace. But with a roster full of young slashers it could finally be time for the Spurs to make a change.
Better conditioning and a greater emphasis on stifling defense and getting out in transition could also help the Spurs pick up easy points in transition, an area where they were severely lacking last year.
There’s a change coming to the San Antonio Spurs. The team is younger and faster than they’ve been in quite some time and the style of play is likely to change with that. This team has never been quite so capable of playing at breakneck speed. But in order to take full advantage of their youth and athleticism, the Spurs conditioning needs to be at Miami Heat levels.
The Miami Heat have used their offseason workout programs to build one of the best-conditioned teams in the NBA and now they’re surprising the league and contending for a title. That’s an example any team would be crazy to not try to replicate.