Why Spurs, not Heat, are NBA’s model
by Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt, USA TODAY Sports
MIAMI — Back when the rest of the NBA world was lamenting the super team that had been built in South Florida in the summer of 2010, Gregg Popovich was congratulating Miami Heat President Pat Riley, the man who had pulled it off.
“He put together a team fairly, within the rules, that is a monster,” the San Antonio Spurs coach said. “So why wouldn’t he get credit for that? Why wouldn’t you congratulate him for that? So I did.”
Three years later, the Spurs are reminding the masses that there’s more than one way to contend for the crown, and the two contrasting ways in which a championship team can be built are on display in the fascinating NBA Finals matchup.
The Spurs program that has yielded four championships since 1999 is the antithesis of the Heat’s approach, with their core players coming via the draft and with a focus on international talent that has helped soften the competitive blow that comes with being in a small market.
That’s a sharp contrast to Miami, where next season Heat owner Micky Arison is prepared to write David Stern a check for $37 million because of the ever-increasing luxury tax rate for owners.
“Their team was put together through the draft — the way that people feel is the right way,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “And ours was put together a little differently. So the conversation is different. We understand that.
“We’re not trying to be the Spurs. We’re not going to get the same treatment and same talk. Vice-versa, I’m sure they don’t want to be us.”
The Spurs’ route is the most popular way these days, the strategy seen as more viable in an NBA landscape in which the collective bargaining agreement makes it so hard to have more than two maximum-salary (or near maximum-salary) players on one roster and draft picks are even more precious than before.
The drafting of Tim Duncan first overall out of Wake Forest in 1997 was the most important — and obvious — move of them all. But as Spurs owner Peter Holt said recently, Duncan has had more … [For more on Why San Antonio Spurs, not Miami Heat, are NBA's model, click here.]