After a practice last month, the Spurs' rookies sang happy birthday to
Blair views his Spurs as the NBA's version of an NCAA team run by the same coach who applies the same system to contend for the same trophy year after year after year. "It's like a college program -- but with a franchise player,'' he said of
Now that the Spurs are trailing Los Suns 2-0 as they return to San Antonio for Games 3 and 4 of their Western Conference semifinal, there is talk of moving
In that sense, Phoenix is beating San Antonio at its own game.
But Phoenix is winning with smarts and hustle and across-the-board help, and luck is irrelevant to the equation. After all, the Suns have been doing these things to go 34-9 over the last three months. "I can't remember being a part of a team that's had so many guys step up and play well,'' said Nash.
The Spurs have made enormous investments in the teamwork area that is now killing them. They uncharacteristically lost 32 games in the regular season while integrating
"I've been humbled quite a bit during this season, and learned quite a bit about myself,'' Jefferson said toward the end of the series victory over Dallas. "'Rededication' is not the right word, but I do have a better understanding of getting back to that high level I've had with teams that were really, really good. To be here and to be around such talented players with a coach that's so demanding, it helps you to refocus. You work hard every single summer, you put the time in every single year, you play hurt -- you do all these things. But sometimes when you can refocus on a team goal, that can really help you.''
Can they tighten that goal to overcome the mismatches that are now so flummoxing? Jefferson had 18 points and 10 rebounds while playing 42 minutes against the perimeter-based lineup, and yet it wasn't enough to win Game 2. The Spurs renewed second-year guard
The Spurs need to simply hold their home court to turn this into an even best-of-three series, and maybe they can draw strength from recalling their victories in all five playoff series against Phoenix when Duncan has been playing. After each of those losses over the previous dozen years, the Suns would look at San Antonio's roster and wonder how those role players performed to such a high level. But now, suddenly and unpredictably, the Spurs are facing the same mysterious problem, and it won't be easy to fix.