December 10, 2023

The Spurs’ own deus ex machina: Kawhi Leonard

San Antonio’s third place in the West standings is deceiving.

The Ringer’s Danny Chau wrote an excellent piece this week on Pop and the Spurs’ constant presence in the NBA’s ever changing climate. They’re the creatures who have somehow survived from Mesozoic Era through the present day, evolving with their environment, but still undeniably Spursian.

I think of how many times the 03-05 Spurs would mold their strategy when playing a team like Phoenix. You’d see San Antonio run with the Suns, but also bend them to Pop’s will. The very next series if playing a different/slower team, the Spurs would run a different look. They’re a predator not confined to one attack method.

Chau points out that the genius of Pop’s system is his recollection of his past games and events that now shape his current strategy. He’s like a chess master who is able to call on the database of his roughly 2,000 previous games to shape how he will execute the game at hand. The Spurs have lingered like a spirit throughout Pop’s 20 years in the NBA, mostly because of Pop’s ability to change and adapt. His ability to craft a potential third seed out of the current roster is the latest example of his skill. He’s recalled strategies used in Tim Duncan and David Robinson’s era and adapted them to LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol.

I especially loved this section of the piece particularly:

Popovich’s strategy sessions may as well involve him at a table playing chess, with the pieces on the board all specters of his past teams pointing the way forward. It’s the Hauntology of the Spurs’ ghost dynasty: The future is just the present coexisting with the past. (cont’d) … Pop went back to his roots to cobble a potential 3-seed out of this team, but there’s still a ghost on the chessboard that hasn’t been moved.

The idea here is that Pop has not even moved his most valuable piece on the board yet: Kawhi Leonard, a player so unique in that he fits none of the constructs of former Spurs figures. When Pop does decide to move him into position on his board, the Spurs will have an entire new set of moves to play.

It’s a read that’s worth your time.

Source: Pounding The Rock


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