Touching All the Bases

Seven (Not One ... Not Two ...) Thoughts On The Spurs' Staggering Victory Over The Heat


1. The authentic emotion that comes with a fulfilling victory is one of the reasons sports play such a meaningful part in our lives. But man, the image of Tim Duncan embracing his children and nuzzling his son like a proud lion -- on Father's Day, no less -- in the aftermath of the Spurs' victory last night was so personal that watching it might have felt intrusive if it wasn't such a heartwarming nod to the joys (and pains) of parenthood.

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This vine was tweeted out by Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur, who is graceful and skilled at his job as Duncan is at his. It is not surprising that it was Arthur who captured the unfamiliar scene of an emotionally unguarded Duncan with the perfect words to match the clip and the moment.

2. Guess no one will be asking "Who is Kawhi Leonard?" now. Hell, it's possible that even a majority of sports radio hosts in our city know how to pronounce the Finals MVP's first name at this point, though I bet we'll hear at least one "KOW-hee" at some point today if we haven't already. I did have one remaining question about him, though: Do you think the Pacers, who drafted him 15th overall in 2011 and traded him to the Spurs in a deal for George Hill, would rather have Leonard than Paul George going forward? Zach Lowe wrote a fascinating piece about the trade a year ago for Grantland, and one of the revelations is that the Pacers nearly kept Leonard for themselves before deciding that he'd probably be a luxury:

There was still one problem left: Indiana loved Kawhi Leonard. The Pacers had him about no. 5 or no. 6 on their draft board, and they thought very hard about scrapping the Hill deal and just taking a guy they never expected to be alive at no. 15. ?When Kawhi ended up being there, we had to think about taking him,? [then-Pacers general manager David] Morway says. ?But we already had Danny Granger and Paul George. That?s what made it a little easier for us.?

I know this much: Leonard's achievement of becoming a go-to scorer and shut-down defender on a disciplined, smart, and unselfish veteran team at age 22 is more impressive than anything the talented George has accomplished. And it's not even close.

diawborisfinn616.jpg3. It's cool how so many of the Spurs' players are so familiar and established, and yet watching them play still brings fresh revelations. Boris Diaw is 32 years old. He's been in the NBA since the 2003-04 season, and he damn near croissant-and-donuted his way out of the league before he became a champion. He's a well-rounded player, crucial to those wildly fun Seven Seconds Or Less Suns teams, for whom he averaged 6.2 assists per game in 2005-06. He's long proven to be an intelligent offensive player and a remarkably creative passer ... but I'm not sure I realized how creative until watching this homage to the Spurs' beautiful style ...

... and watching him during this postseason. He is a classic case of how San Antonio recognizes in a flawed player a skill-set that will mesh perfectly with what they do. Boris Diaw is one of my favorite players to watch in the league right now, and there's something I never expected to write.

4. There has to be a "30 for 30" on the 2003 NBA Draft at some point. Three of the top five picks (LeBron, Dwyane Wade's carcass, Chris Bosh) played for the Heat in this series, and the third overall pick, Carmelo Anthony, may unite with LeBron soon if rumors are to be believed. (This is where you can insert your own Darko joke. You've got five seconds.) But there were also so many other interesting names, some of whom were relevant or at least on the fringe of the fun this postseason. Diaw was the 21st pick by the Hawks -- one pick after the Celtics took Dahntay Jones, and five picks after their selection of Troy Bell. (Jones and Bell were traded to Memphis for Marcus Banks and Kendrick Perkins). David West went 18th to New Orleans, and second rounders included Kyle Korver, Steve Blake, Mo Williams, Luke Walton, and Matt Bonner, who now has as many rings as draft classmate LeBron.

5. I like LeBron. I admire the way he oversees the game, involving his teammates with extraordinary unselfishness until the moment comes when he must (and almost always does) take over. He may not be in my all-time starting five just yet -- I think Tim Duncan actually has beaten him out for a spot -- but he's definitely the first guy off the bench. But he sure does leave space for his detractors to navigate. I still don't get why he wasn't in the game until the very end last night. And while he's right that four Finals appearances and two titles in four seasons is a heck of a feat, he also should know that the bar was set higher than that the day at the little pep rally when he led the counting of championships that hadn't been won yet. We expected more from the Heat because they told us we should expect an annual championship before they ever accomplished a thing.

6. The Spurs are champions of the NBA this morning. The dude that came up with this is the champion of Twitter:

For the record, Greg Oden is three years and a month younger than LeBron.

7. This NBA season, beginning to end, was probably my favorite since the '80s or early '90s. Adam Silver's league is awash in compelling players and teams, and it only gets more interesting with LeBron possibly hitting free agency again. But the best part of this season? The super team beat the SuperTeam. Here's to the Spurs, man, the closest thing to the '86 Celtics in spirit and style that we'll ever see.