NBA

NBA Trade Deadline

The NBA Trade Deadline was supposed to be relatively quiet, with the possibility of a few trades. And it looked like that would be the case leading up to last Thursday’s deadline of 2 p.m. However, the league saw a number of trades come in at the last minute of the deadline. The trades came in fast and furious, but not all were as good as they seemed while others were better than you might think.

Starting from the first and possibly the most overlooked trade was Portland acquiring Arron Afflalo from Denver. With Afflalo, Portland bolsters their bench with a player who was averaging 14.5 points per game and is an excellent defender. Portland had to give up Thomas Robinson and Victor Claver plus a future first round pick, but I still think this was a huge win for Portland. A team who advanced to the second round in last year’s playoffs, returned their core group of guys, and are third in the Western conference added a veteran guard who can defend multiple positions and shoots the ball well. I’ll go ahead and say this trade puts Portland as a dark horse in the West. Why? Because they have a star point guard in Damian Lilliard, not to mention he might be a little pissed off for being an All-Star snub. Granted he was chosen as a replacement, but I still expect Lilliard to play with a chip on his shoulder the rest of the season. And let’s not forget Lamarcus Aldridge is playing at a high level despite his thumb injury. So with a healthy Robin Lopez and Afflalo coming off the bench, this team stacks up well with the West’s best.

The blockbuster trade that got way too much attention in my mind was Phoenix shipping Goran Dragic to Miami. Don’t get me wrong, Dragic is an excellent point guard, and he knows how to produce. But let’s not get carried away here. He isn’t going to help Miami contend for the title this year and most likely not anytime soon. Dragic is posting 16.2 ppg, 4.1 apg, and 3.6 rpg while sharing the point guard duties with Isiah Thomas and Eric Bledsoe. However, I don’t think he is worth the max contract he will be offered this offseason or the two first round picks Miami gave up on top of some rotational players. He can’t lead a team by himself and essentially that’s why you pay a player the big time money. That’s what scares me for this Miami team, Dwayne Wade is in the latter half of his career, and Chris Bosh isn’t the same player he was in his prime. (There is a serious concern in Miami that Chris Bosh may miss the entire season due to blood clots in his lungs. It is a very serious issue, so we wish Chris Bosh the best in recovering.) Having said all this, Pat Riley is a genius when operating his teams so I might be completely wrong in saying Miami was on the losing end of this trade.

The trade I liked the most came from team that desperately needed help. And that was the Oklahoma City Thunder. A few days ago, I wrote about how they might acquire Brook Lopez but honestly, he wouldn’t be a fit for a team that runs lots of isolations for their guards and perimeter players. Lopez is a back to the basket type player and I don’t know how he would have gotten his touches in the OKC offense. But that trade didn’t surface out instead the Thunder acquired Enes Kanter from Utah and DJ Augustin and Kyle Singler from the Pistons. In my opinion, Oklahoma City got better overall value than getting Lopez. Kanter is a legit 7 footer averaging 14 ppg and 8 rpg this season. Not to mention he’s only 22 years old. He will slide right into OKC’s rotation with Adams out with injury and Perkins no longer there. This allows Serge Ibaka to play his natural power forward position and stretching the floow out with his perimeter shooting improving. Plus Augustin can fill Jackson’s role as backup point guard and Kyle Singler has proved he can be a solid bench contributor.

On the other hand of this trade, I love what Detroit did. Stan Van Gaundy quietly got himself a steal in Reggie Jackson. Detroit gave up next to nothing for a player who is about to get his chance to be a starter on a playoff contending team. But let’s forget about this season, and look to the future. Detroit has two great guards in Jackson and Brandon Jennings, and arguably the best young frontcourt in Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe moving forward. If they can convince Monroe to sign long term after his contract expires after this season, watch out for the Pistons. Van Gaundy has done a great job in his first season operating the team and I look for him to continue to build momentum for the franchise.

Those are the trades that had impacts on contending teams making a final push for playoff jockeying. Oklahoma City and Portland solidified their roster needs to contend in the wild wild west. But there were was one trade that caught my eye and can have a huge impact for a franchise.

The trade that had every NBA fan reminiscing the old days was Kevin Garnett being sent back to Minnesota for Thaddeus Young. Obviously Minnesota is going nowhere this season, but Kevin Garnett could be a valuable pickup for them in terms of leadership and locker room presence. Minnesota might have the best core of young players in the league. Andrew Wiggins, Zach Lavine, Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Bennett, and Gogui Dieng are all young talented players still learning their way in this league. The Timberwolves were lacking a veteran leader who can mold these young players into stars. That’s where Kevin Garnett comes in play. KG could be the perfect mentor for these kids since he was thrown into the same fire of the NBA right out of high school. He knows what it takes to become a perennial All Star and win NBA championships. So kudos to the Minnesota front office for making this happen.

And then there was the random swap of point guards that took place. Milwaukee sent Brandon Knight to Phoenix, Phoenix sent Isaiah Thomas to Boston, and Philadelphia packaged reigning rookie of the year Michael Carter Williams to Milwaukee. Brandon Knight was playing very well this season, so I was particularly surprised that the Bucks let him go and brought in Michael Carter Williams. I’m interested to see how Jason Kidd and company can mold the young Carter Williams into a legit PG. Brandon Knight could be a good compliment to Eric Bledsoe down in Phoenix so that could be something to watch for. As for Isiah Thomas in Boston, I just don’t get it. Boston should be in full rebuild mode, and Marcus Smart was their draft pick who could use some playing time at the point guard position so why trade for Thomas who can only play point guard. Thomas also is owed plenty of money after signing a lucrative deal just this offseason so that’ll take a hit on Boston’s cap room. These teams all made the headlines for acquiring players but I’m not sure any of them actually won their respective trades. I guess time will tell with them.

But wait, that’s not all! There have been reports Kendrick Perkins will be bought out by the Utah Jazz and the front runner to sign him is, you guessed it, the Cleveland Cavaliers. He would be a great fit for Cleveland, coming off the bench and giving them valuable minutes defending and rebounding the ball effectively. A few other potential bought out players include Tayshaun Prince and Thomas Robinson who could both be a great addition to any team. So the deadline might have passed, but a few teams could still be adjusting their rosters here in the next few days to gear up for the postseason.

San Antonio Spurs rolling but Austin Spurs are real bright spot

The San Antonio Spurs are one of the hottest teams in the NBA as of late. Winners of 11 of their last 13 games, the Spurs look to be once again one of the powerhouses in the league, and, a championship contender.

While most of the focus recently has been on this San Antonio team, basketball enthusiasts should actually be putting their attention on the Spurs D-League affiliate, the Austin Spurs.

Since the San Antonio Spurs purchased the D-League franchise, the Austin based team has become a model for other NBA teams on how to successfully operate what is essentially a minor league basketball team.

While under the San Antonio Spurs ownership for the past seven, going on eight seasons, the Austin Spurs have posted a winning percentage greater than .600 five times. The franchise has also won one D-League title during that time span.

The amazing part is that all this winning has not completely been a function of players just wanting to come to play for a team run by the San Antonio Spurs. It’s also the willingness of players from the parent team to come up to Austin to develop their game.

Four players on the San Antonio’s current roster have had D-League experience, Kyle Anderson Austin Daye, Danny Green, and Cory Joseph. Two of those players, Green and Joseph, are playing significant roles for the team. One of those, Green, is in the starting five.

The work San Antonio has done to integrate the D-League franchise into their organization has been fantastic. They have been able to get everyone in the organization to buy in on how valuable a tool the Austin team is.

In fact, last season, Cory Joseph actually asked San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich to be assigned to the D-League team.

“Can I go back to the D-League?” Joseph told nba.com.

The request was odd, especially considering most NBA players experience negative emotions and thoughts when asked to serve in the minor league for basketball.

Players never want to be sent down, nonetheless ask to. Even Popovich was surprised by the decision.

“You don’t get that kind of a request,” Popovich said.

Nevertheless Popovich agreed and the run in the D-League seems to be doing wonders for Joseph’s NBA career.

Getting the players on-board is just one side of the equation though. The other side, and often equally ignored, is understanding the rules of the D-League and how assignments work.

What makes the Austin team so special is that San Antonio has a mastery on the rules of the D-League and knows how to put it to good use.

This offseason, San Antonio brought in five players on non-guaranteed contracts into training camp. They ended up waiving all five, which was not surprising considering the team already had 15 players under guaranteed contract.

While a move to bring in those five players when they were going to be waived may seem perplexing to the casual fan, to the San Antonio organization it is regarded as a smart move.

By waiving those five players before the start of the season, San Antonio was allowed to assign three of those players to their Austin franchise.

That understanding of the D-League is so valuable, especially in a league where the talent gap is small and any little advantage can make the world of a difference.

These two points are not the only things that make this Austin Spurs team so special. There are numerous reasons that serve evidence as to why this franchise is so great such as the team having former NBA players as coaches, former NBA front office men handling the team’s basketball operations, and much more.

The San Antonio Spurs are having another great season and they have the Austin Spurs to thank for quite a bit of that success. The Austin team has put a big stamp on this NBA organization from developing players to having some of their front office guys move up to San Antonio.

San Antonio might be rolling right now, but, the biggest bright spot of this organization just might be their D-League affiliate.

Barnes boosts strong recruiting board

Longhorns basketball Coach Rick Barnes made waves last year when he landed five-star recruit from the Class of 2014, Myles Turner. Turner, the seven-foot center from Trinity High School in Bedford chose the Longhorns over Ohio State, Kansas, Duke, Arizona, and Kentucky. Considering the lengthy historical success of the aforementioned programs -- as well as their standing as traditional college basketball powers -- many viewed the commitment of Turner to Texas to be a surprise.

Barnes continued his strong recruiting efforts this year, as thus far he has snagged four-star guards Eric Davis and Kerwin Roach from the Class of 2015 and looks to bring fellow guard Admon Gilder to the Longhorns program as well. 

While the recruitments of Turner and Davis were to some unexpected, when looking at Barnes’ recruiting track record, they are from an anomaly. Barnes holds one of the more impressive resumes in all of college basketball when it comes to producing pro prospects, and in his time at Texas, Barnes has amassed an astounding list of players that have come through the Longhorn program to make it to the NBA.

The 2014-2015 season will be Barnes’ 17th season with the Longhorns, and in that time Barnes has had 17 players drafted into the NBA. There are ten Longhorns currently active on NBA rosters, the eighth highest of any program in the country, and second in the Big 12, trailing only Kansas.  

Most notable of the NBA players to come out of Texas is Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant. This upcoming season will be Durant’s eighth year in the league, and in that time Thunder star won one MVP award for his play during the 2013-2014 season, and has already won the scoring title four times, trailing only Hall of Famers Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.  

During Barnes’ tenure as the Longhorns head coach, he has produced players with a laundry list of accomplishments. Among the players to come through the Longhorns program under Barnes are nine first-round draft picks, five top-ten picks, two NBA champions in Dexter Pittman and Cory Joseph, two NBA All-Stars in Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge and one NBA MVP in Kevin Durant. 

As a recruiter, Barnes plays to his strengths. While the Texas program may not have as much history as Kansas or as much NCAA tournament success as Duke, it has proved time and again that it is capable of producing quality NBA talent. If Barnes is able to continue his run of getting players to the NBA, the recruits will keep coming, and the Longhorns program will remain a collegiate basketball power. 

Though Steve Nash's career might be ending, he will go done as an NBA star

Steve Nash might have already played his last NBA game.

With back and nerve problems that will keep him sidelined the entire season, Nash may not have hoped for an ending like this, but he sure did have one heck of an NBA career.

Due to the primacy effect, it is easy to forget Nash won consecutive MVP awards in 2005 and 2006 with the Phoenix Suns. We are now seeing an aged Nash with a depleted Lakers team while his career is slowly coming to a close.  But at his prime, Nash facilitated one of the most high powered offenses we have seen in his time with Phoenix. That Phoenix team is known to have started the “up-tempo” style of offense we see so much around the league now thanks mostly to Nash.

Led by coach Mike D’antoni, Nash along with Amar’e Stoudemire and Shawn Marion averaged a league high 108 points per game. Nash was a double-double machine with points and assist well in double digits. The way Nash weaved through defenses with such ease and orchestrated this high octane offense was a thing of beauty. To truly see his underrated speed and skill of passing, he was one of those players you had to watch live in a stadium at least once.

And how can we forget Nash’s antics in the dunk contest with fellow teammate Stoudemire. Nash used his brilliant soccer skills to kick up the ball for an alley-oop dunk to Stoudemire. He used this creative side to create passing lanes that nobody thought existed and it was these little things that made Nash such a fun loving teammate and player to watch.

As his career may be coming to a close, Nash’s career averages of 14.3 points per game and 8.5 assists per game don’t tell the whole picture. He ranks third overall in total assists and tied first for an almost perfect free throw percentage. Nash is considered to be a lock for the Hall of Fame and its a shame his last few seasons are far short of hall of fame play.

If this truly is the end of his career, it sure was fun. Nash led arguably the best offenses in the league with Dallas and Phoenix for about six seasons in a row in the early 2000s. With all the accolades Nash does hold, lets hope he isn’t remembered by his last dying years of his NBA career and instead the Nash who blew us away by his speed and kept us guessing of what spectacular pass was coming next.

Injuries never a good sign for NBA

Any NBA fan absolutely hates to see injuries plague the league. It gets even worse when the injury happens to a superstar.

We have already seen a devastating injury to Indiana Pacers’ star Paul George that will cause him to miss the entire season. Now reigning MVP Kevin Durant has suffered a Jones fracture on his right foot. This injury expects to sideline Durant for approximately 6-8 weeks.

A Jones fracture is a fracture to the middle of the fifth toe and one can only imagine the pain and severity of a fracture of this sort. Other NBA players have suffered this injury and their timetables have varied. C.J McCollum missed twelve weeks with this same injury without going through surgery, however all signs indicate Durant will have surgery. Brook Lopez had the surgery and required two months to recover. Jones fracture was Lopez’s first surgery, since then the big man has been one of the most injury plagued players in the league.

So here we have Kevin Durant who has only missed 16 total regular season games in his seven NBA seasons likely to miss a quarter of the season. Where does this leave the heavily favored Oklahoma City Thunder for the first 25 games?

Well they have All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook to create some offense and rising star Serge Ibaka. But honestly how can any team replace a reigning MVP? Durant was the guy OKC turned to when everything else broke loose on offense. Durant was the guy that could create a shot for not only himself but his teammates. All that pressure can be allocated to the rest of the team, but Russell Westbrook may take the initiative all by himself.

Westbrook is known to be a sort of “ball hog” when it comes to his shot selections. He takes ill advised shots, turns the ball over at a high rate, and is easily frustrated on the court. However, he can be one of the most prolific and athletic players in the entire league. So coach Scott Brooks has to find a way to find the balance to where Westbrook can efficiently sustain the Thunder’s offense.

In regards to the rest of the season, Thunder fans can only hope and pray that Durant’s injury is a one and done type of deal. Hopefully, after surgery, we never hear of another injury related to this Jones fracture. For now though, all we can do is pray Durant fully recovers and can return to his MVP caliber play.

NBA Award Predictions

What better way to kick off the first day of NBA media days, then having some way too early predictions for the season that is a month away? Let’s get started.

 

Rookie of the Year

With the most anticipated rookie class since 2003, this award will have quite a few rookies making a great case for the award. Andrew Wiggins has the highest ceiling of them all, Marcus Smart is the most physically ready, then you have Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Zach Lavine who could all bloom into superstars but can’t expect that in year one. However, Jabari Parker is the most NBA ready, went to a team he wanted to play for, and well he is arguably their best player already. Parker will have his touches on offense to put up close to 20 points a game while snatching 5 rebounds and a couple assists along the way.

 

Coach of the year

Coach of the year can translate to breakout team of the year or the team that exceeds expectations the best. Or how about an unproven coach who leads his team to the best record in the conference? Sounds to me like David Blatt makes the perfect case. Blatt, new head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers, has never coached an NBA team before. His coaching experience comes from overseas where he coached for 20 years. But he inherits a loaded Cavs team led by LeBron James, not a bad deal.

 

Most Improved Player of the year

This one is always a tough one to predict, because there is no telling which player will break out. Some worthy candidates are Chandler Parsons, Lance Stephenson, Kawhi Leonard, and plenty of others. The one that stands out is Kawhi Leonard. Coming off an unforgettable NBA Finals series where he defended LeBron better than anybody else has, and led the Spurs offensively as well. Plus, when your coach says the offense will run around you now, there’s no telling how improved Leonard will be.

 

Defensive Player of the year

Another one of those categories where plenty of players fit the role well. Defending champ, Joakim Noah poses a great chance to repeat as the winner. But the likes of Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard, and a rejuvenated Tyson Chandler will all make strong cases. This year, the NBA will see a first time winner take this award home, Serge Ibaka. He will likely lead the NBA in blocks once again, and his rebounding skills are only improving. On top of this, there are countless instances where he disrupts the opposing offenses rhythm with his long arms and quick feet.

 

Most Valuable Player of the year

This race is always the most fun to monitor throughout the year. And this year will be no exception. The league is full of superstars that are looking to lead their respective teams to the next level. Of course defending champ, Kevin Durant makes a strong case to repeat but Chris Paul and teammate Blake Griffin are both looking to improve on what were MVP like seasons. A dark horse in this race could be Lamarcus Aldridge. Last year in the playoffs, Aldridge looked unstoppable against the Houston Rockets. If he can find that groove again, and the Blazers continue to excel, he could make a great case. But lets be real, this award is LeBron James’ to lose. The superstar is coming off an incredible statistical season. And now you add weapons like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love around him is almost unfair. And not to mention the depth this Cleveland team has in Dion Waiters, Shawn Marion, Tristan Thompson, and Mike Miller. This will arguably be LeBron James’ best team, so what is there not to like about James winning his fifth MVP award?

 
 
 

NBA Award Predictions

What better way to kick off the first day of NBA media days, then having some way too early predictions for the season that is a month away? Let’s get started.

 

Rookie of the Year

With the most anticipated rookie class since 2003, this award will have quite a few rookies making a great case for the award. Andrew Wiggins has the highest ceiling of them all, Marcus Smart is the most physically ready, then you have Aaron Gordon, Elfrid Payton, and Zach Lavine who could all bloom into superstars but can’t expect that in year one. However, Jabari Parker is the most NBA ready, went to a team he wanted to play for, and well he is arguably their best player already. Parker will have his touches on offense to put up close to 20 points a game while snatching 5 rebounds and a couple assists along the way.

 

Coach of the year

Coach of the year can translate to breakout team of the year or the team that exceeds expectations the best. Or how about an unproven coach who leads his team to the best record in the conference? Sounds to me like David Blatt makes the perfect case. Blatt, new head coach for the Cleveland Cavaliers, has never coached an NBA team before. His coaching experience comes from overseas where he coached for 20 years. But he inherits a loaded Cavs team led by LeBron James, not a bad deal.

 

Most Improved Player of the year

This one is always a tough one to predict, because there is no telling which player will break out. Some worthy candidates are Chandler Parsons, Lance Stephenson, Kawhi Leonard, and plenty of others. The one that stands out is Kawhi Leonard. Coming off an unforgettable NBA Finals series where he defended LeBron better than anybody else has, and led the Spurs offensively as well. Plus, when your coach says the offense will run around you now, there’s no telling how improved Leonard will be.

 

Defensive Player of the year

Another one of those categories where plenty of players fit the role well. Defending champ, Joakim Noah poses a great chance to repeat as the winner. But the likes of Roy Hibbert, Dwight Howard, and a rejuvenated Tyson Chandler will all make strong cases. This year, the NBA will see a first time winner take this award home, Serge Ibaka. He will likely lead the NBA in blocks once again, and his rebounding skills are only improving. On top of this, there are countless instances where he disrupts the opposing offenses rhythm with his long arms and quick feet.

 

Most Valuable Player of the year

This race is always the most fun to monitor throughout the year. And this year will be no exception. The league is full of superstars that are looking to lead their respective teams to the next level. Of course defending champ, Kevin Durant makes a strong case to repeat but Chris Paul and teammate Blake Griffin are both looking to improve on what were MVP like seasons. A dark horse in this race could be Lamarcus Aldridge. Last year in the playoffs, Aldridge looked unstoppable against the Houston Rockets. If he can find that groove again, and the Blazers continue to excel, he could make a great case. But lets be real, this award is LeBron James’ to lose. The superstar is coming off an incredible statistical season. And now you add weapons like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love around him is almost unfair. And not to mention the depth this Cleveland team has in Dion Waiters, Shawn Marion, Tristan Thompson, and Mike Miller. This will arguably be LeBron James’ best team, so what is there not to like about James winning his fifth MVP award?

 
 
 

San Antonio Spurs center Tiago Splitter goes to the basket against the Miami Heat in the first half in Game 4 of the NBA basketball finals in Miami on Thursday. The Spurs won 107-86.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/ Larry W. Smith | Daily Texan Staff

This summer the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth NBA championship, crushing the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals four games to one. The 2013-2014 San Antonio Spurs are one of the great championship teams in NBA history, and their recent victory further solidified the Spurs as perhaps the best franchise in professional sports. This year’s team also personified the sacrifice of individual acclaim for a greater goal, a characteristic increasingly rare in athletics, which, even on the collegiate level, focus on profit today.

The Spurs avenged last year’s devastating loss to the Heat in the NBA Finals. In Game Six of the 2013 series, the Spurs were on the verge of winning a championship, up by 5 points with 28 seconds left, before a series of errors and miraculous plays by Miami cost them the game. Two days later the Heat won the 2013 NBA crown in Game Seven. It was an absolutely gut-wrenching defeat for Spurs players, coaches and fans, the type of loss that could set a franchise back for years. But the Spurs entered the 2013-2014 season refusing to feel sorry for themselves. In training camp, head coach Gregg Popovich showed the team the film from the 2013 Finals and urged the players to use the loss as motivation for the upcoming season.

And use it they did. The Spurs stressed teamwork over individual performances. The Spurs finished the regular season with the league’s best record, and Popovich won NBA Coach of the Year. Throughout the season and playoffs, the team employed a playing system based on crisp passing, excellent three-point shooting and brilliantly-executed fundamental basketball skills. In the NBA Finals, the Spurs completely dismantled the Miami Heat, with each victory coming by at least 15 points. For his superb play, Kawhi Leonard, a third-year player for the Spurs, was named the Most Valuable Player of the NBA Finals. Heat players themselves praised the Spurs.  Chris Bosh, the Heat’s center, exclaimed after the series: “They played the best basketball I’ve ever seen.” LeBron James, the Heat’s Forward and team captain, similarly described San Antonio: “It’s all for the team and it’s never about the individual. That’s the brand of basketball, and that’s how team basketball should be played.”

The Spurs, with their consistent winning and class, are widely considered the model franchise in the NBA, and indeed, one of the best in all of professional sports. Popovich, who played college basketball at the Air Force Academy, is a brilliant tactician who runs his team with military precision while embracing a family-like atmosphere. R. C. Buford, the Spurs’ unassuming general manager, along with Popovich, has a knack for scouting basketball talent around the globe.  (Buford was named the NBA’s top executive this season.)

The Spurs have benefited from having gifted basketball players with selfless personalities on their roster over the years. The team and its players are beloved in the Alamo City and often participate in service events throughout the region, much like UT student athletes do in Austin. During the ‘70s and ‘80s, Hall of Famer George “The Iceman” Gervin, James Silas and UT alum Johnny Moore introduced basketball to San Antonio. In 1989, David Robinson began his Hall of Fame career with the Spurs and achieved much success in the ‘90s with teammates Sean Elliott and Avery Johnson. Not until the arrival of Popovich in late 1996 and Tim Duncan in 1997, however, did the Spurs reach their full potential. Robinson and Duncan formed the “Twin Towers,” using their size to dominate the low post, and won the franchise’s first NBA championship in 1999. The duo won the title again in 2003 in Robinson’s final year, aided by newcomers Manu GinoĢbili, Tony Parker and Bruce Bowen. The Spurs also captured NBA championships in 2005 and 2007. Both the franchise and its players have demonstrated great loyalty to one another. The front office rarely makes blockbuster trades, contributing to a sense of stability in the organization, and Spurs superstars frequently take pay cuts to allow more cap room for the team to spend on free agents who help the team compete for championships.

An individual-first attitude plagues professional sports today. Money too often drives athletes and team owners. Players frequently seem more concerned with earning riches than winning championships. Management seldom exhibits loyalty to athletes, as players suffer the uncertainty of trades and being cut from the team. Owners likewise appear most interested in the bottom line, and are not opposed to moving franchises to other cities if more profits can be made. These negative attributes in professional sports unfortunately can make fans cynical. The issue of money also has become controversial in college sports, as debate rages over whether or not student athletes should be paid for their part in helping university athletic departments make historic profits. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that student-athletes at Northwestern University could form a union. UT possesses the wealthiest athletic department in the country, and will have a major voice in future discussions about paying college athletes.

Because of the individual-first attitude in professional sports today, it is immensely satisfying to see the San Antonio Spurs rewarded for their team-centered excellence. The 2013-2014 Spurs team deserved this championship for so many reasons. Hard work, talent, game execution and redemption from last year’s brutal defeat, yes, but mostly because the players, coaches, and entire organization conduct themselves with professionalism, loyalty and class that make the Spurs the model NBA franchise.  With hall of fame veteran leadership and emerging stars like Kawhi Leonard, the Spurs are in good shape for the future. Congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs for an amazing championship season and for conducting themselves in a manner that reminds fans how truly great sports can be when individuals sacrifice for a greater team goal.

Briscoe is a history graduate student from Carrizo Springs.

The San Antonio Spurs are NBA champions once more. 

For the fifth time in franchise history, the Spurs hoisted the Larry O’Brien trophy Sunday night. San Antonio overcame a horrendous start to defeat the Miami Heat, 104-87, in game five of the NBA Finals.

After struggling in the first two games of the series, Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard turned things around and played phenomenally the rest of the series. Leonard sealed the series with 22 points and nine rebounds in the series-clinching game, earning the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player.

“Right now it’s surreal to me,” Leonard said. “They all pushed me. The fans pushed me, Coach Pop pushed me, the fans pushed me.”

After losing to the Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals, the Spurs used the heartbreaking series to fuel them throughout the season. San Antonio won 62 games in the regular season and captured the top seed in the Western Conference and home-court advantage in the Finals.

But the playoff road wasn’t easy. The Dallas Mavericks took the Spurs to seven games in the first round but San Antonio prevailed. The young Portland

Trailblazers didn’t give San Antonio much of a challenge as the Spurs were able to win that series in five games.

The final team standing in the way of a return trip to the finals was the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team which kept San Antonio out of the finals in 2012. The two teams battled, trading blowout victories in the first five contests.

But Game 6 proved to be the ultimate challenge. The Thunder took San Antonio into overtime, but the Spurs emerged victorious yet again.

In the finals, the Spurs got revenge in five games. San Antonio blew out the Heat in three of its five victories and won the series in San Antonio.

The Spurs will raise their fifth NBA championship banner when the 2014-2015 season begins in October.

San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard was a non-factor in the first two games of the 2014 NBA Finals, but Leonard put his stamp on the series with a dominating performance in game three.

Leonard was aggressive all night as he worked his way to a career performance. Leonard put together the best shooting performance of his NBA career Tuesday night, shooting 10-13 from the field and finishing with 29 points, leading the Spurs to a 111-92 victory over the Miami Heat.

“(Leonard) was just himself,” San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said. “That’s how he’s played all year long. He’s got to be one of our better players on the court or we’re not good enough, that’s just the way it is.”
While Leonard was fantastic, the Spurs team play was phenomenal. San Antonio shot a historic 25-33 in the first half, building a 20-point lead by halftime.

But Miami wasn’t ready to give up. The Heat put on a furious rally in the third quarter, led by guard Dwyane Wade, cutting the Spurs lead to seven. While Miami continued to battle, it couldn’t find a way to overcome San Antonio’s historic performance in the half. With the Heat loss, their perfect home record in the playoffs was ruined.

“They were very aggressive, and we didn’t match that,” Miami forward LeBron James said. “They came in with a desperation that we just didn’t match. Just because it’s our fourth final doesn’t mean anything. That don’t guarantee a win.”

James was sensational in game two, but was less effective in game three as San Antonio found a way to disrupt his rhythm. Once the Spurs were able to get James off his game, the rest of the Miami offense struggled.

Now Miami must focus on getting back in the series before they head back to San Antonio.

"The problem is we are down 2-1. That's the problem,” Wade said. “We have to figure out how to even it up."

The Heat will get a chance to tie it up in game four, which occurs 8 p.m. Thursday in Miami.