NBA championships are won with long-term veterans. The 2011 Mavs. The 2009-10 Lakers. The 2008 Celtics. All were led by weathered elders who might have lost a bounce in their step but had gained more than a grain of grit and guile.
Did you notice who was on the court for the Spurs when they stormed past the Thunder with a fourth-quarter rally? Second-year man Gary Neal and four players off Pop's 2003 title team. Duncan, Ginobili, Parker and Stephen Jackson.
The Spurs have paid their dues and now reap the bounty.
And who can harbor ill will? While the Heat Gerry-rigged a contender through some kind of superstar chamber, and the Lakers tried to stay relevant with a fleece of the Hornets (revoked by the league), the Spurs are back as basketball's team with an old-school concept. Great ballplayers who put the team, the organization and the franchise first.
“Grown-ups,” as Popovich said, “who had character and prioritization already set in their lives, their values, that kind of thing.
“So when Timmy came along, David (Robinson) understood his talent and made it very easy for Tim to start becoming the go-to guy. As Timmy got older, he understood the value of Manu and Tony and was able to share that spotlight with them.
“I never had a talk, never had a discussion, a meeting, or anything with any of those guys. We just did it, and the process kind of morphed along. It's because of their character we were able to do it.”
Nothing is assured, not even for these Spurs and most definitely not for the Thunder. But the horizon looks promising in Oklahoma City. Pay your dues, display some patience and these baby Boomers should one day grow up to be like the Spurs.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.