San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich stood outside his locker room door Monday night inside the Ford Center, describing his team’s 99-96 victory over the Thunder.
"That was a great win for us against a helluva team,” Popovich said, shaking his head. "I thought it was one of the finest wins our (coaching) staff has been associated with since I’ve been there.”
At this point, Thunder owner Clay Bennett happened to walk past.
"Pop,” Bennett said with a wave.
"Hey, Clay,” Popovich said, stopping in mid-sentence, walking over to shake Bennett’s hand and share a hug.
Popovich returned and finished his thought.
"Considering all the circumstances and everything these guys have been through and yesterday’s game and all that, I thought they showed great heart, great tenacity, great perseverance, so I’m really proud of them,” Popovich said.
So this is what the Thunder has become to opponents: One of the greatest NBA coaches in history said surviving the Thunder on this particular night ranked as one of the finest moments for him and his staff.
Bennett and general manager Sam Presti cringe whenever a Spurs comparison is made toward the Thunder. Monday’s event allows a legitimate opportunity to discuss such matters.
Bennett was a principal owner of the Spurs in the 1990s and was on their board of governors while Presti served in the front office from 2000-2007. Despite this connection, Bennett and Presti reiterate the Spurs are who they are and the Thunder is who it is.
The San Antonio franchise is what you want to become someday — one of the top four NBA franchises ever.
Only the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls rank ahead of the Spurs in all-time achievement, which is remarkable considering the Spurs didn’t even join the league until 1976-77. San Antonio’s all-time NBA winning percentage (.600) ranks second to the Lakers (.619) and ahead of the Celtics (.595).
Given this year’s standings, the Spurs and Thunder are a pertinent comparison. When an opportunity arises to compare your team to the Spurs, you jump at the chance.
Boxscore: San Antonio 99, Oklahoma City 96