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Thunder cannot go wrong by mimicking what Spurs have done to succeed

The Spurs are always championship contention by spending money wisely. They are the same things the Thunder tries to do.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 24, 2012

The Spurs have three players in their rotation (Danny Green, Gary Neal, Boris Diaw) who were signed off the free-agent scrap heap. They have three others (Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Tiago Splitter) drafted with the 28th or later pick.

Knowing what you're doing is always an advantage in life or basketball.

The Thunder roster was not so magically constructed, since Sam Presti had the No. 2 (Durant), No. 3 (James Harden) and No. 4 (Russell Westbrook) picks in a draft to work with. Still, don't short sell manipulating the payroll cap to produce trades for the likes of Thabo Sefolosha and Kendrick Perkins. Or drafting Serge Ibaka in Spurs territory, at No. 24.

Smarts, the Thunder clearly has. Sustainability is what the Thunder seeks. Presti wants to replicate the Spurs most in consistency. San Antonio has made the playoffs 15 straight years and won at least 50 games all 15 years (if you count the lockout-shortened 1999 season, when the Spurs played at a 60-win clip).

It won't be easy. The Thunder has some hard decisions to make, with Harden and Ibaka soon up for contract extensions.

Will the new collective bargaining agreement make it easier for small markets to keep their players? The early returns say no. Chris Paul fled New Orleans for Los Angeles before the season tipped off. Dwight Howard held Orlando hostage and torpedoed a promising season. Portland staged a fire sale despite a promising start.

But San Antonio, too, faced difficult decisions over the years. The Spurs let 24-year-old Stephen Jackson go in free agency after winning the 2003 NBA title. Let 25-year-old Hedo Turkoglu go in free agency in 2004.

That's the kind of discipline needed by small-market franchises. It's served the Spurs well and will well serve the Thunder, too, if they can match it.

So in this conference that includes Gothams like Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston and San Francisco-Oakland, sit back and enjoy the Small Market Showdown. Two franchises that have made mostly right moves and have no other option if they want to succeed.

Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at btramel@opubco.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.