Heat, Spurs make teams wait turn

6/3/2014

By BRIAN SCHMITZ

By BRIAN SCHMITZ

Orlando Sentinel

(MCT) — And now back to just basketball.

Nobody will be blowing in LeBron James' ear. Any soft, subtle wind coming his way might be the San Antonio Spurs catching their collective breath, however.

The Spurs meet the defending champion Miami Heat in a title rematch, a series pairing teams who carry themselves like professionals instead of reality show lunk-heads.

And speaking of Lance Stephenson, the Indiana Pacers should videotape the Heat-Spurs finals and play it on a continuous loop for their maddening, mercurial guard, along with his excuse-making teammates.

Forget Stephenson's antics, and Donald Sterling's.

A season tainted by tanking ends with a meeting between the two clubs who have made winning mandatory, with a total of 11 Finals appearances since 1999.

The Heat and Spurs are back to restore order on the court — and hopefully, like last year, seven games are necessary.

Appreciate their precision, power and passion.

Everybody else in the NBA is waiting on the Spurs to get old and for one of Dwyane Wade's wheels to finally fall off, just to have a chance.

The odds of ever seeing two franchises like this again...well, you'd have a better shot at watching Gregg Popovich do stand-up.

The Spurs and Heat are extremes on opposite ends of the basketball spectrum, sharing little in common but brilliance.

The Spurs remind romantics what sports was about yesterday: patient off-Broadway building, smart moves, small-market loyalty.

The Heat remind realists what sports are about today: cap-room acrobatics, free-agent unrest, superstars joining forces on South Beach.

San Antonio's Big Three — Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — have been together since 2002 and have won three titles.

Miami's Big Three — Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh — have been together for 15 minutes and won two championships. OK, that's a complete exaggeration. They've been toiling since way back in the summer of 2010, after LeBron left the Cleveland Cavaliers and Bosh exited the Toronto Raptors to team with D-Wade.

Seriously, can you imagine three stars such as Duncan, Parker and Ginobili staying on the same team in the same little town for this long again?

Not in this climate.

The Spurs are the Green Bay Packers of the NBA.

How rare is it that San Antonio found a trio who didn't care about jumping to bigger markets offering larger endorsements and a nicer nightlife? Winning among the tumbleweeds was fun.

With those guys remaining deep in the heart of Texas and never straying, the Spurs didn't need to swipe your team's marquee free agents.

The Spurs are to be admired, but they also built their legacy the old-fashioned way: They tanked, losing enough to claim Duncan, in the 1997 draft. The Big Fundamental changed everything, forever steadying the ship.

They also were savvy, unearthing Parker and gambling on Ginobili and adding other pieces that fit instead of merely collecting talent.

When it comes to collecting talent, the Heat are a Martin Scorsese picture.

Traditionalists might shrug at Miami's instant success — just add LeBron — but every franchise envies their scheming. And every free agent (you're up next, Carmelo Anthony, just ahead of Kevin Love) wants to team with star sidekicks to make life easier.

The Orlando Magic entertained the idea of signing then-free agents Duncan, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady in the summer of 2000, a Big Three heist before its time. We know how that turned out without Duncan.

Sure, James and Bosh are basketball mercenaries. But they make the Heat a breathtaking band of basketball mercenaries, a traveling future Hall of Fame show that gathers other hitchhiking stars along the way and has, incredibly, met all their seemingly impossible expectations.

Like the Spurs, the Heat did it by defeating the greatest opponent in sports: ego.

Their most attractive trait: Miami's stars share and care in today's celebrity-driven world, beginning with LeBron. Simply, the game's best player is also the game's best teammate.

When will we ever see anything like that again?

The teams competing against the Spurs and the Heat hope it all doesn't go on for much longer.

MAKE

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