Miami Heat

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 Ginóbili, 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 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

The San Antonio Spurs inched closer to a fifth NBA Championship Thursday night with a dominating 107-86 victory over the Miami Heat.

The Spurs' destruction of the Heat in Game 4 was San Antonio’s second consecutive blowout win of the series. With the win, the Spurs took a commanding 3-1 series lead. San Antonio put on a clinic in scoring distribution, as every player on the squad scored. Kawhi Leonard, who shined in Game 3, continued to dominate on both ends of the floor, leading San Antonio with 20 points and 14 rebounds, as well as having three blocks and three steals.

Tim Duncan posted yet another double-double, giving him the all-time NBA playoffs double-double record with 158, surpassing Magic Johnson.

“It's an honor,” Duncan said. “When that one more is done, I can look back and say that is truly an honor."

Much like in Game 3, the Heat was unable to find its offensive rhythm. Miami got off to a horrific start and continued to struggle to find any offensive flow throughout the game. Heat forward LeBron James, who scored 28 points, did everything he could to bring Miami back into the game, but San Antonio proved to be too good on the night.

“They smashed us. Two straight home games. Got off to awful starts,” James said. “They were much better than us. It’s that simple.”

The loss snapped Miami’s 13-game streak of wins after a playoff loss. This is also the first time in the Heat’s big-three that they have trailed 3-1 in a series.

If Miami wants to win its third consecutive NBA title, it’s going to have to make history. In 31 tries, a team that trails 3-1 has never rebounded to win the NBA Finals.

“Right now they are playing better than us,” Heat guard Dwyane Wade said. “No question about it. They whipped our butt at home.”

The Spurs will look to hoist their fifth Larry O’Brien trophy when the series moves back to San Antonio for Game 5 Sunday night.

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.

LeBron James pushed the Miami Heat to a 98-96 victory over the San Antonio Spurs in game two of the NBA Finals at the AT&T Center Sunday night. 

After receiving plenty of criticism for leaving game one with cramps, James was dialed in for the second game, dominating the majority of the game. He finished the contest with 35 points and 10 boards.

The game was close throughout, as both teams traded the lead all night long. But, with under a minute and half remaining, Heat forward Chris Bosh hit a go-ahead 3 and Miami held on from there. Bosh finished with 18 points.

With the win, Miami improves to 6-0 Game 2 record when losing the first game of a series.

For the Spurs, Tony Parker and Tim Duncan led the team in a valiant effort. Parker scored 21 points and Duncan finished with 18 points and 15 rebounds. Duncan’s performance moved him into a tie with Magic Johnson for all-time playoff double-doubles with 157. But Duncan’s historic performance was not enough for San Antonio to get past Miami.

“We didn’t do it as a group,” Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich said. “We tried to do it individually, and we aren’t good enough to do that.”

As a team, San Antonio also sturggled mightily from the free throw line, converting just 12 of 20 attempts.

The NBA Finals now transition to Miami for the next two games. Game 3 is Tuesday at 8 p.m.

Photo Credit: AP Exchange | Daily Texan Staff

The San Antonio Spurs outlasted the Miami Heat, and the Texas heat, in the first game of the NBA Finals.

Temperatures at the AT&T Center in San Antonio rose into the nineties after an electrical failure caused the arena’s air conditioning to fail, as the Spurs knocked off the Heat, 110-95.

Despite the sweltering heat, the Spurs were able to overcome a nine point deficit in the fourth quarter. San Antonio rallied behind a 16-3 run to end the game. San Antonio was a scorching 14 of 16 from the field and a perfect 6 for 6 from beyond the arc in the fourth quarter.

Spurs forward Tim Duncan showed off his signature fundamental approach en route to a double-double. Duncan led the team to victory with 21 points and 10 rebounds.

“We are one step closer to four wins,” Duncan said.

Alongside Duncan’s masterful performance, San Antonio received solid play from Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili - the duo combined to score 35 points. Spurs guard Danny Green fueled the team’s comeback by hitting three big three-point shots in the fourth quarter.

Although the heat didn’t affect the San Antonio players, Miami forward LeBron James fell victim to cramping. James’ cramping became evident during the fourth quarter and got so bad his teammates had carry him off the court. The cramps James went through caused the Heat to lose any momentum they had and helped Spurs pull away.

“It felt like a punch in the gut when you see your leader limping to bench like that," Miami coach Erik Spoelstra said.

While the Heat lost game one, they possibility of a three-peat certainly shouldn’t be put to rest. Since 2011, Miami is 5-0 in series’ in which it loses the first game.

Spurs and NBA officials are confident that the AT&T Center’s air conditioning issue will be fixed in time for game two.

“We think it'll be fixed come Sunday and we'll be able to play under normal conditions," NBA executive Rod Thorn said.

The Spurs and Heat will play game two Sunday at the AT&T Center at 7 pm.

With 80 percent of the NBA regular season complete, there is a large sample size of games from which it is possible to distinguish the contenders from the pretenders. In the first segment of a two-part analysis, let’s take a quick look across the NBA to identify the contenders.  

Miami Heat- If being the two-time defending champion and having Lebron James to lead the team doesn’t make the Heat a contender, nothing in the world could.

Indiana Pacers- Although the Pacers are stumbling just like the Thunder and Heat have, their championship caliber defense is a force to be reckoned with. With the potential of Roy Hibbert’s size and length as the kryptonite to Lebron James and the gradual rise of Paul George as a superstar, the Pacers join the Heat as the elite of the East.

San Antonio Spurs- The Spurs are always a contender. It’s best to accept that statement at face value rather than attempting to make futile attempts at disputing it. Popovich has built the ultimate model of excellence in the NBA, so impressive that plugging in any NBA player into the system would yield comparable success.

Oklahoma City Thunder- The problem with the Thunder in the 2012 NBA Finals was a lack of experience. The problem in the 2013 playoffs was the absence of Russell Westbrook. As of now, neither should pose a problem for this year’s Thunder team. This year, several role players have flourished and found a niche in the Thunder lineup amidst Westbrook’s injury recovery and rehabilitation. As unfortunate as Westbrook’s injury was, it helped transform the Thunder from a superstar-centric pretender to a multidimensional championship contender.

Los Angeles Clippers- Chris Paul left New Orleans because he wanted to play for a better team. Now, he has it. Blake Griffin is playing at a near-MVP level. Deandre Jordan is starting to resemble a championship-caliber defensive anchor. JJ Reddick, Jamal Crawford, Matt Barnes, Danny Granger, and Darren Collison add all the depth any contender could hope for. When playing at their best, the Clippers are as good as anyone.   

Dwyane Wade branches out into acting scene, creates his own sitcom

Because winning championships as a member of the Miami Heat has obviously become too boring for Dwyane Wade, he has decided to attempt a new venture.

Fox recently announced that Wade has sold a sitcom to the network to be called “Three the Hard Way,” starring NBA superstar Daryl Wade, a single father raising two sons.

Wow, that sounds pretty familiar.

The man who nicknamed himself “WOW,” as in World of Wade, and forced reporters to refer to him as “three” after winning his third championship has now based an entire television show after his life.  Why are we surprised?

But just because Wade sold his show doesn’t mean it will be appearing on air anytime soon.  It’s still only in its very beginning stages, and Wade will need to work on a pilot that can impress enough TV bigwigs to get the series picked up on the network.  But it is a good start.

This isn’t Wade’s first experience on the acting scene.  He already has a pretty extensive rap sheet: He appeared in movies “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and “Just Wright,” and was also a voice actor in an episode of “The Cleveland Show.”

But he’s never had to take on a starring role onscreen.  And after often leaning on LeBron James for most of his last two title runs, will Wade be able to lead the show all by himself?  

If his skills in the new show come anywhere near his acting skills on the court while trying to get a call from the refs, there’s no doubt the show will be a hit.

New superstars are already on the rise under the names James and Wade

The revolution has begun. Forget about Miami Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, two of the biggest names of basketball’s last decade and established NBA legends. Those guys are old news.

The new wave of superstars is upon us in the form of 11-year-old Zaire Wade and 9-year-old LeBron James Jr.

The elder James recently posted an Instagram video of the third-grade “Prince James” balling his way to 25 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, a stat line that bears a striking resemblance to one you would see next to his dad’s name. James Sr. noted his son’s Wade-like euro step next to the hashtags #HeGotNext and #StriveForGreatness.

James Jr. may be two years younger, but you can already predict a future rivalry with Wade’s son, fifth-grader Zaire. Judging by this highlight tape, Zaire Wade may already have a better shooting stroke than Dwyane Wade, and he definitely has the confident attitude.

Zaire Wade shows off some ankle-breaking dribble moves and flashy passing skills, and based on his minute and a half video, he takes an early upper hand on James Jr.  However, that two-year age difference is important, and we have a much smaller sample size to compare them. Plus, James Sr. was a later bloomer than Dwyane Wade — the elder James didn’t win his first title until season nine, while Dwyane Wade won his in year three.

One thing is for sure — if these youngsters develop into nearly the players their fathers are, we could have a pretty incredible rivalry on our hands for the next few decades.

In other recent sports pop culture news:

•    Rapper Dr. Dre spoke to the USC football team the night before their game against Stanford before the Trojans gained a huge upset win no one saw coming. The only plausible explanation is that Dr. Dre is the secret weapon for USC. If only Lane Kiffin had learned this earlier.

•    Colts quarterback Andrew Luck took the stage at an Indianapolis MGMT concert last Friday night, manning the critical cowbell instrument, erupting the crowd into a frenzy. It’s always great to see an audience that can appreciate a good cowbell.

•    J.R. Smith of the New York Knicks is contemplating deleting his Twitter account after a recent tweet-battle with Pistons guard Brandon Jennings. In response, the entire Twitter population screams “NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!”

The Heat cools down


The Miami Heat is not playing on full throttle. Coach Erik Spoelstra has come to a full understanding that the regular season is irrelevant. Sure, the team still wants home court advantage throughout the playoffs, but if that asset comes at the cost of Dwyane Wade’s longevity and the long term health of the team’s core players — Ray Allen, Chris Bosh and Greg Oden — there is no chance Spoelstra goes all out during the regular season. We’ve already seen Spoelstra complacently benching Wade, a seemingly “Popovichian” method of keeping players fresh. 


Howard may have found his niche


Dwight Howard has finally found his home. Despite Mark Cuban’s claim that Howard made the wrong decision in his choice of destination, all signs show the contrary to be true. Under the tutelage of Hakeem Olajuwon and Kevin McHale, while also playing alongside superstar guard James Harden, Howard has the tools he needs to transform the Houston Rockets into a perennial championship contender. 


Early Rookie of the Year favorites


It may be too early to crown the Rookie of the Year award, but Victor Oladipo and Michael Carter-Williams appear to be the early front-runners. Both have boasted riveting break-out games that illustrated their dynamic athletic ability to score, pass and defend so far this season. In the seemingly dull 2013 NBA draft, these two players appear to be the brightest gems so far. 


Inconsistency evident already


There is a massive disparity in the current quality of NBA teams. Innumerable teams appear to be contenders while even more teams appear to be terrible. But, there are very few teams in between. It’s been years since you could name so many potential championship contenders — Heat, Spurs, Bulls, Pacers, Nets, Thunder, Clippers, Rockets and the Warriors. The force driving this disparity in the NBA is the fact that mediocrity is unacceptable. Teams would rather be terrible and attain good draft picks next season than settle for second best. 


Iverson retires as NBA great


The retirement of one of the greatest guards to play the game, Allen Iverson, is a notable moment for the NBA’s legacy. Iverson made up for what he lacked in size with his big heart. Anywhere from Iverson’s infamous practice rant to him single-handedly carrying the Philadelphia 76ers to the 2001 NBA Finals, Iverson would be an unforgettable Hall of Famer. He will certainly go down as one of the most passionate and physically gifted men the NBA has ever seen.