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How they can win it all: San Antonio Spurs

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Two teams executed what they wanted to do this season better than any other — the Chicago Bulls on defense, the San Antonio Spurs on offense.

Yet, when the talk of a title came up it was always the Lakers out of the West, Miami and Boston in the East.

“I think we’ve been a pain in the ass for the press this year, we just get in the way of the conversation…” Gregg Popovich said before his team took on the Lakers.

The Spurs have always been fine with that. It’s not about flash, it’s about execution and belief in a system. That execution is half of what the Spurs need to win.

Sticking to the system that is their strength. It’s not the system itself — what the Spurs run is not better or worse than the Lakers triangle, or what is done in Boston, Chicago, or even Memphis and Philadelphia. What is different in San Antonio is the willingness to stick to that system and execute it properly every time down. They as a team commit to the system in a way other teams do not.

Talent matters — they need the Tim Duncans and the Manu Ginobilis and the Tony Parkers — but the Spurs made their leaps forward this season without a massive roster overhaul as some had called for. Timothy Varner of 48 Minutes of Hell explained it this way in an email to PBT.

What the Spurs didn’t do is blow up their team. They didn’t move Richard Jefferson, although they found a creative way of reducing his annual salary. They didn’t decide that trading away one of their Big 3 was their next ticket to contention. They made small, surgical changes that left the rest of the body intact and unharmed.

The beauty of this approach is that the Spurs out-execute most teams because their players, by and large, breathe the Spurs’ system. In San Antonio, this takes time. One full season, at least. Sometimes longer. By limiting their personnel turnover the Spurs set themselves up to… beat you with a bench that is not only talented, but one that clearly understands the nuances of Spurs basketball.

In the playoffs, the pressure is more intense — pressure from opposing defenses is tougher (especially as teams advance), pressure with the weight of the games increases. It becomes suffocating for some.

The Spurs, they just execute it. They know they can they dare you to match.

But the Spurs do not have the overwhelming talent of the Lakers, Celtics and Heat. That means their margin for error is smaller.

Which brings us to the second thing that has to happen for the Spurs — they can’t afford injuries. They need to stay fresh and healthy.

Already Manu Gimobili has a sprained elbow. That is not likely enough to cost them much against Memphis — the Grizzlies big men are their strength — but from the second round on they will need him at or near 100 percent.

“I think we can play with anybody,” Popovich said. “The question for us is if we can stay healthy and last against all these young, athletic deep teams.”

If they can, you know they can execute the Spurs system. Ii they do that they have a chance to beat anybody. And win another title.

Enjoy 50-best circus shots of last NBA season

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As of tomorrow, training camps around the league open, and all the focus goes to the 2016-17 season.

For fun, let’s look back one more time at last season — the 50 top circus shots of last season.

Stephen Curry driving the lane and throwing up prayers once he draws contact (and hitting them), there is Russell Westbrook throwing the inbounds pass off an opponent’s back, and so much more. Enjoy. Then let’s get on with next season.

To avoid trash talk, Steven Adams told Kevin Garnett he didn’t speak English

Kevin Garnett
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Kevin Garnett intimidates people. In the machismo-fueled world of professional sports nobody comfortably admits they were intimidated, but in the wake of Garnett announcing his retirement, a number of players stepped forward to say exactly that. And that KG trashed talked them fearlessly.

Oklahoma City’s Steven Adams found a way to avoid that — tell KG he didn’t speak English.

Brilliant.

Adams was lucky, KG had a reputation for going harder at foreign-born players with his trash talk and intimidation. Then again Adams is not the kind of guy prone to be intimidated.

Pistons’ Stan Van Gundy “encouraged” by players speaking out, protesting social issues

CLEVELAND, OH - APRIL 17: Head coach Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons yells to his players during the first half of the NBA Eastern Conference quarterfinals against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on April 17, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)  *** Local Caption ***Stan Van Gundy
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Athletes are injecting themselves into the needed national conversation about race, violence, and policing in this nation. That has taken some very public forms, including LeBron James, Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony speaking at the ESPYs, and Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem and leading others to do so. Some NBA players likely will follow Kaepernick’s lead.

Pistons coach/GM Stan Van Gundy likes seeing players speak out.

A couple of his Detroit players — Reggie Jackson and Marcus Morris — said they backed the 49ers quarterback. Here is what the never shy Van Gundy said about all of it, via Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press.

“I’m encouraged by the fact of what some of those guys stood up and did at the ESPYs and had a conversation,” Van Gundy said. “I’m really proud of the fact that we have guys that not only see the problem, but want to try to do something about it…

“To me, in some ways, (police brutality is) just the most visible to focus on and it goes to deeper inequities in our criminal justice system, our education system so there’s so much to focus on,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s great that we have players that want to be part of that conversation, and a lot of players that want to go beyond the conversation and be part of the solution.”

Van Gundy has been telling his players part of that solution is to vote.

The players union and NBA sent out a release saying they wanted to work together to create positive change, but details are still vague on what that might be. The only thing we know for sure as we head into the NBA season — with as divided a nation and election as anyone can remember as a backdrop — is that some NBA players are going to try and keep the conversation going.

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.