Excellent national articles featuring the Spurs

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The Spurs had the best regular season in the league, Popovich won his third Coach of the Year, Duncan celebrated his 38th birthday and to commemorate all of the above, fantastic writers and being awesome all over the place. Here are my picks for the next article you should read after this one.

Last year as the Finals were ramping up, Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight wrote a truly excellent analysis of the Heat and the Spurs through the lens of how often they played their best players throughout the season. Like all of Silver’s stuff, the statistics work was impeccable and he concluded with the amazine discovery that

I estimate that the playing time allocations the Spurs are using in the playoffs make them the equivalent of 14 wins stronger than their record suggested during the regular season

I bring up a nearly-year-old story at this point not just because it’s still relevant what with the Spurs making it through the whole regular season without any of their players averaging 30 minutes a game, but also because Silver has uncorked a pair of fantastic articles about the Spurs that I strongly encourage you to read.

The first, Stop Betting Against Gregg Popovich, while primarily a look at the way that bettors and Vegas have lagged behind the Spurs success through the entirety of Pop’s tenure in San Antonio, is chock full of cool stuff, not the least of which is the intro to his conclusion:

I don’t have a sexy answer. Nor am I sure that there is a sexy answer. … But I have a romantic notion of what could be going on.

What you might say about Popovich is that he’s been uniquely able to stave off regression to the mean. He adopts tactics and strategies to suit his situation; he stays one step ahead of his opponents. Under Popovich, the Spurs have succeed as an old team and as a young team, and as a fast-paced team and a slow-paced team. There isn’t much gimmicky about Popovich.

Perhaps in staying one step ahead of his opponents, he has stayed one step ahead of Las Vegas.

The second piece, which introduces ideas like harmonic means and cross-sport analysis while keeping them from getting the least bit dry or boring, is focused on how historically impressive Tim Duncan’s longevity is, although falling short of:

Michael Jordan, who achieved this feat despite retiring for his age 35 through age 37 seasons. (Jordan came back to play seasons with the Washington Wizards at 38 and 39.) But the player who laps the field, and who in many ways was the predecessor to Duncan, is Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

But Silver isn’t the only national scribe who’s penning great Spurs-related material at the moment. There’s also Bill Barnwell’s so-good-I’m-jealous look at Spurs’ Chip Engelland, The Shot Doctor, which is one of the best non-PtR stories I’ve read on the Spurs this season. After you read it, you’ll not only have a better feel for how valuable Engelland is to Pop and the Spurs, but you might just be a better shooter by the process of osmosis. (I’m not including a snippet here just because I think the entire thing deserves to be read in context in a single sitting.)

Which brings me to my favorite NBA writer that I don’t have the privilege of editing, Steve McPherson, who writes for Grantland, Hardwood Paroxysm, A Wolf Among Wolves, The Classical, Complex, and so on. I first discovered McPherson’s work two years ago when he wrote the gorgeous Black Coffee, Steely Dan, and the Bland, Refined Flavor of the San Antonio Spurs after the Spurs swept the Clippers. And he’s at it again with Buying in: David Foster Wallace, Wes Anderson and the San Antonio Spurs, which didn’t just give me tingles about the Spurs and one of my favorite movie directors, but also inspired me to start reading Infinite Jest. Here’s a taste (from, Buying in, not Infinite Jest:

I’ve bought in: to Wallace, to Anderson, and to the San Antonio Spurs. If fame or prestige are the second most tangible currency of creative artists beyond straight cash, championships are their equivalent in the NBA. Yet the Spurs – in spite of their championship pedigree under Gregg Popovich – have reached a place where something as picayune as another ring is nearly beside the point when it comes to appreciating the team.

And this is from a Minnesota Timberwolves fan.

So get to reading and make it snappy. There’s all kinds of awesomeness to experience if you haven’t read all of these already.

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