The consensus among the NBA establishment has long been that the San Antonio Spurs are the league’s model franchise. Reasons cited include: four NBA titles since 1999, a league-leading 14 straight playoff appearances, 12 straight 50-win seasons (13 if you ignore the lockout shortened 1998 - 1999 season), the longest tenured head coach, savvy drafting and roster management, and a big-three in Tim, Manu and Tony that was built organically.
With the 2011 NBA Playoffs in full-swing, it’s nearly impossible not to see a former Spurs player or coach on another playoff-qualified team.
Boston: Doc Rivers has coached the Celtics since 2004 and most notably took the Celtics to the 2008 and 2010 Finals, winning it all in 2008. From 1994-1996, Rivers was a backup point guard on the San Antonio Spurs.
Chicago: As you most likely know, the Bulls usurped the Spurs’ position as the league’s best team, record-wise, when they won their final regular season game and bumped their record to 62 - 20. Bulls’ head coach and likely NBA Head Coach of the Year, Tom Thibedeau, was an assistant coach for the Spurs from 1992 - 1994. On the player front, both Kurt Thomas (2007 - 2009) and more recently Keith Bogans (2009 - 2010) were former Spurs.
Dallas: Drafted by the Spurs in 2005, Ian Mahinmi struggled to find consistent clean-up minutes. Thus, Mahinmi signed with the in-state rival Dallas Mavericks, but has yet to see any playoff minutes.
Denver: The Nuggets’ much respected head coach, George Karl, played for the Spurs when they were both an ABA (1973 - 1976) and later, NBA franchise (1977 - 1978). Melvin Ely (who?) played six games during the 2006 - 2007 season with the Spurs.
Los Angeles Lakers: During the 2009 - 2010 season, Theo Ratliff saw action in 21 games for the Spurs.
New Orleans: The Hornets stole game one at the Staples against the everyone-is-tired-of-them-winning-except-Los Angeles-Lakers. Chances of a Hornets first round shocker are exceedingly slim, but their rookie head coach Monty Williams has shown promise of a successful head coaching career. From 1996 - 1998, Williams was a shooting guard on the San Antonio Spurs.
New York: Head coach Mike D’Antoni doesn’t like San Antonio. For one, he played on the Spurs for two games during the 1977 - 1978 season. More memorable, D’Antoni saw his Phoenix Suns teams dismissed by the Spurs during the 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008 playoff campaigns. Additionally, former Spurs sharpshooter Roger Mason Jr. (2008 - 2010) signed with the Knicks last August but can be seen more often than not, riding the bench.
Oklahoma City: With a talented young core paced by Longhorn wunderkind Kevin Durant, a talented coach, an astute front office, and a rabid fan base, the small-market Thunder look to be implementing a carbon copy of what the Spurs established and have successfully sustained. Nazr Mohammed, the oldest member of the Thunder, played on the Spurs from 2004 - 2006.
If I missed any, let me know...
Reminder: The Spurs play game three tonight against the gritty Grizzlies at 6:30 pm on ESPN.