Spurs may be a dynasty, but an unappreciated one
CLEVELAND -- Exiting the arena with the NBA finals MVP trophy in one arm and his actress fiancee on the other, Tony Parker looked like someone who should be a megastar in America.
But Parker plays for the San Antonio Spurs, a champion everywhere but in the TV ratings. The Spurs were too good for Cleveland, but still considered too boring to be appreciated.
They are the NBA's forgotten dynasty.
"It's all about getting the job done, it's not how you get the job done," said Robert Horry, who won his seventh championship. "You don't need to be flashy, just get the job done."
Few teams have done that better than the Spurs, who by sweeping the Cavaliers for a fourth title since 1999 have forced themselves into the dynasty discussion. But the other teams in that category, the Celtics, Lakers, and Bulls, were all either loved or hated.
Fans don't seem to love or hate the Spurs. They mostly ignore them.
The finals drew a record-low 6.2 television rating and 11 share on ABC, Nielsen Media Research said Friday. That was down 27 percent from the 8.5/15 for Miami's six-game victory over Dallas last year and 5 percent under the previous low, a 6.5/12 for San Antonio's six-game win over New Jersey in 2003. The NBA finals averaged 9.3 million viewers this year.
NBA fans love their one-name stars: LeBron, Kobe, Shaq. The only one-namer San Antonio has is Manu Ginobili -- and he doesn't even start.
"We don't do a lot of the flashy things. The only flashy guy we got is Manu," Horry said. "Everybody else is just basic, but sometimes basic stuff gets the job done. We are a good team and that's the most important thing."
The NBA's bland boys are ready to show their wild side. They get their championship parade along the Riverwalk this weekend, followed next month by Parker's wedding to "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria in France.
"I'm going to party all the way until the end of Tony Parker's wedding," said Michael Finley, a first-time champion. "And then I might relax a little bit."
Once it's time to get back to basketball, count on the Spurs being a title threat. As long as they have Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich, they always are.
"It starts with Pop, the fact that he never let us get comfortable," Parker said. "He's always behind us, always like 'Come on, focus, focus' and I think it carries on. Every day in practice you just get that mentality.
"And then Timmy is the same way. He comes to practice and practices hard every day. When your superstar practices like that, you have to practice hard."
Knocked out in the second round last year, Popovich expected the Spurs to come back hungrier and defend harder. Instead, he was surprised to see a team that had forgotten its principles while getting left in the dust by Dallas and Phoenix.
Even Popovich started to wonder if the Spurs' time had passed.
"The thought went through my head," he said. "Are they sick of listening to me? Are they tired of hearing it? Have we run the gamut of every motivational thing or emotional button we can push? I thought about it because I didn't think they were listening."
Instead of trying to jump-start the team with a midseason move, Popovich made it clear that the players would have to figure things out themselves without any outside help.
"You guys are going down or you're getting it done together, but there will be no trades here," Popovich said. "I think it helped us turn the corner."
Actually, San Antonio did that long ago. In the early and mid-1990s, the Spurs were always just good enough to lose to Houston, or Utah, or some other Western Conference power. Then Popovich took over as coach during the 1996-97 season, and a few months later San Antonio won the draft lottery and the right to select Duncan.
The Spurs were first-time champions two years later and added titles in 2003 and '05. This was their first finals sweep, so they may be getting even better.
"It takes such a long process to build up champions and now we have a championship mentality," former San Antonio star David Robinson said. "We have a great organization, the management, bringing in phenomenal guys to fill in all the roles ... and our leaders are just phenomenal."
Still, winning games still doesn't mean winning fans for the Spurs. High-scoring teams such as Phoenix and Golden State are the ones fans want to see. Once they were knocked out, casual viewers stopped tuning in.
But while those teams look more fun, the Spurs' model is the one to follow for the best shot at a title.
That's what Cleveland did, bringing in coach Mike Brown and general manager Danny Ferry from San Antonio and ending up in the finals for the first time. Seattle could be headed in the same direction, hiring Sam Presti away from the Spurs to be its new GM and perhaps considering Popovich's assistant, P.J. Carlesimo, to be its new coach.
The Cavs quickly learned that there's a large gap between being like the Spurs and being the Spurs.
"We went up against a better team," LeBron James said after struggling throughout his first finals appearance. "We know the Spurs are definitely the better team in this series."
Popovich refuses to take credit, even while becoming only the fifth NBA coach with four or more titles. Keeping the Spurs on top won't be easy. The West is so tough that San Antonio was only the No. 3 seed, and could be even stronger next season with college stars Greg Oden and Kevin Durant likely headed to Portland and Seattle.
But the Spurs' way has worked since Duncan arrived, so the Spurs will always have a shot.
"I think that longevity is attributed to Timmy and the other guys we've tried to bring in who have a certain character," Popovich said, "a character that's made up of just people who have gotten over themselves, people who care about the team more than an individual. And I think it shows in a lot of ways."
Just not in the ratings.
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index