Hammon directs Spurs to summer crown

LAS VEGAS -- The San Antonio Spurs won't give the Phoenix Suns a break.

First, San Antonio convinced LaMarcus Aldridge to come play for Gregg Popovich & Co. after Phoenix made trades to open up cap space so it could sign the summer's most prized free agent. Now, the Spurs have stolen another title away from the Suns, garnering the Las Vegas Summer League championship 93-90 on Monday evening.

Only a few weeks after seeing Aldridge slip through their fingertips, the Suns' summer league affiliate treated the championship ball the same way, chalking up 18 turnovers compared to just 11 assists during the defeat. The game especially started to take form in the middle of the third quarter, when Phoenix gave it away on four possessions over the course of a minute and a half, leading to Spurs baskets each time, including a couple of dunks from championship game MVP Jonathon Simmons, the high-flying University of Houston product who starred for the Spurs' D-League team last season and signed a one-year guaranteed deal over the weekend.

"I just thought [summer league MVP Kyle Anderson], Jonathon, everyone who came in -- we got contributions from everyone," Spurs summer league coach Becky Hammon said.

Simmons was all over the place, finishing with 23 points on 7-of-14 shooting. He threw down oops to Anderson's alleys and even missed a powerful, LeBron James-esque block in transition when he pinned Mike James' (no, not that Mike James) shot up against the backboard, but made barely enough contact with the body that James went to the line for a couple of free throws.

James certainly did everything he could to make it close, hitting late 3-pointers and trying to take over the game every chance he got, going for 32 points on only 18 shots. He loves his crossover like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony loves "Crossroads" and showed it enough for the fans to appreciate, but probably not enough for him to be satisfied.

Still, James' play was microcosmic of the difference between San Antonio and Phoenix's approaches.

"They came together really nicely the last three or four games," Hammon said of the Spurs' offense. "They started believing in each other. The ball really started moving."

A summer league title hardly means anything for a franchise that has racked up five rings during the month of June, not July, since 1999. But we did see signs of why San Antonio continues to be the NBA's premier organization.

Even early in Vegas ball -- during its first game, in fact -- Hammon and the Spurs were one-upping opponents from the bench.

Down three to the summer Nets with only seconds remaining, the Spurs inbounded the ball and ran a variation of the famed play the team popularized around the league years ago: the hammer. In the end, the shot didn't go in, but that wasn't the point. The team ran an intricate play and got an open 3-pointer in the corner from it -- and it happened in summer league, a place where plays and scheming often go to die while overdribbling and poor shot selection feast on their carcasses.

San Antonio effectively continued to run variations of that play throughout summer league and against Phoenix on Monday.

Juxtapose that with the offense of the other team that made it to the finals, an attack that consisted of James pounding the ball into the ground hard enough to create craters, and you can get a better understanding of the way the Spurs' game (and culture, probably) translated to the usually stifling Vegas.

"When other people start to use and take the things we do, it feels like we're doing things the right way," said Spurs shooting guard Danny Green, who watched the game from his courtside seat. "We're kind of -- I wouldn't say the originators, but our coaching staff knows what they're doing. It's been working for years. It continues to work."

Hammon, a Colorado State alum and former WNBA star, is clearly now part of that science. Less than two weeks ago, she became the first female head coach in NBA summer league history. Now, she has become the first one to win the whole thing.

"You tell me back in 1999, when I played my senior conference tournament here at Thomas & Mack, that fast-forward 16, 17 years, and I'd be here coaching the San Antonio Spurs in a summer league game, I would've told you you're full of it," Hammon said. "You never know what your journey has in store."

A summer league title means little to anyone who isn't on the actual team. Just ask fans of last year's champions, the Sacramento Kings, exactly what all those victories in Vegas got them in the coming season. But if you think the importance here is that the Spurs won, you're missing the point.

It's the way they did it, looking just like you'd imagine San Antonio would.

Follow Fred Katz on Twitter at @FredKatz.