Tag Archives: Greg Popovich

The Better Team Won: LeBron’s Greatness Not Diminished By Finals Loss

16 Jun

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

 

The Spurs simply outplayed the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. (from left to right): Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.

The Spurs simply outplayed the Miami Heat in the 2014 NBA Finals. (from left to right): Tim Duncan, Kawhi Leonard, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobli.

PHILADELPHIA—Now that the San Antonio Spurs have emphatically captured the 2014 NBA Finals in five games over a proud, but outgunned Miami Heat squad, I hope fans will realize that the better TEAM won.

The emphasis on team with all caps goes out to all those on social media, sports talk radio and in various sports bars throughout the country who are under the impression that winning championships come down to the individual efforts of one superstar by himself.

In this series, fans were in one of two camps those who adore and worship LeBron James and those people who want to see him fall on his ass every time he steps out on the court.

To a generation of fans weaned on 24-hour cable sports networks, sports talk radio and social media, James not getting “his” third ring will somehow invalidate his greatness as a player. That’s the cult of personality among NBA fans today.

LeBron James scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds in the Heat's Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. The Spurs won the series 4-1.

LeBron James scored 31 points and had 10 rebounds in the Heat’s Game 5 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. The Spurs won the series 4-1.

LBJ detractors are out in full-force saying that he choked and is overrated, etc. Some are saying that it is proof positive that he is not as good as Michael Jordan, who led the Chicago Bulls to six titles and current Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant who has five championship rings.

Of course, that’s total nonsense because seemingly lost somewhere between the rants of those two guys on ESPN’s First Take and some of the silly arguments I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter is one obvious and simple thing: basketball is still a team game.

Always has been, always will be—whether you’re talking Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls winning six titles or Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics winning 11 titles in 13 years. Contrary to popular belief, Jordan and Russell had other guys around them to help win those crowns.

One little detail that folks seem to forget—The Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics names are on the trophy—not Jordan’s or Russell’s.

If wasn’t for the collective efforts of players like Scottie Pippen, Horace Grant, Steve Kerr, Ron Harper and Dennis Rodman, Jordan and the Bulls would not have won those titles. If Russell didn’t have Bob Cousy, Sam Jones, K.C. Jones, John Havlicek or Don Nelson, the Celtics would not have won.

In the case of the Spurs, you had a core group of three great players Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobli and Tony Parker that’s won championships together as a unit along with a solid supporting cast and a coach in Greg Popovich, who molded that team into playing as a singular unit.

The 2014 edition of the Spurs got a tremendous contribution from an unexpected source from Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard, who slowed down James on defense and was a huge contributor on offense, especially in the last three games when he averaged 23 points and nine rebounds per game.

The former San Diego State star gave the Spurs that stop on defense, a key rebound, a big dunk or a big three-point bucket among all the Spurs Hall-of- Fame stars. Under Popovich’s system, everybody can be great because everybody can contribute.

Explaining that there is a team concept in basketball to NBA fans caught up in the cult of personality is the equivalent of your mom telling you to eat your greens because they’re good for you when you’d rather have ice cream.

On one hand, I do believe that all great teams need that one superstar, that go-to guy in the clutch when the game is on the line. That superstar also needs a solid group of teammates behind him to play specific roles. He can’t do it all by himself—everybody has to play defense and everybody has to contribute whether it’s setting the pick to get a teammate open or making a key offensive rebound.

James played well for the Heat and he did everything he could to help his team in the 2014 Finals. He averaged 28 points per game, 7.6 rebounds, four assists while shooting 57 percent from the field and 51.9 percent from three-point range. Arguably, those are Finals MVP numbers.

Unfortunately, the rest of his team didn’t play well enough when he needed them. That’s because the Spurs exposed, as they did in last year’s Finals, the Heat’s weakness at the point guard position and a thin bench.

At the end of the day, the best TEAM won.

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Patience: New Sixers Coach Brett Brown Sees the Light at the End of the Tunnel

16 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report/The Philadelphia Sunday Sun

New Sixers head coach Brett Brown knows that rebuilding the 76ers will be a long-term process. Photo by Chris Murray.

New Sixers head coach Brett Brown knows that rebuilding the 76ers will be a long-term process. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—Everyone in the 76ers organization, along with fans and media, is bracing themselves for a season where they’re not going to win many games.

But new Sixers head coach Brett Brown told everyone at his press conference on Wednesday that it wouldn’t be that way forever and that there’s light at the end of what some see as an endless tunnel.

“I hope that everybody understands the level of patience that we’re all going to have, not acceptance. Patience,” Brown said, his thick New England accent perfuming the air. “Because when we’re not playing hard and we’re not executing well, they will be coached. They should be coached, that’s my job.

“But when you step back and you see that we’re undermanned, then we have to patient and grow it, develop it, free agent it and let a ping-pong ball [determine], those types of things. That’s the evolution we’re just going to have to expect.”

Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie said the thing he likes about Brown, who signed a four-year contract with the team, is the ability to understand that building a winner doesn’t happen overnight.

“I like long-term thinkers. I like people who get up and put their hard hat on every single day,” Hinkie said. “I like people who can see the big picture and who think about how important the foundation is to the third floor when you get the old thing built. Doing the foundation right really matters and that really resonated with me.”

Brown does bring a pretty good coaching pedigree to the Sixers.  He has four NBA Championship rings as an assistant to San Antonio Spurs head coach Greg Popovich.  Brown also coached in the Australian National Basketball League where he won a championship for the North Melbourne Giants in 1994.

At the 2012 Olympics in London, Brown coached the Australian national team to a 3-3 record, which was one of the best Olympics runs in the history of Australian basketball.  Brown played his collegiate ball at Boston University under Louisville and soon-to-be Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino.

A native of Maine, Brown played for his high school basketball for his father, Bob Brown, a member of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame.

After working in the basketball heaven that was San Antonio where he coached players like Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobli, Brown certainly has his work cut out for him with a young team that includes rookies like former Syracuse star Michael Carter Williams and Kentucky big man Nerlins Noel.

But the one thing that seems to bode well for Brown is his background in player development. During his time with the Spurs, player development was Brown’s specialty as an assistant coach.

“We need a staff, we need a mentality that’s going to be heavily, heavily focused on development and it’s going to start with me and it’s going to start with a structure where we’re practicing now and then to evolution of a new practice facility,” Brown said.

“Pre-practice work, video work, all those things contribute to how you develop somebody whether it’s Tony Parker’s jump shot, Bruce Bowen realizing that everybody double-teams Tim Duncan so you better be skilled at that single floor spot in the corner,” Brown continued… “We got fantastic development people in San Antonio…We’ve really have paid a lot of attention to that area.”

With the relatively young players that he has like Thaddeus Young, Brown, like his old mentor Popovich, is a defensive-minded coach. During his press conference, he made it clear that Sixers won’t sacrifice the offensive end of the floor for defense.

“We want to go, we want to get out in open court and we want to run,” Brown said. “One of the main things we’re going to look at is pace …We’re going to run …It’s hard running over 82 games. You really can’t do that unless have an extraordinary fitness base and you play 10 or 11 deep.

“I hope that you’re going to see a team that’s exciting offensively and that is appreciated with the competitiveness and toughness defensively,” he said.

If anything else, Brown does understand the odds of rebuilding a team from loser to a perennial powerhouse are stacked against him. But for him that’s the beauty of this job.

“Can you imagine if we can get this thing right?” Brown said. “Really? If we can get this right with the culture and the history that this city has, with the pride and the toughness that this city has, that is very alluring. It’s tempting. It’s dangerous. Rebuilding is a hard thing. I feel thrilled to be here.”