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This room is for discussion of sports, non-video games & hobbies! Football, baseball, basketball, hockey, or your own personal favorite. Brag about your team and explain why the refs blew the big game! Discuss your passion for Corn Hole, Horseshoes,Texas Hold'em or other games.

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Jun 16th 2013 new
I don't buy it. David Robinson was totally overlooked in that article. I believe the key is Pop, himself, not the market he seems to be tapping into. That's not denying there are some awesome international players on the team, but Pop has a style of coaching that brings out the best in these guys.

I will say this, he did tap outside the galaxy when Dennis Rodman was on board. He was not of this world...

Cat
Jun 17th 2013 new
The way the Spurs see it, though, the biggest divide isn't structural but cultural. Something has happened to basketball in the country that invented it, as well-documented as it as irrevocable, driven by money and fame and a generation of players who've learned from watching sharks succeed by imposing their will upon the game rather than by allowing it to come to them. It used to be that a team needed a transcendent talent to execute a star system; now, it needs a transcendent talent -- LeBron James or Duncan -- to show that it's permissible to be unselfish. Consider that the U.S. has won only two of the major world junior championships in the past 26 years -- not even in 2007, with Stephen Curry and Michael Beasley on the roster -- and the root rot of the U.S. system is all the more clear. "That's a statement about where we are," Buford says. "When we put our best players together, we aren't playing well."

Most of the foreign players not only have more experience playing basketball but more experience playing an unselfish style, with lots of passing and motion and screens, as messy as it is pure. As Spurs director of basketball operations Sean Marks, a New Zealander who played for San Antonio for two seasons, puts it, "The ball doesn't stick." For better or worse, the ball often sticks in America. A few months ago, Pop was scouting an opponent. He won't say which one. On video, Pop saw an international player wide open for a shot, with a confused look on his face. That's because his point guard, an American, was dribbling in circles. "It has to be a really different experience for him," Pop says, laughing. " 'Where am I? Is this is a different game? Is it a different sport?' "

Of course, Pop's coaching style, as prescient as it is curmudgeonly, isn't for everyone. He's demanding and ruthless; his playbook is pick-and-roll heavy, more structured and complicated than European ball but a blood relative. The traits he scouts for -- players with "character," who've "gotten over themselves, who understand team play, who can cheer for a teammate," who "don't make excuses" -- hold true regardless of nationality. The NBA draft, more than the draft in any other sport, is based on potential. With only two rounds, GMs can't miss, and when Pop looks at American talent he sees many players who "have been coddled since eighth, ninth, 10th grade by various factions or groups of people. But the foreign kids don't live with that. So they don't feel entitled," he says, noting how many clubs work on fundamentals in two-a-day practices, each lasting up to three hours. "Now, you can't paint it with too wide of a brush, but in general, that's a fact."And so it's no surprise that Pop would rather teach unentitled foreign players to be selfless than try to teach entitled domestic players to suppress their egos. The international kids, he says, "have less. They appreciate things more. And they're very coachable." Of course, it's much easier when his best player, Duncan, who was raised in the Virgin Islands and learned the game by playing point guard in pickup games on a rugged outdoor court, is best known for putting team first; when Parker, raised in France, is okay trading stats for wins; when Ginobili, raised in Argentina, is fine coming off the bench. And the Spurs have whiffed on imports (Luis Scola) and scored with Americans (Kawhi Leonard). Still, there's a different vibe in the Spurs facility, as if deplaning in a foreign airport. Argentine reporters stand next to American ones. In practice, Ginobili calls for a screen by saying, "Tienes que poner el bloqueo aca!" The diversity -- San Antonio's roster has players from seven countries and territories -- is a binding force. When Pop talks about his players, a coach who's best known for frowning one-word answers turns not only expansive and animated, waving his arms and laughing, but proud. As he sits on a bench near the team's practice courts, watching Duncan shoot free throws on his day off, he smiles as he sees one of his foreign-born players and foreign-born front office guys hug in the hallway. "It's a family here," Pop says. "It's just geometric, and it creates a mixed culture that we've all enjoyed tremendously."Of course, Pop enjoys it most because they win. None of the Spurs rank high in points per game, the quintessential American stat. But not only were three Spurs among the top 12 players in Win Shares per 48 minutes for the 2012-13 season, they also join with Marc Gasol, the Memphis Grizzlies center from Spain, as the only non-Americans on the list. Parker, at .206, ranked fifth. Duncan's .191 was 12th. Ginobili, with a lifetime average of .211, would have easily qualified if he had been healthy. And ranking eighth was Splitter, the former international superstar who has had to train both his game and mind to relish the thankless tasks Pop demands of him.
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