Larry Brown has always mused about playing the right way. While there’s ample debate about what exactly Brown means, we know where it’s been done the longest.
The San Antonio Spurs have clinched their 19th straight trip to the playoffs.
Not only is it easily the longest streak in the NBA — the Atlanta Hawks are second, with eight consecutive playoff entries — they never even squeak in. The Spurs have won 50 games in 18 of their last 19 seasons. The only time they didn’t reach the 50-win mark was during the lockout-shortened season of 1998-99, when San Antonio posted a 37-13 record.
If you’re looking for the fun-house distortion of the Spurs, just visit the Big Apple, where the Brooklyn Nets have yet to win an NBA title, and the Knicks haven’t hoisted a trophy since 1973. The Nets are on their third home location, while the Knicks have drafted one All-Star since Mark Jackson in 1987. And that “Star,” David Lee, is hardly a Hall-of-Famer.
The Spurs have won 29 straight home games, the Knicks have lost 15 of their last 18 games. If not for the Warriors, the Spurs would have a 10-game lead on the ornery Western Conference. The Knicks are 13th in the Eastern Conference.
The Spurs replace luminaries like Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili with LaMarcus Aldridge and Kawhi Leonard, who instantly buy into the team ethic and continue the monolithic winning.
Meanwhile, the Knicks have Carmelo Anthony, who’s never won anything in the NBA, and yet the Knicks and their fans were convinced he was the hardwood messiah. Now the Knicks are stuck with ‘Melo for another three years and over $75 million.
They can’t trade Anthony because they gave him a no-trade clause — a rare privilege bestowed upon winners like Duncan. Indeed, ‘Melo is the only active player who has such a clause and no championships.
The basketball world is obsessed with Stephen Curry and Golden State’s pursuit of the Chicago Bulls. And they deserve their place atop the NBA marquee. But the Warriors (55-5) are in the second year of their eminence.
The Spurs have won five titles during their epic run, the fourth-longest in NBA history, according to Yahoo! If that weren’t enough, their win against New Orleans last night made them 13-0 on the back-end of back-to-back games, making them the only NBA team yet to lose one.
The Spurs (52-9) are just 3.5 games behind the Warriors, with three more contests coming between the two teams. Even if Golden State darts to the title, they still need another decade of dominance to match the Spurs.
The Spurs are so singularly focused, they didn’t even realize they clinched a playoff spot this week. Reporters had to remind them of their epic streak and that they secured a place in the tourney well before we nudge the clock back.
But no matter the hour, it’s always winning time in San Antonio.
Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.