The first two months of the NBA season has been enlightening. For the first time in a good ten years, at least, we have zero parity in the league. There are only four teams capable of winning the title this year. Period. No exceptions. The “can Team X win the title” discussions are a non-starter on the talk shows.
The separation of the Spurs from the rest of the pack has shown me something interesting this year. We get to see the other team’s level of commitment.
Due to the Spurs dominating performance to date, I am no longer just sitting there hoping we can win. The outcome has rarely been in doubt at halftime. I’m not saying it has been garbage time in the third quarter. But, barring a meltdown, the Spurs were going to win. They had established their superiority and only needed to execute to close out the game. This has given me the opportunity to notice something different. I am able to see a team’s commitment to the game.
When a team is up against the wall in a game, you get a great glimpse into their character. For a lot of teams, they break from the stress in the clutch. We have watched the Spurs do that to teams for years. A team gets a couple possessions down late in the fourth quarter and then they fail to execute. They go all one on one. And usually fall on their face. This year, we see their commitment to their system and their coach in the third quarter.
It is still early in the third quarter. The team is not going to win and everyone on their team knows it. Do they still run their sets? Do they still play with conviction and effort? Teams like the Kings, Lakers and Rockets do not. They start chucking on offense. They stop rotating on defense. The Mavs, Hawks and even Sixers keep running their sets. They keep putting out effort.
Keep an eye on this as the season goes along. The players that keep playing under that adversity are the types of guys the Spurs like to bring in. It is also a sign of a well coached team and a coach that has been able to create a good culture.