Hubbard: News flash: Spurs and James Bond have nothing in common

gregg popovichConsidering his background in the military, it should not be surprising that Gregg Popovich leads a unit that seems to always fly under the radar. Figuratively, of course.

Popovich is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and stayed in the service long enough to serve a tour of duty in the Kurdish area in eastern Turkey near the border of Syria. It was a top secret assignment; obviously, the good military man has never elaborated on it, other than to say reports of him being some sort of super spy are highly exaggerated.

“I was stationed on the border,” he once told me, “but it wasn’t like I was James Bond.”

Except for military-like precision, there is little comparison to his job for the last 18 years – other than the fact that he directs an operation that seems to do everything quietly.

Tales of the Spurs’ proverbial championship window shriveling have been told for many years. Popovich and his players are never bothered by such weak analysis, however. When popular opinion seems to be that they can’t do something, they do it.

They are at it again. The Spurs are 9-1. A quiet 9-1, creating no excitement outside of San Antonio. They are, again, succeeding in their own efficient, nondescript way – most of the time doing just enough to win.

Six of their nine wins have been by single digits. Their only two blowouts were against Eastern Conference patsies New York (sorry, Knicks fans – cheap shot) and the young Philadelphia team. Those victories were by 31 and 24 points, respectively.

Popovich, as always, downplays the early success. When reporters have asked about it, Popovich has alternately credited “good fortune,” and “corporate knowledge.” And he also has noted his team is “older than dirt,” as if that makes any sense in explaining a victory.

It’s obvious the Spurs still have the passion. There appear to be no negative effects from the Tony Parker, France way they uncharacteristically folded in the NBA Finals against the Miami Heat – losing a five-point lead in the last 28 seconds of Game 6 while holding a 3-2 advantage in the series.

If anything, they seem more intense, which was best evidenced by Tony Parker on Friday night. The Spurs were in Utah playing the 1-8 Jazz and trailing late in the third quarter. Parker made a good defensive play, stealing the ball from Jazz guard Diante Garrett, who responded with a hustle play and stripped the ball away from Parker, who was immediately incensed – at himself.

Parker responded with 14 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, leading the Spurs to a 91-82 victory.

“I was so hot after that play,” Parker said. “I can’t remember the last time that happened to me. He did a good play. I have to give him credit, but I was super mad. I couldn’t wait to get back at them. That definitely got me started in the fourth quarter.”

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