The San Antonio Spurs have always been thought of as that grind-it-out team. That team that methodically breaks down defenses with its passing and low post play. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have long been able to slither their way through defenses and Duncan was just a point guard in a post's body with the way he could break down defenses with his post moves and the pass.
There was not much more of a team built on efficiency than this one. But when most thought of those championship teams and the franchise in general are the hard-nosed defenses that slowed and bogged the game down. Fans hated it. Or if they did not hate it, it did not resonate with the kind of games the casual fan likes to watch.
the Spurs were the 2000s equivalent of ugly basketball. But comparing them to the Bad Boy Pistons of the 1980s is going a bit far. Sure their games might have been ugly and their focus on defense and discipline was intense. But there were not dirty tactics (aside from Bruce Bowen's… which he has told me in the past did not occur). Or at least not the kind of physical bruising tactics that gave Detroit its nickname for that era.
There were never any Jordan rules — physically bumping and hiting Michael Jordan every time he came into the lane. There were never any Bill Laimbeer dirty tricks (read: punches). Or Isiah Thomas acts of being Isiah Thomas.
The Bad Boys these Spurs ain't. And the Spurs of the last few years, since Gregg Popovich transformed them into a fast-breaking team with Tony Parker as the fulcrum. The Bad Boy Pistons do not approve.
Yet, Tony Parker had to joke that the Spurs are quickly becoming and trying to emulate the Bad Boy Pistons for their rough and tumble style of play.
Sure the Robert Horry incident with Steve Nash is still ingrained in Suns' fans minds. And Popovich (and his progreny now) have used the hack-a-Shaq to put centers with free throw problems on the line late in games. He made an art of it actually just like Chuck Daly made an art out of Dennis Rodman doing something other than tattoos and hair coloring.
The Pistons were bad on and off the court, doing the kind of extra curriculars that would drive opponents crazy.
The Spurs appear finally to embracing some of this identity if you look at the actions some of their players have taken off the court in the last few weeks.
First, photos leaked from the Spurs' Halloween party that featured Tony Parker — aka Nick Fury — and Tim Duncan — aka The Punisher — dressed as their favorite superheros, holding up toy guns threatening their favorite referee, Joe Crawford. You know, good natured fun.
The kind of good natured fun that usually gets you a hefty fine from the arean. There were no fines issued for this bit of fun. And Duncan said there were no issues and nothing said when Joe Crawford officiated San Antonio's game against Charlotte this past weekend.
Phew, that was a claose one. It further goes into the "above-the-law" anti-NBA establishment attitude that San Antonio has semingly adopted. After all, the big news from the Spurs was the $250,000 fine leved against the franchise for sitting their three best players for a nationally televised tilt with the Heat. The Spurs, of course being extra bad, spat in the NBA's face by losing by only two points.
The latest indignity came from Stephen Jackson
The Spurs' injured forward, already known for his spotty past and "Bad Boy" mentality and approach to the game, threatened Thunder forward Serge Ibaka on Twitter. The team fined him and Jackson issued an apology via Instagram. Jackson said in his apology and in later comments that the statements he made were "childish" and unprofessional. Certainly they were. Ibaka for his part stayed out of it, issuing no comment or denying any knowledge of what was going on.
It was a busy month of questionable deeds for this usually quiet team.
Bad boys? Probably not. Controversial? That sounds like the Spurs this year.