Except for those rings, Thunder a mirror image of Spurs
They’re small markets with once-in-a-generation forwards, All-Star point guards, left-handed sparkplugs off the bench and closely linked front offices. In the entire NBA, San Antonio and Oklahoma City are about as similar as it gets.
Except the championships that came quickly for the Spurs, and the Thunder is still chasing its first one.
“I know that what happened to me isn’t something that happens often,” said Spurs guard Manu Ginobili, whose 2003 rookie season ended with a title.
The Spurs and Thunder begin the Western Conference finals Sunday in the first playoff series between two of the three winningest teams in the West the last three seasons. Second are the Lakers, who won their last title in 2010 behind Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol. San Antonio’s celebrated Big Three – Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili – have three championships in the last decade and the most regular-season wins in the NBA since 2009.
Then there’s Oklahoma City.
Superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook have led a stunning turnaround for a franchise just four years removed from having one of the worst records in the NBA. Even Bryant, Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal waited at least four seasons before getting sized for their first championship rings.
“I don’t think their time line is behind anyone,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said of the Thunder.
The Spurs are familiar with being an anomaly.
Duncan won a title in only his second season in 1999, as did Parker four years later. Now both now stand in the way of Durant and Westbrook.
Spurs coach Gregg Popovich credited the Thunder for speeding through a maturation process that has left the franchise ready to compete for a championship after feeling the “bumps and bruises.”
Duncan said the Spurs didn’t win their titles unscathed, either – despite theirs coming much quicker.
“I was lucky enough to get one really early in my career, along with other guys,” Duncan said. “But we all had to work very hard for them, and we all had to go through different situations, scenarios to get there. Our road luckily ended with a lot more titles than people usually do. But we’re fighting the same way.”
KNICKS SIGN WOODSON
One playoff victory was good enough for Mike Woodson to return as New York Knicks coach – even with Phil Jackson lurking as a potential candidate.
The Knicks removed the interim tag and announced they had given Woodson a multiyear contract extension, rewarding him for a terrific finish to what had been a turbulent season.
Woodson led the Knicks to an 18-6 record after replacing Mike D’Antoni on March 14. The Knicks lost 4-1 to Miami in the first round, snapping an 13-game postseason losing streak by winning Game 4 for their first victory since 2001.
The NBA fined Miami coach Erik Spoelstra $25,000 for “critical public comments” about officiating in the Eastern Conference series with Indiana. Spoelstra was quoted by several media outlets saying the NBA “does not have a problem” with Indiana committing hard fouls on Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.