Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Original Big 3

AP Photos
The original Big 3 are back!

And no, not Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen of the Boston Celtics. And not the new Big 3 from down in the Valley of the Kings: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

The original Big 3 (in by book) are Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs who at 35-6 have the best overall record in the NBA thus far. These three stars have quietly been together for 9 seasons and have been winning big for a LONG time. In fact, they've won 3 NBA Championships together and have posted 8 consecutive (and counting) 50-win seasons.

And this version of the Big 3 is not like the other two versions which were concocted in Pat Riley and Danny Ainge's basements. These three players were all drafted by the Spurs and have never played a single game for another team. I guess we can call them the Homegrown Big 3.

All in all, the Spurs are master drafters. In addition to the Big 3, other key players like, DeJuan Blair, George Hill, James Anderson (currently injured) and Tiago Splitter (love that name) were all drafted by San Antonio. Only Richard Jefferson, Antonio McDyess and Matt Bonner are key contributors who came from elsewhere. Not bad. The Spurs are the epitome of good drafting.

AP Photos
The Spurs' savvy has resulted in a run of epic proportions which began, way back, in the 1997-98 season. In 1996-97 they were a woeful 20-62 which enabled them to land the No. 1 overall pick in the draft. As luck would have it that was the year Tim Duncan was the consensus and undisputed choice for No. 1 overall. The Spurs snatched Duncan with the first pick and the rest is history.

In the Tim Duncan-era they have won 4 NBA Championships and have posted 13 50-win seasons with a sure 14th coming this season. At 35-6 it's just a matter of time before they win their 50th game and 60th and who knows, maybe even 70th game. If we do the math: (35-6)+(35-6)= 70-12. Who's to say their second half won't parallel their first half? Anyway, the only season in which the Spurs didn't win 50 games (under Tim Duncan's watch) was the strike-shortened 1998-99 season when they went 37-13. Oh and by the way, they won their first NBA Championship that year.

But since winning their last championship in 2006-07 the Spurs have relinquished the podium to the Los Angeles Lakers who have won the Western Conference title for 3 consecutive years. But again, at 35-6, it looks like the old Spurs are back and their 3 star players are healthy and focused. During their 3-year hiatus, health and focus had eluded the Spurs' core three and the team was stopped short in the Conference Finals, First Round and Conference Semifinals, respectively. But it looks like this season they are healthy and focused on making a good run.

So if the Spurs dethrone the Lakers in the West, the original Big 3 may face one of the two latest Big 3 because it looks like the Celtics and Heat are on a collision course to meet in the Eastern Conference Finals. Unless, of course, Dwight Howard has other ideas.

Meanwhile, speaking of the Valley of the Kings--

Getty Images
Relax LeBron. You guys are going to be in the conversation for a LONG time to come. In the meantime, send your ex-boss Dan Gilbert a get-well card because he is hurtin' in Cleveland. Big time!

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