second team this year.
But Leonard and Parker and Duncan and Ginobili and everyone else on San Antonio’s roster played the game the way purists — and a whole bunch of coaches — like to see it played. They passed the ball and didn’t care with whom it ended up, as long as it went through the basket.
“I think that’s the hope of all of us, that we can get back to trying to play the game the right way,’’ Huggins said. “Certainly the Spurs did that.”
But to Huggins, what San Antonio did was even more than that.
“I think it’s more than just passing and sharing the ball,’’ Huggins said. “I think it’s their overall team attitude.”
For instance, Huggins cited one time when Popovich pulled Ginobili from the game in favor of Leonard. Leonard almost immediately made a shot, but then was taken out and Ginobili returned.
Can you imagine the reaction to that of most college players — and most pros, for that matter?
“He didn’t pout or feel sorry for himself. He was cheering his teammates on,’’ Huggins said. “He would get in the game at the right time and the team was doing pretty good.
“I think that’s all of our hopes, that we continue to foster an attitude that it’s team first. I think we’ve all had teams where that was the case and we’ve all had teams where that wasn’t the case.’’
It’s not often that the NBA is a used as a teaching tool for college coaches. It’s a game that, while not fundamentally different from the college game, is certainly not one that can be used as an example. You can’t show a college kid tape of LeBron or Kevin Durant and say, “Do that.’’ They can’t. They don’t have the skills. No one does.
And quite often, it is the star-studded teams that win championships. Look at the Heat. Think back to the Lakers of Kobe and Shaq. Shoot, go back to the Celtics of Bird, McHale and Parish. Yes, they functioned as teams to a certain degree, but not to the level of the Spurs in these most recent Finals.
“Listen to the timeouts: ‘The ball can’t stick. The ball can’t stick,’ ’’ Self said. “I can tell you, those are words coaches across America and we have used daily — ball movement, body movement.
“There are times that we’ve been great at it, making the extra pass and the ball not sticking. But there’s times we haven’t been as good. But I certainly think this will help re-emphasize what coaches have been selling at all levels, which I think will be great for our game.’’
If San Antonio’s victory with that kind of style helps those college coaches impress upon their players those values, it’s not just better for the coaches and the players, but everyone who watches the game.
“It’s certainly a whole lot more fun to coach and a whole lot more fun to play,’’ Huggins said of that style. “And, frankly, it’s a whole lot more fun to watch whenever teams do play the game the right way.”
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.