Double Dribble - San Antonio Spurs a sure bet every NBA season

For those who remember the classic Simpsons episode when Larry King says the San Antonio Spurs are going to win the NBA title, it seems that prediction has been spot on ever since.

In the old-school program titled "One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish", Homer is listening to the legendary CNN broadcaster reading the Bible on cassette. After Homer stays up all night listening and fast-forwarding through to the end, he passes out as King signs off saying "I love the San Antonio Spurs by the way. If you're betting on the NBA this year, I think they'll win it all."

That episode went to air in 1991. Apart from 1996-97 when David Robinson was injured - paving the way for a No.1 draft pick which turned out to be Tim Duncan, those lines in the Simpsons episode have seemed timely pretty much every time its been re-run. In fact, since they went 21-61 in 1988-89, the Spurs have only had two seasons with less than 50 wins - 47 in 1991-92 and 49 the following year.

Earlier this week they became the first team this season to reach the 50-win mark, achieving the feat in their 66th match. Remarkably, it's the 15th season in a row they've notched this milestone, that's the best in NBA history. The next best is the 12 years straight set by the Los Angeles Lakers in the Kobe Bryant-Shaquille O'Neal era of the 2000s.

San Antonio's mark really should be 17. The year before the 15 straight was the lockout-shortened season of 1998-99 when they went 37-13 on the way to lifting the NBA trophy for the first time. They were 56-26 the year before that.

They've hoisted the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy three more times (2003, '05 and '07) since 1999 to sit on the podium for the NBA's best teams alongside the Lakers and Miami in the post-Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls era.

Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili this week surpassed Magic Johnson, James Worthy and Michael Cooper for most career wins together as a trio with 491 from 664 matches. Only the holy Boston Celtics triumvirate of Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale (540 from 729) have had more combined success.

Apart from Duncan, coach Gregg Popovich has been the other common factor in the Spurs' championship era. When told of the 50-game record post-game, Popovich was characteristically unimpressed, bascially saying it meant very little to him because their eyes were on the bigger prize.

That's why the Spurs are again legitimate contenders again and it's also why they are not celebrated as much as LeBron James' Heat teams are, Kobe's Lakers were, or any of the other great dynasties of yesteryear. Popovich has turned downplaying success into an artform. They were within a rebound away from winning last year's title in game six in Miami despite being written off all season because of the Spurs' outward displays of never being satisfied.

There is a misconception in the NBA that San Antonio is in a small market and the Spurs are unable to attract high-profile recruits like the Lakers, New York and Chicago when truth be told, the city is one of the top 10 most populous in the United States. When the Spurs need players, they invariably get them.

They haven't had to recruit a top-notch star for a long time but going after marquee signings is not the Popovich way anyway. When they need a role filled, they find someone who would fit into their system and turn them into a better player. Boris Diaw was let go by Charlotte, Marco Bellinelli was signed as a free agent after bouncing around Golden State, New Orleans, Toronto and Chicago, and let's not forget the transformation in Australian Boomers guard Patty Mills since he became a Spur two years ago. Mills is playing so well nowadays he is being rapidly picked up in fantasy NBA leagues instead of just by Australians being patriotic with their roster selections.

So, we enter the final stretch of another NBA season and the Spurs, despite having the best record in the league, are again, somehow, flying under the radar. Ladbrokes has them an $7.50 chance behind Miami at $3.10, Indiana ($3.65) and Oklahoma City  ($5.50).

As Larry King so presciently said: "If you're betting on the NBA this year, I think they'll win it all."

Taking it to the poll ... 

Last week's NBL question proved timely - Should Shane Heal be Kings coach next season. He's decided not to do the job but 68% of the 188 votes were in favour of him staying.

The NBA poll was where should Carmelo Anthony play next year with 40% of the 770 votes suggesting New York, with 21% for Miami and 20% for the Lakers.

This story Double Dribble - San Antonio Spurs a sure bet every NBA season first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.