Spurs comb the globe to find talent, and it's paying off in the NBA Finals

  • Article by: JON KRAWCZYNSKI , AP Basketball Writer
  • Updated: June 18, 2013 - 1:50 AM
hide

Gary Neal went to Towson and played in Turkey before finding an NBA home in San Antonio.

Photo: Eric Gay, Associated Press - Ap

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs have long been the NBA's gold standard when it comes to drafting and development, preferring to roll up their sleeves and scour the globe to find the right players to slot into well-defined roles in San Antonio.

They have more international players on their roster than any other team in the NBA, and even their American players don't come straight from America to the league.

It's the hard way to build a roster, requiring patience, discipline and investment that few teams are able to muster these days. And it's paying off in a big way for them in the NBA Finals.

There is Danny Green, who was cut three times and spent a summer in Slovenia, drilling every 3-pointer in sight and running away with the finals MVP award.

There is Gary Neal, who was undrafted out of Towson University and spent three years kicking around Turkey, Spain and Italy before being discovered by the Spurs, scoring 24 points in a Game 3 victory that put them back in control.

There is Boris Diaw, the once-promising Frenchman who was on his way out of the league before the Spurs brought him in, playing surprisingly stingy defense on LeBron James and finding Manu Ginobili cutting to the basket for easy buckets in a Game 5 win that moved the Spurs one victory away from the franchise's fifth title.

How do they find these guys?

General manager RC Buford has assembled an unparalleled scouting staff and worked with Gregg Popovich to establish a system and culture over the last 15-plus seasons that allows them to identify the exact attributes that will allow a player to succeed in San Antonio.

"Our management staff, RC does a great job with his scouts showing us who is out there, who is available," Popovich said earlier this season. "And we all sit down and decide who we want to bring in. Once we bring them in, we do take a lot of time trying to develop them."

It takes communication. It takes trust. It takes commitment to do what the Spurs do. It also takes a willingness to think outside the normal parameters of team building, to consider players that don't fit the prototypical mold.

"When you look at a basketball player and you're trying to evaluate someone, in my opinion you've got to look past the typical biases and preconceived notions on what an NBA player is and should look like or should be; what their pedigree or path should be and really get down to the guy's talent and character and work ethic," said forward Matt Bonner, who played in Italy and was acquired in a trade from Toronto. "Is this person going to make our team better and can he play? I think when you do that you can get a more accurate portrayal of a player and what their value potentially could be."

The commitment to drafting and developing came early for Buford and Popovich. Situated in small-market San Antonio, they knew they couldn't afford to throw millions at the free agent market every summer to fill holes in their roster. They certainly got lucky getting the No. 1 pick in 1997 when Tim Duncan was available, but their moves to surround him with a championship-caliber supporting cast all came the hard way.

Game 6 is Tuesday night in Miami, where Duncan will have a chance to win his fifth title 14 years after his first. Along the way he has gone from the focal point to a supporting role, all thanks to the system the Spurs have in place.

"I think development is a big part of that," Buford said. "The better prepared you can be to fill in the holes behind that success of an aging group, the smoother the transition might be."

Tony Parker was the 28th pick out of France in 2001. And despite being well known and coveted thanks to his stellar international play for Argentina, Ginobili fell to the second round in 1999 and didn't come to the NBA for another three seasons.

"Ginobili that was a pick that a lot of people knew was going to be good," Timberwolves president of basketball operations Flip Saunders said. "It's just at the time a lot of people didn't want to wait for him."

The Spurs were willing to wait, and it's paid off handsomely with the left-hander helping them win three titles and then registering 24 points and 10 assists in their Game 5 victory over Miami. He has also helped other foreign players like Tiago Splitter and Nando De Colo make the transition to the United States.

"The first years I started to feel like a guide to the new guys, it felt great, because I needed that at the beginning," Ginobili said. "Being sort of an icon or staple player on this team feels really good. I'm very lucky. And at the same time, it's great to have so many international players that went through some of the things you went through."

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Fla Southern 2 FINAL
Detroit 12
FIU 2 FINAL
Miami 7
Toronto 114 FINAL
Philadelphia 103
Golden State 108 FINAL
Brooklyn 110
Phoenix 98 FINAL
Miami 115
LA Clippers 110 FINAL
Minnesota 105
New Orleans 93 FINAL
Dallas 102
Nashville 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 4
Carolina 2 FINAL
Chicago 5
Montreal 0 FINAL
San Jose 4
Virginia 59 FINAL
Syracuse 47
Baylor 59 FINAL
Texas 61
SE Louisiana 79 FINAL
Northwestern St 92
Central Arkansas 49 FINAL
Sam Houston St 76
Norfolk State 59 FINAL
Howard 61
Bethune-Cookman 50 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 75 FINAL
Delaware State 85
Lamar 69 FINAL
McNeese State 70
Nicholls 89 FINAL
New Orleans 79
Incarnate Word 62 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 83
NC Central 62 FINAL
Savannah State 49
Texas Southern 77 FINAL
Alabama A&M 75
Prairie View 67 FINAL
Alabama State 65
Oklahoma 70 FINAL
Iowa State 77
Grambling St 62 FINAL
Miss Valley St 66
Boston College 66 FINAL
Virginia Tech 59
Jackson State 62 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 64
Bethune-Cookman 55 FINAL
NC A&T 58
Hampton 78 FINAL
Delaware State 63
Norfolk State 63 FINAL
Howard 60
NC Central 54 FINAL
Savannah State 65
Texas Southern 83 FINAL
Alabama A&M 46
Prairie View 42 FINAL
Alabama State 60
Jackson State 78 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 74
Grambling 56 FINAL
Miss Valley St 61
Tulsa 71 FINAL
Cincinnati 58
(1) Connecticut 88 FINAL
South Florida 65
UCF 57 FINAL
East Carolina 67
Central Conn St 53 FINAL
Bryant 55
Wagner 66 FINAL
Robert Morris 60
Sacred Heart 75 FINAL
Fairleigh Dickinson 84
St Francis-NY 73 FINAL
Long Island 49
Mount St Marys 87 FINAL
St Francis-PA 90
Temple 56 FINAL
Houston 45
Texas Tech 65 FINAL
(6) Baylor 75
Iowa State 64 FINAL
Kansas 68
SMU 60 FINAL
Memphis 53
Oklahoma 66 FINAL
Oklahoma St 56
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which is your favorite 'return' by a Minnesota athlete?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close