Willes’ Musings: Spurs and their system deserve recognition

 

Also, Rangers know why they lost, Kaymer’s win a true triumph, and Messi magic is long overdue

 
 
 
 
San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich signals as forward Kawhi Leonard heads to the sideline Sunday in the Spurs’ game against the Miami Heat.
 

San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich signals as forward Kawhi Leonard heads to the sideline Sunday in the Spurs’ game against the Miami Heat.

Photograph by: David J. Phillip, AP

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In honour of England’s loss to Italy over the weekend, here’s something else that invariably disappoints, the Monday morning musings and meditations on the world of sports.

In this day and age of fat contracts and even fatter egos, take a moment to celebrate the San Antonio Spurs and the qualities they represent.

Under Gregg Popovich’s masterful direction, the Spurs are unselfish, disciplined and committed to the team and each other. Yes, they have superstars in the lineup, and you can’t win an NBA championship — let alone five — without individual talent. But from Hall of Famer Tim Duncan to Matt Bonner and Cory Joseph, the Spurs all adhere to the system, and when they’re on, as they were in the NBA final, they are something to behold.

It was one thing to take out the Miami Heat in five games. It’s another thing to dominate the defending NBA champions and the Spurs systematically dissected the great LeBron James and company with their team game.

Popovich has built something to be envied by other NBA teams and admired by all sports fans. It’s reassuring that the universal virtues the Spurs practise can still bring success.

The New York Rangers have every right to wonder what if, but if they were honest with themselves, they know why they lost the closest five-game final in Stanley Cup history.

One, they got next to nothing from Rich Nash. Two, they had Derek Stepan, Derick Brassard and Brad Richards at centre ice and the L.A. Kings had Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. To beat the Kings they needed an outsized performance from one or two of their forwards and they just didn’t get it.

The action on the ice spoke for itself this postseason, but listening to Jim Hughson’s call remains one of the game’s real pleasures.

Hughson’s delivery isn’t as operatic as some of his colleagues’ but he’s the best at packing information and insight into his play-by-play without disrupting the flow of the game. He’s as much a journalist as a broadcaster, but he does his reporting in real time and that’s not as easy as he makes it look.

Speaking of making it easier than it looks, Martin Kaymer was able to ride that fine line between playing aggressively but sensibly over the final two rounds of the U.S. Open on his way to his second career major.

His performance over the weekend wasn’t as prodigious as it had been over the first two rounds but, in its own way, it was every bit as clinical. Playing with a lead can be the hardest thing in golf, but the game’s greatest — Tiger, Nicklaus ­— had that ability, and there wasn’t a moment over the weekend when Kaymer wasn’t in complete control.

It was, of course, a memorable performance, but the German’s larger triumph lay in his journey to the win at Pinehurst. Three years ago, he was the top-ranked player in the world before falling off the face of the Earth — OK, to 63rd — and now he’s back. Winning a U.S. Open by eight strokes is impressive. That kind of resilience is even more impressive.

Maybe it wasn’t, as the play-by-play guy called it, “the goal the world wanted,” but Lionel Messi delivered a moment of wizardry in Argentina’s 2-1 victory over Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday and you wonder what this means for the world’s best player and his team.

If Messi’s career were to end tomorrow, he’d still be regarded as one of the greatest to play the beautiful game, but his resumé is lacking a defining performance on soccer’s biggest stage. He needs this World Cup. This World Cup needs him. This has to be his time.

With Jamall Johnson and Khalif Mitchell, the B.C. Lions defence figures to be improved over last season. With Stefan Logan and Andrew Harris in the backfield, the running game figures to be improved. You wonder about the receiving corps, especially with Manny Arceneaux questionable, but everywhere, the Lions look to be solid — until you get to the quarterback position.

There’s nothing wrong with the depth, and Kevin Glenn has proven to be a reliable option throughout his career. But this is still Travis Lulay’s team and, with the Lions one week away from their season opener, it’s still unclear (a) when Lulay will be ready to reclaim the starting QB’s job and (b) what he’ll bring when he’s ready to play.

Unfortunately. Lulay’s wonky shoulder remains the main storyline around the Lions and there’s something unsettling in that.

And finally. We call your attention to the moving story of the Lions’ Harris and his search for his birth father which became public this month. The theme of the story — after years of looking Harris found his father living in Vancouver — is moving enough but with Father’s Day falling on Sunday, it takes on extra poignancy.

Fathers, sons and sports create a powerful energy and that energy has shaped many lives. Maybe it isn’t always positive but it’s real and, after all these years, Harris and his father have a chance to explore what so many fathers and sons have shared.

You hope it works out for them. I hope it’s worked out for you and your father as well as it worked for my father and me. I still think of you every day, dad.

ewilles@theprovince.com

twitter.com/willesonsports

 
 
 
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San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich signals as forward Kawhi Leonard heads to the sideline Sunday in the Spurs’ game against the Miami Heat.
 

San Antonio head coach Gregg Popovich signals as forward Kawhi Leonard heads to the sideline Sunday in the Spurs’ game against the Miami Heat.

Photograph by: David J. Phillip, AP

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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