I ran across an interesting playoff story by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, yesterday. As part of his profile on the San Antonio Spurs, he recounts how they set about emulating the 1990s Utah Jazz.
“The Spurs saw the exacting execution and no-excuse manner in which Jerry Sloan, Karl Malone and John Stockton conducted their business and strained to emulate them,” Stein wrote.
“The toughness. The precision. The physicality. The professionalism. The fact that Utah’s offense was consistently effective even when everyone on the other side of the ball knew what was coming.
“The unbreakable bond, above all, between the coach and his two stars in a city no one saw as glamorous.
“The Spurs, before they really became the Spurs, wanted to be the Jazz.”
During the 2012 playoffs, I spoke briefly with Spurs’ general manager R.C. Buford before a game.
He told me of his admiration for the Jazz franchise. That led me to a column I wrote that had some of the same talking points as Stein’s article this week. It’s a mutual admiration society between Utah and San Antonio. At that time, nobody but the Spurs realized Kawhi Leonard would become such a pivotal player and Danny Green had been in the league just two years.
Long ago, the Jazz regularly manhandled the Spurs. In 1996-97, the Jazz beat San Antonio in six of eight regular season games. In 1994, after losing a playoff opener at San Antonio, the Jazz swept the next three to move on. They won those games so easily (by 12, 33 and five points), it prompted Jazz center Felton Spencer to joke, “I hate when that happens.”
Seems it will be a long time before it happens again.
If you’re still interested, here’s a link to another column I wrote on the Jazz-Spurs. It chronicles a night when the Spurs didn’t even want to take the court against Utah.