The San Antonio Spurs have won five NBA championships since 1999, but a lot of people don’t remember the times when the Spurs were at the bottom of the barrel. The team’s former star, David Robinson surely remembers.
“The reason we got myself and Tim Duncan is because we weren’t very good,” Robinson recalled on the Doug Gottlieb radio show.
“We had an opportunity to add some key players. When I came in, a year before we were 21-61, I think, so the managers did a tremendous job of building a perennial championship team, and a lot of people probably don’t even remember those days,” he said.
The year before the Spurs got Robinson, the team was, as Robinson pointed out correctly, 21-61, led by Larry Brown. The next season, the Spurs were 56-26, under Brown and with Robinson on board.
“When they drafted me, I wanted the guys that would come in, on practice and at games, and be ready day in and day out,” Robinson recalled.
He said that some of the players that were on the team before, lacked such approach, so the team then started to turn around.
“When Popovich came in, he just brought a great coaching mentality,” Robinson recalled. “He said that Spurs will be a defense-first team, we’ve got character and we’ve got to pound the rock”.
“So having someone in the office who thinks like you do, a military guy, very disciplined, it helped me and allowed the other players to believe in themselves,” Robinson said.
Speaking about Popovich’s strategy of resting some players through the season, Robinson said he understands why some get upset because of it.
“The season is long, there are a lot of games, and you’re trying to build your team, its not just your top guys, its about being the best team in the league,” he said.
What that means, Robinson said, is that the role players on the team must be ready to step up and do their jobs.
“Guys off the bench must be the guys you know you can count on,” Robinson said. “When the playoffs come, your rotation changes from 10 guys to 6 or 7, so who will be those guys – you have to find those things out.”
Former Spurs star said Popovich is not afraid to put assistant coaches in the position where they have to coach, and he’s not afraid to put players into position where they have to step up.
“He’s also very patient with players,” Robinson added.
“People are upset because they want to see stars, but you must have the best team it can be,” said Robinson.
A member of the Naismith Memorial National Hall of Fame, Robinson has two National Championship titles, 10 All-Star selections, and 8 NBA All-Defensive team nods to his name in addition to winning the 1990 NBA Rookie of the Year, 1992 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and 1995 NBA MVP Award.
A 10-time NBA All-Star, Robinson holds career averages of 21.1 points, 10.6 rebounds and 3.0 blocks per game. Robinson appeared in 987 NBA games (985 started).
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