SAN ANTONIO – They are 51-11, several lengths ahead of the field in the race for best record in the league, are coming off a 125-95 torching of the heralded Miami Heat that could have had them arrested for arson and have already beaten Kobe & Co. twice already this season.
But you still won’t get the Spurs to say that anyone but the Lakers is the best team league. Especially with the two-time defending champions up next for a Sunday afternoon date at the AT&T Center.
“They have a great team, I must say,” said Antonio McDyess. “Every team we face is competition for us. You’ve got Dallas in the West, New Orleans, other teams. But they (Lakers) are the best team until you take their title away. I think we always look at it that way. When we step on the court with the guys who have won two championships in a row, until you take that title away, they are the best team.”
The last time the two teams met on Feb. 3, McDyess’s tip-in at the buzzer of a missed Tim Duncan jumper gave the Spurs an 89-88 win over L.A. at Staples Center.
“That’s by far one of the most memorable tip-ins I’ve ever had,” he said. “Especially playing against the Lakers, I’ve never had that opportunity to tip in a ball to win such a huge game for us. It’s definitely gonna be a memory.
“Right now, it’s pretty much a blur. When I tipped it in I didn’t really think that I really did it, that it counted. So I kinda hesitated to even celebrate for a second. But they didn’t blow a whistle and I remember going toward the center court and having the guys coming towards me. That was a great feeling at that point.”
It was not only a rare shot, but the play elicited the quite rare occasion of a smile from coach Gregg Popovich.
“I only saw it on replay,” McDyess said. “I never saw it in the moment. In the replay I saw him smile like ‘We did it.’ It was kinda good to see that.
“(He’s usually) mellow, angry-faced. From everyone it was a good feeling. Seeing Pop smiling was even better.”
But now Pop is back into his scowling, not-give-an-inch game mode and will barely acknowledge that his own club has reached 50 wins for an NBA-record-tying 12th season in a row while the Lakers have struggled often. Don’t try telling him that anyone but the Lakers is sitting atop the mountain.
“Sure. Sure. Yep. They’re defending NBA champions,” Popovich said. “They’ve won two in a row. It seems perfectly logical to me that at times their focus might not be 100 percent. But they’re a group with fantastic corporate knowledge. They know how difficult it is. Because they know that they also know what it will take down the stretch here and come playoff time.
“So I think they deserve the respect for that and until proven otherwise. That will convince me, when somebody beats them four out of seven (in the playoffs). Then I’ll believe they’re not the best team in the West.”