They were hurt. They were bruised. They were wounded. But the San Antonio Spurs turned the agony of their lowest moment of letting the 2013 title slip away turn into a force that drove them to the 2014 NBA championship.
Manu Ginobili: “I remember the looks on our faces. We were devastated.”
Tony Parker: “I never felt so sad in basketball.”
Tim Duncan: “The worst loss ever.”
Those candid comments and more are part of a day-long celebration of Champions Day on NBA TV Monday that will look back at the 2014 Spurs.
The network will premiere three original programs — “Champions Revealed: 2014 San Antonio Spurs“, “Open Court: NBA Champions Edition” and “2014 San Antonio Spurs: Go Spurs Go” — along with re-airs of past NBA Finals performances and season reviews from the Spurs’ five title-winning seasons.
“Go Spurs Go” will air at 8 p.m. ET, “Champions Revealed” at 9 ET and “Open Court: Champions Edition” at 10 ET.
In “Champions Revealed”, Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and coach Gregg Popovich hold a sometimes-funny, often-informative and always-brutally honest conversation about their long journey of discovery about each other that has produced a bond in the locker room and more than a decade of excellence on the court.
Popovich on the beginning of the Duncan Era in San Antonio: “(Tim Duncan) came to training camp and David Robinson watched him play and about the second practice the whole offense changed. David was now in the dunker spot and Timmy was on the block catching the ball and David never even said a word … You know this new kid comes in and all of a sudden David’s not getting all of his touches … I never said, ‘David this is the way it’s going to be.’ We just did what we did and he knew it right off the bat and he loved it. Timmy just grew and grew from there, unbelievable.”
Duncan to Parker: “How many times have we gotten yelled at for something (Ginobili) has done? We’re sitting there on the bench and (Popovich) yells: ‘Did you see what he just did? He’s your teammate. Go talk to him.’ ”
Parker to Ginobili and Popovich: “I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out between you two.”
Popovich: “One day I just asked him: ‘What are you doing?’ and he said, ‘I am Manu. This is what I do.’ So I started letting him just do it.”
Duncan on Parker’s arrival as a 19-year-old point guard under the demands of Popovich: “It was brutal. I felt bad. I had never seen anyone get yelled at as much as you.”
Parker: “It made me a better player.”
Popovich: “I’ve got the easiest job in the NBA because you guys allow it to be said the way it should be said.”
During the hour-long show, the highlights from the early days when Duncan and Ginobili both had more hair (and all had less experience together) show the four principal figures growing on the court as All-Star players. From there, they’d grow into a unit that could somehow overcome the hurt of the Game 6 collapse in the 2013 Finals loss to Miami.
Popovich: “It wasn’t the basketball gods. It was in our control and we didn’t get it done.”
They talked openly about reliving that defeat by watching the video on the first day of training camp last season. Manu said that he could see almost from the start the Spurs’ redoubled commitment to playing as a team.
Ginobili: “I start on the bench so I get to see what’s going on more and there were some plays…where it was like boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, wow, or those passes from Tony to a wing to Boris (Diaw) to (Tim) or an extra pass to the corner, it was fun … I said, ‘This is nice. We are playing at a really high level and if we could understand that this is the way to go on a daily basis it can be so special.’ ”
The entire show is like a peek into a private living room where the family members have finally let their guard down in the aftermath of their redemption.
Ginobili: “I felt like something that was stuck inside all of last year had healed.”
Parker: “Perspective…this is my favorite.”
Duncan: “Not bad for a bunch of old guys.”
Amen to that.
Earlier on Monday, NBA TV will re-air season in review shows from the Spurs’ previous four championship seasons starting at 9 am ET, followed by encore airings of Games 1, 3, 4 and 5 of the 2014 NBA Finals, beginning at 2 pm ET.