Spurs rank third in ESPN Ultimate Team Rankings

In what has become an annual tradition, the Spurs are once again ranked among the in America by ESPN.

With the distilled down to eight categories, the Spurs took third out of 122 franchises, trailing only Oklahoma City  and the NFL’s Green Bay Packers. They ranked first in four categories: Fan relations, ownership, players and coaching.

It marked San Antonio’s seventh top three finish since ESPN first began the rankings in 2003. The Spurs were named No. 1 in 2004 and 2006, and have never finished lower than ninth. Indeed, according to team spokesman Tom James, they are the only franchise to finish in the Top 10 all 10 years.

NBA ties map out Spurs’ success

  • Buford has had to restock the Spurs’ staff, an annual summer activity as rivals raid the team’s non-player talent.A month ago, the Utah Jazz hired assistant GM Dennis Lindsey to run their team. Danny Ferry departed for the Atlanta Hawks in July.Two Spurs’ assistant coaches also left, with Jacque Vaughn becoming Orlando’s coach and Don Newman hired as the Wizards’ top assistant.Recognition by a magazine that concocted its own arcane measure of franchise success — the “ultimate franchise” — was little more than an afterthought in Buford’s crowded day.

    “I’m not sure what it means,” he said. “The most important takeaway is that we have a great relationship in our organization with our players and fans and community. The support that brings to us makes this a unique environment to play in, to work in and to go to games in.”

    It also has made the organization built by Buford, coach and team president Gregg Popovich and owner Peter Holt a desired training ground for those who hope to one day run their own bench or front office.

    Eleven NBA teams have either a head coach or general manager, or both, with strong Spurs ties.

    “It speaks to the quality of people we’ve been fortunate to have in our program and it starts with our players,” Buford said, “Nothing happens without the commitment from our ownership and our players.

    “Through that we’ve been able to attract outstanding people and it’s gratifying to see them recognized for their abilities and have opportunities to reach goals they’ve set for themselves.”

    Sam Presti worked for the Spurs for seven seasons before becoming the NBA’s youngest general manager in 2007. No team has emulated the “Spurs’ way” more than Presti’s Thunder — and that includes getting lucky in the draft.

    Oklahoma City was No. 1 in ESPN’s rankings for 2012, and Presti knows what he learned in San Antonio helped him get the Thunder there.

    “Many people strive to sustain success in our business, but what the Spurs have done is sustain excellence,” he said. “Pop and RC, with the support of Mr. Holt, have created an infrastructure that has afforded many of us tremendous learning and development opportunities.

    “It is important to acknowledge that they generally have an even more profound impact on their people on a personal level than simply professionally. I suppose that somewhere within that concept is where the line between sustaining success and sustaining excellence resides.”

    That profound impact the Spurs have on those who come through the organization is what allowed Buford to position the Spurs for the future late last season while also putting them in position for a fifth title run.

    Could any other elite team in the league have traded for Stephen Jackson last March without fear had it not already had a previous — and positive — experience with the mercurial swingman?

    These are the kinds of organizational advantages throughout the years that led to the Spurs being named “Team of the Decade.”

    But what is that worth? The NFL’s Dallas Cowboys were 89th in last week’s rankings, but they are second in Forbes Magazine’s valuation of sports franchises, with a net worth of $2.1 billion.

    Forbes estimates the Spurs are worth $418 million.

    Would Holt give up his four Larry O’Brien Trophies for Jones’ bank account?

    Maybe not.

    But would Jones give up his account for being designated as the ultimate franchise around?

    Certainly not.

    To be recognized as a great franchise is always nice, no matter how contrived. But so is being a rich one.

    As Jerry might say of the Forbes’ valuation: You can take that to the bank.

    Twitter: @Monroe_SA

    Slideshow: Popovich vs. The Refs

    <!– –>

  • NBA gets new deal; Spurs get an old one

    The short season works. The NBA might even be better suited for 66 games rather than 82.

    Starting on Christmas lessens the damage, too. Most casual fans don’t pay attention to the sport until then; this time, they will pay attention to Dirk Nowitzki getting his ring while LeBron James does not.

    So the owners are happy because they will get more money, and the players are happy because they will start getting theirs. The only ones who will be disappointed are those who thought the NBA was closer to a level-playing field.

    As it turns out?

    It’s been leveled for 24 or 25 teams.

    Business will change for the other half-dozen franchises, too. Now they will think twice before they burn through a few extra million; they used to think only once.

    Last season, four franchises had larger payrolls than everyone else, and that was only because the Heat and Knicks weren’t able to open their wallets as they would have liked. As it was, the Lakers spent about $22 million more than the Spurs, and the Magic, Mavericks and Celtics each paid at least $15 million more than the Spurs.

    Not coincidentally, each made the playoffs. Not coincidentally, the Finals included two owners whose combined worth is more than $7 billion.

    Mark Cuban is the poorer of the two, but one of his personnel moves before last season was indicative of what money can do for a basketball team. After the Spurs eliminated the Mavericks in the spring of 2010, Cuban bankrolled the trade that exchanged Erick Dampier’s expiring contract for Tyson Chandler.

    Cuban got the player who would change his team with a price tag to match. Adding tax, Chandler cost Cuban about ? twice his salary of $12 million.

    Cuban could afford it; the Spurs could not. Their one splurge in this era was the trade for Richard Jefferson, and that still hangs on them. They will be debating, soon, whether to amnesty Jefferson and reduce the loss the best they can.

    Under the tentative agreement, the old rules will be in effect for the next two seasons. That gives the Mavericks a better chance of signing Chandler and keeping their championship group together, and being given a chance to repeat is only fair. Cuban will have to pay only a dollar-for-dollar tax.

    Under the new labor deal, that will go up considerably. The scale escalates as the payroll does, and no one is certain of the details yet. But it’s safe to say Cuban, given the same circumstance, would pay at least twice as much for Chandler.

    That sounds stiff, and it will likely dissuade some deals. Again, they will think twice.

    But just as the best players will always get their money, the richest franchises will spend theirs. Their revenues will encourage it, too. The Lakers, for example, will be working with a new Time Warner contract that will pay them $150 million a year.

    The Spurs have won in this environment before. But they’ve had Tim Duncan, an economic equalizer, and they had hoped for a labor agreement that would create a competitive balance closer to the NFL than to Major League Baseball.

    The owners’ proposals included various provisions as recently as last week that would have led to that. But Friday, getting everything else they wanted from the players — and needing to meet the Christmas deadline — the owners compromised.

    “It’s not the system we sought out to get in terms of a harder cap,” NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver said, “but the luxury tax is harsher than it was in the past deal, and we hope it’s effective.”

    They hope.

    Which is what the small-market franchises have always done.