SAN ANTONIO — Even if Derek Fisher didn’t seem that interested in pumping up how great the Spurs have been for parts of three decades, the superlatives kept flowing.
They’re the model NBA franchise, one Fisher hopes the Knicks ultimately can emulate.
“Their team, their players, their organization made a decision a long time ago that they were going to be excellent at what they do,” Fisher said before the Knicks faced the Spurs on Friday night. “So all of the decisions that go into that become easier because you’ve already signed the contract that you want to be excellent.
“We’re trying to get more people to sign more contracts on our end to see if we can become excellent one day as well.”
The Spurs’ record speaks for itself. They’ve won five titles since 1999 and have had 16 consecutive 50-win seasons, and every time you think they’re on their last legs, they continue their excellence.
They headed into Friday night’s game with a 31-6 mark, including 21-0 at home, where they have won 30 straight dating to last season.
The biggest reason for their success has been continuity, something of a foreign concept in sports today. Tim Duncan has been with San Antonio since 1997. Gregg Popovich has been his only coach. Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili haven’t played for any other team.
“That’s why they’re the best to do it,” Carmelo Anthony said. “Everybody can try to do it, but they can’t. You’ve got to be committed to that as players. Those three guys were committed from day one. They never looked elsewhere for free agency, anything like that. They wanted to be here. They wanted to stay here. They wanted to create that. And that’s why they’re in the situation that they’re in now.”
By comparison, only Anthony remains from the Knicks’ last 50-win team three seasons ago, and they’ve had eight coaches since Popovich took over in San Antonio for the 1996-97 season.
It’s not just the Knicks. Many teams undergo facelifts, but stability goes a long way, as the Spurs prove every season.
“They are an amazing team,” Fisher said. “It’s supposed to be hard to do. We like to talk about it and rag about it as though why can’t everybody do what the greatest in the world do? That’s what makes them the greatest in the world.
“If everybody can do it, then I don’t know if any of us would have the jobs that we have. There wouldn’t be as much to write about. You guys wouldn’t be able to kill us as far as we’re not what they are. People wouldn’t write about them as far as how good they are.”
The Knicks, who brought a three-game winning streak into the game, are trying to build something. Their regime knows about winning and believes in their triangle system and overall culture.
Team president Phil Jackson won 11 titles as a coach and Fisher won five as a player under him. His Lakers teams had to go through the Spurs numerous times to win it all.
Anthony is the Knicks’ star. They have a budding one in Kristaps Porzingis, and they’re retooling through free agency. They added eight new faces last offseason, and this summer is expected to be busy.
The Knicks will have money to spend on a free-agent class that includes Kevin Durant, Rajon Rondo, Mike Conley Jr. and Brandon Jennings. To become a consistent contender, they will need a point guard and another impact player. If they get there, maybe they’ll try to keep them together the way the Spurs have.
“That’s what we want to build in a team and an organization,” Porzingis said. “We want to have that culture that the Spurs have, and hopefully this can be the beginning of something. That’s a great example for us how great an organization can be and to build a team.”