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The Spurs, who face the Knicks at MSG Tuesday night, are a good team to emulate

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks at

New York Knicks president Phil Jackson speaks at a press conference before a basketball game between the New York Knicks and the Charlotte Hornets at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

As much as Phil Jackson enjoys tweaking the Spurs and coach Gregg Popovich, the Knicks' president certainly would love to build what San Antonio has.

The Spurs have been the model NBA franchise for nearly 20 years, and they're still going strong. Popovich will lead the reigning champs into the Garden Tuesday for the only time this season.

Last summer, Jackson, who had a rivalry with the Spurs stemming from when he coached the Lakers, refused to call them a "dynasty." He instead chose to say they're "a great force. They haven't been able to win consecutive championships but they've always been there."

That's a typical dig from Jackson, but that's how he measures a dynasty. He guided the Bulls to six titles in eight years in the 1990s, and the Lakers enjoyed a three-peat from 2000-02 before winning back-to-back titles in 2009 and 2010.

But he has gone from 11 rings to 13 wins as the Knicks continue to endure potentially the worst season in franchise history. But he hopes he can do what Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford have done in San Antonio.

The Spurs aren't the flashiest team; all they ever do is win. If they go 9-8 to finish the season, they will have won at least 50 games in 16 consecutive seasons, including the lockout-shortened 66-game 2011-12 campaign. They have won five NBA titles and reached the Finals the past two seasons.

The Spurs have a selfless leader in the seemingly ageless and ego-less Tim Duncan, and everyone else plays a role.

They play system basketball, defend and put the team ahead of themselves. That's what Jackson has been preaching, so deep down, he probably has great admiration for Popovich and the Spurs for their ability to stand the test of time.

"Establishing how you want to play basketball is important," Jackson said last week. "There are only a few teams that you can see in this league that say, 'OK, this is our definitive way we play.' We want to be one of those teams."

The Spurs are one of those teams, and the rising Hawks have shown signs of it this season. Not coincidentally, Atlanta is coached by former Spurs lead assistant Mike Budenholzer.

Popovich has adjusted his system based on his personnel. Jackson and Derek Fisher have to be willing to do that. But the Knicks will have to do things differently from the Spurs.

San Antonio drafted a franchise player in Duncan and continued to build through the draft, getting Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard, last year's Finals MVP.

The Knicks should have a top-four pick in June, but there is no Duncan in this draft, and that represents the only choice the Knicks have in the next two drafts. So Jackson has said he'll have to build through free agency.

He will have plenty of money this year and next to do that. But he will have a hard time matching what the team he loves to needle has done and continues to do.

Notes & quotes: Jose Calderon worked out Sunday in Phoenix and said he still felt pain in his left Achilles. Calderon, who has missed the past nine games, will be re-evaluated this week . . . Tim Hardaway Jr.'s sprained right wrist was heavily taped and in a brace and Cleanthony Early (sprained left ankle) was limping Sunday. They are questionable for Tuesday night.


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