It doesn’t take a close observer of the San Antonio Spurs to realize they have brought in a multitude of foreign players throughout the Gregg Popovich era. So it makes sense that coach Popovich would say foreign players work harder than American players. But does the ornery Spurs’ coach have a point? Over the last decade international players have increasingly grown key roles on NBA basketball teams and the international product has also challenged the USA in the last several Olympics.
The Spurs Big Three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are all international players that have led the Spurs to overwhelming success over the past decade. It is surprising more NBA teams haven’t used the Spurs model of success and implemented on their own franchises. Of course, you can grab all the foreign players you’d like, but there is only one Gregg Popovich out there.
Consider Pop’s brutal assessment that foreign players are “fundamentally harder working than most American kids,” and it’s no wonder the Spurs want to avoid the fate of so many NBA teams
A few months ago, Pop was scouting an opponent. He won’t say which one. On video, Pop saw an international player wide open for a shot, with a confused look on his face. That’s because his point guard, an American, was dribbling in circles. “It has to be a really different experience for him,” Pop says, laughing. “ ’Where am I? Is this is a different game? Is it a different sport?
The international kids, he says, “have less. They appreciate things more. And they’re very coachable.”
Coach Pop may be on to something…