In a time when salary caps and luxury taxes and league expansion has made the idea of a dynasty on the level of the old Celtics, Lakers or Bulls nearly impossible, the Spurs have come as close as any team can to reaching that plateau. This team has won four titles since 1999 under the coaching of Gregg Popovich and the play of Tim Duncan and this year they will make their fourth attempt at winning back-to-back trophies.
To be fair, though, that accomplishment - or lack thereof - is going to make little difference in the way history remembers this team. There was a time when it notion of winning consecutive titles was a huge accomplishment. After the Bill Russell Celtics were disbanded no team went back to back until the LA Lakers did it under Magic and Kareem nearly twenty years later. Since that time, however, the Rockets, Lakers and Bulls (twice) have gone for two or more consecutive Championships. The achievement is still noteworthy, but hardly the Herculean measuring stick it once was.
That said, however, the Spurs would nonetheless like to be able to scale that mountain just so they can say they did. Going into this season (like so many seasons before it) the Spurs are the logical favorites to win the NBA Championship because no team can match their arsenal of weapons. No team has a coach as steady, respected and decorated as Popovich. No team has a leader as steady, respected and decorated as Tim Duncan. No team has a Sixth Man as steady, respected and decorated as Manu Ginobili. And no other team has the ex-factor as steady, respected and decorated as Tony Parker. This team has all of the tools, a claim other teams attempt to make, but the Spurs have the rings to back up their assertions. For all that Dallas and Phoenix would love to believe that they have what it takes to do what San Antonio does, they have to prove it if they want anyone else to believe it.
On the San Antonio front it was a fairly quiet off-season, even by their own post-Championship standards. They didn't lure any big-name free agent on the cheap. They didn't pull off any depth-strengthening trades. All they did was shore-up the end of their bench with contract extensions for Matt Bonner and Jacque Vaughn, bring in Portland forward Ime Udoka in free agency and draft - and stash away - Brazilian big-man Tiago Splitter with their 28th pick. The prevailing notion in San Antonio appears to be 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'.
That's the luxury of being such a model franchise in this day and age. While teams like Dallas, Phoenix, Houston and Miami all made furious attempts to remake parts of their team - all of them will be altering at least one part of their starting line-up this season - San Antonio can once again sit back and let other teams try and catch up to them.
There was a time when the Spurs felt a need to make deals to stay one move ahead and keep their top-spot, but more often then not those attempts yielded earlier-than-expected Playoff exits. Not directly, of course, but that always seemed to be the result of doing too much after winning a title. This season, they appear content to just maintain the status quo and allow all of the benefits of chemistry and success to wash over them during the '07-'08 season.
It may work, it may not. Let's face it; these Spurs have nothing left to prove. If they don't win the title this year, they'll strike even more fear into the league the following season because this team never goes too long without adding a ring to their fingers. They've gone the route of trying to bolster a Championship roster and it hasn't netted them that (marginally) coveted back-to-back title. So this year they're going a different route. There isn't much reason for this team to worry, though, because no team this summer has stepped-up and made the moves necessary to make anyone think they're the favorites going into the season. Which is why, once again, the Spurs look to be favored to take it all home 2008.