Justice Is Served

March 8, 2010 11:19 PM

'Pop' sees plenty of Spurs in Ferry's Cavs

You pray the house of basketball that general manager Danny Ferry and coach Mike Brown have built here in Cleveland isn't made of balsam. You hope the frame and the foundation are pieced together with mortar and brick and not driftwood and rusty nails.
Plans for building a basketball team from floor to roof aren't as exacting as the architectural renderings for a five-star hotel on Mars. Talent goes a long way in the former, but talent alone isn't always enough, although an NBA team is never hurt when it has a bright light like LeBron James illuminating the project each night.
A team like the Cavs can follow that shining light until the final brick in the NBA championship is laid.
So far, what Ferry and Brown have built is an impressive structure, coach Gregg Popovich said Monday night before his Spurs lost to the Cavaliers, 97-95.
Popovich could look out onto the arena floor and see how strong that house was. "Pop" could see a team with the NBA's best record, a team 12- or 13-men deep in talent, a team with LeBron to rely on in the clutch, a team with the ability to do something extraordinary.
"Great, great opportunity to get it done this year," Pop said.
And Pop should know.

He has a couple of NBA titles on his mantelpiece, plus he mentored the brain trust behind these Cavs. Ferry and Brown have histories tied to Pop and the Spurs, and much of what the two men have learned about the administrative and coaching sides of pro hoops have come from Pop.
What they have built here is a carbon copy of what the Spurs have been. Like Pop's Spurs, Ferry and Brown's Cavaliers are a team that plays stifling defense and unselfish offense. They are like Pop's team in one other respect; they have a star, too.
Here's where they now differ: Pop's team is NBA past.
True enough, his Spurs can serve as a template for the present. What franchise wouldn't want to mimic them and their decade of success?  Their days of winning NBA titles, however, vanished two seasons ago but not for any reason other than great teams get old.
In front of people's eyes, the Spurs aged. Star forward Tim Duncan is an old 33; forward Manny Ginobili is an old 32; and point guard Tony Parker is hurt. So the future isn't theirs; the future is here, in Cleveland, with the Cavaliers, a point Pop stressed.
Pop didn't hide his admiration for what this Cavs team has become under the hands of his two mentees. He praised how Ferry and Brown have done it - how they've collaborated with owner Dan Gilbert to build what is now one of the glamour teams in the NBA, a team with global appeal, a team that can rival the recent NBA champs in talent.
"The results are what you see," Pop said.
What people see is a team that Ferry and Brown have hanging on the precipice of greatness. They have issues still that they are looking to sort out, including what to do if center Shaquille O'Neal is unable to return from his thumb injury. They must fret some about what to do if center Zydrunas Ilgauskas, despite what he's telling everybody, decides not to re-sign with the Cavaliers.
Can Ferry and Brown, Pop's pupils, win a championship without a legitimate force in the middle? Can LeBron be enough?
That seems not to matter much in mid-March, the winter thaw in Cleveland not yet complete. Besides, the journey to an NBA title is littered with obstacles, foreseen and unforeseen.
What does matter is that the house is in good order. It's strong and sturdy, made with the best materials, made using a foolproof blueprint that Ferry and Brown borrowed from Pop.

A Member Of