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Becky Hammon, Aces Draw Inspiration From The 2014 Spurs

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The idea repeatedly crossed Las Vegas Aces forward A’ja Wilson’s mind as she watched a film about the San Antonio Spurs, the 2014 NBA champions.

The foundation of that Spurs squad was center/forward Tim Duncan, small forward Kawhi Leonard, shooting guard Manu Ginobili, and point guard Tony Parker. The Aces are the defending WNBA champions and are dedicated in their pursuit to win the championship again this season. Wilson and the guards Chelsea Gray, Kelsey Plum, and Jackie Young make up the team’s nucleus.

Becky Hammon, the head coach of Las Vegas, believed that the Aces would benefit from seeing how the Spurs interacted with one another and competed in 2014, the year San Antonio won its fifth and most recent NBA championship.

The Aces’ victory under Hammon last season demonstrated the players’ capacity for camaraderie. This year, they haven’t required outside encouragement to try to run it back. Hammon still wanted the Aces to observe how the Spurs supported one another in 2014.

“I see lots of similarities in the character of the teams,” Hammon said. “The care factor that 2014 team had, the unselfishness, the commitment to whatever it takes to win, no matter who gets the credit.

“That’s what I wanted from us going into this postseason. I told them, ‘You have the character to do it. There are going to be some games where we have to win with defense and unselfishness.'”

The Aces defeated the New York Liberty 99-82 in Game 1 of the WNBA Finals on Sunday, improving to 6-0 in the postseason. On Wednesday at 9 p.m. PT on ESPN/ESPN App, Game 2 of the best-of-five series between Las Vegas and Phoenix will be played at Michelob Ultra Arena.

Since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001–2002, no club has captured consecutive WNBA championships.

Hammon competed against the Sparks squad, just as she did against both the Minnesota Lynx (four titles from 2011 to 2017) and the Houston Comets (four titles in a row from 1997 to 2000).

After tearing her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) early in the 2013 WNBA season, Hammon was nearing the end of her playing career in 2014. She started preparing for her future as a coach by spending the 2013–14 NBA season with the Spurs as she recovered from a knee injury.

Following her final WNBA season in 2014, Hammon returned to the court and formally joined Gregg Popovich’s Spurs coaching staff that fall.

It’s common to talk to soccer as “the beautiful game,” but the 2014 Spurs’ version of basketball was equally lovely. It resembled a symphony of movement. Possession after possession, the Spurs could move the ball around like magicians performing sleight-of-hand maneuvers until they had the greatest look.

The Spurs returned their main players after the disappointment of losing to the Miami Heat in the 2013 NBA Finals, and they finished 62-20 in 2013–14. They were first in the NBA in field goal percentage (48.6), second in 3-point percentage (39.7), and third in net rating (8.1). They were sixth in scoring average and sixth in assists per game (25.2).

Even beyond the numbers, their unity and mutual support for one another stood out.

The Aces went 34-6 during the regular season and set league records for scoring average (92.8 PPG), field goal percentage (48.6), offensive rating (114.8), defensive rating (99.2), and assists (24.1).

Gray also remembers seeing a scene from 2014 in which Parker returned to the bench with the dry-erase board to show his teammates after having a brief conversation with Popovich in a coaches’ huddle on the court. Point guard Gray admitted that she has done that a couple times.

“What really stood out to me is that everybody was playing for each other,” Gray said. “You have the most success when you want the best for people playing next to you. Then it just flows through the whole organization.”

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