NBA FINALS: cavaliers VS. SPURS
Snow’s been there, wants to make sure Cavs believe they belong
CLEVELAND — The San Antonio Spurs have won NBA championships in 1999, 2003 and 2005, with Tim Duncan earning series MVP honors each time.
Other than Eric Snow, who reached the NBA Finals as a seldom-used rookie with Seattle in 1996 and as a starter with Philadelphia in 2001, Cavaliers players have seen the championship series only on television.
“I was in awe my first time,” Snow said Monday at Quicken Loans Arena. “I didn’t know what to expect. The second time, you understand the magnitude of it.
“Everything escalates. We’re the only two teams playing basketball in the world right now.”
Until Game 1 of the best-of-seven series tips off Thursday at 9 p.m. in San Antonio, Snow will do his best to convey what the NBA Finals are like to the rest of his teammates.
The most repeated part of the 34-year-old’s message will be this: “If you’re just happy to be here, you’re not truly giving yourself a chance.”
In the closing moments of Games 5 and 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against Detroit, Snow made it a point to go into the team huddle and tell his teammates they deserved to be in the situation they were in.
Even more importantly, he reminded them, in no uncertain terms, that they had the talent to win those games and that they deserved to win those games.
“I want the guys to understand that we worked hard to get into this position,” the
12-year veteran said. “We’ve got to believe the things we’ve been saying all year and not just think us being here is an accident. Our attitude has got to be that we still have bigger things left to accomplish.”
Cavaliers coach Mike Brown, an assistant when San Antonio won it all in 2003, and general manager Danny Ferry, who won a title as a player (2003) and front-office member with the Spurs (2005), have also been part of the NBA Finals, but there’s no substitute for learning at the hands of a teammate.
“You have to focus on the game and stay in tune to the game plan,” Snow said. “Remember why you’re there, but at the same time, enjoy it.
“The best teacher in this league is experience. The only way you’re truly going to understand it is to go through it.”
Snow played sparingly for the Sonics when they lost in the finals in 1996, but was Allen Iverson’s backcourt sidekick for the 76ers in 2001. He averaged 9.3 points and 4.5 assists in the playoffs that year, but the Sixers also fell short in their quest for a title.
After starting at point guard for the first half of this season, the 6-foot-3, 205-pounder’s role with the Cavaliers is now limited to defensive specialist and ballhandler down the stretch, but the veteran’s experience is still invaluable on the bench.
“He’s saying things to the team in the huddle, before practice and after practice that we as a coaching staff might not be able to get across,” Brown said. “It’s great to have a guy who’s been in this position before.
“I’d love to have everybody in that locker room have finals experience, but it is what it is. I don’t think many people in that locker room had conference finals experience.”
That’s another point Snow will emphasize to his teammates over the next couple days: No matter how many NBA Finals games the Spurs have now appeared in, there was a time when each player was making his maiden voyage.
Not only that, but the Spurs won a championship in 1999, when Duncan was appearing in the NBA Finals for the first time. They won again in 2003, when point guard Tony Parker and shooting guard Manu Ginobili were cutting their teeth in the finals.
Given that, Snow sees no reason why the LeBron James-led Cavaliers, who went 2-0 against the Spurs during the regular season, can’t steal a page out of San Antonio’s book and win a championship in their first trip to the NBA Finals.
“We’ve proven we can beat that team,” Snow said. “They’re probably a lot better than they were when we played them and they have championship experience, but we’ve put ourselves in a position where we have a chance.”
Spurs of the moment
The Spurs are one of just two teams that has made multiple trips to the finals and never lost the championship series (Chicago, 6-0). San Antonio’s 12-4 record in finals games ties the Baltimore Bullets (4-2) and Miami Heat (4-2) for the best winning percentage.
*Robert Horry will be making his seventh appearance in the NBA Finals. He has won six titles – two with Houston, three with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Spurs.
(bullet) With three titles, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich is fifth all-time behind Red Auerbach (nine), Phil Jackson (nine), John Kundla (five) and Pat Riley (five).
* Michael Finley will be ending an 85-game playoff streak without appearing in the finals, which was second behind Steve Nash (97) among active players.
With seven double-doubles in the 2007 playoffs, James is tied with Brad Daugherty (1992) for the most in one season in franchise history.
* James averaged 25.7 points, 9.2 rebounds and 8.5 assists in the conference finals. The only other players to average 25 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in the conference finals were Oscar Robertson (1963), John Havlicek (1968) and Larry Bird (1986).
Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland at San Antonio
WHEN: Thursday, 9 p.m.
WHERE: AT&T Center, San Antonio
TV/RADIO: Channel 5;
WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM
LeBron James puts an arm around Eric Snow after the Cavs defeated the Pistons 109-107 in double overtime in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals last week. Snow is the only player on the Cavs roster who has played in the NBA Finals.