When the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Los Angeles Lakers, it shouldn't have been a surprise if you saw Aron Baynes start in place of injured center Tiago Splitter.
The team has always depended on their superstars, mainly Tim Duncan throughout every championship, to lead the way, but it's the system that Gregg Popovich established that made it possible. When Baynes made his playoff debut, it was made possible only by the faith Pop has in his coaching philosophy.
"It was a high," Baynes said. "But at the same time there was business in front of me. I had to go out there and focus on what I needed to do, play that game plan. That's what's gotten us to this point right now. That's what I wanted to go out there and focus on, and, yeah, keep it rolling." (Justin Verrier/ESPN.com)
Baynes is a testament to the system's success. It's not only role players either. This year the Spurs have been riddled with injuries and they've had more than enough pieces on the bench to fill whatever contribution was going to go missing. In Baynes' case, Baynes more than made up for Splitter's absence especially on the defensive end.
His performance was important, but it all didn't hinge on him anyway. Baynes was being protected by 4 other players who were familiar with the system, something that was seen years before with names such as Nazr Mohammad. Aron may have been nervous, but he wasn't expected to contribute more than he had to, something that would set him up to fail and something the Lakers were doing to their new players.
"It filters all the way down from the top to young guys. I'm one of those young guys, and I definitely see how it is and I just want to emulate what these older guys and veteran guys are doing."
As Baynes points out, even the younger guys want to learn from this "team heavy" system. This is something completely opposite of what we saw with the Lakers, a "superstar heavy" team. Popovich's system depends on his superstars, but his stars are humble as if they were role players on and off the court. Their egos don't get in the way and that's already rubbing off on Baynes ever since he first stepped in to interact with the organization.
Baynes was signed in January and already looks like he can contribute, a sight that likely wouldn't have existed outside of Pop's system so early in his NBA career. Pop's system is a testament to his vision and philosophy, "Team is Everything," and Baynes is looking to keep that mentality alive.