Maybe it was just me but it was strange hearing TV announcers talk about how “old” the Miami Heat looked versus the San Antonio Spurs as the hometown team got revenge from last year by dominating Miami in five games to win their fifth, and possibly sweetest, NBA title.

This is, after all, the Spurs team that going as far back as 2008 got knocked for being too old to compete against younger, stronger teams. Conventional wisdom held that the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat were the future, and the San Antonio Spurs were the past.

But this year, some analysts were calling the Heat “old,” and even some of the team’s star players agreed. Chris Bosh at 29 years old says his body is too worn out to play in the paint.  Dwayne Wade, at 32 years old, has lost cartilage in one of his knees and suffers from arthritis in both of them.

The Spurs, meanwhile, got support for “old man” Tim Duncan with fresh young talent including the emergence this year of 22-year-old MVP Kawhi Leonard and stellar off-the-bench performances from the likes of 25-year-old Patty Mills and 26-year-old Danny Green.

But age only tells part of the story. There is no way to understate the importance of rest and recovery in contributing to the amazing success of the San Antonio Spurs, who won more than 60 games during the regular season. After coming out of the gate with desperation energy in Game 5, the Miami Heat looked worn down by the second quarter, while the Spurs were energized and motivated, with fresh legs to carry them to another world championship.

Go back to Bosh’s observation about being too worn out at age 29. The fact is the Spurs were better rested for the series, with no one on the team averaging more than 30 minutes a game during the regular season. Tim Duncan led the team with 2,158 minutes followed by, believe it or not, Marco Belinelli, the 8th man on the roster. Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, Boris Diaw and Tiago Splitter played fewer minutes.

LeBron James played about 2,900 minutes during the regular season, or about 1,000 minutes more than Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Did the wear-and-tear of playing 160-plus hours more than a better-rested Leonard during the regular season (on hardwood floors and at the pace required to perform at a world-class level) make a difference?

Remember how LeBron cramped up during Game 1 in sweltering boxing gymnasium conditions at the AT&T Center caused by a broken air conditioning system? Much of the post-Game 1 analysis focused on whether LeBron stayed hydrated, stretched properly and/or restored depleted electrolytes.

But there is research going back to 1997 (by University of Cape Town sports physician and researcher Dr. Martin Schwellnus) that suggests neuromuscular fatigue also plays a factor in exercise-associated muscle cramps, which can be debilitating in the short-term and lead to painful soreness for days.

Star athletes often whine about not getting enough playing time. Cynical observers might say they need the floor time (and accompanying TV time) to justify high-priced sponsorship deals and endorsements.

But the Spurs have always had a culture that promoted team first. So along with the amazing displays of athleticism, teamwork and determination, the Spurs had the X-factors of unselfish play, great coaching and a season-long rest-the-legs strategy that put them back on top.

Until next time, Go Spurs Go!

Dr. Annette “Dr. Z” Zaharoff heads the Non-Surgical Center of Texas, focusing on non-surgical alternatives to relieve pain and repair injuries. A former professional tennis player who competed in the WTC circuit, Dr. Zaharoff remains actively involved with the US Tennis Association. Learn more about her at