The mantra was drilled into Boris Diaw when he was still an impressionable kid, and in time, he came to know it as surely as he knew his ABCs or multiplication tables.

Penetrate. Find the open man. Make the extra pass. Repeat steps one through three.

At the French National Institute of Sport and Physical Education (INSEP) outside of Paris, where Diaw and Spurs teammate Tony Parker studied basketball as teenagers, one-on-one play and individual showmanship was strictly verboten.

"You played as a team," Diaw said, "or you didn't play at all."

Diaw was about 10 minutes into his NBA career when a U.S. coach first tried to rewire his internal hard drive.

In Atlanta, Phoenix and Charlotte, and occasionally still in San Antonio, they wanted Diaw to shoot first and ask questions later.

Forget culture shock. It was like asking a cat to do the samba.

"For me, team comes first," said Diaw, a slick-passing 6-foot-9 forward. "For a team to win, you have to win as a team. I don't see it as a debate."