The regular season is approaching, the team is in training camp, and games that don't count are being played. So it must be time to do a season preview and look at what significant moves PATFO made during the offseason, decide what kinds of goals the team should set for itself, examine the team's biggest weaknesses and greatest strengths, etcetera ad infinitum. But you know what? I think those questions are boring so I'm going to go off-script a little.
No matter how good an analyst is, they cannot predict exactly what is going to happen. There are simply too many variables to account for. Predicting the winner of the Larry O'Brien trophy is ultimately a guessing game. For all we know the Sacramento Kings could walk away with the championship next year. (Turn that frown upside down Sac-towners!) Each team starts with zero wins and zero losses and when the playoffs roll around the reset button is hit again. This is what makes the drama of sports so compelling, a hundred little things can affect the outcome of the season. So instead of tackling this question by providing yet another detailed analysis or a set of awesome charts, I am going to look at omens.
No, not the series of movies about that Damien kid, I'm talking about omens and portents, those phenomena that foretell the future for those intuitive enough to pluck their secrets from the seemingly hidden signs all around. The ancient Romans used the flight paths of birds or animal entrails, others over time have analyzed dreams or looked to the stars. I see the future in the Billboard charts. While "Death From Above 1979" is currently blasting into my eardrums, I'll admit that my taste in music hasn't helped me gain any familiarity with the songs on the current top 100 chart. But I don't have to actually listen to the songs to glean meaning from them; I can simply glance at the names of the tunes. So let's look at the titles of the top 10 songs in the U.S. (week of October 13th) and see what they tell us.
Number 10 - Good Time by Owl City & Carly Rae Jespsen
We start things off with a positive sign. This is related to one of the crucial tenants of the silver and black: team cohesion. Sure you see other teams hugging and all that, but with the Spurs, you know it's genuine. They don't succumb to pointing fingers after a loss, and as a result they shake off each setback. And despite what most of the national sports media would have you believe, the Spurs know how to have fun. No doubt about it. Have you seen those HEB commercials? Have you heard Stephen Jackson rap? This isn't a franchise that's sitting on a powder keg, ready to explode. This is a chilled-out group of athletes who slice and dice the opposition to pieces together. After a press conference, whichever Spur's had a sensational night will almost invariably say something about "just concerned about the team winning". That might sound cliché, but the way they play shows that really care about their teammates and the journey together. Right before the most crucial of games it is common to see Tony Parker fist bumping Manu. Tim Duncan sometimes smirks after a heartbreaking loss as if saying to his opponents "see you later." Here are athletes at the top of their game, truly enjoying what they are doing. Let the good times roll.
Number 9 - Too Close by Alex Care
Obviously this is about the other teams out west. They are just too close for comfort. It would be nice to run the west right out the gates, but the realist in me says that winning the conference title is going to be a daunting task this year. The OKC Thunder added Hasheem Thabeet and an interesting draft prospect in Robert Perry Jones III. The Lakers made a few under-reported and underrated moves in the offseason (I jest). Plus there are various teams that aren't messing around this year. The Denver Nuggets are deep, talented, and throw out crazily unpredictable rotations. The Portland Trailblazers have been getting suspiciously better. The Clippers qualify as a threat basically because Chris Paul is scary-good. Really any team in the west could make some noise if the right things happen. The Houston Rockets are an example of such a team. Their schizophrenic plan could work, and Jeremy Lin's picture rests next to the definition of "x-factor". So, yeah this is not going to be an easy trip. But the Spurs eat pressure for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This team even has a player who cohabitates with pressure. The conference is intimidating, sure, but this can be done. Even if a certain amount of nastiness is required.
Number 8- Whistle by Flo Rida
I really want to say that this is not a bad omen. But forget that. It is downright apocalyptic. It would be nice if the refs would make more right calls than wrong ones. But the Spurs have been hindered by the whistle too many times for a person with a functional memory to believe that. A good example happened last year: in a win or go home game in the Western Conference Finals, Joey "once ejected Tim Duncan for laughing" Crawford was one of the referees. And now the league has a new flopping rule to play around with. The only way around this one is to start the 4th quarter with a 302 point lead.
Number 7 - Begin Again by Taylor Swift
This omen apparently foresees improvement. There is not much that can be said on this subject that J. Gomez hasn't already covered in his excellent "You Can Do Better" segments, so I suggest you read those. Prepare for detailed analysis and a solid assessment of our heroes. The only thing I have to say on this matter is that while there are areas of concern, the concern is not paralyzing. The entire roster this year is solid. If one player isn't bringing it there is always a contingency plan. Sitting on the Spurs bench is a coach who operates on a higher plane and, as a result, improvements are bound to happen. Players like Tony Parker, Stephen Jackson, and Boris Diaw have things to prove. But if I were to pick one player that is going to do a total 360 from last year it is Patty Mills. Last season his brief time on the squad was spent cleaning up garbage time. But things like the 35 points he dropped on the playoff contending Trailblazers, and the 118 he dropped during the Olympics are not going to be ignored. Here is a 24-year-old player that is a valid scoring threat. Plus Taylor Swift said Patty is going to have a banner year, so he has that going for him, which is nice.
Number 6- As Long As You Love Me by Justin Bieber featuring Big Sean
Sorry Justin Bieber but your words are not necessary. So that link is to a video of grass growing in real time. We just don't need paranormal guidance to predict that the Spurs will still have fans next year. The Spurs will have fans no matter what happens. We might not be the most normal of fans but we have loyalty and patience. This might be the year or it might not be. Whatever goes down we will still be proud to call ourselves supporters of this team. On the other hand, it wouldn't kill us as fans to remember to get crazy-loud come playoff time. We used to, remember that? Let's get back to that.
Number 5 - Blow Me by P!nk
This is a family blog so I am going to avoid that title and analyze the name of the artist instead. This is the artist formally known as Pink right? The character Mimi from Run Lola Run also has pink hair. That film contains a great quote about soccer: "The ball is round, the game lasts 90 minutes, everything else is pure theory." Change that to 48 minutes and this is a very good omen for the Spurs. The score can change in seconds and any team can walk away with all the glory. Analysts talk a lot about things that could theoretically happen. But theory is irrelevant after the opening tipoff.
Number 4 - We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift
Why do you have to be so depressing, Taylor Swift? This could be about our competition-Kobe and Smush or Dwight Howard and Orlando, but this article is about the Spurs and so I'll do my best to interpret what I think it means for them. While I don't want to think about one of these players getting traded, they're all magnificent guys, if I had to choose one it would probably be Matt "substitutes-his-team-uniform-for-an-invisibility-cloak-during-the-playoffs" Bonner. He has just not been dependable in the clutch. There was a moment in a close game during the Clippers series where I bombarded the internet with profanities when Matt clocked in. He's a good player to have during the regular season; he's smart and competent, and we all know that he can make a marvelous sandwich. But the Matt Bonner experiment (is that a thing?) is over. This is because "competent enough" is not what the Spurs need during the playoffs. What we need is a player with a clutch instinct. My guess is that before season's end Matt Bonner will no longer be with us. No, I don't think he's going to die, just get traded.
Number 3 - Some Nights by fun.
Some nights the shots don't fall, Captain Jack gets ejected for sneezing, and Tony performs a series of stunning drives without drawing any contact only for the ball to hit the rim. These nights happen. That's the nature of the beast. According to "fun." looks like the Spurs will again endure some of these nights. When this happens it is important for us as fans to not start wigging out. First off, it's just a basketball game and there are far more important things in life, like contemplating trade possibilities and making fun of Dwight Howard. Secondly this team doesn't turn on the panic switch even after the most head-shake-worthy of nights, so why should we? Just enjoy the ride.
Number 2- Gangnam Style by PSY
Right, so I totally didn't see this coming. A song by an artist represented by an overseas label who sings in another language has a song that is more popular than Justin Bieber's latest track. That was unexpected. Much like it will be unexpected that the Spurs will once again be making other more-hyped and better financed teams sweat in the waning months of spring.
Number 1- One more night by Maroon 5
At number one resides the best omen. The phrase "one more night" might as well be a rallying cry for the Spurs. It is hard to talk about Tim Duncan's looming retirement for any hardcore Spurs fan. He is a player who has transcended sports and become a legend in every sense of the word. The team revolves around Timmeh and any player not cool with that is shown the door. Pop himself has acknowledged this. This omen says that these Spurs have at least one more "night" left them. And by "night" clearly Maroon 5 means "championship". Thanks Maroon 5 for predicting that 2013 is the year of the Spurs. So sleep well, Pounders, for tomorrow is going to be a beautiful day.