April 17, 2012; Los Angeles, CA, USA; San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich watches game action against the Los Angeles Lakers during the second half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-US PRESSWIRE
The 10 days of SpurLakers continues. That's right, starting last week, every day through the final regular season meeting between San Antonio and Los Angeles on Friday the 20th, you'll be treated to another exchange between Chris of Silver Screen and Roll and me.
Please feel free to check out their side of the discussion, and as always, play nice with others.
Chris, I'll begin with your question: Are there games not worth winning simply because of the effort required to win them? But want to spend most of my time on another question you asked me, perhaps rhetorically. But first things first: to answer your "ultimate philosophical question of regular season basketball" I will turn to all of the terrific things I agree with that I've read since you posed that doozy.
First, in the comments of the thread of your post on the subject.
They don't just play games, they play seasons. - Phil_Fan in the comments
From the comments on PtR,
Pop ... always thinks about winning the war, not the battle that's going on right now. Often winning a battle helps to win the war, sometimes it doesn't matter much either way, sometimes you need to cut your losses, retreat and regroup. - Kondor
And finally, from the Whirlwide Liter's Daily Dime yesterday.
Strange how a regular season that Popovich treated as a mere precursor to the playoffs by strategically sitting out his players could actually set up the Spurs for an optimal postseason run based on seeding. - J.A. Adande
When the coach has the leeway that Popovich has earned, then he's able to take the make decisions based on what he identifies as long-term needs, rather than short term fixes. In the league right now there are maybe two coaches who are in that position; Pop, and possibly Doc Rivers. I find it interesting that the Celtics held their own big three out of a game last week.
Now as to your question that I want to address more fully, "But why, after all your years of basketball watching experience, would you head into a contest expecting anything at all?"
I don't want to make too much of a deal about what might have been a throwaway question in the middle of your reply yesterday, but I think that this actually strikes at the core of what it means to be a fan, and possibly one of the things it means to be human. I find it impossible to approach just about any situation without expecting something from it, one way or another. This is one of the issues that I have as far as movie trailers are concerned.
I love movies. I love just about everything about them -- when they're good, that is. I love a good tale. I love great acting. I love well executed lighting, special effects, sound, and editing. But I also love letting the movie tell the story it wants to tell me, without having any thing else get in the way. Which means that I often like to know as little as possible about the movie I'm going to see. Which brings me to those tricky little things called trailers.
Nothing's worse than watching a movie trailer and feeling like you've seen the entire film at the end of the 2 1/2 minutes that are supposed to make you want to plop down your money in the first place. I hate being in the middle of a tense moment in the film and having the thought that the character who's in trouble will certainly make it out of the situation, because he has he hasn't yet said that line from the trailer that I liked so much.
But even worse is a trailer that reveals a plot twist that comes 45 minutes into the film, or one that makes the movie seem like something very different from what it is in reality. That's because the trailer set up an unrealistic expectation of what I'd be seeing once I had scheduled a babysitter, driven Mrs. Wilco to the cinema, and forked over the money for the flick.
Unrealistic expectations are the reason for most box office flops, customer service issues, failed relationships, and bad job situations. And, try as I might to deal with it, I continue to have expectations for Spurs games, and seasons, and post seasons -- inconvenient though it may be. That's just the way I am and I don't think I'm going to be able to change it and still be a fan.
Have you found a way to accomplish that?
Based on some of the comments I caught from the last post, which seemed to have touched a nerve with some, I feel the need to set one thing straight. I am not, in any way, criticizing what Pop is doing. Such a thing is preposterous. With Phil Jackson out of the game, Popovich is easily the best active coach in the league, without a close 2nd. In asking why Pop does what he does, its attempting to understand his genius, not attempting to criticize him for it. I'm highly confident that if Pop is doing it, its probably a good idea. I'm just trying to figure out why.
And we need to separate out the different strands of the conversation. This isn't (all) about the full scale sitting of starters, like sitting Duncan in last night's Kings game, or the Blazers game weeks ago where Parker, Ginobli, and Duncan all sat and the Spurs lost by forty. Those moves are clearly, purely strategic, giving up the battle to win the war, type deals. What I'm more interested in is Pop's willingness to give up on a game he has attempted to win that isn't going well. The Spurs have lost 7 games this year by double digits. If you take out the Portland fiasco (since all three stars rode the pine), Tony Parker has played 27 mpg in five losses (as compared to 33 mpg normally) and Tim Duncan has played 24 mpg in six losses (as compared to 28 mpg normally). These are battles that Pop is initially attempting to win, but he's quicker than just about any coach I know at deciding to throw up the white flag. Again, I'm not criticizing him for doing so, just trying to understand why he does it, when there is ample evidence that good teams can mount comebacks in those circumstances.
Its funny to me that you bring up the way expectation can ruin an event, even if the event itself could be appreciated in some other fashion, especially as it relates to movies. Just the other day, I was talking with my buddy about Drive. He didn't like it, because he came into the movie expecting some kind of Fast and Furious re-boot, and is most certainly not that. But I watched it much, much later, after having heard enough about it to know what to expect (great soundtrack, cinematography and a fascinating character study), and I thought it was fantastic (Albert Brooks is teh awesome). So, by expecting the right thing, my enjoyment of the film was definitely enhanced. The real question is whether either of our reactions would have changed if we had no expectations going in.
As this pertains to basketball, I don't know that you should worry about having expectations of Spurs games, because those expectations are so rarely unwarranted. The consistency of the team's play allows you that convenience. But the Lakers and their inconsistency have taught all us fans a lesson in expecting too much from the team, at least during the regular season. I think the emotionally wise Lakers fan has gotten to the point where they expect the Lakers to win almost every single night, but can easily divorce themselves from that expectation the moment it becomes clear the Lakers are having one of their days. It's like we expect things to happen, but don't expect our own expectations to come true.
To be continued tomorrow...