After spending most of the season bemoaning the schedule-makers' decision to place all of the Spurs vs Lakers games into a tiny window during mid-April, I spoke with Chris of Silver Screen and Roll and we decided that instead of an epic series of posts leading up to the three games, we'd instead turn the 10 days themselves into an event.
Witness (with all due respect to Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack) the 10 days of SpurLakers. That's right, starting yesterday, 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 and me.
Enjoy and act responsibly.
You linked to some pretty strong words toward Andrew Bynum, Chris, and since not all of my readers may have seen them, I'll highlight a few.
Fix this, Drew, and you are golden. Refuse, and you are a plague.
-- after last year's cheapshot on JJ Barea
I can't justify rooting for him any more. I'm done with Andrew Bynum.
- after Three Point-Gate
... the Lakers ... have a decent excuse ... but Andrew Bynum has none, as per usual.
- after his ejection from the Rockets game
Thankfully I've never been in a position where one of the key cogs of the team I root for is a person that turns my stomach as much as Bynum has given you reason for yours to turn. For your sake, I'd like to say that I hope he resolves his issues, but that would really be tantamount to wishing you and your team well. And I think it's pretty obvious that your team's success would most likely eventually come at the expense of my Spurs. So let me just say that I am thankful that I have never been where you are, and if I didn't spend so much of my time wishing for the demise of the Lakers (and if that doesn't describe rooting against another team, then I don't know what would) I might have an even less mediocre-sounding response.
You? Envious of me? Oh, I get it. I was thinking that my less-than-passionate (smell the roses) response to this year's Spurs would produce anything other than envy. But as far as this year's regular-season has gone, especially since the addition of Steven Jackson and Boris Diaw, there has been an interesting wrinkle I've noticed as far as just being a fan and just watching the games is concerned. And that is:
Their blowouts aren't boring.
What's one of the worst things about the fact that the NBA regular-season is so long? Well, it's the fact that not all the games are competitive. What is the reason for that? Because not every team takes every game seriously. Why don't they? Because there are so many that playing hard in all of them is almost impossible. And what happens in a game where one team isn't trying as hard as the other? Well it quickly get out of hand and both benches empty. And what do we call that part of the game?
And garbage is an excellent word for it, because that's usually how worthwhile it is. Garbage has no value; in fact it has a negative value because people pay money to have it taken away. If something is simply worthless, you may be able to give it away because there is often someone who could see value in it. But garbage has no redeeming qualities at all. You just want to get rid of it as soon as possible.
But the recent Spurs blowouts of their oppenents -- well it would be an insult for me to call the end of those games garbage time because the level of play (while maybe taking a small step down) doesn't fall off much. The second and third string are in the game working the Spurs offense, getting open looks, layups, dunks and three-pointers in just the same way that the starters and the first guys off the bench do.
Let me offer an example. When I was at the Spurs 16 point win over the Timberwolves on the night that the Spurs retired Bruce Bowen's jersey, I was watching the end of the game, caught up as I usually am by individual plays and taking down notes about my thoughts on them. When I came out of my haze to notice how much time was left in the fourth quarter and who is playing in the game, my immediate reaction was, "Why does Pop still have those guys in the game! It's over. We don't want any of those guys to get hurt!"
That's what I noticed that all of the starters were already on the bench.
And that is one of the reasons why it's been so easy to enjoy this season because every man on the roster has bought into the Spurs system and knows it well enough to keep playing Fairwold even when the game has been decided. And when San Antonio's players are doing that, it's a beautiful game to watch. The ball movement, the players working in perfect coordination, the backdoor cuts, the players moving to open spots to lose their man and receive passes in space and motion -- that is what has made it so easy for me to enjoy the season as much as I have. And so I understand you're you're envy of it. It's not due to any personal growth on my part that it's been easy for me to smell the roses this year. It's the fact that this team makes virtually every bit of the 48 minutes of every game a joy to watch. Now sometimes, because of pop resting players, some of those games are a bit more exciting than they might need to be. But that's all in the service of the end result, and I can accept that.
As to the answer you're conflicted about (are or your feelings of hopelessness stronger, or is your curiosity about how Popovich and his staff do it) I'll delay my answer to that question for another time.
The Lakers blowouts aren't boring either, because they don't exist. You may or may not believe that, considering the Lakers just levied a beatdown against your beloved team, and did so under surprising circumstances on the road and missing their star player, but the Lakers are really bad at keeping games from being close. On the season, they have just 10 victories of 10 points or more (the Spurs, meanwhile, have 24.) As far as I can tell, there are two reasons for this particular failing. They are :
- The Lakers bench is bad. Like, epically bad. At one point, prior to the trade for Ramon Sessions, I discovered that the Lakers had given nearly half of their minutes as a team to players with a PER of 10 or less. By comparison, the only Spurs that even qualify as that bad are James Anderson and Cory Joseph, and I've never heard of either of them.
- When the Lakers are successful in building up a big lead, it is because they can be a strong defensive unit. But whenever they get ahead, the defensive energy goes down and they end up giving the lead all back.
In fact, the Lakers are so bad at maintaining a lead that they recently went through a stretch of losing double digit leads in seven straight games. It's almost impressive when you think about it ... the Lakers played well enough to have a double digit lead in that many straight contests, but they lost said lead every single time. They still won most of those games, too, but focus is not what you'd call a strength for this squad. Which makes no sense when you consider how many veteran, experienced players they have.
But I totally disagree with you about garbage time. As long as the reason for garbage time is a positive one (nobody enjoys garbage time when it is their team that is down by 20), I love garbage time. And my garbage time unit sure isn't fooling me into thinking I'm seeing the starters either. But those rare minutes that must be played even though they serve no purpose in determining a winner or a loser, those moments are your only opportunities to get to know players on your own team that might not exist otherwise. I love getting to know the back end of my bench. Its a badge of honor for the true fans when you know about guys like Mike Penberthy and DJ Mbenga.
To be continued ...