When Pounding the Rock czar J.R. Wilco recruited me to write for this site years ago, the major selling point was the ability to write about fashion. He told me that he had a fine staff of writers, but the Pounding the Rock regulars were crying out for style commentary. Readers clamored to know what people in the stands had worn to the game. With my extensive background in the fashion industry, the ability to answer those types of questions for our loyal readers is what finally convinced me to come aboard. That, and the huge signing bonus, of course.
Actually, nothing in the preceding paragraph is true.
What is true is that when I attended the Lakers - Spurs game Friday night at Staples Center in LA, I did note the large number of Spurs shirts also in attendance. While I did not wear my traditional Ginobili road #20 (saving it for my Sunday morning game where it always brings me luck), I did wear my long-sleeve San Antonio shooting shirt. The same one the Spurs wore when I attended my first Spurs home game last season. Others wore Ginobili jerseys for me -- and Manu even heard the stirring "Manu, Manu" when he checked in. The most popular Spurs jersey in Staples was, as one would guess, Duncan’s #21. Also a fair number of Leonard’s #2 -- remember that Kawhi went to high school in nearby Riverside, and college at San Diego State. Of course, Kawhi is so great, people would be wearing that jersey if he went to high school on Mars, and college on Jupiter. Or New Jersey.
The most popular Laker jersey, by a lot, is Kobe's. Whether the throwback #8, or the more traditional #24, there are more Kobe jerseys in the stands than any current Laker. You even see a lot of Kobe's high school jersey, Lower Merion High #33. Kobe did not go to college, so that was a missed marketing opportunity. Of course, he still has 4 years of college eligibility. I also spotted my friend Jeff in the stands with his Laker Sasha Vucevic #18 jersey. Yes, he was the only one with that jersey.
The one thing that always confuses me is when people go to a sporting event with a jersey unrelated to either team. Last year for instance, I saw a guy wearing a green Larry Bird #33 jersey at the Lakers-Spurs game. Stood out like a sore thumb, especially in Lakerland. Last night I saw a jersey that topped that worn by Celtic guy. Two rows in front of me was an athletic looking guy wearing a blue Toronto Blue Jays Stroman #6. (Marcus Stroman is a Blue Jay pitcher.) He was wearing a uniform from the wrong sport, with the wrong color, in the wrong city, and from the wrong country. What is the word for one more than a hat trick? (Note I just brought in a reference from yet another sport.)
On the game
1. The Spurs shot 56% from the floor, and made 10 threes out of 24 attempts. Since threes count more than twos (last I checked), that means the Spurs effectively shot 63% from the floor. Add to that 18 for 19 from the line, and you can see why the Spurs scored 116 points on only 78 shots from the floor. Indeed, the top 8 Spurs in minutes played had more points than shots taken. The Spurs also had 30 assists on their 44 baskets -- also a very good percentage. Only twelve turnovers on the night, for an assist to turnover ratio of 2.5 to 1. Good night for the Spurs offense.
2. Also a good night for our Oui Frenchman, Tony Parker. While many of us had begun to think TP was no longer an effective NBA player, the last several games, Friday night in particular, showed he still has it. Coming down the stretch, he acts as Pop’s security blanket, either getting the ball to right guys, or forcing a switch so he can cross over an over-matched big and drain his mid-range jumper. As he did Friday night with 33 seconds left last night to stretch the Spurs lead to 6, effectively ending the game.
3. This Spurs-Lakers game was the first one in 20 years that did not have either Tim Duncan or Kobe Bryant. As Bob Seger said in “Like a Rock”:
Twenty years now
Where’d they go?
I don't know
I sit and I wonder sometimes
Where they've gone
Or as Pop said after the game when asked about not having TD there after 20 years of having him there – “It makes me feel old.”
A final thought
I have noted in the past how Pop lets his veterans contribute to the coaching that is always going on with the Spurs. Often during timeouts, you will see Parker, or Manu, or in past years Duncan, sitting in the “coach’s chair” in front of the other players talking to the team about what needs to be done. Sometimes Pop will let them run the entire timeout.
Friday night, our seats were across the court from the Spurs bench, about 6 rows up (thanks to super-client Ken for the great seats!). Normally during a timeout, the coaches will gather on the court for the first minute, deciding what wisdom to impart to the players in the second minute of the timeout. During a timeout against the Lakers, my son Pablo tapped me on the arm, and directed me to look at the coaches’ huddle. The only person talking, very intently, was Spurs assistant coach Becky Hammon. It was great to see her taking charge – and also great to see the other coaches, all of whom have been coaching longer than she, listening just as intently as Becky was talking.