I tend to take an optimistic view of things, and that certainly guides the way that I handle myself as a fan of the San Antonio Spurs as well as how I manage Pounding the Rock. I don’t regularly riff on the latest thing that has upset me about the team, or ask a writer to pen a 1200 word rant on how annoying the Warriors are being. (I mean, sometimes that last one happens, but it’s not because I request it. I’m sure you can see the difference.)
Anyway, the reason I’m being optimistic is because this off-season has been a tad trying. Not outright depressing, mind you, but definitely lacking in the kind of transactions that sustain a fan base through the summer. A few weeks ago, just after word dropped that the Spurs signed Brandon Paul, PtR writer Bruno Passos texted me the following question:
Is it just because so many other teams have upgraded or is this one of the more disappointing Spurs summers?
I think enough time has gone by for me to share my response with you without contributing to the general malaise that seemed to be hanging over the blog last month. And in keeping with my optimism, I’m not just going to give you my answer, but also follow it up with my take on why things aren’t necessarily as bleak as they might appear.
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This summer has been disappointing for a lot of reasons:
First, unfulfilled expectations that PATFO would be able to offload a highly paid guy who went out of his way to make it clear that he would prefer to leave. Which resulted in--
Second, the team was not able to move up in the draft and there wasn’t an immediate reaction about how the Spurs had made another draft day steal with Derrick White and Jaron Blossomgame, which meant that no immediate help could be expected from the youngsters because--
Third, Dejounte Murray's Summer League performance wasn’t anywhere near as dominant as we'd hoped, and his bad decision-making/shot-selection means that he's potentially years away from being a competent starting PG, which raises serious fears that --
Fourth, even though Bryn Forbes is setting the Summer League world on fire, it's not anything we can assume will translate over to the NBA because of his size, defensive liabilities, and lack of basic point guard skills (like being able to complete a simple entry pass without turning it over), not to mention the fact that he shot well in last year's SL and in the D-league (just try to make me say "G-league,” Gatorade) but couldn't even hit his wide open threes at a decent rate while wearing a San Antonio uniform, which combined with ---
Fifth, the fact that so many free agents have left the Spurs and haven't been immediately replaced by seemingly better guys, (especially the he's a lock to stay Jonathon Simmons into another who-dat? Brandon Paul) while the only signing of note is a serious question mark because he's coming back from an Achilles tear, all the while --
Sixth, the moves made by the rest of the West have seemed higher-impact than SA's (Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets, Jimmy Butler to the Minnesota Timberwolves, etc) and all the while the Warriors are continuing to get stronger and the next two seasons already look like a forgone conclusion.
So everything Spursy seems like it's sliding downhill without anything in sight to grab on to and slow the descent. Just about every attractive free agent has already signed, and even if they hadn't, the Spurs’ roster and cap space are practically at their limit.
So there's no concrete reason to feel like the Spurs will be better than last season, or even just as good, while the specter of Manu Ginobili's potential retirement becomes ever more tangible.
And that's why Spurs fans are feeling kind of hopeless right now.
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So the primary concern, and the most immediate, was eradicated when Manu decided to come back for the 2017-18 season. That did a ton to improve morale, no doubt. Then LMA started posting pro-Spurs stuff to social media again, signalling a potential thaw on that front.
The Murray situation isn’t cut and dried, but it’s possible that — just like George Hill was asked to use SL to develop his left hand — DJ was tasked with something that took him out of his comfort zone. If that’s not the case, then there’s always the possibility that he’ll simply look better when playing with guys who are intimately familiar with the offense.
As to Forbes, I held his
poor horrific NBA 3FG% against him all last year (32.1% ... blech!), but that was unfair considering the size of the sample was so small (only 53 attempts). So I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that his outside threat will open up things that will lessen the impact of his other shortcomings.
Finally, there’s no sense in expecting anything from Gay’s Achilles rehab one way or the other until we watch the preseason games and see what he’s got. He may have a slow start as he gets re-acclimated, or he might never regain the explosiveness he had before the injury. Whatever happens, there are ways the team can use him and I’ve decided to be patient in the two months left before the guys lace them up again.
So even though next season feels like an uphill climb before it’s even started, I feel like I’m leaving the July doldrums behind, able to look forward to the next season and an entire 82 games of MVP-level Kawhi Leonard and company.