A 3-game road trip is one thing. A 3-game road trip without Bill Land and Sean Elliott is just cruel.
First of all, these guys love the Spurs, so their calling of the game as well as their perspective reflects the fans who are watching. Make no bones about it, Bill and Sean are not impartial, national game material - they are Spurs fans through and through, which is what makes them so fun.
Bill Land must be contractually obligated to feed Sean Elliott “Memorial Day Miracle” references a minimum of 50% of all games with incentives when he hits the 40, 50, and 60-game marks. And Sean’s 2nd quarter professions that “the Spurs should pull away and go into the locker room by a double-digit lead” followed by his second half “well, this is what happens when you let a beatable team stick around” are as much a part of the telecast as the Ford Fact, HEB’s Inside the Game, or Andrew Monaco’s halftime update with James Borrego.
But to sit through 3 nationally televised games, with TNT/ABC/ESPN commentators who call maybe a dozen regular season Spurs games...
First of all, it’s Davis Bertans \DAH-vis BER-tahns\, not \DAY-vis ber-TANZ\. Name pronunciation should be announcer 101. It’s not like Bertans just joined on a 10-day contract, he’s become relevant as player, and not just as a “Spurs” player. That said, at least Marv Albert and Kevin McHale’s call of the Spurs/Warriors game in Oakland was a straightforward play-by-play - professional, if all the while stiff and uninspired.
Compare that to Saturday night’s Oklahoma City debacle. If the Spurs struggling to make hay from either side of the court wasn’t enough to stress fans out, the dulcet sounds of Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson should have done the trick. For people who have never gotten the full Mike Breen/Van Gundy/Jackson experience, the banter is something with which to be marveled.
For starters, Van Gundy is always in the middle, squeezed between Breen and Jackson, the three of them wedged together like a backseat minivan ride from hell. Not seeing many Spurs games, they talk in soundbites and stat pieces that are as revealing as any 5-second Google search will allow. There is no insight or familiarity. In fact, on this particular night they spent most of the game focused on explaining how poorly the Thunder’s bench performed all season, nothing about adjustments that the Spurs could make or players that would match-up well from each team.
And when there is a lull in the action, Jackson and Van Gundy talk about any number of topics - arm wrestling, pizza toppings, vacations, NBA rules that should be changed - there is literally no filter. And no lack of opinions. Their ramblings resemble a random hearing of what any two guys in the stadium are discussing when not tuned directly in to the action.
Most of what keeps Van Gundy and Jackson together is their mutual agreement to disagree on everything. Jackson speaks in absolutes: this player is “the best” or the “the most” of something, and Van Gundy questions nearly every one of his statements. They are essentially the Statler and Waldorf of nationally televised basketball. So to watch the Spurs playing in a way that hurts your feelings only to have to listen to these guys is the very definition of insult to injury.
Which takes us to Monday night’s road trip closer in Houston. What’s more tenuous than the trio mentioned above? The trio minus the Notorious JVG. Leaving Mark Jackson to converse solo with Breen and having no foil with which to contest his every musing leaves many, many holes in a game that saw wide point discrepancy early on.
So, it was a little than more welcoming for the Spurs to return to the AT&T Center, to see the familiar faces on the Fox Sports Southwest telecast, and to hear the words that we have come to find comfortable in a most uncomfortable season. A six-game home-stand is just what this Spurs fan needs. And Bill and Sean should feel free to announce as only they can.
And in case you missed last night’s game, it was also therapeutic to see the Silver & Black play as they should.
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