It’s been a roller coaster ride of a season. The good guys didn’t come out of the Rodeo Road Trip above .500. Heck, there’s a chance the Spurs won’t break the 50-win season and even further fear and speculation that the playoffs are not a lock. Add to that the internet sewing circles and fair-weather water coolers have Kawhi Leonard all but packed and shipped out of the Alamo City, and the question continues- is it time to hit the panic button?
No. An injury-riddled season limiting stars and marquee players has fostered the emergence of some great, young role players while elevating some with star-potential into position to take control. Who better than the Spurs to smooth rough edges, hone talent, and add facets to a young player’s game? Losses endured have exposed the holes that exist. Who better to fill those holes that Pop and company?
San Antonio Spurs (36-26) vs. Los Angeles Lakers (27-34)
March 3, 2018 | 8:00 pm CDT
Watch: FSSW; Listen: 1200 AM WOAI
Spurs injuries: Kawhi Leonard (return from injury management), LaMarcus Aldridge (ankle- updated to out), Pau Gasol (knee-updated to probable)
Lakers injuries: Channing Frye (emergency appendectomy), Josh Hart (fractured right hand).
Panic, it may be catching. The Lakers have been suffering since their last superstar enjoyed a retirement party for 82 games. His final contract was also quite limiting to the franchise’s future. Now Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka (a.k.a. the guy my wife and I swore was Rob Lowe) are scrambling to sell Hollywood as part of the prestige of playing for the Lakers. That same style argument has been made in New York and few marquee players have been biting. So clearing the books to chase superstars has become the new normal out West. After all, this is the team that signed Timofey Mozgov to be a back-up center for $64M a couple of seasons back.
Make no mistake, Brandon Ingram is a beast, and rookie acquisitions Kyle Kuzma and Ball have nothing but upside. That said, the Lakers lack size, experience, and tenured leadership. What is needed is a strategy for handing down the the championship expertise from their coaching staff to the players. So far, osmosis isn’t enough.
By comparison in the River City, the greatest Spur of all time retired at the same time as his Los Angeles counterpart and the team won 61 games the following season. Somehow, he and the Spurs eased into the place of the least possible damage when removed from the equation.
There is no panic button. As a Spurs fan, there is only Championship seasons and the seasons between Championship seasons. This one might prove to be an “in-between,” but look what it has built to be.
Spurs vs. Lakers is one game. The Spurs slowly eclipsing the Lakers has been evolving for some time. Tonight is one more opportunity for the Spurs to showcase their side of the “Greatest NBA Teams of All Time” argument.
But do not tread lightly, this is a must win for the Spurs. Given the landscape of the Western Conference, a half-game separation between the Spurs and 7th place, and the remaining schedule that the Silver & Black are facing, this game is essential.
After a loss to the Lakers on January 11th in Los Angeles, the Spurs are hosting a new-look Lakers. The Spurs just played against Larry Nance, Jr. and Jordan Clarkson last Sunday in Cleveland who have been supplanted by Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye. As a Laker, Thomas has played 6 games and averaged just over 13 points per game. The Lakers have been clearing contracts to make room for one or two max contracts in the off-season. It should also be noted Corey Brewer had a contract buyout and is no longer this week as well. The Lakers have gone 3-3 since the trade deadline, but a closer look divulges that the 3 wins were against lower seeded teams. Spurs beware, this is not a “gimme” game.
In the meantime, the Spurs have weathered the most invasive season of injury to sink the the lowly place of the 4th seed in the Western Conference after spending most of the season in 3rd. A number of players have stepped into larger roles for which they were not originally slated. In particular, Kyle Anderson and Dejounte Murray have worked well as starters. Look for Murray to disrupt Lonzo Ball while Anderson uses his savvy to break Brandon Ingram’s amazing skill set.
Kawhi Leonard will return. I have no proof. I have faith. And for that, I am all kinds of calm today.
The last time these teams met, the Lakers won by by 12.
Vegas line: Spurs by 4.5.
Game prediction: SPURS BY 17...ALWAYS! But really, Spurs by 2.
For the Lakers fans’ perspective, visit Silver Screen and Roll.
As always Tony must dominate Fisher.
PtR’s GameThread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.