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What we learned from the Spurs loss to the Hornets

As Spurs fans grappled with the return of Tony, the Spurs players grappled with an inability to put the ball in the hoop.

NBA: Charlotte Hornets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

I don’t know if you heard, but Tony Parker came back tonight.

That’s a real kick in the pants, isn’t it? Our little Frenchman out there spinning into the lane wearing a teal jersey. I laughed, I cried, and I tried not to think too much about it. Tony. Parker. A Charlotte Hornet. What a trip.

I’m happy with this team right now. I love these guys and I love the journey we’re on with them. They work hard and we’ve been able to see them overcome a lot of adversity in the past few months. This is a group of guys who, in November, couldn’t string together a defensive stop if their lives depended on it and now look like they could put the clamps on just about anyone. We’ve even gotten a few heady glimpses of some “beautiful game” offense in recent weeks. We’ve been witness to LaMarcus Aldridge cementing himself as a premier scorer, DeMar DeRozan evolving as a playmaker and Derrick White developing into an impact player. Jakob Poeltl’s blossomed, Davis Bertans became bad boy, and Patty Mills has infected the bench with his boundless enthusiasm. The list goes on and on. This is one of the most endearing groups of guys in the league and we’re lucky to be a part of this.

I haven’t spent a lot of time lingering on any regrets this year. Timmy and Manu rode off into the sunset and we, as a fan base, have turned the page and started to get excited about the future. That’s something that felt impossible a couple of years ago. Ask yourself whether or not you could ever truly envision San Antonio Spurs basketball without Pop and the big three. I don’t think I ever could. I always just maybe assumed the world end first. I think that’s the main reason I’m so giddy about this group of guys. They’re teaching us how to love again.

It’s all been so great, but then . . . Tony Parker came back. Timmy and Manu are vacuum sealed in our memories, becoming more perfect and flawless by the day, but Tony is still out there. He’s doing his floaters in the lane, he’s coming around screens with a full head of steam, he’s sneaking little pocket passes into the nooks and crannies of exasperated defenses. He’s doing all that and he’s doing it for someone else. I thought it would be fine. I thought I would just be happy for him and for us. Proud of how we’ve all managed to move on with our lives in such healthy and productive manners.

I wasn’t.

I was sad this entire game. I was sad when I watched some of his old highlights earlier in the day and I was sad when I saw him take the floor to warm up. I was sad during the tribute video and when he checked in. I was sad when he fooled Davis out of his shorts with a pump fake and when he skied a layup in over Derrick White’s outstretched hand. I was sad when he dribbled out the final few seconds. I was sad when he hugged Pop.

Maybe there’s a rosier view of this particular evening to be found down the road, but I’m not ready yet. Tony was our guy and, somehow, it feels like we failed him. So often he got lost in the shuffle. He was never as great as Tim or as wild as Manu or a wise as Pop. His time as the best player on the team was cut short by Kawhi’s ascendence and some of his best moments, like the 2013 finals or the 2016 playoffs, were overshadowed by the the team being unable to finish the job. It’s somehow fitting that now, at the end of his career, the Spurs couldn’t seem to find a place for him in the Narrative. So it goes.

Tony seems at peace with everything. He still loves the Spurs and San Antonio and, presumably, all of us. He knows that it would’ve probably been harder for this little Spurs renaissance we’re all enjoying to happen if he were still here fighting Bryn Forbes and Derrick White for minutes and chose to, like the hero that he is, do us one last favor on his way out the door.

Tony Parker should’ve never worn teal. Maybe some day I’ll feel at peace about it too but, right now, all I am is sad.


  • I guess basketball also happened.
  • LMA is on a dang tear right now and I sure wish we wouldn’t waste performances like this from him. 28 points and 10 rebounds, 11-17 from the field and a few assists to boot. One of the most striking things about the way he’s been playing recently has been that he’s really excelled at scoring at the rim. His shot chart from Monday night looks like someone laid a bunch of green Olympic’s logos over the basket. He’s using his size to get position down low and it’s becoming more and more apparent that most teams in this league don’t really have a counter to that move. I love Mid-Range assassin LaMarcus as much as anyone but, hey, dunks and bunnies are pretty great too.
  • Derrick White, in addition to another great scoring night, is beginning to rival DeRozan as possibly the top distributor on this team. He had 7 assists in this contest and a couple of them were the kind of passes that really toe the line between genius, hubris, luck and skill. It feels like whenever Aldridge establishes himself in the post, Derrick’s first inclination is “Yo, I gotta float a pass in over everybody’s head right this second” and when he pulls it off it’s kind of exhilarating. He also has the ability to create passing lanes where they don’t exist. On one play in the second quarter, an offensive possession had sort of stalled out. Two stymied pick and rolls, one failed Bryn Forbes drive, and by then the shot clock was racing towards zero and it looked like we were in for a forced jumper or a contested three. But Derrick was patient, he shifted with the ball, pump faked and changed the angle one more time. All of sudden Jakob Poeltl didn’t have a guy in front of him and Derrick hit him for an easy layup. There’s so many things about his game that seem light years ahead of his age and we should probably go ahead and add court awareness to the top of the list.
  • I’d like to tell you that the defense should’ve been better but I think that, all things considered, holding the Hornets to 108 while Kemba Walker was having that kind of night that he had is pretty dang good. The Spurs were clearly content to live with Kemba being Kemba and letting the Hornets take and miss a bunch of threes. Which they did. The second part of that goal was to capitalize on all those inevitable misses which they very much didn’t. Outside of LaMarcus and D-White, the offense was pretty quiet here.
  • Rudy Gay’s continued absence, as well as Marco’s surprise hold out, is just brutal for this team who had finally found the sweet spot with it’s rotations. It’s hard to judge anything too harshly while those absences continue but, in the mean time, they need to find a way to get back on track pretty quick.
  • MARCO WATCH: I felt a sort of panic grip me as I settled in to watch the game, clearly an emotional wreck following the Tony video tribute, only to be blindsided by Bill Land casually dropping the bomb that Marco, our indestructible, indefatigable, interpersonal muse would be sitting this contest out with a knee injury. Why were they still playing the game? I felt like I was watching the rest of the night in black and white. A rote exercise, a pointless display, a tedious shout into the abyss. Who would plum the depths of creativity this sport had to offer? Who would seek out the hidden poetry tucked away within a simple jump shot? Who? Who I ask? But I knew the answer. A night that was filled with the resolute sadness brought on by the ghostly return of memories past, had no place for an athletic, expressive, artistic tribute to all that is joy in this world.

A glooming peace this morning with it brings,

The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head.

Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things.

Some shall be pardoned, and some punished,

For never was a story of more woe, than this of Charlie and his missing Marco.