As an engaged Spurs fan dutifully riding the waves through the early parts of this season, a game like this offers you two options at its conclusion. On the one hand, you can be encouraged that the team was able to scratch and claw its way back from being 19 points down in the 2nd half against a top contender, taking heart in the fact that the season is still incredibly young and that we have a long, long way to go. On the other hand, you are more than welcome to stare off into the distance and begin reckoning with a couple of harsh realities that were on full display Sunday afternoon night.
Let’s do the bad news first. In this league, you are increasingly judged by the very best talent in your lineup, your best players. In this particular matchup, the Lakers best players were LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The Spurs best players were DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. There’s...not many ways to do the math on that one where the Spurs come out on top. We are repeatedly told that the team with the best players on it usually wins, and the Spurs have two very good players, but regardless of how the rest of the roster shakes out, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this little equation is going to continue to rear it’s head as the season goes on.
That’s a real bummer! I love DeMar and LaMarcus and I genuinely love the team the Spurs are building at the moment, but it’s hard to not watch a game like this and ignore the obviously limited ceiling this duo will run up against again and again. I found myself repeatedly wanting to excuse their poor play in this game by saying things like, “Well, LeBron and AD are just really tough matchups for these guys.” This statement is both very true and also a problem that’s not going anywhere. I’m the Captain of the U.S.S. Too Early To Draw Big Conclusions, but it defies logic to bank on two veteran stars all of a sudden, out of nowhere, jumping up a level. It’s very much not too early to think that.
Which brings us back to the good news. In spite of the team’s obvious talent disparity, this game was very winnable! The same could be said for the game against Clippers last Thursday. The Spurs never quit. They hung in there, made plays, and came within a Dwight Howard out of body experience from pulling off a massive comeback that would’ve really turned heads around the league. That’s not nothing. This team might have limitations, but it’s still really good. It’s smart, it’s tough, and it’s going to cause a lot of problems for a lot of people. They might not win a title this year, but they are going to be stupid fun to root for.
You want reasons to be optimistic? The days of LaMarcus and DeMar being the two best players on the Spurs will probably be over sooner than we think, thanks in large part to that springy kid in the #5 jersey. What a performance by Dejounte Murray in the 2nd half. All of his tools were on display as he threw the team on his back and laid siege to the Lakers down the stretch, particularly after Derrick White (who was having a nice night himself) was briefly knocked out of the game thanks to a hard foul from Howard. Dejounte is the future and the future is bright.
This push and pull between the the present and the future is the beating heart of this Spurs season. I’ve been a little bit frustrated by the constant clamoring for more Lonnie Walker IV minutes, but I do get it. Whether we acknowledge it or not, Spurs fans are super aware of the limited ceiling this team has, and I think the best way we can find to ignore that ceiling is to focus in on limitless possibilities of the youth. Who knows how good Derrick can be? Who knows what Dejounte is capable of? We don’t see Lonnie as an untested kid who maybe isn’t ready for the moment; we see a wellspring of untapped potential wasting away on the bench while Marco tries another off balance three from inside the shirt of his defender.
It’s frustrating, and I get that. This is a good team though, maybe one of the better ones in the league and it’s sometimes just really hard to reconcile the competing ideals of a team being extremely good, but simply not good enough. DeMar and LaMarcus and all these other guys that we keep getting frustrated with are playing their butts off to make sure the Spurs don’t slip and slide their way into becoming the Sacramento Kings. They are helping to build a foundation for this future that we’re all so pumped about. Is that enough to keep you engaged and entertained for entire season of basketball?
I don’t know. Like I said at the top, right now Spurs fans are faced with a couple of options. The way I see it, you can either spend this time being constantly mad that the future isn’t here yet, or you can spend it getting excited that it appears to be on it’s way. I know which one sounds more fun to me.
- Anthony Davis is a cheat code. He’s massively tall, he’s frighteningly athletic, and he also shoots the lights out? That’s preposterous. I know I’m not reinventing the wheel here with my “AD is talented” take, but I think its easy to forget what he looks like at the peak of his powers when you’re aren’t watching him night in and night out. How is anyone supposed to guard a Lebron James-Anthony Davis Pick-n-roll? Seeing it happen in real time was like watching a killer robot gain sentience.
- I have nothing extremely insightful to say about this sequence of events so, instead, I’m just going to whip my shirt off and run through the streets shouting out “HAVE YOU HEARD THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT DEJOUNTE MURRAY?!?!?” until somebody stops me.
- It is absolutely brutal seeing our sweet boy, Danny Green, decked out in Purple & Gold. What a cruel twist of fate. As is tradition, he didn’t have a great shooting night against us because he’s a real one who understands the concept of family, but it was still tough to see him, not only in a different jersey, but in a dreaded Laker one to boot. Glad he’s out there thriving though.
- Recently, on this very website, I waxed poetic about the potential for Jakob Poeltl to be a secret weapon for the Spurs. He promptly repaid me by having maybe his worst game ever as a Spur on Sunday night? Is that safe to say? Jakob spent most of the 2nd half alternating between fumbling pinpoint passes in the paint on one end and getting routinely abused by Howard on the other. I still have faith that he is a useful tool in the Spurs roster, but I won’t lie to you, it was a tough night down at the Jakob Poeltl for 6th Man of the Year campaign headquarters.
- TIM DUNCAN FIT WATCH: This one was a real stinker, folks. Big Fun went with the decidedly No Fun combo of black blazer, white shirt, grey slacks for the second time this season and it is just the pits. I expect him to likely have some repeat outfits as the season trudges along, but I was hoping that we’d make it a little bit further along before seeing this guy again. I hate pretty much everything about it. It’s boring, but it gets the job done. It isn’t very exciting, but it isn’t very controversial. It’s down the middle. It’s plain oatmeal. It’s...oh no...oh ...could it be.....fundamental? C-