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What we learned from the Spurs win over the Nets

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The Spurs held the line and gutted out a nice win over the Nets

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

For a brief moment in time on Thursday, the great Sauron eye of NBA Twitter affixed it’s gaze upon Central Texas for the first real time since last summer. All it took was a quick little two step from ESPN’s pair of NBA insiders Adrian Wojnarowski and Zach Lowe...

Quiet rumblings of Kristaps Porzingis’s displeasure with the Knicks franchise very quickly boiled over into a full blown free for all. For Spurs fans unfortunate enough to be plugged into the Internet during normal business hours, a day that had started out like any other all of a sudden became a fire drill that no one prepared for. Was it happening? What’s the procedure? Should we stay calm?

Then, after about 30 minutes of imaging whether or not the Latvian national team was about to assemble in South Texas, the Eye turned it’s attention elsewhere...

Oh.

The Spurs brief flirtation with the NBA hot stove was over before it ever really even started. I can’t fully express how utterly disorienting this whole scene was. A half hour ago everything was normal, and now our in-state rivals have Kristaps and Luka Doncic, Anthony Davis is about to sign with the Lakers, and Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are 100% signing this summer with...the Knicks? That can’t be right.

As we all picked our way through the smoking aftermath of a truly bananas day of news, it was easy to forget that there were actual basketball games to be played Thursday. I mean, the audacity of these fools trying to actually play a real game at a time like this was stunning. Who even has the energy anymore?

I’m only half joking when I say that it was sort of weird to sit down and settle back into the normal ebbs and flows of a regular season game after the full on adrenaline rush of feeling like the entire NBA is shifting under your feet for a day. I spent the first half watching the Spurs trade blows with the Nets, and I couldn’t help myself from thinking about what the point of all this was. This simple game was happening in the shadow of all these big names and big teams vying for the next big thing. Meanwhile, with every passing game all of those moves feel even more like the rearranging of deck chairs on the Titanic heading for a Golden State Warriors shaped Iceberg. The guys running around on the court in front of me were the literal embodiments of a tale full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Whether or not that tale is told by an idiot is sort of up to you, I guess.)

Then, Derrick White happened.

Derrick White, in spite of struggling with foul trouble, was everywhere in this game. He was draining threes, he squared up against D’Angelo Russell on defense, and he pretty much controlled everything that the Spurs did down the stretch. He looked calm. He looked like a veteran. Frankly, he looked like a star. On one possession in the 4th quarter, he out muscled Jarrett Allen for a defensive rebound, turned up the court and blew past everyone for a layup.

He was incredible. A guy that young essentially functioning as the steady hand for a team full of veteran players like the Spurs is as rare of a unicorn as anything else in this league. Right now, we’re watching him start to realize exactly what he’s capable of night after night, and that’s exciting. We’re watching Bryn Forbes drain corner threes and hit clutch floaters in traffic. We’re watching Davis Bertans pump fake dudes out of their shorts before calmly hitting a three. You tune into a random mid-season games to see stuff like that. You stay invested in the Spurs because of guys like that.

I think this is what’s easy to lose track of when various Woj bombs start going off in the timeline. It’s easy to think about what bringing someone like Kristaps into the fold might mean for the Spurs, but it’s harder to think about what we’d be giving up. You’d likely have to throw in a guy like Derrick White: a budding star who is just now scratching the surface of his potential. Maybe we’d lose Bryn Forbes too, or maybe Dejounte Murray. That wouldn’t be it either, we’d also likely have to give up a veteran like Patty Mills or even, God forbid....Marco Belinelli...*shudders*...

To an outsider, that might not seem like a lot. You have to give up things to get things. That’s how the world works. Is that really a price we’d be happy to pay though? In spite of the Spurs amazing success over the years, they’ve largely managed to exist in parallel with the comings and goings of the main NBA narrative and our brief dalliances with the NBA rumor mill, like Tim duncan flirting with Orlando or Kawhi Leonard doing...whatever that was last year, were easily some of my least favorite moments as a Spurs fan.

This game was a nice reminder that we have it pretty good over in our corner of the basketball universe. We’re watching a team full of guys that we really like play night in and night out. We’ve got a plethora of young guys bursting at the seams with potential and we’ve got a core of veterans who are as consistently excellent as anyone in the league. The rest of the NBA is going to keep spinning off it’s axis out there and that’s going to be fun to watch.

Derrick White is fun to watch too.

Takeaways:

  • How is our arena the only one that consistently has a problem with wildlife getting inside? It makes no sense. I’m starting to feel like the parent of the only kid in a kindergarten class who smells bad or something. The fact that bats routinely interrupt games at the AT&T center is maybe like a top 5 thing that people outside of San Antonio know about the Spurs, and that’s probably something we need to work on.
  • Look at Rudy Gay smiling at LaMarcus Aldridge in this clip and try not let your heart grow three sizes in your chest. I’m so happy for our big man being named an All-Star and I will probably spend the next week or so signing off on silent vendettas against anyone who says he doesn’t belong there. After his slow start, he’s come on and been an absolute anchor for this team. Tonight was another performance from him that was truly astounding in it’s consistency. If the Spurs needed a quick bucket, he got it. If they had to grab a rebound, he grabbed it. If they needed a stop, he was a wall. LaMarcus’s game will probably never stand out, but he’s the canvas that this whole picture is getting painted on and the Spurs would be thinking a lot harder about draft lottery odds without him.
  • Did anyone else have a hard time adjusting to seeing DeMar DeRozan without his full leg compression tights? It’s such a small thing, but I honestly don’t think I can ever remember watching him play with exposed legs even back when he was with Toronto. I understand that this is not something that matters at all, but it threw me off all night.
  • You know, if I were the Lakers, instead of chasing down the dream of Anthony Davis, I would probably spend my time trying to collect young talent like this D’Angelo Russell kid. He’s pretty good! Oops.
  • MARCO WATCH: Literally, during the brief 30 minutes that it looked like the Spurs might be in the mix for Porzingis, I think I saw about 200 different screenshots of various ESPN Trade Machine attempts to get the tall Latvian into Silver & Black. That’s fine. That’s all fun and games. The issue I take is that nearly ALL of them included our sweet boy Marco Belinelli in the mix. You FOOLS. That’s like saying, “If we act now, we can totally afford all these fancy clothes and all it would cost us is OUR BEATING HEART.” Honestly, get out of here with this Trade Marco nonsense. The trade machine factors in things like the contract years and salary cap holds for players. It certainly doesn’t factor in the wonder, awe, and raw imagination one man brings to the table. John Hollinger’s trade analysis doesn’t account for the parts of our souls that would wither and shrink with every off balance three Marco would hit wearing a Knicks jersey. Thankfully none of these horror stories came to pass, but let this stand as a warning to all you would be GM’s out there monkeying around with the Trade Machine ahead of the upcoming trade deadline next week. Marco Belinelli is a gift and a wonder. Cherish him. Wins and losses are a dime a dozen in this league, but not everyone gets to watch Marco set his feet, stare down a wide open three and still find a way to drift off into the crowd.