Are we having fun?
I’m not having fun. These past couple games have not been fun to watch. The Spurs have looked incomplete and unmotivated as they’ve slogged through matchups with four difficult opponents. The losses are tough, sure, but even the basketball itself has been pretty gruesome. The beautiful game that the Spurs had briefly flirted with feels like a barely remembered dream we all collectively had last month.
The team hasn’t been playing with a full deck of cards either, which makes it’s hard to know what, if anything, is actually the matter with these guys. Is the defense really this bad or are they just missing their best defensive player in Derrick White? Has the offense hit it’s ceiling or have our three most important players, DeMar DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Rudy Gay, just missed some time recently? Do I wish it was baseball season already or has my favorite basketball team just been sort of annoying lately? These are the things you end up wrestling with while watching the Spurs go down double digits for the 4th consecutive game. It’s not very fun.
I don’t want to make any grand pronouncements about the direction the team is heading in because I feel like we all went through that phase in November and now it looks silly. The Spurs are struggling at the moment, but they have a lot of talent and one of the best coaching staffs in the world. They are going to figure it out, and they are going to end up right where they are supposed to be at the end of the season. It’s fine. It’s all fine. We’re fine. I think.
In the meantime, we’re left watching some pretty bad basketball, and the only tool we have in our belt as fans is to cry to the heavens about our plight. We can’t go out and practice harder. Pop can’t sub us in during the 4th quarter to see if it gives the team some spark. No matter how much time we spend on the trade machine, we still have no power to orchestrate any transactions for the team. It’s all very unfair.
I think the Spurs will turn things around soon though. They have a much easier stretch of games coming up, and they’ll have the All-Star break to sit down and recharge the batteries. Before we know it, I’m going to be back in this space writing things like “you know what? If things bounce the right way there’s no reason the Spurs can’t sweep the Rockets in the second round.” I’m serious, everyone’s going to love it. The Spurs are going to ride into the playoffs as an underdog with a chip on their shoulder, destroying everyone in their path and it’s going to be glorious.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the other tool we have at our disposal in times of hardship.
- Did the Spurs really run a triangle and two zone in this game? They did didn’t they? It’s underrated how wild it is to see a full on zone defense in an NBA game like that. I know teams play variations of zone all the time, but it’s usually masked a little bit more into the flow of their regular defensive schemes. If we’re being honest, watching them resort to something like this was a little bit scary. I appreciate the creativity on behalf of the coaches, I suppose, but this move almost looked like a gimmick and if they’re really needing to resort to gimmicks right now just to tread water on defense, then that feels like an ominous sign. Maybe I would’ve felt better about it if they hadn’t given up 125 points in the process.
- I’m not sure anyone on the team played particularly well in this game. DeRozan looked okay for stretches. Patty Mills had his moments. It was tough sledding out there though. There was one pretty excellent sequence where Davis Bertans slid over for a nice weak side block on Derrick Favors before turning up the court and draining a three in transition. It was a beautiful little display of basketball and all I’m asking is please, Spurs, more of this. Just a few more plays like this. We’re dying out here.
- For those of us out in the streets waging a fierce battle over whether or not Aldridge deserves to be in the All-Star game over Rudy Gobert, this game was not our finest hour. Gobert was a monster on Saturday and LMA, like the great teammate that he is, was sitting in solidarity with the rest of his friends who had decided to play terribly. Aldridge has been playing lights out for the past few months and it’s extremely unfair how much his excellence doesn’t really show up anywhere exciting because it makes him an easy straw man in arguments like this when some another player appears to have been snubbed for something. Look, the evidence of his great play this season is right there in the win column where the Spurs have 32 wins that they wouldn’t have without him. One-on-one matchups are a dumb way to decide things like this and the optics coming out of it aren’t great, but everyone can miss me with any and all ‘LaMarcus is a fraud All-Star’ comments. He worked his butt off to earn that distinction this year and this particular off-game doesn’t do anything to change that. (Gobert is great too. This isn’t about you Rudy, I promise.)
- MARCO WATCH: Marco Belinelli tried a lot of things tonight. He wasn’t quite the fire-breathing, heavy-leaning, angel of death off the bench that he sometimes transforms into, but you could see him working out the contours of some pretty incredible shots in this game. Did a lot of them go in? No, they did not. But they looked crazy. Like, there were some real “What’re you doing, Marco?” shots in this game and I think that’s an important part of his overall process. It is absolutely necessary that your opponents are unable to prepare for what you’re bringing into the field of play. Is he going to start his shooting motion before he even catches the ball? Maybe. Is he going to release the ball on the down slope of this jump? He just might. Is he going to careen through the paint, flail his arms up, and fling the ball towards the basket on a whim? You’re just going to have to find out, buddy. No one can prepare for what Marco is going to do because even Marco isn’t preparing for what he’s going to do. It all just sort of...happens. The shots weren’t falling in this game, but they didn’t have to. Look for the shots to return when we least expect it. When we’ve lost all hope. When we need . . . a miracle.