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What we learned from the Spurs’ preseason loss to the Thunder

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San Antonio’s future looks bright, and their first preseason game is thankfully behind them.

Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

I genuinely get a kick out of the concept of writing a post titled “What We Learned” about a preseason NBA game because, in nearly every case, the definitive answer is “practically nothing.” In fact, if I were half the journalistic firebrand I pretend to be at parties then I would totally log into this platform, post “We learned nothing”, and call it a day. Sadly, as the Spurs clearly showed last night, all of us could probably stand to get in a few reps to get back in the groove before this circus really kicks into gear, so we’re going to go ahead and give this thing the old college try.

I spent most of the time watching the Spurs in the Orlando bubble going “man, this is super weird” and I feel like I should take a moment to offer an apology to the Orlando bubble. The AT&T center last night was basically Crocodile Dundee standing in front of the Orlando bubble going “that’s not a weird environment to watch basketball in...this is a weird environment to watch basketball in.” At least in the bubble there was something reassuring about the idea that this was a thing we hadn’t seen before so we had no frame of reference for what it was going to look like. I could convince my brain that maybe, just maybe, this is what Bubble Ball was supposed to look like!

Last night was a different story altogether. I have a very good idea of what the AT&T center is supposed to look like when the newest top draft pick comes in and hits a jumper for his first points in Silver & Black. It was all the more unsettling because of how close it looked to the real thing. I could practically feel the ghost of a big, boisterous crowd drifting around in there. Sure, it was nice to see a familiar setting again after so much time away but, much like the cavernous arena they were playing in, the whole experience felt a little empty without all the people.

It’s hard to say whether or not the lack of energy in the building played a role in the product we saw on the court, but I’m going to go ahead and say that it absolutely did because the alternative is to throw my hands up in the air and wail, “Oh no! They stink!” Preseason games are not exactly known for their scintillating reputation either, so it’s probably pretty safe to go ahead and throw that kindling into the excuse fire while we’re at it. You know what, while we’re here, let go ahead and just run through the rest of our checklist:

  • They haven’t played together very much since the bubble ended!
  • They’ve had virtually no training camp!
  • Pop might not want to show any cards in a meaningless game!
  • They’re sad they had to wear the boring white jerseys instead of the cool new Fiesta ones!
  • It’s normal to slack off during the holiday season!
  • There’s a, uh, global pandemic still going on?

Nice, those excuses oughta keep us warm at least until the real games kick off here in a bit and by then we should be able to scrounge up a few more. In the meantime, yes, it was still nice to see the boys back in action, no matter how bad said action was. Things will get better and things will get more normal. They just have to.

There’s nowhere to go but up.

Takeaways

  • Sure, Patty Mills scored a team high 24 points and, sure, he played aggressive, attacking basketball that stood in stark contrast to the rest of the basketball we watched last night and, sure, he looks super jacked and is probably in the best shape of his life and, SURE, he’s the longest tenured Spur who is poised to be an ambassador for Spurs Culture moving forward and a treasured mentor to all the young dudes we’re hoping will grow up to be world beaters.....look I don’t really have anywhere I’m going with this, I just want to emphasize that I’m really hype about Patty Mills and everyone who is still insisting we trade him to “free up space” or whatever can go to bed. When he wins 6th man of the year I’m going to celebrate it as my own personal championship.
  • I’m choosing not to be concerned about the Spurs “starting big” tonight because getting concerned about lineups in the preseason can’t lead to anything good. Lonnie has been dealing with back issues. Derrick White isn’t playing yet. There’s a million different reasons why Pop would run out a lineup from the 1990’s and there’s a million different reasons he’s for sure going into the Hall of Fame when he retires, whereas I’m just a soft maybe at this point.
  • Here’s where I must say I didn’t love what I saw out of Dejounte Murray. I keep wanting to tune into a game and be blown away by him having made some sort of magical leap to the next level, and that...didn’t seem to be the case Saturday. It’s fine. It’s probably fine. It’s fine. Like the rest of the Spurs, he showed some really exciting flashes of what he was capable of in Orlando when put in the right positions and I have to think that as the Spurs lineups start to gel and everything starts flowing a little more regularly that everything will settle in for him. Regardless, I was on the lookout for a “wow” moment in this game and I’m still looking.
  • I started the game being viscerally repelled by Rudy Gay’s decision to wear a full, white, long sleeve shirt underneath his jersey. It hurt my brain and my eyes. It reminded me of when I needed to wear a swim shirt at the pool to, uh, hide how good my body was. However! It sort of started to grow on me as we went along. Rudy’s an old man (by NBA standards)! He should be allowed to do whatever he wants! If anything, whenever he does something cool out there like bodying some 20 year old kid for a rebound or draining a smooth, no-hesitation three, the fact the he’s doing it while wearing the NBA equivalent of those weird socks that old men have to wear to help with their circulation makes it even more impressive. Keep going Rudy! Don’t let the haters get you down!
Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs Photo by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images
  • TIM DUNCAN FIT WATCH: Like many of you, I was curious about why Tim Duncan had decided to step away from coaching after one magical, glorious year on the sidelines. I’m sure he values time with his family, but what about time with his other family that happens to be really invested in seeing pictures of him in a sports coat? What about that family, Tim? Then, 5 days ago, we got our answer. The NBA would be relaxing it’s coaching attire rules. Earth shattering. Was this what Tim had secretly been doing the whole time? Had he been out there, behind the scenes, lobbying the powers at be to free the sidelines from the tyranny of his sworn enemy...fancy clothes? I’m still blown away. You know, we’ve always known that Tim was one of the greats, but then he goes out and spends an entire year of his well-earned retirement wearing uncomfortable, stuffy clothes in order to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt how ridiculous it is to have a bunch of people who look like bankers trying to coach a sport. The fact that he managed to get some incredible fits off in the process was just a little gift he left for us along the way. So now he must ride on to his next adventure.

Don’t cry because it’s over — smile because it happened.