The Rodeo Road Trip used to be the time at which the Spurs started rounding into shape and showing their true potential. That hasn’t been the case lately, and this year they ended it with a 2-6 record but won two of the last three games.
Has the 2019/20 Rodeo Road Trip taught you anything you didn’t know about this iteration of the Spurs? And are you more or less optimistic about a potential late season run than you were before?
Mark Barrington: The overall result was about what I expected, but the outcome of the games made me both more optimistic and less optimistic than I was before the trip. More optimistic if Dejounte Murray can deliver more solid performances as he did in the wins over the Jazz and Thunder, and less optimistic if he disappears like he did in the second game against the Thunder, and in most of the losses. The Spurs need Murray to be good on both ends of the floor for the team to be in the running for a playoff spot, and on his best nights, he looks capable of doing just that. Unfortunately, he just isn’t ready to do it consistently. Chris Paul neutralized him early in the final game of the Rodeo Road Trip by getting him in early foul trouble, and he just has to play smarter. I feel confident that he will learn, but I don’t know if it’s going to happen this year. He seems to be figuring it out, but I think it might be a year or two before he can consistently perform at a high level.
I think the Spurs are playing better at this point in the season than they did in the first half, but they’re still a long ways from being a playoff team. I would be very surprised if the Silver and Black can perform better than the Grizzlies, Pelicans, Blazers and Suns to secure the final playoff spot. One of those teams will go on a hot streak and finish stronger than the Spurs, only to lose to the Lakers in a first-round sweep (or gentleman’s sweep). The best way forward for the Spurs is to continue developing their young players and start planning for a lottery pick.
Marilyn Dubinski: Knowing what we already knew about this team going into the RRT, 2 wins is about what I saw them getting based on the schedule. In that sense, it didn’t teach me much that I didn’t already know — everything good and bad about this team was there already. They can play some really good ball at times, but they are even more prone to having a horrendous stretch that undoes all that good work. That oddity with this group has cost them countless games this season, and if memory serves all six of their RRT losses featured those signature back-breaking stretches of play (whether it was the Spurs playing poorly, the opponent going off, or both). I would say coming out of it I’m equally optimistic about their playoff chances as I was going in, which is to say “not very.” Some of that is just me not allowing myself to believe to avoid disappointment, but it’s still not impossible. Last year they responded to a 1-7 RRT with nine-game winning streak to all but secure a postseason spot (although they went in with much more room for error), and a repeat of that would likely get them right back up into the 8th seed now, but considering they haven’t won more than three in a row this season (and even that has been a rare feat), I just don’t see it happening.
Bruno Passos: I’m not sure I learned anything new, although with each passing couple of games my remaining optimism in a postseason berth has dwindled. Whenever the team puts together some semblance of cohesive defense or a young player’s shown out, it’s felt like there was a regression to the mean around the corner — and that’s generally been the case. If anything, I’m more confident than ever in a fundamentally poor defense holding them back when average-or-better teams are playing up to their abilities.
Jesus Gomez: There were no surprises on the RRT. The Spurs were mostly bad, as they have been all season, but still managed to get some unlikely wins against quality opponents. It’s always tempting to look at those wins and hope that maybe they will spark a turnaround, but by now we know this year’s version of the team just can’t play at a high level consistently. So instead of teaching us something new about these Spurs, the RRT seemed to only confirm what most of us thought about them already: they are a bad team that can occasionally look good when at its absolute best.
I wasn’t all that optimistic about a playoff push before the last few games, so my opinion about it hasn’t changed much. There are now fewer games left, so a run seems a little more unlikely but it probably wasn’t in the cards to begin with. I’m not ready to completely give up the season just yet, but I’m getting there.
J.R. Wilco: I won’t lie: when they won two straight against OKC and Utah, I raised an eyebrow — especially with the way they beat the Jazz. I had more than one thought that began with, “What if they’ve finally put it together? Wouldn’t that be an amazing story.” But I didn’t invest any real energy in it, because it’s the rare team who’s more than what they shown themselves to be through 56 games.