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Jumping into the middle of the Spurs’ story

What an NBA outsider sees in the Spurs.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at San Antonio Spurs Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

You all know the Spurs’ story much better than I do. I’m working on that. And since J.R. Wilco has invited me to offer my opinion on them for the foreseeable future, I only think it’s fair that you all know a little bit about me and where I come from as a basketball fan.

My first NBA memory was Michael Jordan shrugging to the sideline as he hit six threes in the first half of game 1 of the 1992 Finals vs the Portland Trail Blazers. Up to that point it was the coolest thing my 7 year old brain had ever witnessed. From that day on (at least until 1999) the Chicago Bulls were my favorite team. My Dad always rooted against them — especially during championships 5 and 6 vs the Jazz. I never understood why that was, until the Warriors and Cavs battled each other in 4 straight finals. That got old. So now I understand my old man a little better. Jordan winning 6 of 8 titles must have become increasingly annoying.

Anyway. I tried to hold on to my Bulls fandom after their last title in 1998. But it was difficult because my local team, the Sacramento Kings, started playing so well. That’s right, I’m from California, but not the go to the beach everyday and play in the sun and water California. My California was farms, orchards, and livestock. You ever heard of Oakdale, CA? No? It’s okay, nobody has. Full disclosure, I didn’t much like it there. But the Kings sure were good for a few years there.

Watching those early-2000s Kings teams was a lot of fun. Who wouldn’t like seeing Jason Williams whip the ball all over the court and multiple behind the back passes leading to a dunk. Then they traded for Mike Bibby and took a serious run that the title. But those (expletive deleted) Los Angeles Lakers we’re always in their way. Oh, those hated Lakers.

Then I moved to southern California just in time to see the Spurs sweep LeBron James in the 2006-07 Finals. That poor kid never stood a chance. I know I admitted to hating the Lakers, but that next season I got to watch nearly every game the Lakers played. I understand why Laker fans say Kobe is the greatest and never budge on that opinion. Watching him play almost every day was something else. I wouldn’t have necessarily called myself a fan during those years, but I did feel a certain sense of satisfaction when they beat the Celtics in the 2009-10 Finals.

After that, my girlfriend and I moved to Seattle, WA and eventually got married. This was 2012 so the Sonics were gone by then and the Pacific northwest didn’t really care about the NBA anymore and I went through a bit of a basketball lull.

I haven’t had a favorite team for a while now, but a friend of mine articulated my feelings in a way I never could. He said, “I don’t root for teams, I root for greatness.” That helped me understand my own mindset better: caring less about who wins than wanting to see something amazing happen.

For the last 7 or 8 years I’ve been able to enjoy the NBA as a whole, and that’s the perspective I’ll be bringing to your Spurs coverage. I’m looking forward to getting to know the group of guys the San Antonio Spurs have assembled while adding the context I’ve gained from appreciating the entire league.

My understanding of the Spurs and their history is through bullet points.

  • The George Gervin era
  • The Admiral David Robinson
  • Robinson gets hurt which leads to Tim Duncan
  • Then that leads to Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker
  • Then all the titles. Spurs are always a threat for the title.

Now here we are at the present. The Big 3 are gone. What do the Spurs have now?

The short answer is, more than I thought. They have several young capable players who can do almost anything. They all can shoot, drive, and pass. I know that sounds basic, but having threats all over the court takes pressure off of everybody so nobody has to do it alone.

After Friday’s game vs. the Kings I think Derrick White is the front runner for my favorite Spurs player. He did everything. 26 points on 8-15 shooting with 3 threes, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Yes, please! And to top it all off he took 5 charges. I want to watch him play ball everyday.

His backcourt mate Dejounte Murray had a more difficult time against the Kings. He got into foul trouble and never seemed to get going. I understand. Trying to guard De’Aaron Fox can do that to anybody. Looking at his season stats he has improved his shooting and passing each year, and there’s no reason to think it won’t continue. I look forward to watching him against the Grizzlies.

Lonnie Walker IV played 32 minutes and scored an efficient 16 points on 7-12 shooting. I don’t know if it’s a regular part of his game, but twice I noticed him dive in from the wing across the paint to the opposite block and hit a running, driving floater while falling toward the baseline off the glass at an impossible angle. I hope he does that a lot, because I love it.

For the sake of not rambling or boring you I’ll just say Jakob Poeltl (I’m still teaching myself how to pronounce his name) and Keldon Johnson are also young guys who got a lot of playing time. All five of these guys I mentioned above are 25 or under. Anyone who’s not excited about San Antonio’s future just isn’t paying attention.

The big knock, nationally, on DeMar DeRozan is that he doesn’t shoot threes. After watching this game and looking at some Spurs season stats my answer is, he doesn’t have to. He did a beautiful job of playing distributor in the first half then taking over the scoring when he had to in the second half. And nearly everyone else on the team CAN knock down threes with regularity. As a team they were 5th in the league in three-point percentage. Let’s go down the list:

LaMarcus Aldridge, Bryn Forbes, Trey Lyles, Patty Mills (all didn’t play) each shoot 38 percent. Murray also hit 38 — this year at least. Walker and Johnson (small sample size) have shot 41 and 44 percent, respectively.

Why would DeRozan do something he’s not good at if he can just drive and kick to dudes who do it better? Why are people obsessed with EVERYBODY shooting threes? Just keep doing your thing, DeMar. Just keep doing your thing.

My only disappointment is that I didn’t get to, and won’t, see Aldridge or Trey Lyles. These super small lineups are fun, but I don’t feel it’s a true view of what this team really is. Maybe with enough success it will be. I don’t know enough to really comment on it . . . yet.

Thank you for reading and I look forward to this incredible journey with you guys. Feel free to comment and tell me where I’m way off or just being an idiot. I can take it and look forward to learning.