I have to say, I’m almost a little annoyed by all this. The Spurs are having fun and we’re all having fun watching them and they just might go undefeated and win the whole thing, and blah, blah, blah. Their first two games in the bubble have been nothing but good news. Huzzah. I guess I just keep coming back to the idea of...could we not have been doing this all year? What exactly was stopping us from building 90% of the plane out of young perimeter players and just sprinting up and down the court as fast as we can for 48 minutes? You’re trying to tell me we couldn’t scrounge up 27 wins doing this instead of running back Mid-Rangeapalooza for the 2nd straight year? I don’t believe you.
I guess I’m just not ready to trust that this is for real yet. The fun stuff, that is. Things have been such a slog recently that I almost felt a sense of relief back in March when it all shut down. Everything was trending bad and the playoffs were steadily slipping further and further out of reach. The young talent wasn’t progressing as quickly as we wanted, the leadership from the top on down seemed stagnant, and Pop looked like he might finally be out of ideas. When it seemed like the season might just never come back, I couldn’t help but think, “good riddance.” Maybe in the grand scheme of things, compared to most NBA franchises, these all might just be minor inconveniences but as far as I’m concerned this past season was about as low as I’ve ever felt as a Spurs fan.
Fast forward a few months and now, all of a sudden, we’ve got this little thing going where they’re playing the young guys together and the vets are willingly taking a backseat. Not only that, but out of nowhere the coaches have tossed the concept of traditional positions out the window in favor of throwing athletes at the problem, pushing the pace, and letting the offense develop from anywhere on the court. It feels like, for the first time in ages, the Spurs aren’t out there trying to win a boxing match with one hand tied behind their back. It’s refreshing and it’s exciting and, for some reason, I simply don’t trust it.
It almost seems like we’re all just on vacation here. You know that feeling you get where you go on a trip and it’s somehow easier to slip out of your comfort zone? Maybe you order some food you’d never order at home or maybe you wear that sick aloha shirt you can’t quite pull off on a normal Friday night. Maybe there’s less pressure to be yourself or maybe you just feel relaxed for the first time in a while. That’s what this Spurs team is to me at the moment. Whatever this bubble tournament is, it isn’t the regular grind of a normal season. The stakes don’t feel the same and the consequences don’t feel as dire. Why not try some new stuff? How often do you and your buds get to go down to Disney World, live in a hotel, and play basketball for a couple months? Almost never.
The problem with vacations though is that, eventually, they always come to an end. I have no idea how the rest of this season is going to go but, barring a miracle run to Finals, it’s hard not to imagine a little mini-reckoning coming when all the dust settles. They’re going to have to go back to San Antonio, look in the mirror, and really take stock of everything. How does LaMarcus Aldridge fit into this guard-heavy rocket-ship they’re flying around every night right now? DeMar DeRozan is being a trooper about things in Orlando, but is he really ready to let the kids run the show for an entire year? Shoot, forget DeMar, is Pop ready to do that? I don’t know the answers and I’m not quite sure anyone else does either. They’re all just living in the moment right now because, well, that’s what you do on vacation.
I’m not trying to be a buzzkill. Really. I’m not. Vacations are also a good way to change up your momentum and get some new perspective. Perhaps this recent winter of discontent, coupled with an abrupt shakeup to the normal flow of business, has allowed everyone to reprioritize and find a new path forward. Maybe being forced to get an up close and personal look at the youth movement will be the kick in the pants this franchise has desperately needed ever since Kawhi decided he had a different plan. Maybe I just need to loosen up a little bit and enjoy basketball.
After the last game against the Kings on Friday, I wrote that we needed to embrace the weird with this tournament and I’m probably guilty of not following my own advice here. Thanks to this little two-game win streak and few helpful losses around the league, the Spurs have suddenly vaulted back into the thick of things. The team is having fun and we’re having fun watching them.
At the end of the day, maybe that’s enough.
- I love Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV playing together. I love, love, love it. I refuse to look at the +/- for those lineups and I refuse to look at it objectively because, goodness, it is just so much fun. The enthusiasm, the athleticism, the sheer audacity of some of the stuff their trying makes me feel like I’m watching color television for the firs time. The chemistry they’ve managed to develop seems to be doing the job of masking whatever inefficient overlaps they might have skill-wise for the time being. That’s obviously going to be something that needs to be addressed as we go along but, man, they are just a breath of fresh air at the moment.
- I’m choosing to politely ignore the two missed free throws from DeMar and, instead, will be focusing on the fact that coming back to nail the other two right after the misses is arguably more impressive than if he’d just made all four. No, I will not be accepting rebuttals at this time but you are more than welcome to have a drink, watch this cool fadeaway jumper, and then go on about your business.
- At some point we’re going to have to address the fact that this team seemingly can’t hold onto a lead to save its life, but maybe we’ll save that particular deep dive for if it inevitably ends up coming back to bite them in the butt. The win column has this one in it and that’s all the matters.
- How about Drew Eubanks rolling in with a super clutch performance off the bench? I’m genuinely very into this version of the Spurs where we’re literally out of healthy people and Pop just has to stare down the bench, grab the first tall person he sees, and tell them to go make stuff happen. It’s thrilling! Don’t think, just play, go go go!
- I really appreciate Patty Mills filling in for Marco Belinelli today. If the Spurs don’t have someone taking weird, illogical, off-balance threes then I’m concerned the Earth might actually rotate off it’s axis.
TIM DUNCAN FIT WATCH: Gregg Popovich wore an untucked golf shirt. So did the rest of the coaches. Everything about the Spurs is more fun in the bubble except for the fashion. The fashion is suffering. Maybe Tim had to sacrifice his fits for the good of the franchise. I like to imagine that right before the team left, he went out in his backyard, built a giant funeral pyre, and then proceeded to solemnly toss all of his blazers and henley’s into the flames while whispering silent prayers to the universe. We can only hope that, from the ashes of this great sacrifice, Tim’s indelible sense of style while rise up next season and continue to bless us with wonder and majesty.