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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Timberwolves

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The Spurs couldn’t keep the good times going on a second night in Minnesota

San Antonio Spurs v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images

I had a hard time caring about this one. I know that’s probably not what you come here to read about, but I feel like it’s important to understand going in that this game just felt meaningless from the jump. Key players were missing. The fans were missing. There is an actual plague happening and the country we live in feels like it’s spiraling out of control with each passing day. I mean, I know sports are supposed to be an escape from all the noise, but sometimes it just seems like we have louder problems than the shorthanded Spurs and Timberwolves are capable of drowning out.

Now, if you’re hoping that this is a story where I tell you about how I felt down and out about everything heading into the game and then as it unfolded I was magically healed by the power of basketball then, well, you probably didn’t tune into the proceedings last night. It was a sloppy and lethargic contest, with both teams struggling to work around the void left by their absent star players. After scoring over 100 points in all but one of their games to open the season, the Spurs only managed to scrounge up 88 last night. They missed 22 shots from beyond the arc, which is honestly pretty surprising considering it felt like they missed about 50. The game seesawed back and forth between two teams that seemed hellbent on giving it away and eventually devolved into a series of replay reviews down that stretch that felt actively designed to drain the life force out of my body in real time, leaving me nothing more than an empty shell of a man in a Fiesta colored hoodie sitting on his couch trying to figure out if he should eat a snack or just go to bed.

It’s not even that I was mad about the loss. I’m sure that’s what you were thinking, “oh yea, you just we’re feeling a little down about the loss after a string of good performances, right?” That isn’t it. Losses are cool. Losses build character. If I spent my time getting worked up every time the Spurs lost a game on the second night of a back to back with a key player out then I would’ve probably quit watching altogether years ago. The loss is not the problem.

In fact, there were even a few bright spots in here that did their best to punctuate the darkness. Lonnie Walker had a few stretches of play where it seemed like he could maybe just put this whole thing on his back and carry us home. All the young guys, frankly, continued to offer glimpses of their tantalizing potential playing together. Even on a night where you could politely say they weren’t at their best, it still feels exciting to see them out there trying to figure it out. It was also pretty obvious that they aren’t really ready to run the shop on their own yet. We knew this but, yea, the kids are still the kids and that’s okay.

So why did this game in particular feel so meaningless? Meaningless is maybe the wrong word, maybe it’s more that it just felt like a small little thing hanging out in the shadow of events the feel so momentous and so loud you almost feel guilty trying to care about a basketball game for two hours. It was like someone trying to whisper a secret to you while standing in a hurricane. I’m sure there was something of value being said, but gale force winds are blowing, the waves are 10 feet high, and my house is underwater. Are the Spurs rotating enough on defense? Is LaMarcus shooting enough threes? Was that ball off Trey Lyles’s hand? I mean, I guess it’s possible I don’t care too much about all that right now.

Here is where I sum everything up neatly, tell you it’s all going to be okay, and muse about how the inherent beauty of basketball reveals itself to you only when you slow things down and appreciate the small details. Focus on the athleticism, the movement, the form. When the world is chaotic, maybe retreating to a place where the constant chaos coalesces into something bigger than itself is the best therapy we could hope for.

Sounds pretty good, yea? There’s a world where I write a paragraph like that, make everyone fall in love with basketball again, and maybe bring forth and age of peace and prosperity around the world. We could end all war, end world hunger and probably solve global warming while we’re at it. Then I’d get to go collect my Nobel Prize in Oslo later this year and I assure you I would be very gracious about the whole thing. Only problem is...I don’t think I have it for you today. I just don’t. This was a blah game on a blah night in the midst of a pretty blah couple of months. More often than not, the chance to turn my brain off and watch the boys hoop is a wonderful respite from everything, but the magic just wasn’t there last night.

The good news is, knowing the magic is missing is a tacit acknowledgment that it was there in the first place. It’ll be back. In fact, it probably never even left. Maybe I just wasn’t in the frame of mind to connect with it.

The Spurs play again Tuesday. I’m already looking forward to it.

Takeaways:

  • Well, if we’re looking for positives from this one, then I guess you have to start with the fact that the Fiesta jerseys continue to be monumentally cool. I was a little suspicious of them when the first screenshots were leaking out on the internet. I vacillated between thinking it looked like we just ripped off the Blazers and thinking they maybe just looked like they were just photoshopped by a fan or something like that. But then, wow, I mean seeing them in action on the court it’s hard to imagine that they could’ve have done a better job pulling these off. It’s simple and clean and the colors, that weird, random assortment of colors continues to look totally magnificent in the face of all aesthetic reason. I’m very impressed. We’ve all wanted these for so long that it felt like getting them would inevitably be a let down and it turns out that, if anything, they’ve exceeded our expectations.
  • DeMar being out of the lineup was a pretty big deal, huh? In a way, it’s comforting to know that your best players really are important to making things run smoothly. Like, that’s how it’s supposed to work. You take your best offensive player out of the proceedings and the offense doesn’t work as well. When you drop an apple out of a tree, it doesn’t shoot off at a perpendicular angle. Things may feel like they are getting crazier by the minute, but take some time today to be soothed by the idea that the natural laws of the universe still apply somewhere.
  • Lonnie Walker is electric. We know this. We’ve known this for a while, but on a night where everything felt a little off kilter, Lonnie charging in towards the basket in a fit of youthful exuberance was one of the few things that made me sit up and pay attention. He’s just so bouncy and athletic that he stands out even on scale when the people he’s being compared to are all world class athletes. He doesn’t run down the court so much as he bounds down it like he’s getting ready to launch into a Long Jump at the Olympics. The one thing he does that stresses me out is when he drives into the lane and kind of palms the ball way out to the side of his body and swoops it up toward the basket because I’m just sure that someones either gonna steal the ball or snap his arm off, but even that move looks so cool when he does it that I can’t in good conscious tell him to stop.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- Not your most uplifting work here, do you have any regrets about writing a bunch of words about how much you didn’t care about something?

- It was my understanding that there’s good money out there to be made by projecting a “too cool for school” attitude. I actually think it’s pretty punk rock.

- Right, but this wasn’t really a “too cool to care” attitude, it was more of a “too sad to care” manifesto. That’s leans less punk rock and more Dashboard Confessional.

- Are you trying to tell me that Dashboard Confessional isn’t cool anymore?

- I am, yes.

- Are you familiar with that video of Lebron picking up his briefcase and walking out of a press conference?

- Sure, why?

- That’s what I’m doing right now.