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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Lakers

Thirteen games in and evidence continues to mount that the Spurs might not be a championship contender this season

San Antonio Spurs v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Adam Pantozzi/NBAE via Getty Images

Twenty Seven days ago, I sat down for the opening game of the season and watched our beloved Spurs absolutely dismantle the Orlando Magic. It was glorious. It sent serotonin flooding through my body and, I can’t be sure, but I think I got dangerously close to reaching a state of pure enlightenment.

I was watching elite ball movement. I was watching team defense. I was watching these young guys fly around the court with a confident fire and a palpable energy that simply left me feeling like there was nothing we couldn’t accomplish as a human race if we just put our differences aside and worked together, you know? I was out in the streets engaging in reckless, inappropriate behavior like texting neutral friends that, “the Spurs are going to surprise people this year” and “the conference is weak, we’re getting the 4 seed, just you watch.” Who among us hasn’t gotten a little carried away from time to time? We’ve all been there.

Games like that are why I love the beginning of the season. If I’m being honest with you, I think it might be my favorite part of this whole ordeal. There’s something about a blank slate that just gets the synapsis of my brain firing. Anything could happen! Dejounte Murray might become an All-Star! Keldon Johnson might shatter the backboard on a dunk, or Jakob Poeltl might start consistently making threes from the corner. I don’t know! You don’t know! No one knows! You can certainly tell me why these things aren’t likely to happen but there’s no way you can tell me with absolute certainty that they won’t.

Anyway.

For a variety of reasons, I wasn’t actually able to watch the Spurs play again for a couple of weeks. Life was getting in the way of me really getting down in the trenches and engaging with a team that, based on my experience watching them break apart the vaunted Orlando Magic, was probably going to be the most exciting unit we’d seen around these parts in almost a decade. I was sick about it but, hey, it’s a long season and I knew the Spurs would be there for me once I was able to get reenter their orbit.

So.

As I sat down in front of my TV on Sunday afternoon, I took a little time to scout around and reacquaint myself with the campaign thus far. Imagine my surprise when I find out that, no, the Spurs are not the squad leaping out to the forefront and taking the 2021-22 season by surprise. Instead, it seems like what we have on our hands here is a good old fashioned youth movement. You know, the kind we’ve all been sort of pining for the past few seasons? The kind where the L column outweighs the W column. The kind where we spend most nights looking for the silver lining and ignoring that annoying little box in the corner.

All that being said, I watched our heroes take on the Lakers yesterday and had a decidedly different experience than the opening night affair. It’s safe to say that the performance didn’t have me rolling around on the floor astral projecting out into Drew Eubanks 2044 Hall of Fame induction ceremony or anything, but I think I still had a nice time. This team isn’t bad. In fact, they might be kinda good! I have no idea how many wins that’s going to translate to this year, but it also seems pretty clear to everyone involved that wins and losses are going to be beside the point. Picasso’s portrait of Three Women doesn’t really look like any ladies I’ve ever met, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t Art.

Like I said, I love the beginning of the season. Who’s to say I can’t love the beginning of a movement? This year is the start of something. The real start of something. We’re not in limbo anymore out there, trying to make the playoffs with one hand and build something with the other. It feels like there's a clear direction right now and that direction is forward.

In a few years, who knows where we might be? Dejounte Murray might make an MVP run. Keldon Johnson might be the next Draymond Green. Devin Vassell might be teaming up with Josh Primo to anchor the most exciting young core in the league. I don’t know! You don’t know! No one knows!

You can certainly tell me why these things aren’t likely to happen, but there’s no way you can tell me with absolute certainty that they won’t.

Takeaways:

  • Boy, it sure seems nice to have an Anthony Davis type player on the roster, eh? We should look into that. An Anthony Davis type. You know, one of those seven foot something or others who can run the floor, shoot threes, and just generally dominate the paint for long stretches? Seems useful. I actually think it’s pretty impressive that the Spurs were able to cobble together a weird little hybrid defense in the second half that managed to hold AD at bay there for a bit but, wow, that first half was pretty devastating. Throwing a Drew Eubanks type player into the gaping maw of an Anthony Davis type player is a pretty tough hang.
  • As I mentioned earlier, I haven’t been able to watch much early on this season so I was caught a little off guard by the Derrick White state of affairs. Are we nervous about this? Are we panicking? He’s one of my favorite guys on the team and I, generally, love what he brings to the table. Frankly, I think the good version of Derrick White is invaluable to what this Spurs team is trying to accomplish. Back during the height of ‘Ben Simmons to the Spurs’ season, every time I would see Derrick’s name included in some fanciful trade package I would blanch at the thought of losing him. The dream of a Derrick/Dejounte backcourt terrorizing the league is still alive in my heart, but it might be starting to fade a little bit in my brain. Hate that for us.
  • Dejounte Murray, on the other hand, is exactly what I want him to be. He looks great out there. I feel like every time I see him he looks more confident in what he’s trying to do out on a basketball court. It’s also just generally heartwarming to see him really starting to thrive in a leadership role. I know it’s been trending in that direction for a while, but this is without a doubt his team now and he doesn’t seem to be shrinking away from that responsibility even a little bit. Love that for us.
  • Thaddeus Young? Incredible signing. What a name on that guy. I see big things coming down the pike from him.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- Another year back on the grind. How does it feel to get back out there?

- Well, it’s good, you know? Obviously there’s things we can work on but, yea, I think I’m happy with the performance overall. Lot of good stuff to build on.

- At the end of the season last year, you expressed a modicum of regret for not “stirring the pot” more. Now, the takes you just laid down up there seemed pretty down the middle, can we expect things to heat up in the future?

- Yea, look, you can’t just come out the gate looking like a crazy person or people won’t take you seriously. If I dropped something like, “Devin Vassell needs to be starting at center and Pop is a coward for refusing to do so” in my first post of the season, I’d be laughed out of the building. You have to build to that.

- Wait, do you think Devin Vassell needs to be starting at center?

- I think “traditional positions” are a thing of the past and that Devin is 6’7”. I’ll leave it at that.