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What we learned from the Spurs loss to the Kings

“Serenity now!”

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Sacramento Kings Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

In 1988 two mid-level comedians pitched a television show to NBC.

The show in question has been called many things since then, but the premise ultimately revolved around a group of friends who, in spite of their misadventures, are ultimately stagnant, who regardless of triumphs and failures in their own lives, neither improve nor develop as characters.

And so, with a show-runner dedicated to a writing directive of “no hugs, no learning”, one of the greatest television comedies of all time was born. And for nine seasons it progressed without ever really…progressing. It’s become a classic, and highly influential (in the artistic sense), but the truth is that despite all of that, it kind of bums me out.

The thing is, I remember liking Seinfeld more then than I do now. It had a premise that was truly unique for its time. And for single episode viewing (which it was made for), it’s a masterpiece in entertainment.

But for a binge-level rate of consumption (as I’ve discovered since it appeared on a certain streaming service), all that not learning and not growing can be incredibly grating.

How is it that Elaine never learns to control the temper that so often betrays her? How is it that Jerry never learns the art of compromise when it comes to his romantic relationships? How in the hell does George Costanza never learn to contend with his basest compulsions? And don’t even get me started on Kramer.

And the reality is that these are all objectively funny things on an episode-by-episode basis. Watch two or three seasons in a row though, and you might begin to feel a bit worn down. How does one weather a storm of constant mediocrity?

It’s a question I couldn’t help asking myself while watching the San Antonio Spurs fall listlessly to a Covid-depleted Sacramento Kings squad Sunday evening.

On the heels of arguably their most complete and impressive victory of the season, the Spurs were outplayed by a team that, even at full strength, has struggled to contend with them, with the Silver and Black having beaten them by a twenty-point margin in their last match-up. And there were no miraculous developments that led to Sacramento’s victory; no deux ex machina to be found. The Kings players simply appeared to want it more.

Which was disheartening because of all of the issues that this Spurs roster has, want-to wasn’t supposed to be one of them. And especially not after finally putting it all together and willing themselves to victory against one of the best teams in the Western Conference. It was a loss that reeked of unwarranted ego. If George Costanza had been on the receiving end of it, it might have been funny.

And it certainly would have felt more acceptable if it hadn’t served as a continuation of a pattern that fans have played witness to this season. Thus far the Spurs have defeated the Milwaukee Bucks, only to immediately fall to the Indiana Pacers, then managed to overcome the Warriors, only to be pelted by the Knicks, or claimed victory over the Nuggets, only to be slaughtered by the similarly depleted Hornets.

It’s the sort of thing that should feel comedic, but that in the sporting world eventually begins to feel tragic. Because there’s an expectation in the sporting world that trials lead to either growth or pruning. There are no Seinfelds in the arena of athletic competition; or at least, no one thinks they’re very funny.

I say this as Miami Dolphins football fan. When it comes to enjoying the success of the professional sports teams that I root for, I’ve been very fortunate. I suffered through only six or seven seasons before the Boston Red Sox broke the Curse of the Bambino. I witnessed only one losing season for the San Antonio Spurs between my birth and the 2020 season. But as a Miami Dolphins fan, I have been witness to a parade of mediocrity.

From the year 2000 onward the Miami Dolphins have won 47.3% of their games. In that time I’ve suffered through a 1-15 season, an All-Pro running back retiring to smoke weed, a bullying scandal, team medical officers assuring the franchise that Drew Brees would never throw again, two owners, and three separate rebuilds. At some point it went from being funny, to not being funny, to coming back around full-circle. And with the Dolphins currently sporting a 7-7 record, there seems to be no end in sight.

So believe me, an expert witness in the world of sporting mediocrity, when I say that in spite of last night’s loss, this franchise does not yet remind me of that one.

There have been signs of visible growth in spite of the stumbles for this team. Dejounte Murray continued his show of excellent play, going for 25/9/7 on 11-17 shooting. Keldon Johnson continues to look better and better from beyond the arc, weathering a 0-3 hole to shoot 40% from deep on the night. Jakob Poeltl remains one of the best post defenders in league, in spite of an off-night. And Lonnie Walker appears to finally be laying claim to the role of 6th man, with a sustained stretch of offensive aggression and confidence.

True, this team is still grappling with some repetitive issues. But we’re still not quite a third of the way through the first season of whatever show this might end up being. For now, I’m not yet willing to label it Seinfeldian. But even if I did, I can’t help but wonder what would change.

Every August my best friend and I discuss the Miami Dolphins’ forecast and roster changes with cautious optimism. Every December we resign ourselves to an absurdist comedy. And every April hope springs anew with the advent of the NFL Draft. It’s been that way for twenty years.

Sometimes I wonder if anyone ever learns anything.

Takeaways:

  • If there’s was one player who looked hungry throughout the entire game, it was Bryn Forbes. Say what you will, but the Spurs haven’t been losing games lately on his account. Forbes has scored at least 15 points in 5 of the last 9 games he’s played in, and while he’ll never be a standout defender, he’s certainly done everything he can not to be a liability. He’s been instant offense off of the bench, often on nights that the Spurs have desperately needed it. And at less than 5 million a year, that’s pretty hard to take issue with.

Playing You Out – The Theme Song of the Evening:

Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies