The Spurs went on a winning streak recently, before dropping two straight. Did those wins ever feel bittersweet because they could hurt the team’s draft positioning or are you not thinking that far down the road?
Marilyn Dubinski: I don’t think that far down the road. As I discussed with Noah on a recent episode of Alamo City Limits, I am not the type of person who can sit down, watch a Spurs game, and say to myself, “I hope they lose this game for the sake of the draft.” I go into every game hoping for win because it makes me happy, I prefer writing about wins and other positive topics, and I want to see the young core — nearly all of whom had to wait their turn — continue to learn how to win games and boost their confidence.
That being said, I am also the type of person who hunts for silver linings when things aren’t going well, so when they are losing I remind myself of the potential benefit that would come if enough losses (or few enough wins) pushed the Spurs into the top 5 of what should be a very deep, talented 2022 draft class. Still, that’s a “we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it” situation for me, and I’ll only consider it once it’s apparent this squad cannot/will not make the play-in or playoffs. That’s still a very long way down the road (especially considering how “down” the West is right now), so until then, I’m rooting for a win every night.
Mark Barrington: Intellectually, I know the more the Spurs lose, the more chance they have of getting a franchise-changing player in the first three or four picks. But viscerally, when I see them win, I get surge of ebullience that so satisfying that it’s almost like a drug. I would sell my body to get more of that drug, I’m so addicted to that feeling. It’s almost embarrassing to admit how much I care about how a sports team performs, but I swear when the Spurs win, the next day’s sunrise is prettier, and breakfast tastes better, and those stupid tasks at work just aren’t as hard to endure.
But the fact is that wins in the NBA aren’t a matter of how much fans care about the team. It boils down to talent, experience, leadership and coaching, and a little bit of luck. By those measures, this year’s Spurs team should be safely in the lottery at the end of this season, mostly because there are too many good teams that have a lot more experienced rosters, with more elite talent, at least until the Spurs’ young players reach their peaks. So I just try to enjoy the wins when they happen, and their relative rarity makes every single win sweet, with not even a tinge of bitterness.
Bruno Passos: What’s the tactful way of saying, “No, rooting for ping pong balls is lame, and tanking — or, from the fan’s point of view, delighting on your team losing a ton — only ushers in a marginally better mathematical chance at improving one’s long-term ceiling at the expense of a winning culture, development through competing in meaningful games, and the spirit of what makes sports fun in the first place” that won’t upset anyone?
I’d really like my answer here to express, diplomatically, that most of the non-glamor market teams that have made the Finals have done so through quality team-building and hitting on picks either at the end of the lottery or outside of it rather than bottoming out; that all the bad, boring karma the Philadelphia 76ers are experiencing, even while they win a decent chunk of their games, is the residual effect of The Process and not the mismanagement by the NBA-appointed Colangelos that followed, and that, if you’re a Spurs fan cheering for Ls, you’re out of luck because this team isn’t bad enough to lose to the extent you desire.
Jesus Gomez: The wins just feel sweet because for me it’s more fun to watch the Spurs win than lose, as simple as that sounds. The thing about tanking is that it makes perfect sense in theory and my brain completely understands why it could be hugely beneficial for a team like San Antonio, but I also understand that we don’t get to hit “sim the rest of the season,” like in a video game. I watch all the games, and it’s simply not entertaining to watch a terrible team*.
(*I’m convinced this is why it’s easier for national media to just scream “blow it up!” than it is for local media and fans. National media gets to not pay attention to the ugly parts and returns when things get fun again. People close to the team have to sit through seasons worth of bad basketball that may or may not pay off eventually)
At some point the Spurs are going to need a true superstar if they want to return to contention, and the top of the draft seems like the best way to get one, but it’s not the only way. If the team comes back to earth, starts losing and finishes with one of the worst records in the league, I’ll be fine with that as long as we see improvement from the players. If they keep winning, I’ll enjoy the ride and worry about the rest later.
J.R. Wilco: The short version, much as Bruno pointed out, is: cheering for the Spurs is more fun than cheering for ping pong balls. For the long version, I recommend August Bembel’s excellent post on the matter.