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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Kings

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The Spurs still seem stuck in neutral.

Sacramento Kings vs. San Antonio Spurs Photos by Logan Riely/NBAE via Getty Images

I’m sitting here upset about another regular season loss and I can’t figure out why. The truth is that it doesn’t matter. We are heavily invested in an organization that is, almost by design, destined to finish in the middle of the pack no matter what they do. From both a geographical and financial standpoint, the franchise is simply behind the eight ball and always will be. Go ahead and ask Billy Beane about how far a “crafty front office” gets you. It feels unfair. Cruel even. Last night’s loss doesn’t really matter and, when it comes down to it, that’s what upsets me the most.

I’ve been struggling lately to come to grips with the Spurs’ lot in life. When was the last time a true cinderella team made it to the finals? Don’t say “the Spurs” because, no matter what our brains may tell us, they’ve never exactly been the underdog. They were the 1 seed for three of their titles and always had one of the best NBA players of all time on the roster because that’s what it takes to win in this league. A team like the Spurs needs a “once in a generation” talent to be completive and then they need to hit every single branch of the lucky tree on the way down.

The Spurs and their fans have been overwhelmingly fortunate for a little over two decades now and we should absolutely be grateful for that. No one feels sorry for us and no one should feel sorry for us. It’s just that, well, the once in “once in a generation” is looming pretty large back there. Tim Duncan isn’t walking back through that door. Neither is Kawhi Leonard for that matter. What if our luck has run out? What if we got to have our little golden generation and that’s it? I’m not asking for sympathy from anyone, I’m literally just wondering how to move on.

It feels appropriate to be spinning off into the land of existential dread after a loss to the Sacramento Kings. “Oh, little Spurs fans, are you in your feelings because you lost a few home games? Did you not make the playoffs one time and now you have a sad? Poor babies.” I’m sure they’ll be nominating us for a Profile in Courage award any minute now.

This young Kings team is genuinely exciting. They feel like they are developing some serious talent and when it’s clicking they are a blast to watch. After years of shooting themself in the foot, it even looks like they caught a break with Tyrese Haliburton falling into their laps after some other silly franchises (ahem) passed him up. It’s incredible. They seem stable and on the up and up. Their fans are pumped about this team and rightly so, because this is one of the most fun Kings teams in years.

The thing is, as fun as the Kings are, they’re still barely going to sniff the playoffs. They have a worse record than this Spurs team that’s currently giving me a migraine. The future looks bright for them, but exactly how bright is tough to think about. Are they going to be a perennial 6 seed? Are they going to be sort of like the Blazers and make a surprise run at the conference finals every couple years? Is there any universe where you can see the Sacramento Kings becoming NBA Champions in the next decade? It doesn’t matter. None of those scary questions seems to be taking anything away from their fans’ enjoyment of this season and that’s the way it should be. That’s the way it has to be.

Measuring your self worth in Championship Rings is a long road to nowhere. I think that for far too long, Spurs fans might have overplayed our hand in that department. Maybe I’m only speaking for myself here, but I took an unhealthy amount of pride in the fact that the Spurs were the small market team that was able to make it out of the pit. I would wax poetic about the state of play in the NBA while secretly relishing the fact that the rules that seemingly applied to the entire league didn’t apply to us. We were special. We were the best. What’s that thing they always say pride comes before?

I want to settle down and just appreciate this current team for what it is. I really do. Everything I said about the Kings up there is true about Spurs as well. Our young guys are bursting at the seems with talent, even on the nights where they can’t quite figure out how to harness it. Our vets continue to find ways to outsmart and out hustle people and it’s inspiring, even on nights when it isn’t quite enough. When this season ends, the Spurs won’t have another title, but they are either going to be coming off a return to the Playoffs or relishing a shiny new lottery pick to play with and they’ll have more cap space than they’ve ever had. The future is as bright as it could possibly be.

I’m still worried about what’s going to become of this franchise once Popovich walks away. I’m still worried about what it’s going to look like to be a Spurs fan 10 years from now. I’m still worried about a lot of things. That’s okay though. The day we stop worrying about the Spurs is going to be the day we stop caring and if we stop caring then...well, what are we even doing here?

Takeaways:

  • The ebb and flow of this game was extremely weird. There was a time in 1st quarter where I actually thought the Spurs might treat us to a nice little comfy win. Can you imagine? Oh, how young we were back then. It remains a problem that this team can’t seem to play a full 48 minute game at their highest level. They can get into gear for stretches. They can push out a lead or they can try to mount a comeback, but they always seem to be fighting against themselves to not give this things away. I guess it’s encouraging that they have that they even have that gear to shift into in the first place, I just wish theydidn’t have to rely on it so much.
  • Did the Spurs play terrible defense or were the Kings just unreasonably hot on the offensive end? Possibly both! It’s hard to compete with a team that goes 18 of 36 from beyond the arc, but it’s also hard to fathom letting a team get so comfortable that they simply can’t be bothered to miss a shot. I also just don’t understand why the Spurs can’t seem to defend a pick and roll. This play is as old as basketball itself and every time our opponents get into it it’s like we’re seeing it for the first time. Their plans A through C weren’t working and instead of finding a new plan they just stuck with the broken one and hoped for the best.
  • The turnover disparity probably didn’t help things. If you turn the ball over 5 times more than your opponent, you’re not allowed to be surprised when the other team keeps getting easy buckets off of you.
  • I don’t really understand what happened with Dejounte Murray last night. He was so unbelievably hot in the 1st half, it felt like he might go for 40 points or something crazy and then in the 2nd half...nothing. I understand that teams make halftime adjustments and all that, but did the Kings really refocus their defense so much that he was limited to only 5 shot attempts? He made a comment in the postgame about how there weren’t “numbers called” for him in the 2nd half and I just don’t understand how that works or how that happens. Dejounte Murray is probably the second best offensive weapon on the team behind DeRozan and I’d love it if everyone started acting accordingly.
  • I’m upset with the Spurs and I just want everyone to know that none of my anger and frustration is directed at Jakob Poeltl. He’s my special guy and he’s doing his best out there. Proud of you Jakob.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- Lot of existential dread coming off of this one

- Yeah, look, I’m sorry about that. I’ve just been really invested in the boat that was stuck in the Suez Canal and I just, you know, had a hard time coming down from that whole ordeal.

- Oh, are you a big logistics guy?

- Love logistics. Shipping routes, supply chains, hydrodynamics...I mean, you name it and I’m in.

- So I guess you’re pretty happy that the boat is free?

- Yes and no. Am I happy that the world’s economy is going to get back on track? Sure. Am I sad that we’re going to lose a massive generator of funny memes from the daily grind of Internet life? It’s safe to say I’m devastated about that.