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The most difficult week of the Spurs’ season begins now

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A tough FIGASENI for a tired team could make or break the Spurs’ season.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports

If you’ve been hanging around Pounding the Rock for a long time, you know that we have a bit of our own language here, which can be viewed on the site Lexicon. One of the most infamous terms that hadn’t been used in a while before this season is the FIGASENI, or Five Games in Seven Nights, and yet the second one of the season for the San Antonio Spurs begins tonight at the home of the Dallas Mavericks.

It wasn’t that long ago that FIGASENIs were eliminated as the league aimed to stretch out the schedule and give players more rest (and prevent trail blazers like Gregg Popovich from doing it for them). There have been worse situations in the past, like the FIGASINI — Five Games in Six Nights — but those are only reserved for extreme situations like lockout-shortened seasons.

While the 2020-21 season is not lockout-shortened, and there are not any Triple Lindys, it’s still shortened and compressed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Spurs are one the teams bearing the biggest brunt of it. Between jumping from one of the easier strengths of schedule in the first half of the season to the hardest in the second and having to make up five games that were lost due to a COVID-19 hiatus, the team is tired and struggling right now, making it not an ideal time for another FIGASENI.

They are looking more exhausted with each passing game, having lost 8 of their last 10 games: good for worst in the league over that stretch. They’ve dropped from as high as sixth in the West to ninth, just three losses ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans at 11th, where they would be out of the play-in tournament.

To put it mildly, this FIGASENI — which follows with the Orlando Magic on the road on Monday, Toronto Raptors (in Tampa Bay) on Wednesday, back at home against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, and finally on the road again against the Phoenix Suns on Saturday — could make or break the Spurs’ seasons. They could either continue their spiral down the standings with no relief in sight (remember, they don’t have two nights off the rest of the season), or they could build off their near-win in Denver, which featured big games from both Derrick White and DeMar DeRozan, get the bench unit humming again to provide more relief from the starters, and get back on track.

The good news is no matter which side of the tanking aisle you’re on, there’s a silver lining to either outcome. If you want the Spurs aim for a higher draft pick with all the future uncertainty, as high as the 7th overall pick is still within reach, and 2021 figures to be a deep draft with star potential. Just look at what they got in Devin Vassell at 11th last year in one of the more unimpressive draft classes in recent memory.

On the other hand, if more you‘re like me and want the Spurs to always achieve the best they possibly can and start a new playoff streak, that’s doable as well and would potentially make them a slightly more desirable destination for incoming free agents. They will never be a hot market like Los Angeles or New York, but it’s a franchise players still feel honored to be a part of, and they’ll always stand a better chance as a playoff team than not. If nothing else, it might even be enough to persuade DeMar DeRozan to stay, if that’s what both sides want.

(There’s even a silver lining to winning for the crowd that wants Pop to retire: my personal belief is whether he admits or not, he’s seeking to pass Don Nelson for winningest NBA coach of all-time. With 1,301 regular wins, he’s only 35 away from accomplishing that goal. Odds are he will get there next season, which is my prediction of when he will retire. It’s all just speculation, but right now that’s all there is.)

Regardless, whatever end-of-season outcome a fan desires, there’s no denying that it’s no fun to watch the Spurs lose, and this week’s FIGASENI that only features two teams with losing records may not be any easier to watch than the last few weeks. Now is not the ideal time for the Spurs’ the most difficult week of the season, but that’s out of their control. All they can do is keep trying their hardest, beginning tonight in Dallas. Win or lose, the most loyal fans will keep watching and cheering them on, no matter how hard it may be at times, because that’s what Spurs fans do. Go Spurs Go!