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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Grizzlies

San Antonio rings in the new year singing the blues in Memphis

San Antonio Spurs v Memphis Grizzlies Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Watching basketball is weird right now. Shoot, going to the grocery store is weird right now. Trying to hang out with a group of two to three people is weird right now. Why should watching basketball be any different? All the same, it’s hard to get revved up about anything happening to the Spurs at the moment because you’re probably spending most of the game asking, “what am I even looking at here?”

As recently as two games ago, things were trending up in Spurs World. The offense was a little bit less haphazard, fewer mistakes were being made, and breaks that had been going the other way were suddenly falling for the good guys. Things seed to be coalescing. This was starting to look like a team that had maybe figured something out about how to fight and compete in this league. That promising young team didn’t seem to be the same one that took the floor in Memphis.

This one was raw, disjointed, and careless. It was like a watching boat being tossed around in a heavy current; staying afloat, but without much direction or plan. You want to be mad about it, almost, but considering the larger picture of what’s happening in the league right now, how could you be? Everything is chaos. Games could be cancelled at any moment, teams are signing guys off the street, and I’m sure it feels like the Health & Safety Protocol Reaper is getting ready to knock on the door at any second.

Being an NBA player is difficult. I’m sure it requires a level of focus that I could only dream about as I sit here at my little desk trying to think up silly metaphors and Marco Belinelli jokes. You have to be on and locked in at this level and I just don’t know how anyone is supposed to do that right now. These guys have to be stretched unbelievably thin. How do you even try to coach them up afterwards? “Hey, sorry all the craziness out there, but also we turned the ball over 11 times last night so...”

I don’t know. I don’t have a larger point. I just felt empathy for the guys Friday night. They’re trying their best to do their jobs in extremely trying circumstances and the fact that they didn’t quite look like the team we know they can be — well, it is what it is. I’m inclined to give them a pass for a little while and if that means that the little glimmer of hope we spotted on the horizon for this season disappears, then so be it.

These Spurs scratched and clawed their way out of a massive hole to start the year and I know they can do it again. They have a ton of character and they work hard. Sometimes it doesn’t need to be any more complicated than that. The passion for the game hasn’t gone anywhere and all the flashes of talent are still bubbling up a the surface. The magic is going to be rediscovered, it just might take a little while.

Everyone else is just trying to get through it at that moment. The Spurs can be afforded the same luxury.

Takeaways:

  • Dejounte Murray being out is not an excuse. I know it isn’t because Popovich and everyone else said as much in every single interview they gave after the game. It’s not an excuse. It’s not an excuse. Well, you know what, Pop? I think missing your best player is a pretty good excuse for not playing as well. That guy who is our primary ball handler and playmaker and leader isn’t playing? I think it’s a pretty big deal. I think it would’ve helped things out there! The silver lining here, of course, is that I think it’s a real testament to how much Murray has grown as a player that his absence makes as big of a difference as it does. He’s The Man right now and I miss watching him. Get well soon, DJ.
  • Keldon Johnson was probably due for an ice cold shooting performance. Frankly, he’d been shooting it so well lately that it was actually pretty jarring to see him whiff so many shots last night. I guess we have another silver lining situation here in that, this performance was so out of character for him that it’s probably a sign of how much he’s improved this year. The main hope is that he doesn’t get discouraged. You know that thing we’re all waiting for? The bit where Keldon Johnson blossoms into one of the best two way players in the league? It’s right there. I can feel it. He’s just gotta keep getting those shots up.
  • Another silver lining of Dejounte’s absence has been the uptick in minutes for Tre Jones. He’s a pretty nice player. I have no idea what his ceiling is in the league but I really like watching him. He does a lot of little things on defense and he’s sneaky fast running downhill at the basket. I know the last thing the Spurs need right now is another promising young guard who needs to get time on the floor to develop but, still, he was a bright spot on an otherwise dreary night.
  • Real quick: Congrats to Becky Hammon on landing the head coaching job with the Las Vegas Aces. It’s been such a cool thing to have her on the sidelines with us and it feels like such an honor that her career will always be entwined with both San Antonio and the Spurs. I know that a lot of us had her tapped to potentially take over the reigns for Pop whenever he called it quits but, honestly, I’m kind of hyped up that she decided to just take control of her own destiny. She’s been ready to be a head coach for a while now and she’s going to be great at it.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- Did you do anything fun for New Years Eve?

- No...I mean, I watched the Spurs. I thought we all did?

- Right, but the game ended around like 9:30 or something, did you not watch the ball drop somewhere or go have a glass of champagne with friends?

- Excuse me, but what do you think happens when the Spurs game finishes? You think these takes just spring forth out of nothing? They just get magically woven out of thin air? No, as soon as the buzzer sounds I retreat into a hyperbaric chamber for at least four solid hours of quiet reflection and meditation.

- Wait, four hours? That can’t be healthy.

- After the chamber, I sit down at a my vintage Olivetti Lettera 32 Typewriter and bang out 2000 words. I then immediately set fire to the paper without reading it, do fifty push ups, and practice the violin for no less than forty five minutes.

- Typewriter? Pushups? What does any of this have to do with...

- Once I’m done with these sacred rituals I will sit back down at the typewriter, press my forehead against the keys, and whisper a silent prayer to whoever’s listening. I ask for strength. I ask for patience. I ask for words. Only then, can we truly start to determine What Was Learned from the Spurs game.

- You type these pieces out on a typewriter and then what? How does it get from there to the Internet?

- Honestly, I have no idea. As soon as the writing is finished, I place it all in an envelope and send it via carrier pigeon to the Pounding the Rock offices downtown. I assume that someone down there handles it.

- So I guess you didn’t do anything for New Years Eve?

- I watched the Spurs game.