Last time I wrote a What We Learned, two weeks ago after the loss to the Sixers, I used the term “anti-climax” to describe how it feels watching a suddenly Covid-depleted Spurs squad. Another anti-climax was waiting for me against Brooklyn.
It was 2:30 am in Germany when the game started, and I didn’t care to watch it live. So, an emotionally exciting basketball breakfast was waiting for me when I got up at 8.30 this morning. Until it wasn’t…
It happened once before this season, and today it happened again. Though out of bed, I wasn’t awake enough to not take my smartphone in my hands and to not open my Facebook newsfeed.
First thing I saw was Jakob Poeltl, whom I’m following. He always does post-game posts with a short text in both English and German. When I saw the photo of him, I quickly tried to close my eyes, but it was too late. The word “loss” was impossible not to notice.
Sorry, Jakob. But I’ll have to unfollow you.
Still, it gave me the opportunity to watch the game more analytically, which I’m usually not that capable of, because I’m a very emotional game-watcher. And, frankly, I don’t it any other way.
Anyway, here are my takeaways.
- Great to see Patty and LaMarcus back in the building. In particular, I liked the slow-motion images that showed LMA’s reaction to the video tribute. I’m not a mind-reader, but that to me looked like a truly heartfelt smile. I’m happy for him that he’s back on a basketball floor after that serious health scare last season. Should the Nets win the title this season, I’ll find two very good reasons to feel good about that.
- Always lovely to see the Fiesta Colors. On top of that, it wasn’t the Spurs who played in grey. I must admit I hate the grey jerseys. And I think the Silver & Black should generally put a bit of “fiesta” in their shirts. Last and this years’ City Edition jerseys should become the main two in use.
- In a past episode of the Alamo Citiy limits podcast, our editor J.R. Wilco argued that the notion the Spurs only need to learn how to win games is a fallacy. He pointed out that good teams are pacing themselves. Last night’s game, just like the loss to the Suns earlier this week, was a good case in point: The Spurs had to work very hard to go into the fourth quarter with the game about even. Then, the better team pushed the pace and, yes, eased away. With the Spurs unable to respond.
- What would certainly help the Spurs keeping it close to the end against seriously contending teams would be a player of the caliber of James Harden or Kyrie Irving. Though Dejounte and Derrick have taken over in fourth quarters this season, neither of them is that kind of guy. In Dejounte’s case, maybe not yet.
- Speaking of Dejounte, one minor criticism I’ve had of him this season has been that many of his assists don’t qualify as made plays, at least not in my book. But he’s been making strides past basic reads recently. In the first quarter alone, he made two excellent passes that resulted in buckets – early in the quarter to Doug McDermott, and late in the quarter to Keita Bates-Diop. In both cases, I would normally associate such passes rather with Derrick than with Dejounte. I hope our point guard can continue to make plays like that that. It will make his case for all-star – now and in future seasons – a much better one.
- Nevertheless, there’s also something I’ll have to criticize about Dejounte. Him leading the league in steals per game together with him making the all-defense team at an incredibly young age has led to, in my view, an overblown defensive reputation. Probably due to his slender frame, he’s very easily screened. That’s okay. What’s not okay is that he’s not making much effort to get around the screens. He’s pretty much the complete opposite to Derrick in that regard. Derrick’s screened often as well, but before you know it he’s giving chase and at the very least challenging the opposition’s shot from behind.
- Though he didn’t have the best of games going zero from five from three, Devin Vassell continues to show flashes that he could be the guy. He looks tremendously dynamic when he’s got the ball in his hands. I bet my behind he’s going to be so much more than a catch and shoot 3&D guy. Come next season, I might be starting an “unleash Devin” campaign.
- Speaking of next season, another question I have is whether or not we are going to see Lonnie Walker in Silver & Black. Anytime I feel he’s breaking through, he has a number of poor games in a row. It just makes me sad. I so want the guy to be a success.
- It wasn’t that long ago when I face-palmed each time Jakob Poeltl was drawn out to the perimeter. That time seems gone for good. I guess Kyrie Irving – the guy who’s said to have the very best handle in the league – could have blown by Jakob in the left corner halfway through the third quarter if he really wanted to. But he didn’t. Jakob challenged his shot – and Kyrie missed. I think we can safely say it’s no longer easily possible to play Jakob off the floor. Oh, and that monster block he had on that monster of a man that is Day’Ron Sharpe. Wonderful! Sharpe must have felt like crashing into the Austrian Alps.
- This will probably not resonate with many of us Pounders, in particular because he should have received a flagrant one for that elbow on Derrick, but still: I somewhat like James Harden. You can easily cast him as a villain, absolutely. But there’s something about him I like. The beard certainly plays into that. It’s an icon at this stage. And he’s got arms to rival Lebron’s or Dwight Howard’s. Arms that would probably look even more impressive were they tattooed. But, kind of a rarity these days, he has exactly as many tattoos on them as his teammate Kyrie Irving has anti-Covid jabs in his – none. Harden’s a unique guy. And the fact that he’s content to play second fiddle to Durant, while still perfectly able to be a number option, is something that resonates with me.
- However, I don’t like Harden enough to conclude a WWL with praise, among other things, for his facial features. Let’s talk about a guy’s facial features whom I like much more than Harden. I would say Derrick White’s face or head is tailor-made for caricature or, case in point, a bobblehead. But the Derrick White bobblehead they showed in the broadcast looked nothing like Derrick White. Which is maybe more disappointing than losing a game to the Nets. Because it could have easily been avoided. Pity. I might have gotten one of those. Because I love Derrick.