“The Health & Safety Protocols”, season 3, episode 38: After making it almost to the halfway point of the season with only three individual stints in the protocols, the Spurs find themselves several men down at once.
Well, numerous fan bases have had to sit through a situation like that in recent weeks. I guess it was only a question of time until us Pounders were due. Still, it wasn’t really in my thoughts that it could happen. And now that it did, I’m not sure I ever felt so strange going into a game of basketball. I mean, I’ve had my share of anti-climaxes served up (or down) to me. Like Pop choosing to rest his best players in marquee games. Okay. That was for the greater good. But now it’s just four guys down from the last game, four guys who combined for more than 100 minutes in that win over the Celtics. On top of the other guys who are out.
How quickly things can change. When I heard Nate Duncan and all the other NBA podcasters recently say they were sorry that basketball fans have to watch this, I thought, well, it’s not that bad. Now I think I know what they meant. Watching basketball is supposed to fun. This felt like keeping up appearances. And it will continue for the time being. Wake me up when the protocol ends. Meanwhile, here are some takeaways from a game there wasn’t much to be learned from.
- Sometimes you only know what you have in players when they’re not there. For example, how extremely important Dejounte Murray is to this iteration of the San Antonio Spurs only really became clear in the games he had missed. And he has needed no time whatsoever easing back in after his absence. He’s been firing on all cylinders. 27 points, 9 assists, 5 rebounds, and 3 steals after 22 points, 12 assists, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals against the Celtics. That guy just goes out there and brings it. Any given night.
- In a game against the Sixers, I can’t help but think back to the trade rumors there were around Ben Simmons and the Spurs. Would Morey have traded Simmons for Murray and Derrick White plus picks at the start of the season? Probably not. Would he do it now? Probably, but I guess he’d be the one who’d have to attach picks. As far as I’m concerned, I wouldn’t trade Dejounte for Simmons straight up. Murray flourishes where Simmons falters. I’m glad nothing became of those rumors.
- One of the few bright spots last night was Josh Primo. Though I wished his first start would come under better circumstances, it’s so much fun to watch the guy feel his way into the NBA game. He looks so agile out there, and so completely fearless. And, frankly, I’m not sure why the Spurs didn’t use him more often last night. He shot four out of seven from the field. I would have loved to see him take more shots. Bryn Forbes was ice-cold. Why not use Josh instead? Even more so, why not go with the guy who’s hot? The Spurs this season often miss out on using guys who are hot. This is something they’ll have to rectify. That said, Josh also looked good running the point early in the fourth quarter. We’re going to have so much fun with him. I can’t wait to witness his development.
- Jakob Poeltl clearly had the toughest job matching up with a Joel Embiid that has been playing himself into MVP form over the past few weeks. No one on the planet can stop Embiid. But there might also not be that many who can make it as hard on him as Jakob. The Austrian was in foul trouble early on, but he came back and put in an disciplined performance. On top of that, he had himself a nice offensive game with 17 points, and, maybe most noteworthy, he converted on three out four free-throws. If only he could keep that up!
- My major takeaway, though, is this: I really, really, missed Derrick, Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell and Tre Jones. Of all the good things they bring to the court, these guys are so much fun to watch play basketball. And it’s not half as much fun when they’re not there. Them returning from the Health & Safety Protocols can’t come soon enough.