Opening night was rough for Spurs fans. Even those who were bracing for some tough losses and rationally understand why a reboot of the roster was necessary probably didn’t enjoy the experience of watching a rebuilding team.
It’s understandable to be a little down about what’s coming, even to the point that some might look at the schedule ahead and decide to tune out. But there are plenty of reasons why you should keep watching, even through some tough times. Here’s some of mine, in no particular order.
Devin Vassell’s silky jumper
The first entry on the list might seem like an odd one since Vassell has only made six out of his last 32 three-point attempts, counting the preseason, but the mid-range touch has been a joy to see. He sunk three middies against the Hornets and had a few more in the warmup games after shooting 43 percent on attempts from the in-between area last season. His skill in those situations suggests he could become one of the few non-stars in the league who could be able to feast with his jumper inside the arc. The confidence he showed in his ability to create space in the midrange against Charlotte was encouraging when thinking of a bigger role for him.
The three-pointer will eventually come for Vassell, who has been taking some tougher shots than ever but should at least approach league average as the games go on. For now, the impressive mid-range jumper is enough to keep the hopes alive of him taking a leap.
Josh Primo and Jeremy Sochan, finding their way
As the broadcast made sure to point out, Jeremy Sochan is the youngest player in franchise history to start on opening night for the Spurs. Somehow Josh Primo is only a few months older than him. Between the two, they played 52 minutes on Wednesday. Sure, there were some tough stretches for both, but that’s part of what makes their development worth being invested in. Witnessing the process makes watching the end result sweeter, as PtR’s Editor-in-Chief J.R. Wilco told me recently:
“First thing I look for in individual development is seeing a guy do something he’s never done before. Then seeing him do it more regularly. Then seeing him do it consistently. Then seeing him do something else that’s new.
Then my “fan ownership” of that player is increased. I’m connected to and invested in his development and success. So when he blows up, it’s personal for me.
Going through all that with Kawhi was one of the biggest rewards of my Spurs fandom.”
Primo and Sochan are on that first step. It will be fantastic when the next stages come. You don’t want to miss it.
Keldon Johnson, proving doubters wrong
It’s been one game. Most of his points came in a third-quarter barrage that turned out to fuel nothing but a fake comeback attempt. He barely got to the line. The starting lineup was a disaster defensively, and he was part of the problem. All of that is true, but Keldon Johnson still showed he’s up for the challenge of leading this rebuilding team by finishing with 20 points, 11 rebounds, four assists, and two steals. It was the type of performance that validates the belief that the 20 points per game he averaged after the All-Star break last season weren’t just empty numbers. Johnson might be able to be a big-time offensive player, after all.
There’s a lot of room for improvement still, especially as a facilitator, and there will be nights when some shots don’t fall. Still, this might be the start of something special for a player that many, including myself, overlooked as someone who had the potential to be the first option and one of the faces of the franchise going forward.
The pure joy of the small, unexpected moments
If expectation is the mother of disappointment, then the absence of it has to lead to some lighter but still real sense of fulfillment, right? These Spurs are not supposed to do great things yet, so we can find joy in the smaller accomplishments without a shred of guilt. The happiness derived from, say, the thunderous dunk Keldon threw down in a blowout loss at home doesn’t have to be tempered by the circumstances in which it came. This season it should be easier than ever to simply enjoy a moment without trying to make it a part of a bigger narrative. It’s liberating.
It could be a highlight play, or your favorite young player doing something cool, or an unexpected win against an opponent that seemed Goliath-esque on paper. It doesn’t matter if you savor it for what it is, and nothing more. The fact that the happiness you’ll feel will be more ephemeral than the one derived from a championship doesn’t matter, either. For the first time in a long while for Spurs fans, every game will be about the here and now. After thinking in dynastical terms for so long, it should be a nice change of pace.
Those are just some reasons to continue to be invested in a Spurs team unlike any other from the past few decades. What are some of yours? Let us know in the comments.