If there were any Spurs fans that hadn’t yet “embraced the tank” prior to last night’s preseason opener, they should be ready to now. While you should never take too much stock in a preseason game, especially the first one — during which the Spurs were missing their likely best player in Keldon Johnson and another potential starter in Josh Primo — losses are something Spurs fans need to get used to, and quickly.
Although the point differential likely won’t be as extreme last night’s eye-popping score of 134-96 against a similarly inexperienced (but at this point, more talented) Houston Rockets team on most nights, this is going to be who the Spurs are for much of the 2022-23 season: a young, inexperienced team without a designated point guard, no experienced go-to player in the clutch, and little veteran leadership.
While Gregg Popovich straight up admitted on media day that this isn’t a team to expect to contend for a championship (because duh), the players still said their goal is to make the playoffs, and why shouldn’t it be? They are still being paid to play their best basketball, and they need something to motivate themselves ahead of every game. This is a group that will give its all every game, just don’t expect that to translate into many wins.
Of course, none of this is to say they won’t be worth watching, because beauty is in the eye of the beholder. First, there’s the two players who were missing last night. Johnson is a fan favorite who has improved every season and will find a way to keep everyone pumped up, so everyone should be excited to see if he can have a true breakout season as the number one option on the team. It didn’t take long for Primo to capture fans’ imagination his rookie season, so what will he do with his beefed-up body and with a year of experience under his belt?
Devin Vassell has looked more than ready for an expanded role and should be free to show what all he can do without the limits of having similar players around him, and of course, there’s the three talented rookies the Spurs took in this year’s draft. Jeremy Sochan — or should we call him The Worm Lite — shined on defense last night (more on him to come), and Malakai Branham one was of the Spurs’ few bright spots on offense.
Ultimately, while this should be the worst team the Spurs have fielded since 1997, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a reason to watch and root for them. Besides, they last two times they were this bad, the rewards were franchise-altering, and there are a few players waiting to be drafted next summer that could turn their fortunes around again. So even if watching losses is hard (I know it is for me), just remember that this is season just is what it is, so fans might as well sit back, relax, and embrace the tank. The reward just might end up being more than worth it.