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What We Learned from the Spurs win over the Timberwolves

A young team continues to forge its identity

NBA: Minnesota Timberwolves at San Antonio Spurs Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Mea Culpa.

After the Spurs opening night loss to the Hornets, I hopped on here with my fancy little art kit and set to work painting a grim picture of the season to come. I warned that we were in for a long winter full of grim faces, self pity, and bad basketball. I spent that whole game looking for a spark and came away shrouded in darkness. I gave up early in an attempt to save myself from the pain of caring.

Mea Culpa.

Look, I don’t know how long this string of good results will last and I don’t really care. By the All-Star break we might all be huddled around a fire watching Wembayama highlights again and that’s totally fine. Whatever. The final record is going to shake out however it’s going to shake out this season, and it still seems galactically less important compared to the fact that we have a real team on our hands. One we get to care about. This isn’t some assorted collection of ne’er-do-wells hastily thrown together with the specific intent to lose. Not even close. This a group that plays hard. That hustles. That fights. This is a group that wants to win and doesn’t care whether or not some guy (me) thinks they should be able to.

I’m stunned. I’m flabbergasted. My jaw is firmly planted on the floor. I hope you’ll allow me to pass off any critical basketball analysis to more qualified people for a moment while I instead put on a newsboy cap and shout on the street corner about the good news. The Spurs are fun! They’re exciting and young and cool and, well, fun! It’s the upset of the century!

I’d been dreading this season all summer. Ever since the Dejounte Murray trade, when it looked like the franchise was planting it’s flag and steering the ship in a certain direction, the build up to the opening tipoff just felt hollow. Like, what are we even doing? Are we actually going to sit around and watch the Spurs get blown out every night in the service of some grand design that no one really has any control over? I couldn’t bring myself to even feign excitement for what was about to transpire.

Mea Culpa.

I should’ve known better. The Spurs may yet fall into some prime lottery position over the course of this season and there could very well be some difficult nights ahead of us, but I feel confident enough after these first seven games to say that it’s not going to be the dreadful slog I’d been losing sleep over the past few months. Pop’s got these guys playing hard and playing together. They seem to have a shared purpose that goes beyond just playing for a title this year. They’re doing something bigger and better. Night by night. Game by game. Brick by Brick.

They’re building a culture.

Maybe I’m simply getting caught up in the sugar high of a few early season wins and if I actually took a step back I could think a little more clearly about everything. I don’t want to though. This is fun. The Spurs are fun. They are out there forging an identity for themselves and it is an absolute joy to behold. The wins, when they come, are just a natural byproduct of the work being put in. It’s so simple and wonderful and I don’t know how I didn’t see it coming. It was never going to be about tearing things down. It was always going to be about building them back up. I feel like Popovich just pulled a coin out of my ear and I’m over here clapping and grinning like an idiot. Sure, he probably just had a nickel hidden up his sleeve but, you know what?

It still feels like magic to me.


  • In another one of my truly excellent calls on opening night, I worried about Keldon Johnson being able to shoulder the load as face of the franchise this season. I didn’t know if he was ready and, frankly, I didn’t know if it was something he was even built to do in the first place. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Just an absolute whiff. Keldon seems to be thriving right now. He looks energized and excited by the challenge. It’s like he’s just been an alpha dog patiently waiting to be let out of his cage these last couple years. He’s completely at home in the driver’s seat right now and I feel dumb that I even questioned it in the first place. It’s a wonder they’re still letting me put takes out into the world after that one.
  • Doug McDermott looked so good in this game that you almost want to be mad at him. Like, please don’t show me this side of yourself if you’re not going to bring him out to play every night. I need this Doug. I crave this Doug. I’m currently lighting candles and burning incense in an attempt to coax the spirit of this Doug to remain on this plane of existence for as long as he can. You have no idea the lengths I would go to make the Spurs a decent three point shooting team again.
  • Obviously, the circumstances leading to it have not been fun, but it’s been extremely impressive to watch how well the Spurs have been able to deploy a “next man up” mentality so far this season. Every guy who steps on the floor is ready to go and ready to play with the same hustle and fire as the guy before him. All the pieces fit. Romeo Langford looked like a natural tonight. Blake Wesley looked great until his injury. Malaki Branham worked hard and didn’t shy away from the moment in his first action on the court. It’s a weird experience to be so unfamiliar with the guys on the court wearing silver and black, but it’s also pretty cool to see that feeling wear off so quickly. The Spurs are the Spurs. There’s a lesson in there somewhere.
  • There’s a good chance that we keep beating the Wolves because they keep trying to deploy Bryn Forbes against us. Like, maybe don’t cite the deep magic to us, we were there when it was written, you know?
  • Those jersey’s Minnesota wore tonight were hideous. They likely blew this game in protest of having to wear them in the first place. Maybe we need to put an asterisk on any and all statistical analysis until we can figure out how to account for what it does to a player’s performance when forced to play in a clown’s outfit.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- So you wrote a pretty intense take after game one and you now seem to have done a full 180° turnaround on it. How can you justify flip flopping so soon?

- Look, that’s showbusiness, baby! If you don’t ride they wave you’re gonna fall beneath the sea.

- What?

- The Spurs played bad and I wrote that it made my heart hurt and that the way they played basketball made me feel like I was sitting in a dark room full of ravens trying to to write a letter on black paper with a charcoal pencil. Now, the Spurs are playing good so I’m going to write that the way they play basketball makes me feel like I’m on that magic carpet from Aladdin and he’s taking me on a tour of the pyramids. It’s a pretty simple formula, I’m not sure sure how our wires are getting crossed.

- So you don’t think there is any value in maybe, I don’t know, working out a more measured take considering how small the sample size is?

- I think you are confusing me with some kind of basketball scientist. That’s not what’s happening here. I’m more like the weather guy on TV. If it’s sunny, I’ll tell you it’s sunny. If it’s raining, I’ll tell you it’s raining.

- Isn’t the weather guy on TV a weather scientist?

- These are your words, not mine.