It’s hard to know what to root for when it comes to the 2022-23 Spurs. They have been extremely streaky so far, starting the season 5-2, then going 1-16, and now they have won three straight. This brings about conflicting feelings. On one hand, it will always be hard to watch a losing team, especially when we have been so spoiled by winning for decades. On the other hand, the odds of getting a potentially great prize improve if they keep losing, so here is a look at the good and bad that comes from winning games for these Spurs.
POINT: Winning is Good
I’ve seen things you wouldn’t believe: short-handed Hornets on fire in a home opening rout; I’ve seen injury reports longer than Victor Wembanyama’s arms. I’ve watched the Spurs flirt with the worst defensive rating in NBA history and seen bragging rights over fans from Orlando — Orlando! — lost like tears in rain.
Like a phantom limb, I’ve waited for how a Spurs team may have self-corrected in years past. I’ve Googled the list of veteran free agent point guards and longed for a bit of mercenary stability in the second unit. I’ve questioned the inconsistent rotations and gone so far as to wonder whether a cellar-dwelling season was somehow by design.
But after losing 11 straight games, the Spurs have now strung together 3 wins in a row, tied for their longest streak of the season. They’re 6-2 against the East thanks to Keldon Johnson meeting Donovan Mitchell’s shot somewhere in the exosphere and just 5 games out of 8th place, with plenty of time left to catch up.
Winning is good. Not to understate the various positives these early months have produced — Devin Vassell’s rise; Tre Jones’ play in an elevated role; Jeremy Sochan’s thrunk; the return of Brett Brown and Brett Brown’s accent; the backdrop of commemorative celebrations — but I feel nothing as acutely as the pang of defeat and the experience of watching a deficit widen through time. It’s been one month since this team was above .500, and 3 years since its last playoff appearance. What fanbase can relate?
COUNTERPOINT: Winning is Bad
I tire of losing, too, friend, which is why the Spurs’ current winning streak is — hear me out — bad.
If you’re like me, you’re built different. You’ll only accept this team raising another banner; a sweet river parade; a summer trolling opposing fans in Bill Simmons’ mentions. Anything less? That’s losing, pal, or at least something more complicated to cope with.
I thus present to you a sneaky, under-reported benefit to remaining at the bottom of the standings: the NBA draft lottery. Each loss represents a fractional step towards a greater probability of an early pick which offers a historically better likelihood of star talent. It’s simple math.
Let me remind you: not only has this organization not made the playoffs since 2019, they haven’t come close to a high draft pick in subsequent drafts. Ever heard of something called the Treadmill of Mediocrity? Or The Process? Sam Hinkie perchance? I’m sure Brian Wright has, which is why Dejounte Murray is a Hawk and Derrick White’s in Boston: they’re good with not winning if it means less losing in the long run, like Dr. Strange in that Avengers movie. Take a look back in time, like the Avengers do in that other Avengers movie, and remember what made the Spurs great once: stars! bona fide stars!
The Spurs were on the inside track for 14% odds with their losing streak. But now? As Johnson regains his form and Romeo Langford carves out a niche as a pro, they slide to 3 games away from last place, while the Hornets stack losses and the Pistons have shut down their franchise player — other fanbases should be so lucky. Must I wait another season for a more committed tank job? I am 37 years old. I have no mouth and I must scream.