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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Pelicans

Finding wins in the ashes of defeat

San Antonio Spurs v New Orleans Pelicans Photo by Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images

With almost every team I follow, I have this habit of ignoring the losses. As soon as the whistle blows or the final out is recorded, I’ll just go completely radio silent. No Sportscenter, no Twitter. Anything that could possibly remind me of the sting of defeat is completely avoided for around 24 hours. God forbid I have to experience even a mild annoyance! This is a good, totally normal and healthy policy to have associated with a hobby you ostensibly do for fun.

This era of Spurs basketball has really forced me to reexamine that idea though. If you decide to look away from anything that hurts, you’re going to find yourself missing almost everything. You might just drift away and completely disengage from being a fan for a few years. Is that what you want? Maybe. Maybe you don’t need the aggravation. Maybe you don’t have time to sit around and watch the paint dry. You’d rather roll back into town and see the big, beautiful finished house. I get that. I really do.

Last night was one of those times where you can easily imagine a million things to to do that might be more worth your time. It’s a few days before Christmas and the Spurs are playing one of the best teams in the league, so you’re looking at an almost a guaranteed loss. There’s no Keldon Johnson. No Zion Williamson. No Brandon Ingram. Trying to get psyched up for this game was like trying to find a place to grip while climbing a completely smooth wall.

So maybe you skip this game. You wake up the next morning, check the score and, sure enough, another nondescript loss. Did you miss anything? Who can say? This is the issue with looking away. You make your peace with not knowing. You get comfortable with the idea that even if there was something cool, it probably wasn’t that cool.

I kept thinking about that version of myself while watching Jeremy Sochan come alive last night. The Spurs were dragging, but number 10 was electric. He was the only thing standing in the way of a full Pelicans romp. No matter what was happening, you eyes never strayed too far from the green dot attached to a big, lanky teenager striding around the court and making things happen. He looked comfortable. He looked in command. It was almost startling how much he seemed to assume full control of the team as the game went on.

I felt privileged to watch this game. It was like watching the Strokes play at a bar in front of 12 people. There were these hints of the player he’s developing into. The way he’d snatch any pass thrown to him and aggressively hop into the paint and muscle his way to a bucket. The way he’d whip the ball across the floor into the often unsuspecting hands of teammates who simply weren’t operating on his level. It was awesome. It was fun. It was genuinely inspiring.

Who knows how many times I’ve missed things like this. The little moments that help fill out a much bigger picture. It gives everything a richness and a flavor that you don’t realize is missing until you’re staring at box score after box score, wondering when the team is going to get good again. Shoot. “Good” has never been a more relative term. The team isn’t winning a lot of games. It isn’t banging down the door of a championship. But is it good?

I’d say it is. This is a good group doing things the right way and, even when they lose, manage to pull off a couple of things every night that make me happy that I didn’t look away. It’s not easy and it’s not always fun, but more often than not, this team is proving that they are worthy of our time and our attention.

If you spend all your time waiting for the good things to happen, you just might miss the good things right in front of your face.


  • I can’t say enough about how fun Jeremy Sochan was last night. He’s had moments like this sprinkled over the first half of the season, but last night was the first time where he was The Man. The Pels were sending double teams by the end of the game because they were just tired of him being a Problem. It feels like the pace of the NBA game has finally started to slow down for him which allows him to play with a lot more freedom that’s super fun to watch. Then, physically, I mean he’s just an absolute nightmare to deal with and when his game starts clicking into place with his athleticism, sheesh, it feels like the sky is the limit.
  • Going to keep talking Sochan here because, well, because this is my thing and I get to decide. I absolutely LOVE that he’s doing the one handed free throw thing. I LOVE that he seems to be committing to the idea of letting his coaches rework his shot. I think he knows that he has a certain ceiling with his current shot and that if he wants to raise it then he’s got to put in the work and be a little uncomfortable for a while. Not everyone is willing to do that! Ask Brett Brown about how easy it is to get talented young guys to work on their shot! See if he has any cool stories about how simple a process that is! Anyway, I’m buying every ounce of Sochan stock available and settling in for the long haul. I might buy a jersey.
  • I was actually pretty bummed that we didn’t get to see Zion last night. He’s one of those players that draws my in every time theres an opportunity to see him. He looks and plays unlike anyone else in the league and I just find everything about him fascinating. I love that it seems like things are starting to click into place with him and that we’re finally getting to see what it looks like when he’s operating at a peak level. If the Spurs aren’t going to be dominating the league, then the next best thing is for the league to be populated with rad dudes that are fun. Hopefully we catch him on the next round.
  • One more Sochan thing just because! Look at him give up on this play for half a second and then be like, “wait, no thats wrong, I’ma just go snag this.” The whole game felt the way this play looks. A sort of beautiful chaos akin to a baby elephant learning how to walk inside one bedroom apartment.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- How do you feel about people comparing Jeremy Sochan to Dennis Rodman? Does that hold up?

- Aesthetically, it’s easy to see it. The hair. The limbs. The number 10. It all makes sense on the level. I don’t know though. It feels too easy.

- Aren’t comparisons supposed to be easy?

- Naw, I want to work for it! I want to compare someones game to the lava lizards of the Galapagos islands. I want to tell you that the the way he rebounds reminds me of the way the goddess Venus cultivated fields and gardens in ancient Greece. The whole point of this operation isn’t to simply connect the dots from A to B.

- Connecting the dots feels like exactly what this job is.

- Well, sure, maybe it is. But If you did a straight line every time it’d be boring. We want to start at A, go on a journey, and then sort of meander our way around towards B by the end of it.

- Meander feels a good word for what you do here.

- See, when you say it, it sounds rude though.