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What We Learned From the Spurs’ loss to the Pelicans

San Antonio has the worst record in the West, but I’m not losing any sleep over it.

New Orleans Pelicans v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Being from and living in Germany, watching live games of the San Antonio Spurs comes only with sacrifice. Except for the very rare occasions when the Spurs have one of those Sunday matinee games, or when they play in Boston or New York on a Friday or Saturday night, I have to interrupt my sleep.

It’s not pleasant being woken up by the alarm bell after only three or four hours of sleep. And it’s hard to make your way out of bed, into the living room, onto the couch — and, once there, not fall asleep again straight away. Because that happens.

Being awake when the game tips off is no guarantee that you’re going to see much of the game. I’m only reliably awake when I make it, say, halfway through the first quarter. Sounds crazy to even do that, doesn’t it?

Here’s something even crazier: In my first job after graduating from university, I didn’t really have to interrupt my sleep to watch the Spurs live: I went to bed at 10pm, got up at 2am, watched basketball and went to work. Because my shift started at 5am.

These days, my body is no longer able to cope with only four hours of sleep. No problem, though. Because I no longer have to work early shifts. I’m currently sleeping more hours than ever before in my adult life – also because my willingness to interrupt my sleep for live basketball is right now, in late 2022, lower than ever before.

So, when the Spurs are playing Pelicans on a Friday night, watching the game live isn’t even in consideration. Because the Spurs are likely losing anyway. And it’s more bearable watching them lose after nine hours of uninterrupted sleep. Which is what I did this morning.


  • The Spurs went into November with a 5-2 record, which had me prematurly preparing for a mid-first round pick in next year’s draft. Only one month later, the Spurs are solidly the worst team in the league. They’re riding a ten-game losing streak, and their net rating, per, has dropped to a flabbergasting minus 10.4! That’s 2.4 points worse than the 29th-placed Detroit Pistons. Which means what? It means I’m back on the Wembanyama hype hope train.
  • One thing I’ve found more and more interesting over many seasons of watching the San Antonio Spurs, is observing how the rotations are shaping out as the season progresses. I guess it started the season Manu became a bench player. Because that was what made me aware that maybe it’s not necessarily in the team’s best interest to start the five best players. This year, it’s almost impossible to make sense of the rotations. Because the most impactful rotation there is, is what I would like to call the “injury rotation”: No Spur averaging more than 20 minutes has been in all games; Devin Vassel, Jakob Poeltl, Keldon Johnson, Jeremy Sochan and Josh Richardson have already had two spells in which they were out or injured, Doug McDermott is currently in his third; and backup big Zach Collins also missed significant time – and all that in only 22 games. When in comes to why the Spurs are losing so many games, an ever-changing rotation is certainly part of the problem. But there are other problems.
  • One of those problems, and it pains me to no end to say that, is Keldon Johnson. 15 points from 23 field goal attempts last night. It was his seventh game in a row in which he had more field goal attempts than points, 14.7 points from 20 shots in those games. That’s… a massive problem. Yup, my silver-and-black-tinged glasses had me referring to Keldon as a future all-star and franchise cornerstone earlier this season. And right now I’m not saying he won’t be. But it’s perfectly possible I’ve been overly invested in him. From what we know, a high-arching long-distance shot isn’t optimal, neither are below-average scoring clips around the rim. Still, let’s give Keldon this season to prove he can reliably score from close and long range — or to prove he cannot. It’s a bit of a win-either-way situation for us as fans: Either he proves he’s a star, or the Spurs’ odds in the Wembanyama-and-then-some sweepstakes are improving.
  • Speaking of future number x options, Devin is the second option right now, and it’s alright if he stays the second option for the remainder of this season — because he has less to prove and is thus a safer bet than Keldon. Let me explain: Devin’s off-the-dribble mid-range shooting looks pretty much like you want it to look, as does his shooting motion from beyond the arch. Therefore, the “regression to the mean” thing isn’t as much of a topic for him as it is for Keldon. In other words, Devin has established a solid floor. And finding out about his ceiling should therefore be a “good, clean fun” experience with little risk involved.
  • Other than Devin, there was little to really like in last night’s game, and my new favorite player, Jeremy Sochan, was also not part of it. But I still found something – rather: someone – to end this post on a positive note: Charles Bassey is developing into a favorite unsung hero of mine. He’s such a fun presence on the court, and looking up his per 36 minutes stats on bb-ref is also fun: he’s averaging 14.3 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals and 13.5 points per game this season. When I had finished watching the game this morning, I read the wikipedia article about Charles, and it had me smiling. First, because I had no idea he was from Nigeria. Second, because what the article says about his youth there: “Bassey was born in Lagos, Nigeria, where he played soccer until age 12, standing 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) at the time. At that age, he was discovered by a youth basketball coach while Bassey was selling fried chicken on the side of a road and wearing flip-flops that were too small for him.” I hope the Spurs will find a place for him on future rosters. No, let me rephrase that. I hope he gives the Spurs no other choice but to give him a proper contract.