Ever heard of “Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?” Don’t worry. Not too many people outside the UK have. And I only know it because I have a special interest in classic British sitcoms.
“Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads?” is a British sitcom from the 1970s. And in one episode called “No Hiding Pace”, the lads try to avoid learning the result of an England football match before the TV highlights are shown in the evening. They make it through the day without learning the result – but only to find out the match has been postponed.
I can deeply relate to the episode. Because whenever the San Antonio Spurs are playing between Sunday and Thursday, I have to go through the day without learning the result. That means: no social media until after work, no NBA podcasts.
It was easier when I was working either on the early or late shift – which I did for many years. When I was working late, I often watched the Spurs live. And whenever I didn’t, I could watch them in the morning. When I was working early, I only had to make it through to about 1pm.
I no longer work in a shift system, I’m now working 9 to 5. That means that Tuesday’s loss to OKC was the third time in the young season that I avoided learning the result for hours on end – only to then watch a 40-point blowout. That’s incredibly frustrating. And I must admit I probably won’t be going through that tedious chore for the remainder of the season.
Luckily, today is Saturday, so I was able to watch Friday night’s game first thing this morning. Though I must admit I prepared for the worst when I learned that both Devin Vassell and Tre Jones weren’t suiting up. But I was pleasantly surprised to watch the Spurs start super hot, keeping the game close until halftime, and coming back after completely falling apart early in the third quarter.
- Last season was a tanking season, this season – in contrast to what Pop insinuated around media day – is a developmental season. If the Spurs truly tried winning games, Point Sochan wouldn’t exist. And Wemby taking awfully many awfully difficult shots wouldn’t be a thing either. This season, first and foremost, is about Wemby getting comfortable. And also about Sochan developing his skills. It’s about the later and hopefully greater good. For the Spurs to win games this season, Wemby, who currently sports a 31.5% usage, will have to have an efficient scoring game. And an average of 8.9 three-point shots at a 27.9% clip just isn’t that. Is that worrying? I don’t think so. At least not yet. We’ve seen long-distance shooting develop many times.
- The tremendous length of the Spurs starting five had many believing in their defensive potential. The potential is still there, of course, but the Spurs have no one to guard a small, lightning-quick allstar guard like De’Aaron Fox. They also had no recipe against the Kings’ secondary ball handler Malik Monk. Point-of-attack defense is a problem for the Spurs this season, as is closing out open shooters. (I miss Derrick White giving chase after being blown by and bursting out to the perimeter to challenge each and every shot no matter what.) Zone defense can help situationally, and it did last night, but the Spurs simply have to become better at man-to-man defense.
- After observing Zach Collins sometimes having trouble with physically imposing centers, I was worried about the matchup with bully baller par excellence Domantas Sabonis. Turns out, Zach had probably his best game yet in Silver & Black – and the matchup with Sabonis was the highlight of the game for me. Both of them are such fun to watch, neither is afraid of absolutely anything at all. Sabonis skill level is, needless to say, higher than Zach’s. But Zach is definitely the next installment in the Spurs’ rich history of successful reclamation projects. I remember the criticism about his contract when he first signed with the Spurs. At this stage, Zach is one hell of a bargain. And if he keeps performing like that he will continue to be a bargain even after his two-year/35-million extension kicks in.
- With both Devin and Tre out, and less playing time than usual for backup center Charles Bassey, both Blake Wesley and Sandro Mamukelashvili saw some minutes. And while Wesley didn’t do anything to make Pop give him more minutes, Mamu continues to amaze as a spark plug: he’s much quicker and more mobile than he looks, and his buzzer beater to close the third quarter was a moment I’ll remember fondly for a long time.
- The Spurs inability to close out games has been a problem for a number of years now. Then again, it’s natural for the youngest team in the league to have that problem. And, frankly, it’s a bit of a success if they can take a game into crunch time (or almost). Let’s see where they can take tonight’s against the 2-9 Grizzlies, who are now also missing Marcus Smart.