It is admittedly difficult to be thankful in the middle of a losing streak. Spurs fans all miss the halcyon days of a 3-2 record, a two-game winning streak (on the road!) and looking down in the standings at the L.A. teams and other supposed contenders such as the twice-vanquished Suns. Those days made my Spurs over-under prediction of seem prescient:
Spurs — 28.5 (last season: 22)
OVER, OVER, OVER.
Just as every winning streak feels like it will go on forever, so do losing streaks, like the Spurs’ present 10-game skid. (I would have been more than thankful for a 1-game winning streak heading into Thanksgiving, but alas.)
But even with the Spurs’ disappointing record, there is much to be thankful for because this too shall pass. Here are some:
- The ex-Spurs. I am very thankful that the Spurs of our (relative) youth are still around and invested in the team. It is always great to see David Robinson in the stands at a Spurs home game, except for the fan who has to sit directly behind his 7’1” self. The Big Three also seem to be around a lot. Manu Ginobili in particular, I am confident is haunting Spurs’ practices teaching the youngsters how to throw long one-handed bounce passes through traffic. Even on the broadcasts, we have Sean Elliott bringing up the Memorial Day Miracle whenever possible and Matt Bonner filling in when Sean gets a game off. It’s even nice to see the ex-Spurs on different teams. Derrick White is thriving in Boston, possibly getting a ring this year. Davis Bertrans in OKC, raining threes when he gets a chance to play. And of course, Boban, finding fame in numerous TV commercials that always make us smile to see him. I am thankful for all of that.
- The Spurs system. On a recent podcast with Bill Simmons of the Ringer, Doc Rivers talked about the difficulty of transitioning leadership of teams because the former stars who should take lesser roles are reluctant to do so. He talked about how the difficulty of that process has brought down many a contender or champion. As he was talking, my mind went to the Spurs’ seamless transitions. From Robinson to Duncan, from Duncan to Manu and Tony Parker, and from the Big Three to Kawhi Leonard — all three were thrilled when Kawhi was named Finals MVP in the Redemption Finals in 2014. All cared more about the team than themselves. More about winning than how many shots they got. I am very thankful to be a fan of a team that conquered the transition process because of the grace of the stars, all of whom thought of themselves not as stars, but instead as one of the best words in the English language: teammates.
- Pop. I am thankful to know first-hand the answer to this trivia question: What was Gregg Popovich’s last head coaching job before the San Antonio Spurs? Answer: The Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens, as recounted in my first piece for Pounding the Rock. We had outstanding coaches in our Division III league, many of which became lifers at their colleges, including Charlie Katsiaficas (“Coach Kat”), who replaced Pop at Pomona in 1988. Coach Kat is still there and doing well. Perhaps Pop took that “lifetime job” mentality with him when he came to San Antonio. SpursNation is very thankful that he did, and that he elected to stay around to coach the Spurs’ latest No. 1 pick.
- Victor. When the Spurs organization won the lottery in June, Spurs fans did too. I don’t need to address Victor Wembanyama’s game or potential. Others have done that in abundance. Every day of the week, you can find someone at Sports Illustrated, The Athletic, the Ringer or a host of other sites analyzing the Spurs’ newest (and youngest) player. In a previous Thanksgiving post, I wrote about running into Rudy Tomjanovich at a Los Angeles driving range. He told me he always heard around the league, and from others who were with the Spurs, that the Spurs players and coaches were “good people”. Everything I see and hear about Victor is that he fits that model. As with the previous Spurs stars, he wants to be a good teammate first, then a star, and he can be both. And I am very thankful for that; I like rooting for the good people in the league. Victor sure seems like he is one of those good people already.
- This Spurs team. Perhaps it would have been better if the Spurs didn’t have those back-to-back early wins in Phoenix. The worst kind of hopes are false hopes. After those two games, and the resulting 3-2 record, Spurs fans had false hopes. This early success led some of us, me included, to dream a little bit too early. Especially when the team lost one or both of Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell, they just didn’t have enough talent or experience to win games. Blowing big leads made it especially painful. Why couldn’t they play four quarters like they did the first two? Put simply, they haven’t learned how to win – yet. But they will. I am thankful both for that future and the tempered expectations for the present this losing streak has granted us.
Happy Thanksgiving, Pounders!