It was a weird experience to see this team take control of a game then just stay there. There were some ebbs and flows, sure, but for the most part this game was simply kept out of reach from the Magic. The Spurs had it. They kept they eye on the ball and just never let up. What a concept!
We’re starting to see it a little more of that in this stretch run. Signs of life. It’s not really sustainable and, as we all know, it’s not something anyone should get too carried away with for any reason. It’s nice though. These young guns have spent all season getting various basketball legends pounded into their brain and now everyone is finally getting to see some fruits of that labor.
What does it look like when you sustain pretty healthy ball movement throughout the game? Well, you keep getting great looks. So many, in fact, that you might break a record for made threes. What does it look like to communicate and max out your effort on the defensive end? The other team doesn’t run up 140 points on you and ruin your nice shooting night. These are not hard concepts to understand but they are quite difficult to execute. It’s a muscle you have to work at and develop and learn how to use. It’s something you have to do over and over and over until it becomes second nature.
All throughout this terrible, no good, very bad season, it’s felt like no one was in control of anything. It’s all just been barreling downhill at breakneck speed while hoping and wishing and praying that a ping pong ball bounces our way and the fate of the franchise just might get a fancy little reset button. It’s no way to go through life. Games like this feel important because it shows progress on things we can control. Jeremy Sochan can’t do anything about how the whims of the universe are going to lay out the draft order this summer, but he can figure out how to assert his presence on the floor and be a dominant scorer when he needs to. Devin Vassell can’t slide Adam Silver a crisp $5 bill to ensure things go our way, but he can mold himself into a threat that other teams have to pay attention to.
This team looks like it’s in control right now. They have their eyes set on getting ready for the next phase of things and you can sense that it’s coming. The time for sliding down the mountain is drawing to a close. The time to begin the climb back up is almost upon us. I used to worry that we wouldn’t be ready for it.
I’m don’t worry so much anymore.
- So. Um. I’m going to say this in the softest whisper I can possibly manage because I don’t think I actually believe it and I don’t know if it is even anything at all but, “I didn’t really miss Keldon Johnson last night” I hate myself for saying that. I hate myself for even thinking it! Keldon has done nothing but work his butt off for this team and I respect that so much. He’s absolutely going to be an integral part of how we’re going to get where we want to be. I just....didn’t miss him very much in this one. I watched Sochan out there running the show and for long stretches of time I just didn’t even think about the fact that our best player wasn’t out in the middle of things. There’s a working hypothesis out there somewhere that once we can get to a place where Keldon can be the “do-it-all” role player he was meant to be, everything is going to make a lot more sense.
- Do you think Doug McDermott is having fun? This is not a pressing concern for anyone but like, it’s still something I wonder about. You watch him running around out there being a veteran presence and nailing threes and you can’t help but think he’d be pretty useful on a team making a stretch run in the playoffs, right? Would he rather be doing that? Is he sad that he’s not like, coming off the bench for the Sixers and helping them challenge for a shot at the Finals? Maybe he’s fine. Maybe being a mentor for a group of guys like this is rewarding enough for a journeyman guy like him. I just hope he’s having fun. I hope we’re all just having fun out there.
- I genuinely laughed out loud when Jeremy threw the ball off the backboard to himself for an alley oop and then kind of fumbled the pay off and had to meekly lay it in. It’s one of those things that you recognize as being charming in the moment while simultaneously knowing that he’s for sure going to pull something like that in a game that matters some time in the future and it’s going to drive us all a little crazy. Not looking forward to that on one hand but, on the other, that would mean we were playing in games that matter! So we’ve got that going for us. Which is nice.
WWL Post Game Press Conference
- How much of your time do you spend wondering about whether or not people are having fun while playing in an NBA basketball game?
- 75% to 80% of the time I would say it’s my sole focus.
- No joke, one of my highest priorities is that people are just having fun out there.
- Not winning? Not competing? Just...having fun?
- It’s the most important thing. If you’re not having fun getting paid to play basketball for a living then something has to be wrong. If getting to play basketball is a miserable experience then like, what hope is there for the rest of us? It’s a bad precedent to set. It’s why I largely avoid watching the Lakers if I can manage it.
- The Lakers are playing better these days!
- But are they having fun?
- I, uh, haven’t checked.
- Get back to me when you have.