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What We Learned from the Spurs loss to the Thunder

A rivalry finds it’s footing

Oklahoma City Thunder v San Antonio Spurs Photos by Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images

Just let it happen. Don’t look at it. Don’t talk about it. For the love of all things good and beautiful in this world, don’t even think about it. Don’t think about thinking about it. Just let this budding rivalry between Chet Holmgren and Victor Wembanyama take root and grow into something amazing. We need it. They need it. Shoot, the league sort of needs it. This has the potential to be something truly special in the coming years and we have to just let it happen.

I worry that we’re going to force it. That we’re going to hype it up too much and put too much pressure on it, only to watch it fizzle out into nothing right before our eyes. This Rookie of the Year conversation? It’s weak. It’s annoying. It’s like five minutes of filler on First Take in the morning. It’s as if everyone is collectively trying to will these two massive basketball Kaijus into being mad at each other over a made-up prize, instead of just letting them fight it out on the streets because they’re, you know, freaking Kaijus!

Because here’s the thing. Comparing their stats is boring. You’re looking at numbers on the page, and they certainly tell a story, just not a very compelling one. It’s numbers! It’s stats! They serve an important purpose and have their place, but do you really care? Does it matter to you that Chet’s true shooting percentage is higher than Wemby’s? Does it make a difference that Victor’s averaging two more points a game? Does the 4.7 number next to Chet Holmgren’s name spark a fire in your soul that must be shown to the world?

Stats are good for evaluating players, like checking their grades in school. But we’re not sitting in the front office making decisions. We’re fans, remember? We’re doing this for the entertainment value. It’s a hobby we do for fun, and last night, we got to watch two 7-foot monsters do things on a basketball court that would make a peasant in ancient Greece think the gods had descended from Olympus to wreak havoc upon their village.

I get that arguing about who is better is part of the fun. We like to debate; it’s woven deeply into our culture at this point and is difficult to avoid. But is it really fun asking questions with no answers? How good would the Thunder be if Wemby took Chet’s place? What would their stats look like if you balanced out their respective rosters? If the Thunder were still the Sonics, would the Rookie of the Year award already belong to Holmgren? If the Spurs moved to Austin, would Wembanyama average 3 more blocks per game?

Here’s the thing. We don’t need to be doing any of this. These two guys have the fire in them to be great, and when they get on the court together, you can already see the fireworks starting to go off. They kind of hate each other. The good kind of hate. Sports hate. The one where you respect what the other one is doing to the point where when they do it to you, it starts to drive you a little bit insane. They say all the right things in the media, but then, when they get on the court, they just want to be the best. They want to grab every rebound and block every shot. They want the poster. They want the moment where cameras are flashing, and they’re standing over the other one, pounding their chest. It’s electric.

We’re so lucky that we get to experience this rivalry happening in real time, and my sincere plea is for everyone to just take a beat, quiet out the noise, and enjoy the moment. Who cares about Rookie of the Year? That’s a footnote on a Wikipedia page that’s going to contain epic tales of triumphs and defeats and battles that we’re going to remember for as long as we care about this silly little thing called basketball.

This thing might be pretty fun if we let it.

Takeaways:

  • Boy, it still stings to lose by 26 points on national television, especially as a chaser to Joel Embiid’s 70-point extravaganza. Hate it. HATE it. We’re still being patient and respecting the process, not getting too upset, but, woof, we HATE to lose, don’t we, folks? Sick and tired of the losing.
  • As soon as I realized Tre Jones was out for this one, it felt like we were kind of in “Brace for Impact” mode. Which is a bummer. It’s sort of unfair to have the entire hopes and dreams of the Spurs staying competitive resting on the shoulder of one dude like that, but the situation as it stands is basically that the Spurs are a very delicate chemistry experiment, and if they have any hope of squeaking out a win here and there, things need to go exactly right for them. One variable out of place? Explosion. Tre isn’t the most important variable, but he’s a pretty big one.
  • Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is really freaking good. I don’t have anything special to say about him except that watching him torch the Spurs last night was a singularly discomfiting experience. I truly didn’t enjoy it, and you know, that’s about as big of a hat tip as you’re going to get out of me about an opposing player. Congrats to Shai.
  • I love Blake Wesley, and I love his spirit. He embodies all that is good about where we are at as a franchise from a “rebuilding” standpoint. He is someone who probably wouldn’t be able to get the kind of run he’s getting here on most other teams, and he isn’t shrinking from the moment. You can see the improvement he’s made over the year, and even game to game, it feels like he’s getting better. I genuinely have zero clue if he is a part of the long-term plan here in San Antonio, but it makes me happy that the work he’s doing right now has probably allowed him to carve out a future career that he wouldn’t have otherwise. Spur or not, I plan to always be rooting for Blake.
  • I like it Wemby looks like he sort of forgets to dunk it until the last second and then has to be like, “ope, sorry, one second, yikes, excuse me” and slips it in over the rim. Being tall seems sweet.

WWL Post Game Press Conference

- If you woke up tomorrow and a genie said “for the next 24 hours, you’re going to be 7’3” tall”, what would you do with this power?

- I’d dunk. I’d find a gym and I’d dunk until I was so tired I couldn’t dunk anymore. Then I’d go to a restaurant and order a Wild Cherry Pepsi and 6 cheeseburgers. Then I would sit there, drink my Wild Cherry Pepsi, eat my burgers, and watch videos on my phone of me dunking.

- Pretty specific stuff. Nothing else about being tall excites you?

- I would love to be tall, don’t get me wrong. If I were going to be tall forever I’d go play in the NBA and go to concerts and stand in the back but still see the stage and throw on scary grim reaper costumes at Halloween to freak out neighborhood children. But if I only had one day to be tall? Dunking and cheeseburgers feels like the way to go.

- Wild Cherry Pepsi?

- Wild Cherry Pepsi is the best and I’m not just saying that because they are a likely future sponsor of this column. It’s the best tasting soda there is.

- I think that’s incorrect

- Show me another soda that is “wild” flavored then. I’ll wait