And Other Spurs Questions
Forgive me, I was multitasking.
The Spurs flamed out vs New Orleans seemingly ages ago, and the Warriors out-experienced the Celtics for the league’s championship. In between, we saw the Suns embarrass themselves vs the Mavericks in a game seven. I argued with someone on the Twitter who was complaining about the Spurs.
Mr. Sunday Morning @SirEdwardJamesI’ll give my Spurs fan brethren some credit. Hope is a powerful drug. That’s all any of us Spurs fans have right now. Just hoping for the best lol.
A lazy way to analyze the recent past is simply to look at who is in the playoffs and who is winning and who won the title and say “we should do that”. It ignores all of the ingredients to winning a basketball game. It is saying “we lost and therefore everyone is fired” instead understanding the nature of the game.
Pop has long said that the biggest ingredient to winning so much was the fact that he had a hall-of-fame talent in Tim Duncan, and that he was coachable. Steph Curry, LeBron, etc, are the keys to the title. The problem is that there aren’t very many of those guys out there. Criticizing an organization for *not* finding those players is silly. There are literally hordes of people out there looking for the next superstar. It is a competition.
What should a team do when they *don’t* have that guy? Quit? Pack it in? Wait until a player like that falls into their lap?
That is the essential question facing the Spurs now. They choose to give young guys some time, and to build a new team around young talent that can develop into the best collection of team possible. That has always been the way they approached things. “Can this guy be coached and become a part of this organization?”
The Sam Prestis and OKCs of the world prefer to amass chances, ignoring (in my view) the effect that organizational competence has on a player. As James Jones said in the ESPN piece this week:
"Devin is great, but there are 50 skeletons tied to that swing for the star. It wasn't until winning was imported -- Chris, Jae Crowder, drafting a three-year guy who could help right away like Mikal -- that it translated to success.”
Winning requires more than just getting a star. That is a gigantic piece of it all, but and while that is not a guarantee, you can increase your chances by making sure you are building a winning culture.
Whereas James Jones does not like spending time on a draft, preferring to build by finding vets that can contribute right away, the Spurs are very good at drafting and spend a lot of time doing it. They value vets, believe in their system of evaluating players in the draft and in free agency, and build their program to maximize that strategy.
This post-Kawhi years have been “failure” in that there have been no championships. The “practical” kinds of talking heads wanted the Spurs to blow it up post 2008/9 and if that happened the Spurs would not have built the winning 2014 team, nor the 2013 squad that nearly won it all.
It is all competition and winning is better and more of a fun product that losing. We all know that. This last youth-movement team had little shot of winning it all but is part of a longer process of building up winners. The Spurs traded a guy who can and does contribute to a winning culture in Derrick White (had a good start to the Finals) for the possibility of finding guys that can do more of the same but on the same timeline as the rest of the roster. They got Josh Richardson to help with the veteran coaching and mentality thing they recognize as vital. I like where they are heading.
The fact is that the average Spurs fan cannot reasonably complain about too much. No team wins it all every year. Some organizations have resource advantages (location, cash, etc) or good fortune (Milwaukee?) but everyone is competing. For me, that makes the whole thing compelling.
This program has done its part in maintaining a compelling, competitive entertainment product for the last 30 years. Seriously, I remember my dad complaining about the 1994 season because the Spurs came close but couldn’t do its n the playoffs. They talked about Rod Strickland in the earlier 1990s. For as long as I can possibly remember the San Antonio Spurs have been near the top of the NBA. That is quality stuff.
I think a fallow period is good for the fanbase’s soul. A little losing gives perspective. In 2014, I had seen Tim Duncan’s entire career as a reasonably competent and aware fan since I was a young teenager in the late 1990s, I was more relieved than happy. Winning was something like an avoidance of the bad feelings of losing than a joyful moment. In 1999? Euphoria. In 2003? Same. 2005? I felt vindication or something like it. In 2007? I wanted fan validation. In 2013/14? Relief or something like it.
I understand the complaints and what not. I understand the feelings of something like entitlement (I am a Dallas Cowboy fan as well, so I understand undeserved entitlement). I also think unthinking, hot takes are stupid and unhealthy for everyone.
We don’t need to “hold the Spurs accountable” for anything. They have done a good job providing entertainment. We can give them the benefit of the doubt without violating some sacred agreement. Given the broader political and social environment, I find it quite nice and refreshing to actually think someones “in charge” are doing a decent job and not feeling it necessary to micro-analyze every move.
Enjoy the draft!