”The grass looks greener and the sky’s blue more often when you win a game than lose a game.”
- Greg Popovich, on February 11, 2017, after the Spurs lost to the New York Knicks 94-90.
The NBA’s All-Star Weekend is upon us, which seems as good of a time as any to lay down the marker with a mid-season update on the San Antonio Spurs. It has been an interesting season, to say the least, without the Big Constant of Timmy D anchoring all things Spurs. Some players really stepped-up in his absence this season (Kawhilights!!!!), while others have not put their best foot forward (anyone seen alpha LMA?), and others have been downright missing (sorry, Tony…).
Raise your hand if you’ve been really good this year.
What needs to be said about the new alpha-dog of San Antonio? Leonard has put up career highs basically across the board this year – 25.9 PPG, 8.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, and 1.8 SPG. – and he’s done it while keeping up his offensive efficiency by shooting almost 50% from the field, almost 40% from deep, and almost 90% from the line. He has more 30 point games this year than the rest of his career combined, and has carried the team in his gigantic hands in numerous games to pull W’s seemingly out of nowhere. If it wasn’t for the triple-double duel being waged between James Hardin and Russell Westbrook, you’d be hearing Kawhi’s name mentioned in MVP conversations.
After, Kawhi, there’s a group of young studs on the team that have had a real impact on the Spurs’ wins this year. Dewayne Dedmon has been a revelation in the low post, providing much needed athleticism and energy, especially in light of Gasol’s extended absence. David Lee has shown that his post passing skills fit right into the San Antonio offense. Davis Bertans, Jonathan Simmons, and Dejounte Murray have all also provided splashes of productivity for the team this year.
As for the players who have not been as stellar so far…
It feels weird bashing on a player putting up 17.4 points and 7.4 boards per game, but LaMarcus Aldridge deserves at least a little criticism this year. For someone making $20 million this season, fans (and the front office) expected a player who can carry the team for stretches, much like Kawhi has been doing all year. Unfortunately, LMA has shown a tendency to disappear when needed, settling for mid-range fade away jumpers over smaller defenders rather than attacking the basket. At this point, I believe that this is simply who Aldridge is, a really good second-fiddle on a good team. We should all just modify our expectations as needed.
And then there’s Tony Parker.
Sorry, buddy, I know that there would not be five banners hanging from the AT&T rafters if it wasn’t for you, but father time catches up with all of us. This time has been coming for a few years now, but it hit with a vengeance this year. He’s only 34, but the Spurs have been playing deep into the playoffs every single year of his career, meaning that there are a lot of basketball miles on those legs. The Frenchman is just a couple steps too slow for today’s NBA, and his tear drop floater just refuses to float. Or drop. Or whatever. Sure, he still has flashes of his old self, but those flashes are coming further and further apart.
Man, this article took a dark turn…
I swear that I’m not depressed regarding the state of the Spurs. It’s just that the fans in San Antonio have come to expect a certain (extremely high) level of success. It’s not just winning basketball games, but how they win basketball games.
Anyway, the Spurs are still sitting in a very good place. San Antonio has a record of 43-13, good for second-best in the league, and look to have the West’s second seed all but locked up. Coach Pop is still the best coach in basketball, and knows how to best utilize the assets that he has (#CoachPop2020). This team is still going into the break with the best defensive efficiency rating in the league.
Returning home after the Rodeo Road Trip, is historically when this team really begins to hum. After going 4-2 so far on the trip, they only have three games left on the RRT, so the rest of of the league better be ready.
And just as a reminder, the Spurs now have 20 winning consecutive winning seasons. A streak that’s practically old enough to drink. Things are actually pretty good for the Silver and Black, so let’s see what the next few months have in store.