The Runner Sports

San Antonio Spurs: 5 Season Takeaways

It seems like decades ago that David Fizdale slammed his hand down on the podium and coined two impromptu phrases that immediately seeped into the pop culture lexicon, where they will live forever.

It feels like years ago now that Manu Ginobili snuck up behind The Beard and ended James Harden’s MVP-caliber season with that suffocating clamp down block. Time has a way of speeding up when there’s a team in the Finals that has yet to lose a postseason game.

That means now is as good a time as any to look back with nostalgia on what was a surprisingly stable season for the first Duncan-less Spurs team since 1997, if it is even possible for stability to be surprising for the San Antonio Spurs at this point.

Below are five takeaways from another 60-win Spurs season, one for each toe on the injured foot that decided the Western Conference Finals in an instant. Get well soon, Kawhi. Speaking of Kawhi:

1. Kawhi Leonard Is Scottie Pippen.

A lot of people don’t realize what Scottie Pippen was as a player. It’s easier than it should be to gloss over his place in the history books because his teammate Michael Jordan literally wrote the chapters that included his story.

The world will never know what would have happened if Scottie had his own team. No one knows how successful Wayne Campbell’s basement cable show would have been without Garth banging away on his knees with drumsticks next to him?

But after the season Kawhi just had, it’s safe to say a Pippen-led team would look a lot like Kawhi Leonard’s Spurs. And that’s as big a compliment to Kawhi as it is to Scottie.

2. The Spurs Need A New ‘Swiss Army Knife’.

It is truly shocking just how many bodies the Spurs have to employ in order to maintain even the slightest approximation of all that Old Man Riverwalk meant.

Saying the Spurs need a new Tim Duncan is a bit like saying ‘Man, they’d be so much better with Michael Jordan.’ Duh. But Tim Duncan is the greatest power forward of all time for a reason; he does it all.  We tend to overlook the piece of Timmy’s game that flew under the radar almost as much as the man himself; pick-setting. Tim Duncan was the most incredibly effective in-game screen setter of the past 20 years, and that’s not really even counting the offense he’d give once the pick was set. He was a really, really, extremely elite version of the ‘Swiss Army Man,’ the Draymond Green guy who makes the right play, sets the right pick, plays the right way.

The Spurs need another of these, and quick, in order to give actual Draymond and his cohorts a run for their money in 2018.

3. San Antonio Recruits/Reclamation Projects Continue To Prosper, Like Always.

As Manu Ginobili eyes retirement, it is important to remember his story. Picked 57th overall in the 1999 draft, the brazen, herky-jerky Argentinian will someday be a Hall Of Famer. As this season progressed, it became apparent that the Spurs organization is far from finished plucking everymen from the fold and turning them into true ballers. Jonathon Simmons, Dwayne Dedmon, and Dejounte Murray were delightful (and effective) additions to the roster this year.

Unless tragedy strikes and Simmons decides to take the money and run to the ‘burbs of some place like Brooklyn this summer, he should take over for Manu on the wing next year. Two years ago he was a grocery store clerk. Spurs fans should find solace in their team’s stability in drafting and ability in scouting.

For superstars that don’t quite pan out or struggle through poorly run organizations, the question always becomes hypothetical. As in, “What would have happened if the Spurs had drafted him instead?”

This will not be changing anytime soon, Big 3 or no Big 3.

4. Comedy Is Important To Gregg Popovich.

At the end of the season, the Spurs were on one of their final road trips of the year, and just like any group of dudes on a road trip, they went looking for entertainment.

What followed was something that can only be described as a Twitterstorm, revolving around the name ‘Bryn Forbes.’ Bryn Forbes is a Spurs rookie from Michigan State. Bryn Forbes sounds like a perfectly sensible name, but only until Twitter got out ahead of it. “Bryn Forbes practices his golf swing mid-conversation,” “Bryn Forbes got a 328i on her 16th birthday. With a ribbon around it,” and “I saw Bryn Forbes last night behind home plate at a Miami Marlins game taking selfies” were some of the best. It was a completely name-based joke, a hypothetical question of what a person named Bryn Forbes might be in a vacuum, and it was hilarious.

Fellow Spur Kyle Anderson was retweeting them and hitting up responsible parties in his mentions. It conjured up the image of the Spurs, faces illuminated by their phones, rocking back and forth in fits of laughter. That’s right. The Spurs were all in on the Bryn Forbes joke, including Bryn Forbes himself.

A few years ago in an interview, Gregg Popovich stressed the importance of an enjoyable locker room presence when asked what he looks for in a recruit. Ten years ago, it was common in the tunnel before games to see Tim Duncan muttering sarcasm under his breath and Bruce Bowen giving it right back to him, as Manu and Tony Parker stood nearby and laughed. Put it this way, if Chris Paul doesn’t leave LA for San Antonio, it might not just be the price that keeps the Spurs from pulling the trigger.

But for now, these Spurs have a sense of humor; the ability to laugh at themselves is evidence of that much.

5. In a Parallel, Kawhi-Healthy Universe, Pop May Have the Warriors Figured Out.

Not counting the DNP-heavy matchup in mid-March which the Spurs won, both teams orchestrated a head-to-head beatdown of the other in the regular season. The Spurs went into Oakland for the season opener and beat the new-look Warriors that looked discombobulated and very much like a work in progress. Then it was March, and the Warriors beat San Antonio by 12.

Then the Western Conference Finals started. Pop had now spent months locked away in his chamber, mixing chemicals and testing potions and scribbling equations on chalkboards. The Spurs entered Oracle Arena and looked approximately one ankle sprain and a closeout shuffle away from wiping the Golden State Superteams off their home court in the series opener.

Before things fell apart for them in Game 1, the Spurs looked dominant. Kawhi looked dominant. Beating a well-rested KD Warriors team on the road in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals? It’s no easy feat. Of course, we’ll never know the end of that story. But perhaps had Pop figured them out? More importantly, had Zaza Pachulia figured out that Pop had them figured out?

Next season can’t come soon enough.

Justin Heller
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Justin Heller

NBA Spurs Lead Writer at The Runner Sports
NBA guy. Manu apologist. Tim Duncan clergyman. Van Exel admirer. Embiid fan club. Players Tribune articles can never be bad. The three most important letters in the NBA are g-i-f.
Grew up all over, ended up in San Antonio, where I live currently. Come enjoy the churros with me, Chuck.
Justin Heller
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