Once again, the San Antonio Spurs sit atop the standings with the best start in the Western Conference. Although they boast a normally fiery 7-1 record, the Spurs continue to sneak their way up the standings as though they aren’t 3-time champions coming off a Finals appearance. They don’t get much press, their coach is overall unimpressed, and the national audience continues to write them off as “too old.”
Though a lack of credit would cause fans of large-market teams such as the Knicks or Lakers to go utterly insane, this position just outside the spotlight has become a sanctuary to the loyal San Antonians. While some fans need constant reminders of how terrible or amazing their teams are doing through their constant coverage on ESPN, fans of the Spurs have learned to take solace in simply knowing their team is good, even if their coach says otherwise.
In fact, Gregg Popovich’s overall unsatisfied, and almost disgusted at times, demeanor has come to be the standard for success in San Antonio.
The root of all criticism traces back to Coach Popovich. No person is more critical of the Spurs than their head coach, and for good reason, it should remain that way. The Spurs edged out a 76-74 win against a Stephen Curry-less Golden State team at home last Friday night in arguably the ugliest win by any team thus far in the season. But a win’s a win.
Come Sunday, the Spurs had everything figured out against the New York Knicks, or so you would think. Before the game, Popovich said that his team had been playing C-plus or B-minus basketball thus far despite their 5-1 record. After coming into Madison Square Garden and demolishing the Knicks by a score of 120-89, Popovich was asked to grade his team’s bounce-back performance.
“I thought tonight we played a good, solid B-plus, A-minus game,” Popovich said.
Tough grader. Needless to say, if the average person left a room knowing they completely demolished and humiliated what was supposed to be a one of the more formidable tests thus far, they would expect a better grade than a B-plus. But the Spurs are used to it, hardened by years of never satisfying their mastermind leader, able to shrug off any remark to the media with a grin. It’s just the way of the Spur.
Coming off the Sunday win, the Spurs faced their second back-to-back game of the season, the first showing their only spot of weakness, against the young-and-running 76ers. San Antonio made it clear early that they were old, sitting Duncan out to rest, but it was a nonfactor as the Spurs trounced the 76ers at home by 24, giving them their current 7-1 record.
So here they are, once again, looking down at the competition from atop their throne of excellence that is so often their home. The Spurs have looked a little rough so far, edging out some dodgy games against the younger, faster teams of the league, but experience remains dominant.
San Antonio faces three more tests in the next week against Washington, Utah, and Boston, all that seem to be a cakewalk. No matter the outcome, don’t expect a less-than-exuberant Coach Popovich to hand back any grades with smiley faces or “Good Work!” comments written below an A-plus.
To be a Spur, it’s not about making the A at the beginning of the season, it’s working toward it when the wins mean the most. An A-minus now, at these standards, is something to be excited about. It’s going to be a fun season.
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