“Standing in the middle of nowhere,
Wondering how to begin.
Lost between tomorrow and yesterday,
Between now and then…” – The Kinks “Do It Again”
That’s the song that would headline the Spurs soundtrack for the 2012-13 season. Because somehow through the summer blur of baseball and the Olympics, of playoff runs by San Antonio’s Arena League Talons, NASL Scorpions and the WNBA Silver Stars, even through replacement refs causing a drought of common sense, guess what? The Spurs are back.
Right back where they started.
“Here we go again,” said Tim Duncan. “Trying to get everybody’s mind in the right place to start it all over again.”
And now we’re back where we started,
Here we go round again.
Day after day I get up and I say
I better do it again…
So let’s recap: When we last left the Spurs, Oklahoma City’s Thunderdome was the closing scene of a Silver and Black 4-game meltdown in the Western Conference Finals that made the 20-game win streak before that seem empty and inconsequential.
“That’s a very, very, tough loss. We think about it now and as we have all summer long,” Popovich told the assembled press. “When you don’t get it done, it hurts. And that’s a good thing. We’ve got use that as fuel.”
But even before the first ball was bounced, Pop had the Spurs gather around the big screen for some movie time. Weeks before Paranormal Activity 4 creeps out cinemas, the Spurs had to endure watching film of the nightmare fashion last season got killed by the Thunder.
Call it the OKC Horror Picture Show.
“Pop wanted us to be fired up, knowing that we were very close and we let it go,” said Manu Ginobili.
“You lose four in a row and it’s very hard to understand,” said the cleared-by-team-doctors-to-not-have-to-wear-protective-glasses Tony Parker. “We were so close last year. Those opportunities are very rare. But that’s the beauty of sport. Sometimes it’s great. Sometimes it’s very painful.”
That the pain is still lingering for SA is a revelation in itself. Especially coming from the usually close-quartered world of the Spurs. Nothing more so when Pop realizes the Spurs needed the NBA version of LifeLock.
“There’s an identity theft that took place in that playoff. We played like the Spurs the first couple of games. Oklahoma City learned from that,” said Pop. “And we lost our identity. We want to make sure we understand that and get that back.”
Who’s the Spur player most trying to keep the OKC loss in perspective? Just the most competitive guy on the entire roster.
“I had to let it go,” said Manu. “We’ve got an 82 game season ahead of us. We know we let a huge opportunity get away. But now we’ve got to start building to get another opportunity like that.”
That long, 82-game regular season trek is already two games into the eight-game preseason. What have we learned from a 106-77 win over some Italian league team called Montepaschi Siena and a 101-99 buzzer beating victory over Atlanta? One of the few new Spurs, Nando De Colo, was labeled “another Manu” by Jackson after the French Olympic teammate of Parker dazzled with a few Manu witch-like passes in the first game. After De Colo scored 11 points with nine assists vs. the Hawks and scored the game winning bucket at the horn, Eddy Curry called him “Little Manu”.
KSAT-12’s Greg Simmons goes with “Manu 2”. De Colo says Pop calls him “Mini-Manu”. Whatever tag sticks to De Colo, somewhere Bill Parcells is reminding Spurs Nation to put away the anointing oils.
Still, the French rookie has some sizzle. How much substance translates into playing time remains to be seen.
SA will need some Silver and Black Manu-magic to navigate the suddenly wilder Western Conference. The Spurs, like the Thunder, decided for the most part to stand pat and bring back last year’s roster. Except Oklahoma City remains one of the league’s youngest teams.
Meanwhile the Spurs inch closer to the NBA’s AARP.
The Clippers made a couple of moves. Not sure Lamar Kardashaian’s reality TV camera crews will be the enough for Blake Griffin and Chris Paul to make the next step, though.
Then there’s the Lakers.
You heard Kobe is balling with Steve Nash and Dwight Howard, right?
“Everybody’s improved,” said Duncan. “We’ve got teams that are getting better left and right. We hope that we are right in the mix.”
So with the regular season stretch awaiting the Spurs, the task of claiming the top seed in the West for the third straight season is without question harder than whacking Michael Myers.
But Pop sees both sides of the full 82-game marathon. Cons: More games means more managing regular season minutes for Tim, Tony and Manu. Pros: More practice time for young guns Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Tiago Splitter. When Tiago’s healthy, of course.
“We’re looking for a lot of corporate knowledge to increase for those guys,” Pop said.
But just saying “Corporate Knowledge” makes the Spurs sound too white-collar for their blue-collar work ethic. That’s not going to cut it with a full year of Stephen Jackson on the roster. Fresh off releasing a rap CD, it took all of one day in training camp for Jackson to declare this season the Spurs must “play with more fire.”
“We have to show that we want it,” said Parker. “And I think Jack is right on point when he says we have to play with more attitude. Like Pop said, more nasty. All season long.”
Parker more than did his part over the summer. Almost losing an eyeball from flying pieces of glass in a Drake/Chris Brown late night New York barroom brawl will do wonders for the challenge of toughening up the Spurs’ image.
“That’s what summer’s all about. We’re trying to get street cred,” said a laughing Duncan. “That’s what this team’s all about.”
One way to do that on the court is to go back to where the Spurs started their NBA title run: on defense. Not the obligatory, just-try-to-slow-the-other-team-down defense. The suffocating defense that made SA synonymous with “None shall score”.
“Defensively, when we won championships, we were the best in the NBA,” Parker said. “Last year we were in the middle, like 15th. That’s not good enough if you want to go all the way.”
The Spurs’ blessing: Having the leadership trio of Duncan, Parker, and Ginobili. All healthy. Still hungry for more.
“We set the bar. Someone like Manu, Tony and myself, we all hate losing,” said Duncan.
“Here we come again, and we have the same opportunity,” adds Ginobili.
Parker closes: “We’ll try to do it again. I like our chances.”
Spurs Nation loves to be along for the ride. In our favorite seat, right back where we started.
“Day after day I get up and I say, come on do it again… do it again… do it again…”