The Following Are Thoughts On Last Night, November 26, 2019
The San Antonio Spurs are, for the first time in over two decades and most Gen-X’ers lives, bad.
Their 114-104 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers last night dropped them to 6-12 on the season, third-worst in the Western Conference. It’s their worst start since Pop took over for Bob Hill’s 3-15 squad in 1996-97, and largely been predicated on their 27th ranked defensive problems.
And also, it’s been delightfully profitable for some of us.
According to VegasInsider.com, the Spurs’ Monday night loss dropped them to 4-14 against the spread on the season, failing to cover the -4 number. That’s the worst in the league, and it’s been a magnificent gravy train for those who hopped on early.
San Antonio was destined to take a step back one of these years, and it finally seems to have come.
There’s a profound lack of athleticism and speed outside of Derrick White and Dejounte Murray (who are book freaking excellent, by the way), and it feels like the team is split between the new in White and Murray and the old with LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan. I don’t think it’s a stretch to think both of the ladder will be on the market come trade deadline day.
I know we’re all supposed to love Pop, but I can’t help but wonder how he’ll handle this next phase in the San Antonio saga. Reports have crept out that he’ll consider retirement following the 2020 Olympics, and if we’re all being honest he probably isn’t at the tippy top of his game as a coach at this point. Plus, some would say that trademark Pop dry-humor that borders on rude and unprofessional isn’t quite so adorable when your team is at the bottom of the leaderboard.
Gregg Popovich breaks down the Knicks ahead of tonight's matchup pic.twitter.com/vPQyiawjoH
— SNY (@SNYtv) November 23, 2019
Ha! Oh Pop. Hey, has anyone ever written about how bleeping hilarious Pop is? Has there been coverage of that? Has anyone realized that? Have you heard he has a dry sense of humor? Have you?
Listen, I don’t get offended by anything, and I’m not ‘offended’ by this… but I’ve had a long time theory that it would be about a million times easier for Pop to just answer the damn question than play these games with reporters. If Quin Snyder talked to reporters the way Pop did, how would that go over? There’s just a point where I think it stops being cute and funny, and veers into “okay, is he playing a character now? And if he is, are we all cool with him just kinda choosing to be a dick to these people?”
Back to the point, fade the Spurs and keep fading the Spurs because as we all know, Vegas is a bunch of softies. It just feels wrong pinning San Antonio with big underdog lines, and they’ll continue getting the benefit of the doubt. +4 against the Lakers? +7 against the Sixers? JUST FIVE POINT DOGS ON THE ROAD AGAINST LUKA AND THE MAVS?
Bet everything you have against the Spurs every night for all of eternity.
MEANWHILE, IN THE EAST…
Marcus Smart should win Defensive Player of the Year.
This is amazing hustle by Marcus Smart 💪 pic.twitter.com/il9uf8eqI2
— ESPN (@espn) November 21, 2019
I know he won’t. I know the sound logic that a big is inherently more important to their team’s defense than a perimeter player. I know because of that, the award is almost always traditionally handed from one dominant big to another, with only a handful of guards and wings taking home the award throughout history (Sidney Moncrief 2x, Alvin Robertson, Michael Cooper, Michael Jordan, Gary Payton, Ron Artest, and Kawhi Leonard 2x).
But dammit, Marcus Smart needs to be in a serious conversation with Rudy Gobert for it one of these years, and not the “hey, he’s great but not that great conversation he’s relegated to yearly.
He defends the opposing team’s best player, from guards like Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bodganovic in last night’s 103-102 Celtics victory against the Kings to forwards like LeBron and Giannis. He does it in the post or on the perimeter, he does it all damn game and he’s laid off the flopping theatrics he was famous for early in his career to really become one of the league’s most fun players to watch.
It’s a combination of strength, speed and down right fury that isn’t matched, not by Gobert, not by Draymond Green, and not even by Smart’s West Coast doppelgänger Patrick Beverley.
Physically, he obviously can’t impact the game like Gobert can on the defensive end. You can’t teach size. But you also can’t teach the indescribable furor that Smart brings to the game, and I think the Celtics key off of him in a way that’s similar to the Jazz working off Gobert’s defense. Knowing you have that beast behind you makes you play with an extra level of intensity and focus.
“That’s the Defensive Player of the Year so far of you ask me.”
Jaylen Brown had high praise for Marcus Smart after tonight’s win. pic.twitter.com/XZFc5iUDcc
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) November 26, 2019
For what it’s worth, the Celtics have a 101.3 Defensive Rating with Smart on the court vs a 106.0 mark with him on the bench. Utah, meanwhile, ALSO has a 101.3 Defensive Rating with Gobert on, but drop off slightly more with him off, falling to a 107.7 mark.
At the very least, it’s a conversation worth having.
I doubt the fine folks who vote for seasonal awards will give the nod to Smart — Gobert is great and while I think Smart is an exception to the rule, it’s hard to argue against the logic of a center getting preferential treatment in a discussion about defense — but consider my camp on Marcus Smart Island setup and thriving.
Goodie Bag For The Road
- Speaking of Gobert, Giannis dropped 50 on his Jazz last night in a Milwaukee win (Gobert didn’t play, but I’ll toss this in my smear campaign against him anyway). Art thou ready for a Giannis-LeBron-Luka MVP race?
- Melo goes for 25 and has a genuinely good game! I like the way Terry Stotts has used him, the Portland offense is a lot easier of a fit for him than both OKC and Houston were, and it seems like everyone really wants to make it work. It’s still early, and he was still at best so-so in his first three games to kick off this Portland experiment, but last night was a genuine step in the right direction for those looking for a reason to believe in the Melo reclamation project.
- The “CP3 Still Is An Elite Player, You’re Being Disrespectful” people are pretty much universally the same people as the “Melo Still Is An Elite Player, You’re Being Disrespectful” people. Both are closer to being washed than elite in reality.
- Pascal Siakam! Toronto Raptors! Can’t wait to not talk about them until May!
- Zero points on 0-11 FGA for Joel Embiid against Marc Gasol. That’s it, that’s the bullet point.
- The Miami Heat are the best team in the East, I said it.