Written on:April 18, 2018
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Wonderwall – Dear Kawhi, isn’t it funny how so many of these so-called experts and insiders have filled your silence with so much noise? I’ll be honest. As a die-hard fan, it’s been a really hard year. Knowing your competitive spirit, I can’t even begin to try to imagine how hard the year has been for you. But as a die-hard fan, believe me, I’m trying to imagine it. I’m trying to imagine your frustration and your uncertainty. I’m trying to imagine your isolation and your pain. I’m trying really hard to imagine what you must be experiencing to be deciding to stay away from the game and your team when the organization has medically cleared you to play. I say this not with judgement or condemnation but with utter bafflement because, knowing what I know about you, I simply can’t imagine what you’re experiencing to need to be in New York right now instead of San Antonio. I’m trying hard to imagine, but I just can’t seem to fill the vacuum that is your silence. Even though I can’t fill the void in my own mind, knowing what I know about you, one thing I can say is that most of this noise coming from the pundits to fill the void is laughable. You and I know that these noise-makers, these so-called experts aren’t interested in knowing what’s in your head right now. They’re interested in figuring out what they can say about what’s in your head right now that will generate clicks and traffic. In other words, they’re not interested, given your quiet nature and your consistency in avoiding the media like the plague throughout your nine-year history as a public person, in taking your March statements at face value. They’re interested in generating profits through sensationalism. Silence is boring but speculation sells. A hundred trade scenarios dissected by a thousand blog boys will generate a million clicks and voilà…everybody is making money off of your silence (including the moms who provide their blog boy sons with basements). You and I both know this that his is how the internet works in 2018 and that is why I return time and time again to your March statements as my quiet place to try to block out the noise. I’m not panicking because I know you too well to believe any of this hype. The so-called experts would have Spurs fans believe that they have miraculously established in 2018 some secret back channel (that has never, ever existed before this season) and have penetrated the Fort Knox vault that is the Spurs organization’s inner-circle to get the inside scoop on what is happening between you and the team. Sure. We both know that the pundits’ conspiracy theories on you are faker than Donald Trump’s conspiracy theories concerning illegal voter fraud during the 2016 election. You and I both know that the notion you’re sitting out the 2018 playoffs and foregoing one of the precious few chances you’ll get to compete for a championship in this fleeting thing we call an NBA career because you’re worried about jeopardizing a super-max contract offer this summer is such a joke, it’s actually insulting. We both know you don’t play the game for money. You play the game for the love. You play the game to win. You play the game to be the best. You and I also know that the notion that you’re sitting out right now because your relationship with your team’s front office is so broken, you’re angling to force a trade during this offseason is equally ridiculous. We both know that you put the game of basketball before the business of basketball. We both know you would never pass up the opportunity to force Kevin Durant into a live ball turnover so that you could take the opportunity to force R.C. Buford into turning over his franchise cornerstone during the offseason. You and I further know that the notion that you’re sitting out right now because of a players’ only meeting or because of something that Gregg Popovich, or Tony Parker, or Manu Ginobili said about your injury to the media is the biggest whopper of them all. You spilled blood, sweat, and tears together with these men for six years. You died together in Game 6. You were resurrected together a year later. You’ve been in the trenches with this general and these brothers through all of the battles and all of the wars but the so-called experts would have us believe that you’re sitting out because of hurt feelings? Because the most professional, tight-nit locker room in modern American sports has inexplicably deteriorated this season into a junior high lunch room? You and I know know that’s not how the Spurs were built and it’s certainly not how you’re wired. I don’t blame you for not dignifying these so-called experts and their overloaded wheel barrels of horse manure speculation with answers. Having said that, what about us Kawhi? What about the die-hard fans? I mean no disrespect but now that we’re in the playoffs, don’t we deserve a press conference? A statement? Don’t we deserve to know whi our 2018 championship dreams are likely shattered? Can you imagine our frustration and uncertainty? Can you imagine our isolation and pain? Don’t we, the die-hard fans who have allowed you to go about your craft quietly in our city in a way you would never have been allowed to do in Los Angeles, or New York, or Boston, or Philadelphia at least deserve a sentence from you regarding your playoff status? I have been a die-hard Spurs fan since David Robinson’s rookie season in 1989 or since about 20 months before you were born and I’ve gotta tell you, I’ve endured more anxiety as a Spurs fan this season over the uncertainty surrounding your injury and the delicate state in which it has left our championship aspirations than I have in the previous 29 years combined. Sure, the 1996-97 season was tough, but that year was propped up by the hope that landing a franchise cornerstone from the Virgin Islands could be on the horizon. This year, our season has been haunted by the dark cloud of terror of losing a franchise cornerstone from Los Angeles, CA could be on the horizon. Even though I return day after day, week after week to your March statements as my quiet place and my shelter from this dark cloud of terror, the noise has become impossible to block out because you have chosen to remain silent since the playoffs have begun. So here’s a simple, humble request to you, Kawhi, from a die-hard fan (and when I say die-hard fan I mean of both yours and the special, special little South Texas basketball powerhouse for which you have the privilege of playing): consider coming back to help us win this championship, this year. And if that is not possible, let us, the die-hard fans know whi. Because I don’t believe the so-called experts’ speculation that is now churning at a fever pitch speed and continues to increase each pitch, I think it’s fair for me to give you my best guess as to whi you remain out even though the organization has medically cleared you to play. My guess is that you don’t want to become Bill Walton, Grant Hill, Isaiah Thomas. My guess is that you are such a fierce competitor and your love for the game is so strong that, as much as it hurts to sacrifice this season, that pain pails in comparison to the pain you would feel to lose the prime of your career to a chronic injury and you’re simply not willing to take that risk. When Zaza Pachulia stepped on your foot in Game 1 of last year’s Western Conference Finals, I believed, without qualification, that you had ascended to the mountaintop and grabbed the title of best basketball player on the planet. My guess is that you’re dying to get back to that level and you are not willing to take any amount of risk that this injury will rob you of your opportunity to climb that mountain again. If I’m guessing correctly, that is completely understandable. Die-hard Spurs fans will understand. All you have to do is let us know. Even if you choose to keep your silence all the way into the offseason, I may be baffled but I won’t be angry. I will continue to support you because that’s what die-hards do and until you break your silence, I will continue to try to block out the noise. Another thing die-hards do? Hope. As long as our 2017-18 season and this playoff run are alive, I will continue to hope for your return to the court as starting small forward for the #BlackAndSilver. Whi?

 

 

* * *

 

We played well enough to win. We made every single adjustment we needed to make. We lured the Warriors into 15 turnovers while only committing nine ourselves. Our defense was ferocious and our intensity exceeded our opponents. Most importantly, LaMarcus Aldridge was a beast. The player of the game punished Golden State with 34 points (11-21 from the field, 12-12 from the stripe) and 12 rebounds. We led by six at halftime. We led by one with 4:44 left in the third. We were right there. Sometimes you can do everything you need to do and it’s still not enough. Asterix Champion Kevin Durant and Proven Champion Klay Thompson combined for 63 points on 22-39 shooting. The Warriors as a team went a sharp 15-31 from deep while we went a putrid 4-28. Sometimes shots don’t fall and you simply can’t win in the playoffs (especially against the champs) shooting the basketball like that. What’re you gonna do? Back in Silicon Valley at Oracle on Monday night, the San Antonio Spurs fell once again to the Gluttony of More Golden State Warriors 116-101 to fall into an 0-2 hole in our Western Conference First Round series.

The bottom line is that if we had hit more of our wide-open threes in Game 2 and if Bryn Forbes hadn’t committed that bone-headed “clear path” foul that set Klay Thompson off on his own personal 6-0 run early in the fourth quarter, the Spurs would’ve won Game 2 and the entire complexion of this series would be looking entirely different right about now. As far as I’m concerned this is a relatively evenly matched series. Both teams are missing a superstar. LaMarcus is playing at such a high-level right now, he basically cancels out Durant. Is Klay better than anything we have as a second option? Sure, but I’ll put the collective experience of Coach Pop, Parker, Ginobili, Gasol, Mills, and Danny Green up against Steve Kerr, Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguadola, Sean Livingston, and David West and really like our chances. We are a really good home team so if we can figure out a way to take care of business down in the Alamo City tomorrow and Sunday (while Fiesta is conveniently popping off with Oyster Bake), all of the pressure shifts back to Golden State for Game 5. What part of die-hard don’t you understand? I will never stop believing. I will never give in. I won’t back down.

#GoSpursGo

 

* * *

 

I was in the final stages of editing this post when the news broke of Erin Popovich’s passing. This is such devastating news. Coach Pop kept his family life extremely private but from all that I’ve read and heard over the years, Erin was remarkable person. I want you, the readers, to know that everything I had previously written for this post (the Kawhi letter, the Game 2 analysis, the unwavering confidence in our chances to turn the series around) seems embarrassingly trivial now when juxtaposed against humanity and mortality in such an acute, piercing way. This has been such a tough week. Already this week I’ve been reflecting upon the passing of a close family friend in Texas, a colleague of mine in Germany, and former First Lady Barbara Bush. It is only Wednesday. Rest in peace, dear Erin Popovich. My heart goes out to you and your family, Coach Pop. May the outpouring of support from the NBA community and your #SpursFamily bring you some comfort.


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