For most of the summer, I really wasn’t sure if I was going to watch basketball this year. Game 6 of the finals against Miami was the most heartbreaking experience I’ve ever had as a sports fan. Worse than Manu’s foul on Dirk Nowitski in 2006, worse than Derek Fisher’s 0.4 seconds shot in 2004. To come within 30 seconds of the championship and then have everything go wrong had me depressed for weeks. I had actual bad dreams about the final possessions of regulation. As late as September I would be going about my life when suddenly the thought Tim Duncan had to go from that finals experience straight to divorce court would blip through my brain and suddenly no human activity would seem worthwhile against such profound and arbitrary unfairness. I spent months asking myself questions like: is following the NBA a self destructive behavior for me? Is it fundamentally unhealthy to allow oneself to be so emotionally invested in something over which one has no control and which is, by design, subject randomness and erratic outcomes? And for most of the summer I suspected that the answer was probably yes.
But you don’t always get to choose what you love. While I had been intentionally avoiding sports media during the offseason, once training camp started details began to trickle into my awareness. I started to be curious how Aron Baynes was doing on defense now that he’d had time to learn the system. Would Marco Belinelli be a Boris Diaw-like player who, in the Spurs system, sees an immediate jump in productivity, or a Richard Jefferson style failed reclamation project? Will Cory Joseph, Patty Mills, or Nando De Colo finally secure the backup point guard spot? Just how good is Kawhi Leonard looking, and how high is his ceiling? Over the course of the preseason my apocalyptic mood gave way, with little fanfare, to a long-familiar eagerness to see what my team would be able to do this year. And while loving something over which you can exert precisely zero influence probably is setting yourself up for a predictable fall, at least with a sports team you know (barring unusual exceptions) it will always be there for you again next year. And hey, the Spurs look pretty good this year. He sucked in the Finals, but Manu’s preseason numbers were fantastic. Belinelli and Ayers are shaping up. And Kawhi Leonard is killing it in the new HEB commercials, with wisdom that is true of MooTopia enriched milk and basketball seasons where a team comes within one possession of winning their fifth championship: details aside, “It is good.”
Game 1 against the Grizzlies tips off on Wednesday. Go Spurs Go!