Playoff Race

Every so often — maybe once every two months now — Manu Ginobili produces a game that awes the crowd and makes you think “We couldn’t have won without him. He still has it.” Then sometime in the playoffs he produces a dud, and you think “He’s done.”

This is a little ritual Manu and we Spurs followers have played for a decade or so now. He’ll even sneak one of each of those games in the playoffs — against Miami in Game 5 if the 2013 finals, then the awful games in 6/7, the incredible game against Memphis, the awful games against Memphis, the great game against Houston, etc — and the other night against New Orleans was yet another example.

I tell myself to remember these games so that I do not throw my remote in the playoffs, wondering why we cannot get a guy in his early 20s instead of his late 30s to play backup SG for this team. Against the Pelicans, in a must-win game, he was incredible.

These past weeks have been odd for we Spurs fans. I cannot imagine what it is like for the teens and tweens who have known nothing but years of plenty from this team. I came of Spurs fan age when D-Rob was called a choke artist and the Spurs would lose to the Jazz every year. I was a kid when the Spurs last missed the playoffs but I distinctly remember looking at my Sports Illustrated for Kids and thinking that just maybe we could get Tim Duncan.

It was then that my dad wised me up to the ways of tanking. “It is not so bad if the Spurs lose,” he said, “because we get a better draft pick.” That blew my mind. Pointing to my SI for Kids article, I asked “Like this guy?” He chuckled. “No, there’s no chance of that happening. He’s too good. The Spurs won’t get the first pick.”

I held out hope, as kids do. The rest is legend, of course.

That Spurs team was very strange. It had Dominique Wilkins on the roster wearing 21. Yes, you can say the Spurs have had a HOF at that number since 1996. Monty Williams was also on that squad. But almost no one remembers it.

This Spurs team reminds me of that one, in that it is a collection of guys that are seemingly good but are clearly inferior to the rest of the league. Like then, we are waiting on the franchise player to return from a nagging injury (Dave Robinson, Kawhi Leonard). Like then, we might not make the playoffs.

Unlike then, members of this team and this coaching staff have NBA titles to their name and a better than average shot at making the postseason.

Whatever. I think this season is good for the soul. When you eat a steak dinner every night you do not appreciate it the way you do after eating Ramen for four years. You see what I mean.

Here’s to the playoff chase. In the mean time I have been asking my friends who are fans of the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets what they normally do when their squads do not play past April.