Dear Adam Silver: The Spurs won’t be ignored, despite your best efforts
By Josh Paredes
The San Antonio Spurs are used to being ignored by the national media. It comes with the territory of being in a small market. Teams like the Utah Jazz, despite having the best record in the league, have also been getting disrespected lately, All-Star game excluded. But there’s been something especially alarming about the way the NBA has seemed to snub the Silver and Black in different ways this season.
If you think this post was inspired by DeMar DeRozan‘s All-Star snub, you’d only be about one-quarter correct. Following the team as closely as I ever have this season, I’ve noticed a pattern of questionable, unbalanced, and downright wrong decisions from not only national media but the NBA and Commissioner Adam Silver alike.
My attitude when writing this isn’t one of “woe is me.” I was around for all five championships over the last couple of decades, so I’m well past the bitter phase of Spurs fandom. This is more of a callout thread — one we can look back on if the Spurs go on to exceed expectations once again this season.
Here’s what I’ve noticed about the Spurs’ almost completely ignored season so far.
Next: Offense # 1
1. The NBA schedules zero national games featuring the San Antonio Spurs
Ever since the departure of the Big Three, the trend of the Spurs playing on national TV has been steadily declining. It makes some sense, as the team’s quality of play certainly and understandably has gone down in the last few years. But still, zero?
The Spurs were one of only six teams to not have a nationally televised game scheduled in the first half, although they technically had one air on TNT due to being a last-minute replacement. As a note, when I say national games, I’m talking about ESPN, NBA, ABC, and TNT. NBA TV doesn’t count, since it’s still part of certain special cable packages and it just airs the home team’s local broadcast.
Not knowing if TV scheduling was already locked in for the second half of the NBA schedule, I optimistically wrote about the Spurs earning more national recognition as they continued to play above their expectations. In the piece, I highlighted how half of the teams featured nationally were playing .500-or-worse basketball. The thought that San Antonio would get more games on national television in the second half turned out to be wishful thinking.
Instead, the NBA audience will be treated to several more instances of Zion Williamson leading his team to what’s turned into a six-games-below-.500 mark. Do better, commissioner.
Next: Offense # 2
2. San Antonio Spurs’ DeMar DeRozan being snubbed not once, but twice
It was bad enough when the San Antonio Spurs were the only ones in the top 10 teams in the Western Conference without an All-Star representative. It was even worse when Commissioner Silver decided to throw in a third member of the Utah Jazz to replace an injured Devin Booker.
Understandably, DeMar let his frustration with the decision be known on Twitter shortly after the replacement was named.
There’s no question Mike Conley has been snubbed from being an All-Star multiple times in his career. And yes, the Jazz have been stunningly good this season — but they already had Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert in the game. A quick look at the numbers paired with the Spurs also overperforming should’ve made the replacement decision an easy one:
DeMar DeRozan: 20.3 PPG, 7.3 AST, 4.7 TRB Mike Conley: 16.2 PPG, 5.6 AST, 3.5 TRB
Conley ended up dropping three points on 1-of-6 shooting in 12 minutes as part of Team Durant in the game.
If Silver used his replacement nomination as a way to award Conley with a lifetime achievement spot in the game, he might not be the right man for the job. The NBA has done such a thing in the past by adding extra roster spots for Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade. That could’ve easily been done again for Conley in the future if the league was so inclined.
Snubbing DeRozan just wasn’t the answer.
Next: Offense # 3
3. More scheduling problems, including no Noches Éne-Bé-A for the Spurs
There’s no way to sugarcoat it: the second half of the San Antonio Spurs’ schedule is a nightmare. They not only have to cram 40 games into 68 days, but they also have one of the toughest strengths of schedule left in the NBA.
The league mostly gets a break on this one. The COVID-19 outbreak that happened to the Spurs couldn’t have been predicted and is the reason the team will have 12 back-to-backs from March through the end of the season. Still, I have to think they could’ve found a better way to accommodate teams with outbreaks by either cutting down games leaguewide or extending the season a few more days.
Besides the grueling stretch the Spurs will have to face, there was another befuddling decision the league made when it comes to its’ annual Latin Nights, as Pounding the Rock’s Noah Magaro-George shared:
The Spurs have once again been left out of the Noches Éne•Bé•A schedule despite San Antonio being the largest Hispanic majority city in the U.S.
— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) March 10, 2021
One comment on the above tweet read, “Silver’s been dropping the ball with SA.” I have to agree. As described by NBA communications, the Latin Nights program is meant to commemorate NBA fans and players across Latin American and U.S. Hispanic communities. Somehow, 2021 is the second year in a row the Spurs have been completely left off these celebrations.
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Instead, the nationally-televised games will feature the Warriors, Clippers, Mavericks, Lakers, and Pelicans. The Hawks, Trail Blazers, and Knicks will also have in-arena festivities and events highlighting Hispanic culture.
I’m not sure if this is a case of the NBA not reaching out to the Spurs to be included or how exactly they’re slipping through the cracks, but this seems like a major oversight.
According to Statista.com, Texas had a population of over 11.5 million Hispanics in 2019. San Antonio’s population is about 1.5 million, with roughly 64 percent of that population being Hispanic.
I know it’s easy to cater to the LeBrons and Zions of the world, but something like celebrating Hispanic heritage should be a slam dunk every year in San Antonio.
As the Spurs continue to make a push for the playoffs, there will come a time where they simply can’t be ignored any longer. I imagine that’s where we’ll start to see more “who would’ve thought this team would be in the mix” articles.
The lack of media attention is fine — in fact, the Spurs themselves have always liked going unnoticed. Being treated by the higher-ups as a basement-dwelling team that can’t generate excitement is not.
As they’ve done for the last two decades, the Spurs will continue to fly under the radar this season. Ignore them at your own peril.