In lieu of a traditional franchise-by-franchise NBA preview, we asked Tyler Parker to give us five players to watch on each team. If we want. For reasons entirely his own.
Dejounte Murray, Guard
He’s back and healthy and defending guys like they have personally offended his entire family. Got his extension and now he’s San Antonio’s point guard of the present and the future. Signed on for four more years of the black and silver. Arms that ramble on for hours at a time. He stands 6-foot-5. His wingspan is 6-foot-10. He’s a Seattle kid. Played his college ball there at the University of Washington. He was on the NBA All-Defensive second team. On May 12, Murray tweeted, “KAWHI LEONARD Is Really Great At This Basketball Thing Lol!!” That is a fact-based argument and a correct take. Don’t know that I’d have been stoked to hear that opinion if I were a Spurs fan, but what can you do? Dejounte is just responding sincerely to superb play. And let’s end with generosity and family’s love for one another. He gifted his younger brother a purple 2019 Dodge Challenger for making the honor roll and being, “The Most Respectful Young Man!”
THANK YOU GOD For Putting Me In This Position. I’m Lost For Words But More Importantly I’m A Proud Big Brother. This What Making Honor Roll With A GPA 3.8 And Being The Most Respectful Young Man Get You!! I Love You Baby Brother!! This Is Only The Beginning!! pic.twitter.com/LAJfliGXim— Dejounte Murray (@DejounteMurray) June 9, 2019
Derrick White, Guard
When the Spurs drafted him, everybody did that thing they always do when the Spurs take someone: freak out and call him a steal. Say to the internet and the television audience, “WELL, THE SPURS HAVE DONE IT AGAIN.”
I think he should be encouraged to explore the space. I mean really—explore the space. One of the founding members of the Flanny Gang.
Pau with a professional-looking tuck of the shirt right there. It is remarkable how tucked his shirt is. That photo of him should go into the dictionary as a visual aid for the entry “tuck.”
White got moved up onto the official Team USA roster this summer at the FIBA World Championships. Has proved to be somebody who can be one of your lead ball handlers. One of those guys you can say you really like if you want to be smart. Went for 20 against the Clips on Thursday night. Took only 11 shots to get there. Hit three of four 3s. He’s not afraid of the moment. In the playoffs last year, he went toe to toe with Jamal Murray, gave the Nuggets all they wanted, but came up a bit short in Game 7. This Dejounte-Derrick backcourt is going to be hell to play against in the coming years. If health stays with them they’re going to have the clamps on people.
Patty Mills, Guard
I like to watch him play offense. Mills skitters around the perimeter, always moving. Plays with energy and seems generally positive. I like his whole vibe. Proud to show up to the game in some jorts and, honestly, he’d prefer it if they’re ripped. Pair that with a T-shirt that has a tiger wearing M Frame Oakleys on the front, and the look is iconic and bulletproof.
He’s an indigenous Australian. Played his college ball at Saint Mary’s. Really just a fan of shorts in general, man, he’s letting his legs breathe, giving some room to the calves, letting them stretch out. One of four Wiener Boat Boys.
The rest of the foursome is rounded out by Boris Diaw, Tiago Splitter, and Manu Ginobili. If we think about the wiener boat as a bobsled, and if we think about the Spurs on the wiener boat and place them specifically within the context of the Disney movie Cool Runnings, Mills is in the Yul Brenner spot. Or, if we think of them within the context of the banana boat, Mills is in the Chris Paul spot. I tend to yawn when the Spurs’ culture starts getting lauded for the umpteenth time, so no worries if you feel like scrolling down or getting out of here. That said, it’s something to see all those guys vacationing together. They all look so happy. They all look like they’re having so much fun.
DeMar DeRozan, Guard
This last Fourth of July he went back home to Compton to watch the fireworks. Brought two phones with him. People had the aerial repeaters pinched between dumbbells so the fireworks didn’t tip over and start firing at houses. The type of guy who will post a completely harmless picture of himself and then the comments are full of people roasting him over creasing his Forces. Had the kind of offseason where he’s writing, “Being alone makes you strong—I don’t need a friend …” as the caption for a picture he puts up on the internet.
I feel for DeRozan. Had to watch his old team win it all last year. The guy they traded him for won the MVP. That’s not a fun way to kick off your summer. If it bothered him, he’s shaken it off so far this season. They’re letting him be himself. He’s back to not taking any 3s and he’s shooting 52.1 percent from the field and putting up almost 24 a night. I want a good season for him.
Gregg Popovich, Coach
The black-and-white windowpane blazer was spectacular on his person. A true statement piece. I could have stared at it all night. The jacket was worn during the Spurs’ Game 6 win over the Denver Nuggets in the first round of the 2019 NBA playoffs. TNT needs a camera wholly dedicated to Popovich, like how they sometimes do with certain star players for big games. Let Boris Diaw control it. Give Pop a microphone and complete creative control, and I feel like you enter into appointment-viewing territory really quickly.
This was a sartorial swerve by Pop, an almost flirty look, the jacket an oxymoron in and of itself. Subtle, yet bold. Careful, yet carefree. Functional, yet stylish. In the wide view you couldn’t make out the white squares. Only when the camera zoomed in and settled on the jacket did the full extent of its beauty come to light. This is nothing new for Popovich. He’s been dressing without fear or equal for years.
An outfit of his from 2014 sticks in my mind. White sneakers. White NBA socks. San Antonio Spurs 2014 NBA champions T-shirt. And finally, the main event—Spurs-branded khaki cargo shorts. I feel like, by and large, there’s a pretty good chance the most important takeaway from this entire piece is going to be the fact that these shorts existed, so if you want to just look at the picture and keep it moving to some other corner of the internet, I understand completely. I’d like you to stick around, I’m having a good time, but you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family. I just want to say, though, that if a beautiful pair of pants can change the world, what’s stopping a pair of shorts from doing the same thing? Click one picture to the right and behold!
Take your time with the photograph. There’s absolutely no rush. Let it reveal itself to you. Let it wrap you up in its arms and keep you safe, make you warm. Who among us would not be dominated by these clothes? These clothes wear almost every single person in the world. Only a select few of fashion icons—your Popoviches, your Shia LaBeoufs, your Jonah Hills—could pull it off. Against all odds, he wears the clothes. He dominates his environment and he wears the clothes.
It’s the simple pleasures in life that keep hope alive. The smell of rain on a freshly mowed lawn. Pre-meal tortillas. Everybody quickly agreeing that pizza sounds great. Spurs-branded khaki cargo shorts. The bombs bursting in air. Spurs-branded khaki cargo shorts. Gave proof through the night. Spurs-branded khaki cargo shorts. That our Spurs-branded khaki cargo shorts were still there. These are spangling shorts.
The 2018-19 campaign was Popovich’s 22nd straight season with a winning record and may well be the best coaching job he’s ever done. He and his roving band of misfit vampires were a win away from the second round. This after losing Murray, their starting point guard, for the year on October 8. This after the best player on last year’s team and one of the top five guys in the league forced his way out of Texas. Vampires feel like the right metaphor—the Spurs wear black, they’ve got all those bats down there—but maybe zombies would be the more technically correct term. People have thought the Spurs dead for years. Eulogies have been written. Bodies have been prepared. Graves have been dug. They’re still walking around, though, causing problems, trying to end things.
I really like the font TNT used for their show promos during the playoffs last season. It was an elegant typeface. Made me feel smart.
Popovich is the third thing I think about when I think about the Spurs. After Duncan and David Robinson, before Malik Rose’s appearance on the Disney Channel original series The Jersey. The Jersey was a television show about this group of friends who found some magical jersey in like an attic or something and when they put it on they would assume the form of a famous athlete. So, put on the jersey, become Peyton Manning. Put on the jersey, become Laila Ali. Put on the jersey, become Kordell Stewart. Here’s a promo for the show featuring New Jersey Nets–era Stephon Marbury saying, “Man, I wish I was this big all the time.”
The show also featured appearances from Randy Johnson, Jerome Bettis, and Scott Steiner. Four years ago, Big Poppa Pump was witness to an attempted murder outside a Hardee’s. He was interviewed by the local news. The bleach white goatee—the reverse-skunk coloration—lives and it lives in style. I am steaming mad there was no appearance by the chainmail coif.
In a league where teams’ individual playing styles are becoming more and more homogenized, it’s nice to know the Spurs are still out on the front lines, putting up midrange jumpers, trying to keep stuff a little less vanilla, a little stranger.
Popovich as auteur. Popovich as mechanic. Popovich as scientist. Popovich as boots. Popovich explaining the intricate wonders of homemade dan dan noodles. Popovich as very cool bus driver. Popovich as noble donkey. Popovich as affable, cranky convenience store cashier you enjoy talking to. Popovich as burrito. Popovich as gigantic, oversize water bottle. Popovich in a chariot, clothed in blood, descending from the heavens. Popovich as the color grey but spelled gray. Popovich as ash and lead. Popovich as outer space. Popovich as tall drink of water. Popovich as Geico caveman. Popovich as classy octopus. Popovich as lotus. Popovich as Mercedes Sprinter. Popovich as nice, pleated khakis. Popovich as wrestler. Popovich as aggravated cable company customer who’s sick and tired of paying for stuff that don’t work. Popovich as trickster, prankster. Popovich as breathable socks. Popovich as space shuttle launch. Popovich as wise, old horse. Popovich as man sitting on bench at outlet mall. Popovich furious at his shoelaces. Popovich as Chris Pine’s hair in I Am the Night. Popovich as hilarious road-trip companion. Popovich as confused grandfather getting his grandchildren to explain what an influencer is. Popovich as hardware-store patron who will not stop roasting the staff. I went to watch the Spurs play the Thunder once. (I’m a Thunder fan and no, I don’t want to talk about it.) DeJuan Blair went bananas. Had him 28 and 21. TWENTY-EIGHT AND TWENTY-ONE. We call that a Mbenga-Duncan. ACLs are for losers. Tim Duncan didn’t play that game. He sat at the end of the bench in wide-legged jeans and a tan suit coat that looked like if Bernie Mac’s suit coat on The Original Kings of Comedy DVD cover had a baby with D.L. Hughley’s suit coat on The Original Kings of Comedy DVD cover. I saw D.L. Hughley near baggage claim at LAX once. He wore a red suit, red fedora, and red dress shoes. I think the shirt was red too. Popovich as flip-flops that have bottle openers on the bottoms. Popovich as owner and proprietor of Bigg Gregg’s Bed & Breakfast, San Antonio’s premier bed & breakfast and the official bed & breakfast of the San Antonio Spurs.
Tyler Parker is a writer from Oklahoma.