The key to any great feat of magic lies in misdirection. The ability to make your subject believe one thing is happening, when actually something entirely different is going on. The objective is to convince the audience that what they can see is undeniably true.
Then, just as they have removed all elements of doubt in the certainty of what’s in front of their eyes, the magician reveals that something implausible and impossible has really happened instead.
There is perhaps no more accurate analogy to describe the San Antonio Spurs than the magician’s trick. They are a team that continues to defy what we believe is possible from a franchise. The Spurs have been written off as being “too old” for what seems like close to a decade now.
Each season they reinvent themselves blending fantastic free agent signings, unheralded rookies and resurrecting supposed has-beens, alongside their existing championship core.
The magic was in full effect on Saturday night. Having made LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan and Danny Green disappear from the starting line-up, the Spurs appeared to be undermanned. Their opponents, the Sacramento Kings, would be forgiven for believing they could take advantage and sneak a win.
But, once again, coach Greg Popovich waved his wand and pulled Manu Ginobili out of the proverbial hat. In his first game back from a testicular injury, the 38-year-old Argentinian poured in 22 points in a mere 15 minutes. The W ensured the Spurs remained undefeated overall 30 of their home games so far this season.
But once again, coach Greg Popovich waved his wand and pulled Manu Ginobili out of the proverbial hat. In his first game back from a testicular injury, the 38-year-old Argentinian poured in 22 points in a mere 15 minutes. The W ensured the Spurs remained undefeated overall 30 of their home games so far this season.
The magician’s trick analogy extends far beyond one game, though. Throughout the NBA season so far, the vast majority of coverage has focused on the incredible streak the Warriors are on. This is totally understandable given the historical context and I don’t mean to take away from what the ‘Dubs are doing – but quietly and methodically, the Spurs are also turning in an all-time great season.
Magically vanish Golden State and people would be revelling in the Spurs performance, comparing them to the ’95-’96 Bulls instead. With a 53 and 9 record, San Antonio are sitting pretty at the top of the Southwest Division.
Yes, they’ve lost four more games than the Warriors, but what’s scary is that coach Pops' doesn’t care about the regular season. He’s still employing his tactic of resting key players for games. It doesn’t seem to matter who suits up on any given night, the Spurs still run like a well-oiled machine.
San Antonio don’t care that they’re not the focus of the league, it’s all part of the misdirection. It’s what they want - with the focus somewhere else, you won’t see them coming. You can point to when the Warriors met the Spurs in January, and the resulting 30 point pasting, as to how big the gap is between the two.
But that’s just one game and you need to remember that a master magician never reveals their secrets. If the two (more than likely) meet in the playoffs, Pops is going to need his whole bag of tricks.
In January, Bleacher Report predicted the Spurs would finish the regular season with a 65-17 record. However, if they are able to maintain their current win percentage of .855, San Antonio are on pace to earn the third best record in NBA history (including if the Warriors stay the course for the all-time record) and 70 wins. Like I said, though, San Antonio don’t care about the regular season. Their focus is solely on getting another championship.
So picture this, the grand finale, the smoke clears from the last game of The Finals, the Larry O’Brien hoisted high above 12 men. But they’re not dressed in Warriors’ blue and gold, they’re dressed in black and silver. No way. Not possible. I don't believe it… Well, that’s magic.
No way. Not possible. I don't believe it… Well, that’s magic.