It worked like clockwork last season. As the San Antonio Spurs came out of a fourth-quarter timeout, 2 Unlimited's ubiquitous "Twilight Zone" would pound throughout the AT&T Center as a scoreboard barometer "measured" fans' applause. On Monday night, the Spurs production team didn't wait: the "Twilight Zone" beats started way early. After a stunning first round exit last season and the subsequent NBA Lockout, Monday night's delayed season premiere demanded an immediate energy injection — if for no other reason than because this season picked up where last season left off, with the Memphis Grizzlies.
The AT&T Center itself hadn't hosted a Spurs game of consequence for nearly 8 months. Yet the usual suspects were in the stands like they'd never left: the smell of salt in the plaza-level air; the sound of the Baseline Bum with vocal cords pushing to the limit; Lakers fans (there's a vast difference between buying and actually wearing a Derek Fisher jersey, btw); promotional handouts splayed across the floors. Yet the stands also demonstrated this wasn't your typical late-December game. The Pizza Hut employee leaned on her register with a look of anxious anticipation prior to the gate's opening; the mobile beer man working on his sales pitch, this time opting for the "ice cold muscle relaxer" approach; balcony areas missing clever Spurs' player names with accompanying sponsors, etc.
Yet an air of sameness extended clouded the court where Tim Duncan got caught with early foul trouble, playing only five minutes in the first half (hey, that's one way to minimize Tim's minutes). There was dreadful first-half shooting from the Spurs, and the Grizzlies finished the game with 25 turnovers. Players were slipping and tripping. After a slow start, the Spurs capitalized on Memphis' mistakes, seizing control in the third quarter to close it up 95-82.
Maybe the "Twilight Zone" is the perfect preface for the 2011-2012 NBA season. It's too early to really say anything of substance. Yes, the regular season has begun, but the NBA season is still in a transitionary period. The defending champion Dallas Mavericks have lost their first two games by a combined 33 points. Does that mean they're done? Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers look lost, should we write em off? The Miami Heat triptych looks to have "figured it out," should we hand 'em the title? Chris Paul is now a Clipper, does that mean they moved from the basement to the penthouse?
I don't know. But it didn't take long for me to remember just how much I can't stand Kevin Garnett.
Tonight, the Spurs meet the Chris Paul-era Los Angeles Clippers, affectionately known as Lob City, who have the hops and the hype this season to perhaps usurp their big brother Lakers. •