The Rodeo Road Trips


A great deal of mythology surrounds San Antonio’s annual Rodeo Road Trip. The road trip, we’re always told, is a time of bonding for the team and serves as a kind of phone booth for the Spurs’ Clark Kent wardrobe change.

The Spurs’ tendency to peak late in the season has more to do with past success on the RRT than the trip itself. If the Spurs went rodeo in December, a cloud of dread would hover above the fan base. Suicide rates would rise in San Antonio and ESPN’s Trade Machine would break from an abundance of attempts to move Tony Parker elsewhere. Curse all that road-going. Curse it.

If anything the RRT should be a time to celebrate Gregg Popovich’s remarkable dedication to pacing the Spurs. If the NBA season is a marathon, Gregg Popovich is a full-blooded Kenyan.

The Spurs are 42-8. Tim Duncan is playing only 29 minutes per game. The Spurs are 42-8. Tim Duncan is playing only 29 minutes per game. The Spurs are 42-8. Tim Duncan is playing only 29 minutes per game. There is a post about Gregg Popovich in there somewhere, I can feel it.

But Popovich would never say it. And if you say it near him he’s more likely to rue your existence than dignify the suggestion with any form of credit-taking. “It’s not me, it’s the team” is his mantra from first to last. He’s just the loafing oaf who lucked his way into Tim Duncan.

Every season there is some reason to question the RRT mythology. Here’s one way to de-myth the proceedings this year: the Spurs actually have two rodeo road trips this time around the sun. After San Antonio’s defeat of the Kings on Friday night, they returned home for three days of rest before beginning what is really an entirely different road trip. Basically, they had a west coast trip and will, later this afternoon, leave for Detroit to begin an Eastern swing.

Six games in 10 days is not a cakewalk, and it represents a challenge to the Spurs no matter how one slices it. If the Spurs finish 5-1 or 4-2, they’ll have done well, even while facing some of the league’s least impressive teams. I’m not trying to diminish any such achievement. I’m just saying it has little to do with what we call the Rodeo Road Trip. There are other factors in play that demand our consideration.

This is not the story of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty leaving from New York to San Francisco, with little time for anything more than slipping into a epic moment of genius. It’s not that at all. It took Ernest Hemingway 10 years to complete A Farewell to Arms. This is something like that.

  • Judd

    “If the NBA season is a marathon, Gregg Popovich is a full-blooded Kenyan.”

    Great Line!

  • Bankshot21

    That was a great line, but I also see it as a bit controversial.

  • Timothy Varner

    Controversial? How?

  • Alix Babaie

    Because Pop is from North Kenya? :)

  • Alix Babaie

    I think so many people don’t realize what a great coach Pop is…..I mean, everyone rides Phil’s nuts but seriously, with 1 last play to win a game, give me Pop drawing it up any day of the week!

    Pop is really the best play calling out of a timeout coach in the NBA right now, bar none! That is not just me talking, as almost any player in the Assn right now and I am sure that they would say the same thing… many times do the Spurs score coming out of a timeout, maybe 80% of the time, if not higher?

    Thank goodness Pop replaced Boner Hill!

  • Timothy Varner

    Ah, I see. No disrespect intended. It’s a compliment both ways. Kenya, as you probably know, has a storied history in the area of middle distance and long distance running.

  • Curtis

    One of the things that makes coaches so difficult to evaluate is so many of the things that are most important to success are invisible to us as fans. We do see Pop’s remarkable ability to call plays coming out of timeouts, but at the same time, this affects maybe 3% of possessions in a game. But designing the practice schedule to maximize the growth of the team’s abilities without wearing players down, building rotations to keep guys productive and healthy, and so on – these things are all hidden from us. And those things, I’d argue, contribute much more to team success than drawing up good plays during a timeout. And so we obsess over these things, but we should remember how small a part they really are of his over-all job.

  • Gary

    “If the NBA season is a marathon, Gregg Popovich is a full-blooded Kenyan.”
    Can’t be more right than that!

  • rob

    I think the mystique of the RRT was born of the year they won the first championship. It came to pass as the measuring stick of how the Spurs would be expected to perform the rest of the season and into the playoffs.

    Needless to say…no matter how it’s viewed…it is a measuring stick to the minds of the fans how this team can overcome adversity in the midst of what would seem to be the most difficult task of the season to perform.

    Even just as monumentous moments like how the Spurs played the last month of last year takes a back seat to the RRT. Last year’s “come back” jaunt was just as, if not more impressive, than past RRT’s. Not getting through the second round last year blanketed that feat.

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  • Bruno

    OMG Really???Spurs to sign Steve Novak and assign Mr.Anderson to Toros…I can’t believe that, Anderson need minutes in team not in D-League

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  • Brian in Seattle

    Wow, Mr. Varner, a reference to both “On the Road” and “A Farewell to Arms” in a basketball blog?

    This is why I love 48moh.

  • Jake in Milwaukee

    Love the reference to Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty. The best ariticle Ive read here!

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  • wannabe_fan

    “a bit controversial”??? Tim, I guess it’s time for you to rename this blog “48 Minutes of Heck”. I’d hate for you to take any more heat.

  • luk

    @bruno – Unless you’re James Anderson’s physical therapist, Coach Pop, or RC Buford, around here we consistently blindly trust the front office’s brilliant albeit mysterious decisions sort of like how adherents trust Bible:
    “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD(or Coach Pop for the Spurs), “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
    and, “And we know that in all things God (or in this case Coach Pop) works for the good of those who love him (teammates), who have been called according to his purpose (NBA championships).”
    (jeremiah 29 and romans 8 quoted, by the way)

  • JustinFL

    lol;; good stuff luk

  • r.l.manuel

    come on people

  • clee37

    hahaha i love it, scripture rewritten to explain the spurs! what an idiot…the spurs care about the rrt bcause unlike the lakers they use this trip to ramp it up into the playoffs…the lakers wait till the playoffs to “turn it on”

  • Dr. Who

    The word “Controversial” offends me deeply due to it’s Latin roots. Can we please clean up this blog before it becomes a free for all. I feel oppressed…

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