Warriors-Spurs matchup turns into battle of backups; fans not pleased

ByMichael C. Wright ESPN logo
Sunday, March 12, 2017

SAN ANTONIO -- A combination ofSan Antonio Spurs injuries and the Golden State Warriors' desire for rest transformed a highly anticipated marquee matchup on Saturday into a battle of backups, resulting in disappointed fans.

"I just think it takes away from it because we are here to see all the players," said Mary Lou Mahone, a Spurs fan, who flew to Corpus Christi, Texas, from Sacramento, California, on Friday, before making the drive to San Antonio with her husband, Louis, a Warriors fan. "It's kind of disappointing when you don't get to see everybody. IsLaMarcus [Aldridge]even gonna be here?"

Louis Mahone added with a laugh that the situation between the teams "takes away from the game ... but we're here."

Warriors coach Steve Kerr announced after his team's loss Friday to the Minnesota Timberwolvesthat he would rest Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Klay Thompsonon Saturday. Golden State was prepping to play its seventh game on the road in its last eight contests.

San Antonio, meanwhile, had already planned to hold out star forward Kawhi Leonard, who is in the concussion protocol after taking a blow to the head Thursday in a loss at Oklahoma City. Then, the club announced hours before Saturday's game that Aldridge would miss an indefinite period due to a minor heart arrhythmia. The Spurs also ruled out Tony Parker (back tightness) and backup point guard Dejounte Murray (groin).

"For tonight, whoever's left is gonna go play," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said before the game. "We'll see how they do. I'm gonna show up and watch the whole thing. It ain't gonna be pretty, but the guys that are out there are gonna compete their butts off, and they're gonna all try to win. Some guys will play well, and some guys will play poorly. We'll see what happens.

"We didn't have to rest anybody tonight because they all got hurt. It could've been we're resting our guys and he's resting his guys. It just didn't work out that way."

Nonetheless, Binkan Cinaroglu, an executive vice president of a real estate company, wasn't happy. Cinaroglu wanted his sister's boyfriend, Rodrigo Parra, 21, to experience a Warriors-Spurs matchup in San Antonio.

So he purchased a plane ticket for Parra to visit San Antonio from Tijuana, so that Parra could see his beloved Curry play. Cinaroglu also bought four tickets for $1,500 apiece to sit near the Golden State bench.

"When[Kevin] Durantgot hurt, I said, 'That's fine, it'll still be a good game,'" Cinaroglu said. "Then Kawhi got hit in the head, and I say, 'There's no way Pop is going to play him (Saturday).' Then I'm at dinner yesterday and see a video of Steve Kerr saying he wasn't going to play any of his starters. We're heartbroken that we can't see Curry play."

"I genuinely feel bad for the fans who bought tickets," Kerr said after the game, a 107-85 loss to the Spurs.

Emily Reeves, 11, another die-hard Curry fan, echoed Cinaroglu's sentiment. Reeves made the trip to San Antonio from Taylor, Texas, as her father, Matthew, acquired tickets for Emily, brother Fender, 8, and grandfather, Doug Reeves. Emily Reeves is the family's only Warriors fan; the rest of the Reeves root for the Spurs.

"I'm very sad because I was looking forward to just being in the same room with Stephen Curry. But I'm not, and so it's very disappointing because I had really been looking forward to this," Emily Reeves said.

An avid collector of Fender guitars -- he named his son after the instrument -- Matthew Reeves said, "It's not disappointing for me," before pointing toward Emily and Fender and adding, "This is for these guys. It's their first NBA game, so they're enjoying it."

Doug Reeves, a postal carrier, said Saturday's matchup would be just his second Spurs contest. The last time he attended a game, the Spurs faced the Utah Jazz at the Alamodome.

"I can't really figure it out because the Spurs are 1.5 games back now," Reeves said prior to the game. "So I guess ... the Warriors figure they're making the playoffs anyway. So give everybody a rest. And our guys, they're hurt. My buddy, he's a mailman like me, and I saw him today on the route. So he goes, 'Doug, did you hear that Curry's not playing?' I said, 'No.' He's always jacking with me. So I figured he was pulling my leg. Then come to find out he wasn't. It would have been interesting to see all the starters play each other, but I guess we'll have to wait for the playoffs for that."

Spurs fan David Sanchez didn't mind. Sanchez brought his teenage son, David Sanchez III, from Albuquerque, New Mexico, for their first San Antonio game in seven years, but he wasn't irritated by the lack of star power on the floor at the AT&T Center.

"I don't believe guys being out takes away from the experience because there's more to it than just one player, three players, four players," Sanchez said. "Granted, they're superstars, and they earned all the respect that they have; they deserve the rest when they need it. Only themselves, their coaches and their families know when they need the rest, and when they don't need the rest.

"For myself, it's more than just a few players. It's about the atmosphere and the arena, all the other players, the bench, the other players that step in for them. Thank God it's a blessing that we've both had experiences at other games. I know it's probably different for some fans that come out that maybe it's their first game, and they were looking forward to meeting or seeing Curry play, or Leonard or Parker or something like that. It probably would be hard if I were in that situation, too.

"But like I said, it's the whole atmosphere. It's the whole experience. I know that's what most professional games are about these days -- coming to see that one player that you're really excited to see. But for me, it's all about the game, especially from a Spurs fan's perspective, where it's always the team that wins the game. It's not just always one person."

ESPN's Larry Starks contributed to this report.