Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers recently suggested that his team needed to spend some time with their team psychologist to air their grievances. (via Ball Don’t Lie)
His comment immediately brought four questions to mind:
1. Is it already Festivus?
2. Do the San Antonio Spurs have a team psychologist?
3. If so, would anyone ever dare to mention details from a session with said psychologist?
4. If so, what details would be shared and what would one of those sessions look like?
While I know the answer to question 1 and I can’t truthfully answer questions 2 and 3, I can have fun speculating how the scene would play out in question 4.
Please join me as we examine the current psyche of the Spurs.
In late January things seemed bleak. In the locker room after losing to the Chicago Bulls on January 29th, Coach Boylen extended his arm toward Tony Parker. Shaking Parker’s hand he said “hang in there Tony,” and then pulled him close to whisper “don’t ever let Pop know you guys are going to do this.”
Parker realized Coach Boylen was handing him something. He glanced at his palm to see Coach Boylen had slipped him a business card for a man named Gilbert Sweat. “I fix heads” was the motto, etched in gold underneath the address to his office. Parker looked up to ask Coach Boylen what this was all about, but he was already gone.
The players meet in a Chili’s parking lot and travel in a white, nondescript rental van together to their session. The driver takes an extremely winding route in order to keep Coach Popovich off their trail. The words of Coach Boylen echo in Tony’s ears so he always makes sure the driver takes all precaution to avoid Pop finding out about their sessions. The van parks in the alley behind the office of Dr. Gilbert Sweat.
Dr. Sweat’s office is tucked away in a weathered strip mall, sandwiched between a Donut shop and a Verizon store. The sign on the door reads A Sweat Shop For Your Mind which is designed to do one thing– keep stragglers from entering. Dr. Sweat has only one client and he aims to keep it that way.
He is a slight man with narrow shoulders and a beak like nose that gives him a wise, birdlike appearance. Tufts of salt and pepper hair form a bowl around the top of his ears and circle around the back of his head. His glasses remain firmly in place on the bridge of his nose.
His office is a simple one. He keeps books stacked in one corner since his literature collection has long outgrown his single, cedar bookcase. He has plenty of room and plenty of money to buy another, but why bother? Besides a few knick knacks and trinkets he’s purchased through the years the only real decoration is a reprint of the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, which hangs on the wall behind his desk.
Everything about the man and his office is unassuming, which is perfect for his only client. The players take their seats in a semi-circle of folding chairs surrounding Dr. Sweat’s desk. The session begins.
Dr. Sweat, in a calm and reassuring voice, asks if anyone has issues they’d like to discuss. Aron Baynes immediately raises his hand and Tim Duncan slinks in his chair. Dr. Sweat passes the worn, tattered teddy bear affectionately known as “T.T. McNutts” to Baynes. No one really knows what the “T.T.” stands for. Some of the guys speculate that it’s short for “trust tree” while others have more exotic theories (Truck stop Tuesdays, Matt Bonner? What does that even mean?)
Baynes cradles T.T. McNutts as tears well up in his eyes. “Why did you break my ribs, Timmy?” he asks softly as Duncan nervously starts to fidget with the sleeves of his flannel shirt. Baynes squeezes the bear harder as he looks for assurance from Dr. Sweat. The Doctor nods his approval. Baynes tosses T.T. McNutts into the air while simultaneously rising from his seat. In a surprisingly graceful move he punts T.T. McNutts across the room as the bear falls from his throw. Patty Mills lets out a blood curdling squeal and rushes to the corner where the bear lays helplessly on the ground. He immediately pounces and lands several haymakers on the stuffed animal before Manu Ginobili and Marco Belinelli can pull him off. Patty clenches the bear in his teeth and shakes his head violently like a rabid dog. Stuffing begins to fly before Manu and Marco can get Patty calmed down and convince him to unclench his jaw and release McNutts.
“Patty, why do you always attack T.T. McNutts?” asks Dr. Sweat, incredulously.
In his melodic Aussie accent he replies “I don’t, mate.” It’s his only response as he pulls stuffing from his teeth while returning to his seat.
Dr. Sweat can only shake his head in bewilderment because he knows Patty is in complete denial about his propensity for violence against teddy bears, but he knows he must move on. He only has so much time with the squad, and there is so much to cover. “Who’d like to go next,” he asks the group.
Jeff Ayres raises his hand. “I’d like to,” he says. “Great,” says Dr. Sweat and he tosses the T.T. to Ayres.
Jeff drops the bear.
Marco and Manu hold Patty back before he can pounce.
“Ok, who’d like to go next?” asks Dr. Sweat again. Kawhi Leonard slowly raises his hand. As he does most of the light is blocked from the room. Ayres fumbles while picking up the bear, but soon gets it in the hands of Leonard.
Leonard takes a deep breath as he cradles T.T. McNutts. Finally, he begins.
“T.T. McNutts, you’ve done good. We come in here once a week and you always make us want to be better men after Patty pummels you. When Matt Bonner got his face broke, you were here for Patty to pummel. When Manu dunked, you were here for Patty to pummel. When Marco ate a whole tub of manicotti and threw up on Tiago on the airplane, you were here for Patty to pummel.
So I just want to thank you T.T. McNutts, and you too Dr. Sweat. You’ve been here for us since Tony convinced us to come see you. You have given us a real outlet for Patty to express his emotions and it has made us all better watching him deal with that bear.
Kawhi hugs T.T. McNutts and rotates his hips like a five year old embracing his favorite toy. He then cradles the bear in his arms like a newborn baby as he approaches and embraces Dr. Sweat. Patty Mills joins the two in what is now a group hug. Patty’s shoulders start to tremble as he begins to sob.
“It’s not your fault,” Kawhi whispers over and over again.
After a few agonizing moments the three men and teddy bear break their embrace and wipe their tears away as they return to their seats. Dr. Sweat thanks them for the session and acknowledges that they’ve made a real breakthrough. The men in the room smile and clap because they know something special has happened.
As the team rises to leave, Patty lags behind. The rest of the guys know what’s going to happen, but Patty deserves this. When everyone has exited, Patty charges. He gets in a few more cheap shots on T.T. McNutts and then pulls off one of his glass eyes, eats it, and then walks casually out the door.
A man standing in an adjacent room watches the entire session through a peep hole carved into the painting hanging behind Dr. Sweat’s desk. He is Dr. Sweat’s lone client so his judgment of the progress is all that really matters. Fortunately, he too knows the meeting was a success. Once again no one used the word “happy” or “feelings” or any of that other crap in their discussion. Instead they spent most of their allotted minutes watching Patty Mills punch a stuffed animal.
With a feeling of satisfaction, Gregg Popovich turns away from his peep hole and waves at Dr. Sweat on his way out the front door. Though the two men exchange no words, Dr. Sweat knows he did his job.
That night Coach Popovich enjoys a nice glass of Lapostolle Clos Apalta, 2009 and allows himself a brief smile. He sinks deeply into his custom Italian leather chair and rewards himself with a moment of total relaxation. As the playoffs approach he’s confident his team is in good shape–in mind body and spirit..
And he knows that will always be the case as long as Dr. Sweat and T.T. McNutts have anything to do with it.