Another year, another wonder if this could be the first postseason in 22 years that doesn’t involve the San Antonio Spurs.
In a loaded Western Conference, the Spurs aren’t in everyone’s consensus to be playing in late April. We’ve‘ all learned, however, never to count out Spurs head coach Greg Popovich and the system that remains incredibly productive. The faces may change, but a good amount of victories does not.
As they welcome back a healthy Dejounte Murray to an already battle tested mix of youth and all-star veterans, the Spurs may not just be a team being considered to make another playoff appearance but possibly a championship run.
As for the New Orleans Pelicans, they will look to stay undefeated in preseason action as they visit San Antonio to face off with the Spurs on Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. New Orleans, fresh off another exciting roller coaster win versus the Utah Jazz on Friday, will continue to explore ways at managing their insane roster depth while fixing issues on both sides of the basketball floor.
Defensive communication, rotations, and breakdowns have spurned the Pels in back to back games, as both the Jazz and Bulls made New Orleans work through several screens and motions as they moved the ball to wide open spots repeatedly possession after possession.
If New Orleans wants to be tested again in that area, San Antonio is a match made in heaven. The Spurs could run clinics on basketball movement and off ball production, as it’s been a staple in their offense for years.
For more on the Spurs and the matchup we hooked up with Jeff Garcia again, the lead digital journalist for both the NBC and Fox affiliates in San Antonio. You can also catch him on the “Locked on Spurs” podcast that he hosts and produces daily. Be sure to follow Jeff on Twitter @JeffGSpursZone and enjoy our latest installment of Outsider’s Perspective.
- The San Antonio Spurs are the benchmark for consistency and excellence in the NBA. From their front office structures, to diverse coaching staffs, and rosters, the Spurs have broken more helped separate more barriers than people give them credit for.
The Pelicans seem to be aiming for a similar Spurs like pattern with some of their organizational changes, diverse hires, draft stashes, and overseas scouting. San Antonio has made a huge name for themselves building not just deep rosters but deep basketball influences throughout the organization, no matter their position, race or gender.
How important has the unique and divergent organizational structure alone been to the Spurs’ success? Most just see the play on the floor and think that’s where it starts and ends.
Very! Keep in mind who is at the tip of the spear - Popovich. He is an x’s and o’s coach, but his ability to reach the players outside of just basketball has been key. From talking about politics, current events, wine and movies Popovich ensures that the players feel like they are more than athletes. That trickles down the chain of command which creates an atmosphere of family.
2. When Lonzo Ball got traded to New Orleans, most immediately thought about the defensive potential of Ball and Jrue Holiday together. While they could be in contention for best defensive backcourt, San Antonio has a duo of their own that will pose a strong argument.
Derrick White burst onto the scene last year with a fantastic second season, playing crucial minutes for a Spurs backcourt battling injuries, age, and legendary departures. Defensively is where White arguably stood out the most, finishing with a handful of All NBA Defensive team votes.
White saw significant minutes due to the absence of Dejounte Murray, who missed all of the 2018-19 season with a torn ACL. Murray finished the prior season making an All-NBA Defensive team of his own (2nd), ironically behind Jrue Holiday who had first team honors.
What makes Murray and White so good individually? And what are the expectations like once they play real minutes together?
Individually they are distinct. White brings a hard-nosed work ethic. He was recruited by a culinary school out of college so he knows a thing or two about working hard for his goals. Not only is he a big guard, he is very athletic, a hound on defense and can score at and around the rim.
Murray is just a freakish athlete. His rebounding gets ignored. He is one of the best rebounding guards in the NBA. A major reason he was named to the All-NBA Defensive Second Team the season before his injury. He can cover the floor fast, slash to the rim and so far in the preseason, has shown an improved jumper.
They should play together once the season starts at various times in the season. Popovich plays it close to the vest when it comes to lineups, but I expect them to hit the court together often. I am of the opinion that having White come off the bench for added firepower with the second unit on both ends of the court.
3. Is 2018 first round pick Lonnie Walker the next forgotten about Spurs player who makes a name for himself? As the Pelicans look to replicate similar feats, how valuable is it being able to stash talented players as they work themselves into being NBA professionals?
Walker did get lost in the shuffle due to an injury that sidelined him for most of his rookie season. The question is will he get run? He is playing behind the likes of DeMar DeRozan, Dejounte Murray, Marco Belinelli and Patty Mills. It could be a numbers game for him. However, in today’s “load management” era, expect some of the players ahead of him get rest and him take advantage of the freed minutes.
He’s shown he can play at the G League and Summer League level but can he do that on the NBA stage remains to be seen.
Stashing players has been wonderful for the Spurs. The names Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, and Davis Bertans have benefited from being stashed. It simply allows the players to get minutes, hone their craft, play on professional levels outside of the NBA, and understand the team concept.
4. What’s the biggest misconception about the Spurs coming into the 2019-20 season?
That they won’t make the postseason. How many times do the Spurs get counted out only to see them be in the mix at the end of the day?
Same thing this season. This is a dangerous team with a good mix of youth and veteran presence. Count out the Spurs at your own peril.
5. Your outside perspective on the Pelicans.
I think the Pelicans are going to be a fun team to watch. Zion Williamson will be “must-see-TV” and they are a potential playoff team.
Adding JJ Redick was huge, as was netting Brandon Ingram and Jason Hart. I still think they are a season or two away from becoming significant threats in the West, but I will not be shocked if they are fighting for a playoff berth this season.
And as much as Williamson will be great to see, I really want to witness if he will expand his game beyond the rim. NBA defenses will key in on him and if he can show he is more than a dunker, watch out NBA.
That was our time with Jeff. Special thanks to him once again for joining us and we hope you appreciated our latest installment. Be sure to enjoy the game.