Oct 1, 2012; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard (2) during media day at the Spurs practice facility. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-US PRESSWIRE
Here are some notes and observations I gleamed from the Spurs’ intrasquad scrimmage last night. The silver squad, headed by Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard, defeated the black squad, 106-97. The game was within striking distance for the entire night though silver never quite relinquished their grasp on the outcome.
— Spurs fans were treated to some drills prior to the scrimmage. The Spurs, as host Sean Elliot noted, ran their dummy offense (without defenders) before switching to defensive drills, a staple of the Spurs’ workouts. The simplicity of the drill is what makes the drill so effective; the offense isn’t aiming to score but their ball movement forces the defense to make extra rotations, close out on shooters and, ultimately, improve communication.
— The Spurs also worked on their inbounds sets which was interesting in itself to watch the multiple options at Gregg Popovich’s disposal. Leonard can be found streaking to the hoop or leaking to the weak side corner; DeJuan Blair, who played 42 minutes and tallied 19 points and seven rebounds, could potentially be open on a jaunt to the rim; if all else fails, Danny Green is also a proficient perimeter shooter. Leonard finished with 16 points and seven rebounds in 30 minutes.
— Eddy Curry drew the start for the Silver squad, along with Ginobili, Leonard, Gary Neal and Boris Diaw. Blair, Tony Parker, Danny Green, Stephen Jackson and Tim Duncan earned the start for the opposition.
— Curry was big, tall and notably slimmer. Other than, though, he didn’t look like a competent big man.
— Leonard opened the game with a smooth mid-range jumper and a corner 3-pointer. It was impressive to see Leonard excel in transition, on the perimeter and from mid-range. He also orchestrated the pick-and-roll which should be an interesting wrinkle for the offense this season. Also: If Leonard can improve his mid-range shooting — he converted on 30% of his attempts from 16-23 feet last season; the average small forward, for reference, shot 36.7% from 16-23 feet — that would make his developing arsenal more deadly.
— Patty Mills looked in command of the offense and his activity was impressive. He nearly ran down a loose ball veering towards the sidelines that would have led to a simple transition layup. If last night was any indication, the Spurs are going to be able to increase the pace with Mills on the floor and not miss a beat. Mills was one of 10 Spurs in double-figures with 11 points.
— Gary Neal led all scorers with 17 points as he consistently found space while running off screens.
— Josh Powell scored 13 points in 23 minutes while also grabbing six rebounds. Though I ranked him 19th in my latest player power rankings, he does seem to be a stronger bet to make the roster than I previously imagined.
— Tiago Splitter, who suited up for the Black team, sat out with back spasms. The injury isn’t considered serious according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.
— After a classic Ginobili performance — 21 points on 8-of-12 shooting — he spoke with the media following the scrimmage. He talked about the benefit of intrasquad scrimmages, how much time it will take the Spurs to fully acclimate themselves to one another and the NBA schedule, and the additions of veterans Eddy Curry and Josh Powell to the roster. Full audio can be found here courtesy of Pounding the Rock.
“There are 13 returning guys, so there aren’t many that can surprise you. But, of course, having Josh Powell and Eddy Curry on the roster is a big thing,” Ginobili said. “They’re both great players, talented bigs that (aren’t) easy to find in the league anymore. So, it’s good to have them around and give them a chance.”