San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich had Tony Parker come off the bench for the first time in his career. Why could this have happened now?
Something looked different about Sunday’s San Antonio Spurs vs. Indiana Pacers game, and not that was it another loss or multiple players were out due to injury; it was something about the starting lineup, which had Dejounte Murray at point guard. Tony Parker was not listed on the injury report, either. Instead, the long-time Spur, for the first time in his career, came off the bench in a regular-season game.
Parker explained the decision after the game. According to Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News, it was a decision head coach Gregg Popovich felt it was time to make:
“Pop told me,” Parker said. “He told me he thought it was time, and I was like, ‘No problem.’ Just like Manu (Ginobili), just like Pau (Gasol), you know that day is going to come. If Pop sees something that is good for the team, I will try to do my best…I will support Pop’s decision, and I will try to help DJ as best as I can and try to be the best I can in that second unit with Manu and Patty (Mills).”
The lineup change may be one of Popovich’s most significant in his time as head coach. It’s the benching of someone that likely will get his number retired and raised into the AT&T Center’s rafters, along with one of the best players to hail from France. However, there’s a time and place for everything, which potentially was the case.
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January has not treated the Spurs well. Since the calendar turned to 2018, they have compiled a record of 5-6. While not terrible, it’s not the mark expected from a team that consistently finishes near the top of the Western Conference. This spell allowed the Minnesota Timberwolves to tie them at No. 3 in the conference.
Could this be the only reason? Maybe not. Parker has struggled over this past 10 games, shooting just 38.7 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3-point range for 6.9 points and 3.6 assists. It’s a contribution to the team’s poor shooting performances of the past one to two weeks, including a 7-for-29 stretch vs. the Atlanta Hawks, Brooklyn Nets and Toronto Raptors.
Will Murray make a difference, though? On the defensive end, he should, with intriguing wingspan and athleticism that will play better against starting point guards, especially when Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and Stephen Curry all linger near the top of the Western Conference.
On offense, the Washington product may not be a solution to everything. He’s shooting just 41.4 percent from the field and does not have a consistent 3-point game. So, this may not be the extra scorer that the starting lineup needs, for LaMarcus Aldridge’s sake. Maybe Popovich has his sights on seeing if Murray can develop a consistent offensive game in a secure role, rather than starting and knowing he would return to the bench, like what happened to start the 2017-18 season.
.@DejounteMurray attacks the rim and gets the floater to fall!
— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) January 22, 2018
Either way, it’s a changing of the (point) guard for the Spurs; one that Popovich felt it was time to make and give the lineup a different look. Will it produce results?