San Antonio Spurs News

San Antonio Spurs vs. Atlanta Hawks: Preseason Recap and Takeaways

By Noah Magaro-George
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 10: Vince Carter #15 of the Atlanta Hawks exchanges a hug with DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs during a pre-season game on October 10, 2018 at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - OCTOBER 10: Vince Carter #15 of the Atlanta Hawks exchanges a hug with DeMar DeRozan #10 of the San Antonio Spurs during a pre-season game on October 10, 2018 at McCamish Pavilion in Atlanta, Georgia. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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The San Antonio Spurs fell short of a comeback in Atlanta last night. What can we take away from this preseason nailbiter?

San Antonio squared off in their first preseason matchup since losing starting point guard Dejounte Murray for the season to a devastating ACL injury. Apparently, playing defense wasn’t a point of emphasis for the Spurs as they inexplicably let an inexperienced Hawks team pad their stats for 130 points on their way to a victory.

Though it was a rough game from end-to-end for the boys in silver and black, San Antonio managed to scratch and claw their way back from a 13 point second half deficit to lose by a final score of 127-130. Despite being far from their smoothest outing, the Spurs showed some signs of life down LaMarcus Aldridge and a handful of key players.

Usually, preseason basketball means much more to younger players than seasoned vets, but thanks to numerous offseason circumstances the Spurs are looking at more questions than answers. These preseason exhibitions are now crucial to San Antonio’s regular season success, and they’ll need to work out their kinks across the roster if they hope to compete in the Western Conference.

The Spurs scored 127 points tonight and lost. I think they might be fun to watch. https://t.co/hJ16dH6HqD

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) October 11, 2018

Derrick White is up for the challenge of replacing Dejounte Murray

Every San Antonio Spurs fan felt their stomach drop when news broke that potential breakout star Dejounte Murray tore his ACL against the Houston Rockets last Sunday. Rave reviews for the All-Defensive candidate were whirling around all summer and in a single moment, his high hopes for the season were whisked away.

The injury was devastating and it felt unfair, but this sticky situation might actually have a silver lining for the Spurs. Although few second-year players ever get a chance to make a major impact in the Alamo City, Derrick White is the perfect candidate to follow in Murray’s footsteps.

For everything he lacks in athletic prowess, he makes up for in offensive creativity and sound defensive fundamentals. White is a respectable ball handler, an intelligent playmaker and a lethal long-range assassin.

The Spurs will without a doubt sorely miss the services of Dejounte Murray, and there are certainly several reasons for them to be worried about the upcoming 2018-19 campaign. What we learned on Wednesday was White isn’t one of those concerns.

How, @Dwhite921?#GoSpursGo pic.twitter.com/yUCIQgiNpP

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) September 30, 2018

The slick scorer out of Colorado has teased us with some sweet snapshots of his abilities in offseason exhibitions. He’ll have his growing pains as he learns on the job, but White will inject some much-needed firepower into the Spurs attack.

Rudy Gay continues to turn heads with his efficient offense

A quick round of applause is in order for Rudy Gay after Wednesday night’s performance. While his struggles on both sides of the ball were well documented last season, he seems to put those troubles well behind him.

Through four preseason games, the combo forward is scoring 15.3 points per game with 70-67-83 shooting splits in just 20.5 minutes of action per night. Predicting a full-throttle comeback season in 2018-2019 from 32-year-old seem a bit premature, but with numbers like his, it’s hard not to daydream about the possibilities that await him.

On top of an all-around excellent showing this preseason, Gay has displayed an explosiveness he failed to show much of last year. With renewed lift, Rudy appears to be as confident, healthy and assertive as he’s ever been. And with numerous injuries and changes across the board, the Spurs will need him to maintain this level of play.

You know what we can overreact to? Rudy Gay balling like it’s 2013. https://t.co/EmirSJzjkz

— Air Alamo (@AirAlamo) October 11, 2018

One game remains on the Spurs’ preseason schedule, so Gay will have every opportunity to build some momentum as we head ever closer to the regular season. One final good or bad performance won’t change his role in the rotation, but it could go a long way for boosting his confidence.

Davis Bertans must show more consistency on both ends

After committing $14.5 million over the next two seasons to Davis Bertans and letting Kyle Anderson walk in free agency, it looked like the Spurs were fully ready to hand over a larger role to the Latvian marksmen. Unfortunately, it appears he wasn’t as ready as San Antonio thought he’d be.

Not only has Bertans streaky shooting solidified his reputation as a hot and cold commodity, but his defense has been absolutely horrendous. The six-foot-ten floor spacer has been overpowered in the post and a step slow on defensive rotations all preseason.

The departure of Anderson and Kawhi Leonard was supposed to mean more minutes for Bertans. However, that sort of lackadaisical defense won’t fly in coach Popovich’s system. While some fans may think Davis deserves a chance soar, if he wants to see the light of day, he must first fix those defensive deficiencies.

Bertans won’t ever be one of the league’s better defenders and that’s okay. As long as he can mold himself into a serviceable stopper and knock down threes with a stroke as pure as gold, the third-year pro will always have a home in the Spurs locker room.

B3RTANS ?#GoSpursGo https://t.co/Byj7xpQvgg

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) September 30, 2018

Pau Gasol has earned the right to stay in the starting lineup

I’ll be the first to admit I’ve ragged on Pau Gasol for the better part of the last two years. I’m stunned I’m actually going to say this, but I actually want Pau Gasol to keep his starting job this season.

His contract is still one of the worst values in the league and his extension from a season ago is still questionable. While he’s done little to prove his worth, his mere presence in the lineup may be more important now than ever before.

Gasol hasn’t entered a magical time machine and brought back the perennial All-Star of the 2000’s we all knew and loved, and he doesn’t need to. Though his scoring, foot speed, and maneuverability have severely deteriorated in the twilight of his career, Father Time could never take away his basketball IQ.

That Pau & Rudy connection ? https://t.co/9ylq6dNwhA

— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) October 10, 2018

It’s not often your best passer is your starting center. Oddly enough, that might just be the case for San Antonio. Gasol finished Wednesday night with a game-high 10 assists while turning the ball over just once. Don’t expect that kind of production on a nightly basis, but don’t be surprised if Pau challenges DeMar DeRozan for the team lead in assists per game.

Bryn Forbes is stepping up after a rough end to last season

With as poorly as the second half of last season went for Bryn Forbes, bringing back the undersized guard for another go-round seemed far from a sure thing. Low and behold, the 25-year-old is back once more and strutting his stuff.

Nice game for Bryn Forbes, and much-needed. He started slowly this preseason but has 18 points off the bench tonight, making 7 of his 8 attempts.

— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) October 11, 2018

His first four preseason games have come with a wide array of results, but his latest showing in Atlanta was by far his best dress rehearsal. The speedy sharpshooter scored 22 points and shot an efficient 9-11 from the field.

Although he’s the best three-point shooter on the team, his defense is miles away from dependable. His lightning-quick feet should help him mask his vertically challenged frame, but more often than not his assignments catch him cheating off screens and dribble moves trying to catch a piece of the ball.

Injuries to Lonnie Walker IV and Dejounte Murray have insured Forbes a spot in the rotation to start the season, but he can’t afford to become complacent. A combination of impatience on defense and inconceivable inconsistency beyond the arc could be the undoing of Bryn Forbes in this organization.

Next. Manu Ginobili should come back after Dejounte Murray injury

He has a fighting chance to carve out a solid role for himself in San Antonio and he should make the most of his good fortune.

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