San Antonio Spurs: Familiar faces debut in new places
By Dylan Carter
After an offseason of turnover for the San Antonio Spurs, let’s check in with some former team members who made their debuts elsewhere.
For the first time in a long time, the San Antonio Spurs spent the offseason transforming their roster into something new. Most Spurs offseasons consist of one or two moves, some rookie selections and a few minor additions.
This summer, general manager R.C. Buford and head coach Gregg Popovich built a new squad better suited to fit All Stars DeMar DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge. This meant that the organization had to trend in a new direction and let go of a whole crop of crucial players.
More from Air Alamo
- Spurs show remarkable poise against Bulls, unlike many fans
- Devin Vassell is the latest in the Spurs’ collection of silent assassins
- San Antonio Spurs: 5 Players to avoid in any LaMarcus Aldridge deal
- Is Gregg Popovich hiding Luka Samanic as a secret weapon?
- San Antonio Spurs News: More DeRozan trade talk from Chris Haynes
As a restricted free agent, forward Kyle Anderson found a hefty four-year, $37.2 million contract from the Memphis Grizzlies which he promptly accepted. Legendary point guard Tony Parker departed from San Antonio after 17 seasons to close out his journey on a new path and both Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green are embarking on their own voyages in Toronto.
It’s certainly odd to see some of these guys in new places, especially Parker. These are players that formed the nucleus of the San Antonio Spurs over the past decade and have embodied the Spurs way over the course of their careers. Now, they’ll spread that corporate knowledge and basketball IQ in new locker rooms and organizations.
Smart players can get by in any scenario and these players will adapt quickly. However, that doesn’t mean that they won’t struggle to adapt to new play styles. After years of operating in a motion-based offense where the ball is in constant motion, players will need to adapt to teams where the ball doesn’t move as swiftly or efficiently.
Without further ado, let’s check in with some old friends on the next phase of their careers.
Next: Slo Mo struggles in Grind City
Slo Mo struggles in Grind City
After dropping a money bag on his doorstep, you’d think the Memphis Grizzlies would try to get small forward Kyle Anderson more involved in the game plan in their season debut. Instead, he played just under 20 minutes and struggled to gain momentum on the offensive end.
Anderson finished with five points on two-of-six shooting from the field. He tacked on two rebounds, one assist, two turnovers and two fouls in his 19:15 on the floor.
Inefficiency is uncharacteristic for Anderson, who has made a career off of playmaking and defending against multiple positions. His height and incredible basketball IQ generally ensure that he’ll shoot efficiently and take care of the ball. Instead, he struggled to get things going in his first game back from the summer.
Plenty of players struggled in their season debuts. It’s not totally out of the ordinary for a player operating under a new coach with a new team to struggle as they get acclimated to everything.
I wouldn’t expect the negative trend to follow Anderson for much longer, as his poised decision-making and well-rounded skill set will prevail sooner rather than later. After some injury plagued seasons and the departures of core players such as power forward Zach Randolph and swingman Tony Allen, the Grizzlies are stuck in basketball limbo.
With both point guard Mike Conley and center Marc Gasol at full strength, the’ll will be a pesky team this season. It wouldn’t be surprising if Memphis stole a few games against the top teams in the Southwest Division this year, as their defensive-minded foundation remains intact.
Anderson will have some extra work to do this season without the help of Spurs ball movement and offensive scheme, but he’ll figure it out eventually. He’s too smart of a player not to.
Next: Tony Parker drops dimes in his debut
Tony Parker drops dimes in his debut
There’s got to be a learning curve when adjusting to a new team, but there’s a lot of Spurs influence seeping through the Charlotte Hornets this season. Newly appointed head coach James Borrego spent many years of Popovich’s staff before departing for his own team.
Naturally, there’s going to be some added emphasis on defense and ball movement for the Hornets this year. That’s why point guard Tony Parker is going to flourish as a backup for Buzz City.
Playing next to one of his best friends in small forward Nic Batum, Parker seems to be benefitting from a change of scenery this season. In 19:48 minutes of playing time, TP9 posted a stat line of eight points, seven rebounds and two turnovers while committing two fouls.
Tony Parker records his 1st bucket in a @hornets jersey! #Hornets30 #KiaTipOff18 pic.twitter.com/eaLVxwXaNb
— NBA (@NBA) October 17, 2018
Parker’s production was surprisingly similar to Anderson’s, but Parker played a much more efficient game and did a spectacular job of setting up his teammates for open shots. Playing next to a red-hot Kemba Walker has got to help, as he put on a spectacular 41-point outing to begin the season.
As uncomfortable as it may be to see Parker in a Hornets jersey, it’s nice to see him doing well for another team. After his poor performance last season, many questioned his ability to contribute to another team this year. Unfortunately, he knew that his time with the Spurs was over and made a move to begin the final stage of his career.
It’s awkward to watch, but great players leave their franchises near the end more frequently than you’d think. Players such as Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, who represented the Rockets and Knicks respectfully, played for various other teams to end their careers.
Sometimes, it’s better for a franchise cornerstone to depart for one or two final paychecks than it is to hold on to the past. One thing is for sure, Spurs fans will pay attention to Charlotte much more than they have in the past.
Next: The two Raptors take care of business
The two Raptors take care of business
The perimeter duo of Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard have moved up north to Toronto. After roughly nine months, Leonard has returned to the game and Green is picking up from where he left off in the first round of the playoffs.
Green and Leonard were dropped into a scenario perfectly suited for their styles of play. With point guard Kyle Lowry running the show, Toronto will get out in transition, space the floor, play physical defense and rip the ball from opponents at any given chance.
It was a poor shooting night for Leonard in his Raptors debut, hitting 9-of-22 shots from the field for 24 points. He hit one of his three-point attempts and 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. He was a menace on the glass, snagging 12 rebounds in his 37 minutes of play. With an increased offensive workload, Leonard’s defensive stats took a hit. He did not log a steal or a block in the contest.
Kawhi Leonard records 24 PTS, 13 REB to help the @Raptors win in his debut! #WeTheNorth #KiaTipOff18 pic.twitter.com/BxW6o2NocQ
— NBA (@NBA) October 18, 2018
Green, on the other hand, had a great all-around game in his Raptors debut. He scored 11 points including three makes from behind the arc. His effort and hustle on the defensive end shined, as he stole the ball twice and blocked two shots during his 33 minutes of play.
The tandem combined for a box plus-minus of +28 on the night and led Toronto to a 116-104 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers. It was a tight contest through the first half, but Toronto took advantage of the Cavs’ deficiencies on both sides of the floor and attacked the rim with ease.
Superstar LeBron James’ departure from the Eastern Conference has left it up for grabs. The Raptors, Celtics and 76ers will compete through the regular season and playoffs to take the mantle, so there’ll be plenty of Leonard and Green highlights during the course of the year.
Even if they’re not Spurs anymore, keep Leonard and Green on your radar. There’s a decent chance that they’ll end up in the NBA Finals this year.