San Antonio Spurs: Three things to watch for during the Rodeo Road Trip
By Dylan Carter
As the San Antonio Spurs gear up for their annual Rodeo Road Trip, let’s highlight previous results and anticipated storylines for the eight-game slate.
Just as they do every February, the San Antonio Spurs are set to hit the road once again as the 2019 San Antonio Stock and Rodeo show sets up shop in the AT&T Center. As a result, Gregg Popovich and the crew are set to travel on their annual eight-game road stretch from coast-to-coast.
Last year’s Rodeo Road trip was a point of weakness for the offensively challenged Spurs, who dropped 4-of-6 games. The Spurs lost in Utah and Oakland against two powerhouses in the Jazz and Warriors, but this retooled unit continues to grow together and expand their stature in the hierarchy of the Western Conference.
San Antonio will kick off the festivities with a visit to the youthful Sacramento Kings, a team that bested the reeling team back on November 12. They’ll stay in Northern California and visit Golden State on February, 6 before heading to Portland for a matchup the following day. After just one day of rest, the team will pick up and fly to Salt Lake City to face Donovan Mitchell and the revitalized Jazz. Three days later, the Spurs will head to Memphis to face a familiar rival before taking a 10-day siesta for the All-Star Break.
Eight cities. 8,424 miles. The 2019 Rodeo Road Trip is officially underway.#GoSpursGo | @BFGoodrichTires pic.twitter.com/hlI8KQob0N
— San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) February 4, 2019
The Rodeo Road Trip will continue through the break with San Antonio taking a tour of the Northeast United States. Star shooting guard DeMar DeRozan will make his anticipated return to Toronto on February 22; marking his first time back in ‘The Six’ since he was traded to the Spurs during the summer. After dropping his first-career triple double on the Raptors during the Spurs’ first game of the new year, DeRozan should come back with a vengeance in his emotional homecoming.
Next they’ll play two quick games in New York City: one against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Feb 24 and another against the Brooklyn Nets at the intersection of the iconic Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues the following day.
Next: DeMar DeRozan regaining his confidence
DeMar DeRozan regaining his confidence
It’s become abundantly clear that Spurs shooting guard DeMar DeRozan is not himself as of late. After starting off the season on an offensive tear that exceeded the expectations of most spectators, DeRozan has naturally cooled off and returned to form.
In the month of January alone, DeRozan’s scoring average dropped from 21.6 to 16.3 points per game on only 40.9 percent shooting from the field and zero three-pointers made. Between soreness in his left knee and the overwhelming offensive output by his running mate, power forward LaMarcus Aldridge, DeRozan has been dragged to victory by his teammates.
Now that he’s had some time to recover and get his body right after giving his all right out of the gates, DeRozan has an opportunity to show his doubters that he can be the leader of a truly competitive team. With his return to Toronto looming past the All-Star break, it can be assumed that Deebo will give the East Coast tour his all.
The Rodeo Road trip can be a great indicator of the team’s trajectory headed into the postseason, so DeMar’s effectiveness over this stretch should be telling.
Next: Monitoring the trade deadline
Monitoring the trade deadline
All professional sports leagues generate buzz and excitement around the trade deadline, but no one does it like the NBA. The level of competition in the NBA has been staggering with unclear playoff pictures and rampant trade rumors spirally over the league’s general managers. Historically, the Spurs like to stand pat around the deadline and proceed cautiously but this season has shown that R.C. Buford and Popovich are willing to stray from their norm and make some radical changes.
Between the Anthony Davis fiasco going on in New Orleans, players on the block in Memphis and Kristaps Porzingis getting traded to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for cap space and hope, the Southwest Division has been at the top of the headlines time and time again. Considering the storied rivalries and playoff hopes of all five of the Southwest’s teams, it wouldn’t be surprising to see San Antonio join the party.
We’ve covered a slew of trade possibilities ranging from Aaron Gordon to Stanley Johnson, the possibilities for an impending deal are endless. Depth has been one of the greatest assets that the Spurs put to use over the last 2 decades and the trade market is wide open at the moment.
San Antonio doesn’t often get the chance to move draft picks knowing another is in their back pocket, so Buford may look to offload a bad contract and/or Toronto’s first-round pick in exchange for an extra role player off the pine.
Regardless of the outcome for the Spurs, this trade deadline is going to be highly entertaining. The best part of all is that it lands directly before San Antonio takes on Portland on Feb. 7.
Next: Lonnie Walker IV joins the Trip
Lonnie Walker IV joins the Trip
Gaining the love and affection of the Spurs Family can be difficult for some players. Fans tend to be skeptics, watching out for a player’s flaws without emphasizing their actual on-court impact and how said player fits in Popovich’s game plan. It didn’t take long for San Antonio to fall in love with 6-foot-5 shooting guard Lonnie Walker IV from the University of Miami.
Although he’s only appeared in four games this season for a grand total of 29 minutes, the product of Reading, Pennsylvania has enamored the fan base with his explosive scoring potential, intense dedication to his craft, and thoughtful demeanor.
This year’s Rodeo Road Trip may provide Walker with a chance to show the world what he’s got, especially if San Antonio finds itself on the right side of a blowout game. Walker has spent a decent portion of the season rehabbing and playing in the G League in preparation of his limited NBA playing time. San Antonio’s bench has been consistently helpful through the latter stretch of the regular season and can be credited with many of their wins.
The downside to having such a deep and colorful bench is that Walker’s playing time has been limited so heavily.
Popovich called him up from the G League for a reason, so it’s safe to assume that Lonnie will have his next shot at showcasing his skillset against NBA competition real soon.