San Antonio Spurs host new-look Washington Wizards in Bertans’ return
By Dylan Carter
For their second game of the young season, the San Antonio Spurs will see a familiar face in forward Davis Bertans with the Washington Wizards.
Trading away lanky sharpshooter Davis Bertans was deemed necessary when the Spurs brought in forward Marcus Morris. Adding a defensive-minded presence with floor spacing ability negated the need for Bertans, but Morris opted to sign with the Knicks instead of seeing his obligation through and San Antonio was left without one of their key rotation players.
His departure and the circumstances surrounding it have been on the minds of the fans and franchise pioneer Gregg Popovich alike since Morris backed out of his deal. Forward Trey Lyles, who was signed to replace the gap left by Morris and Bertans, made the most of his first start in the silver and black by racking up eight points and 11 boards in 24 minutes.
Losing Bertans was an unfortunate casualty, but the Spurs will show no resistance in facing his new team. They’ll be tested by All-NBA shooting guard Bradley Beal, whose three-level scoring ability is as deadly as his knack for elevating the play of his teammates. Unfortunately for the two-time All-Star, the talent surrounding him leaves much to be desired.
Beal and the Wizards recently agreed to a two-year max contract extension that’ll keep him in the nation’s capital through 2022. He’ll patiently await the return of the injured John Wall as the young core around him begins to find their footing, but this season could be rough for the rallying Wizards.
Washington suffered an eight-point loss in the season opener against Dallas, but rallied back to defeat Oklahoma City last night. In the contest, Washington’s young talent showed off quite a bit of growth with rookie Rui Hachimura 22-year-old big man Thomas Bryant combining for 40 of the team’s 97 points in the contest. While this is a projected victory for the Spurs, they must regard their opponent with haste.
Next: Davis Bertans’ return to the Alamo City
Davis Bertans’ return to the Alamo City
Head coach Gregg Popovich has spoken extremely highly of Bertans and his commitment to both professional and personal growth. The 26-year-old spent the first three seasons of his career in the silver and black, increasing his production on both ends with each passing year. He was one of the league’s most prolific three-point marksman in the 2018-19 regular season and has earned the respect of many throughout the league for it.
Bertans certainly has his issues – his lanky frame and lack of muscle makes him prone to defensive mismatches, especially if he has to go against stronger centers or power forwards. His athleticism is deceptive yet keen, although he relies on skill above all else.
He’s coming off a 13-point outing in which he played 27 minutes as Washington’s sixth man, a role he could very build into a starting spot over one of Hachimura, Isaac Bonga or Ish Smith. Bertans led the Wizards in plus/minus as a +16 in his minutes off the bench.
Few people in the world are as familiar with Bertans’ game as Gregg Popovich is, which means this matchup will more than likely serve as a test for the native of Latvia. Popovich will more than likely smother him on and around the three-point line, assuring that the sharpshooter is uncomfortable around the perimeter.
Bertans can put the ball on the deck and attack the basket if need be, but the Spurs’ defensive anchors in LaMarcus Aldridge and Jakob Poeltl will be under the rim waiting for him.
Familiarity is going to be a major asset in limiting the former Spurs’ output in what could be a revenge game for the Latvian Laser. However, Davis was a beloved member of this team and will receive a warm welcome back from the San Antonio crowd.
Next: Getting DeRozan and White into rhythm
Getting DeRozan and White into rhythm
Neither DeMar DeRozan nor Derrick White had a particularly effective introductory game to the 2019-20 season. Both dynamic guards are expected to make huge impacts on the team in different regards, but they were each relatively quiet in the outing against a feisty yet inexperienced Knicks team.
In 32 minutes of playing time, DeRozan made just 3-of-10 shots for 13 points in addition to four boards. Seeing a decline in his rebounding totals from last year would not be a big surprise at all, considering how well the rest of the lineup has proven themselves to be in that department, but his four assists to four turnovers were unsettling.
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DeRozan’s on-court impact was lackluster, tying with declining shooter Marco Belinelli and White for the second-lowest plus/minus on the team at +2. He began to come alive late in the game, attacking the rim with poise while drawing free throws and operating within the flow of Pop’s offense. He needs to find his equilibrium and start playing like himself soon for this group to be a legitimate playoff contender.
Meanwhile, White remained quiet in his bench-high 22 minutes. He made half of his shots and 3-of-5 free throws, but logged just three assists and two rebounds along with two turnovers, two fouls and no defensive stats. White must assert himself on the defensive end in order to get back to the level of competitiveness that he displayed in the postseason.
The Spurs are anticipating a lot from their third-year guard this season, especially after working so closely with Popovich this offseason as a member of Team USA. When he finds himself more comfortable, Pop will be more inclined to give him minutes and potentially slot him alongside Dejounte Murray and DeRozan.
Washington’s guard rotation is mediocre outside of Beal, who is known much more for his scoring prowess than his defensive capabilities. San Antonio needs to take advantage of that before their more rigorous competition shows up.