San Antonio Spurs: Where in the world is DeMarre Carroll?

DeMarre Carroll of the San Antonio Spurs looks on against the New Orleans Pelicans during a pre-season game on October 13, 2019 (Photos by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
DeMarre Carroll of the San Antonio Spurs looks on against the New Orleans Pelicans during a pre-season game on October 13, 2019 (Photos by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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DeMarre Carroll signed a two-year deal with the San Antonio Spurs this summer but hasn’t played yet. When will we see the veteran forward finally take the floor for the Spurs?

When the San Antonio Spurs brought in DeMarre Carroll on a two-year deal over the summer it was viewed by many as a low risk, smart move. Carroll is a seasoned veteran who’s played in more than a few big games over the course of his career. He has the kind of skills that the Spurs were looking for and fit a position of need on the team. He even had a distant affiliation with the organization thanks to his time playing for former Spurs assistant and current Milwaukee Bucks head coach, Mike Budenholzer.

Yet through three games, we have yet to see Carroll take the floor for San Antonio. It’s sort of a puzzling move. Carroll saw action in four of the Spurs five preseason games and looked comfortable with his new teammates in the limited action. Is he simply a victim of circumstance or is there something larger going on here?

Limited playing time was always going to be in the cards for Carroll. He was coming to one of the deepest teams in the league and has several established players in front of him in the rotation. Carroll was always going to be behind LaMarcus Aldridge, Jakob Poeltl, and Rudy Gay for playing time but the emergence of Trey Lyles has created an even bigger log jam than was originally predicted.

Lyles was another low risk, potentially high reward signing. So far the early returns have been great. Lyles’s teammates have raved about his performance on the floor and the proof of his fit is in the numbers. San Antonio has a +7.3 net rating when Lyles is on the floor compared to just +.6 when he is off. It’s only three games so it’s a very small sample size but Lyles’s willingness to do the little things and help out his teammates is endearing him among the players and helping the Spurs on the floor.

The other player standing in Carroll’s way of meaningful playing time is Marco Belinelli. Spurs fans will rage every time Gregg Popovich elects to play Belinelli over Lonnie Walker but Walker isn’t the only player being stonewalled by Marco’s presence. Carroll could feasibly fit in at the back up small forward role but for now, that seems to be a position where Pop would prefer to use Belinelli.

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Maybe it all comes down to trust. Pop and Belinelli have history from Marco’s previous time with the Spurs. You have to earn Pop’s trust to have an established place in the rotation and Marco has it. Spurs fans can complain on Twitter all they want and believe me they will, Pop doesn’t look like he’s going away from Marco any time soon.

Carroll’s talents could be called upon soon. The upcoming matchup with the LA Clippers could be the perfect time to bring him into the fold. Carroll’s made his career on his defensive abilities and between Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Patterson, JaMychal Green, and Montrezl Harrell the Clippers have plenty of strong forwards who will need to be contained in order for San Antonio to come away with a win.

It’s doubtful that it’s anything larger than a log jam that’s keeping Carroll off the floor. There are simply too many players that Gregg Popovich would rather play in front of him at the moment. That could change in an instant though. Especially if San Antonio’s defensive struggles continue.

Improving on the defensive end of the floor was a major point of emphasis coming into this season. Through three games the Spurs are clearly still far away from being where they need to be in order to make some noise in the Western Conference. They simply cannot continue to give up around 114 points per game and expect to be successful. If the defensive struggles continue it wouldn’t be surprising to see Popovich turn to Carroll as a way to turn things around.

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Carroll’s time will come. You don’t bring in an established veteran like him and plop him on the pine for 82 games. Gregg Popovich knows what he is doing and will bring Carroll out when the time is right. Until then Spurs fans, and Carroll will just have to wait.

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