Veterans continue to be the backbone of the San Antonio Spurs
By Ethan Farina
Veteran players are still crucial to the success of the San Antonio Spurs
A good group of veteran players is a key part of any NBA team. It doesn’t matter if you’re contending for a championship or in the middle of a rebuild, every team wants to have a few wise veterans on their roster to help lead the young guys. The San Antonio Spurs are no different.
Throughout their history, veteran players have served a key role in teaching the next generation of stars. When Tim Duncan was a rookie he got to learn from David Robinson, Kawhi Leonard got to learn from the Big Three, and Dejounte Murray was mentored by Tony Parker and Patty Mills.
But over the fast few months, most of the talk around the Spurs was focused on the young guys, the next era of the team. And when the veterans were mentioned, it was more often framed up as “how can we move these players to open room for young guys” than anything else.
Even if the conversation around the Spurs frequently highlights the young guys, the veterans on the team are still a key part of the organization’s success. Just take it from Keldon Johnson.
Keldon Johnson highlights the importance of San Antonio Spurs veterans
When he recently appeared on the Locked On Spurs podcast with Jeff Garcia, Keldon was asked about what impact the veterans have had on him in his short time with the San Antonio Spurs.
“Every older player went at us really hard. And you appreciate it becuase it makes you better. Especially coming in if we’re playing pick up or playing one on one, what can I pick from their game to make me better or what advice can I ask them that I can put in when I go down to Austin or whenever I get to play. What can I take from their game to add to mine to get better?”
It didn’t just end there. When he was asked about the Spurs play in the bubble, specifically about how well the young guys played, Johnson pushed back a little bit. He shifted the focus on himself and the young guys and really focused on how well the veterans played and how much they’re still helping him and the other young guys, even if they don’t get the same praise.
The Spurs are going through a big change right now, there’s no denying that. With young players like Keldon, Dejounte, Derrick White, Lonnie Walker, and Luka Samanic all coming up and asserting themselves as impactful players the team is younger than it’s been in quite some time. But it’s not quite time for the young guys to run the team.
LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, and Patty Mills are all entering the last years of their contracts. We still haven’t heard what DeMar DeRozan intends to do with his player-option but he’s probably coming back. Barring an extension, he will be approaching unrestricted free agency in the summer of 2021 as well.
All of this indicates that this could be the last year that the Spurs have a sizeable group of veterans to go with their young guys. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, by the time the 2021-22 season rolls around the young core should be ready to take the league by storm, but it does make this upcoming season a very interesting transition period.
That’s the circle of life in the NBA. Veterans pass their knowledge down to young guys, young guys become veterans and mentor the players under them, and the cycle continues.