Dec 16, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) dribbles and San Antonio Spurs guard Derrick White (4) defends during the game at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Here’s what we want to see from the San Antonio Spurs tonight
If there was one word I’d use to describe the San Antonio Spurs‘ first preseason game it’d be “rusty.” San Antonio handily lost their first game to the Oklahoma City Thunder 121-108.
The rust isn’t surprising at all and it isn’t a particularly bad thing. The team is just getting back into the groove of things after a hardly existent offseason, there are going to be speedbumps. They should look better tonight.
Despite the loss and the inconsistent play, there was still a fair amount to like about the Spurs’ first showing. It looks like some of the hopes that we’ve been voicing for this season could be becoming a reality.
Two things that stood out most were how well Devin Vassell played in his first bit of NBA action and the sheer volume of LaMarcus Aldridge‘s three-point shooting effort.
Vassell showed off the wide-ranging impacts of his two-way game, totaling 12 points, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals in 25 minutes of play. We’ll see how he does against Houston but the early impressions have been incredibly impressive.
Aldridge unloaded on the Thunder with ten three-pointers in his first game back since spring. No one’s expecting him to average ten three’s a game for a full season but does average 40 percent on 6.5 attempts per game sound doable? We could be in for that kind of season from LaMarcus.
Hopefully, those two things carry through the rest of the preseason. In addition to those two, here are two more things we’d like to see from the Spurs in tonight’s preseason game.
Next: Who's guarding Harden?
Dec 16, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) celebrates after scoring during the fourth quarter against the San Antonio Spurs at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Which San Antonio Spurs will have to guard James Harden?
It’s largely San Antonio Spurs fans reading this so can we talk briefly about how funny James Harden is? The entire saga from trade demand to the Russell Westbrook for John Wall swap to the strip club excursion has been pure comedy to watch as a Spurs fan. Good luck Houston, I’m sure this won’t be a huge distraction all season.
More immediately, who’s going to guard Harden tonight? If the Spurs roll out the same group of starters they did the first game it’ll probably be a mix of DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray early on but a rotation of players will likely all get a shot at guarding the former MVP.
Everyone remembers Lonnie Walker‘s breakout performance against the Rockets for his fourth-quarter scoring eruption but his defense on Harden during that game was another important point from that game. Walker was locked in and played some of the best defense we’ve seen from him in that game.
Maybe it was the pressure of the game or the fact that he was guarding one of the game’s most prolific scorers that unlocked that next gear of Walker’s tenacity. In any case, the energy he had that night almost a year ago is the level he should strive to be at all the time on defense.
We expect Walker to get some time on Harden but we’d like to see what the rookies can do as well. Given Harden’s shall we say, apathetic, attitude towards the preseason this probably won’t be the same test it would be during the regular season or playoffs.
But match Harden up with a rookie and I’m willing he takes notice and turns up the intensity, if only for a few possessions. It would be interesting to see how Vassell and Tre Jones handle that.
Next: More Luka Samanic please
Can the San Antonio Spurs please play Luka Samanic more?
In just one preseason game Luka Samanic totaled a fourth of the NBA exposure he got all of last season. That’s a reflection of a variety of factors that we don’t need to dive into right now but our request still stands. Can we please see more of Tall Luka?
Samanic is one of the players we hope to see more of this year but his path to playing time looks no clearer than it did last year. These final few preseason games are probably our best chance to see what he looks like playing with the rest of the team.
In theory, Samanic gives the Spurs another floor spacing option in their frontcourt that, when paired with another shooter like Trey Lyles or LaMarcus, could give the guards more room than ever to attack the rim. Or he could be used as a counterpart to Jakob Poeltl’s paint dominant game.
One of the biggest concerns for Luka during his rookie season was adding muscle. That’s clearly a task he took to heart. He’s come into training camp looking noticeably thicker and most of the shots he took in the Spurs’ first preseason game came off of drives to the rim where he showed no hesitation to create contact.
I just don’t see too many opportunities for Luka to see the court during the regular season when he’s buried behind Rudy Gay, LMA, Jakob, and even, to some extent, Keldon Johnson and Vassell. This is his best time to show how he’s improved and it’d be a shame if the Spurs coaches didn’t give him the time to shine.
You can find more details on game time and how to watch by checking out our game details page.