Dec 15, 2020; Houston, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) shoots against Houston Rockets guard James Harden (13) during the second half. Mandatory Credit: Mike Wyke/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports
San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets run things back on Thursday
After losing to the Houston Rockets in James Harden’s return to the team, the San Antonio Spurs are gearing up to run things back against the Rockets. They’ll face Houston one more time in their third and final preseason game.
These first two preseason games haven’t gone the way Spurs fans hoped but there have been some positive takeaways. You can find things to like about how certain players have performed thus far and there are stylistic changes from last year that are encouraging to see.
One of the biggest eye grabbers has been the play of a returning veteran. LaMarcus Aldridge has come out shooting. The big man put up ten three-point attempts in San Antonio’s first preseason game, much to the alarm of some fans.
Aldridge, his teammates, and his coaches have all been talking about how the big man would be more active from beyond the arc this year. So to see a reaction of alarm or surprise to how much he shot it against the Thunder is, well, surprising.
It what is essentially an extension of practice, don’t look too hard at the box score. There will be nights where Aldridge takes ten three’s and there’ll be nights when he only takes four. The bigger takeaway here is that he’s clearly making an effort to get himself in positions to take these shots and his teammates are looking for him behind the arc. That’s good news for the Spurs.
That said, here is the first of three more things to look out for in the San Antonio Spurs’ final preseason game.
San Antonio Spurs continue to get Devin Vassell involved
What do San Antonio Spurs fans have in common with an angry Kylo Ren? We both want more and we want it now. I’m not asking Pop to kill Luke Skywalker, but I know everyone would really like to see Devin Vassell continue to get involved.
Tampering reactions to these preseason games goes both ways and we should try to keep our expectations for Vassell grounded but oh my god have you seen how he’s looked? I’m not writing his name in sharpie as my pick for Rookie of the Year but the Spurs have got a hell of a player on their hands.
He’s made a very strong impression on both ends of the floor. On offense, he’s making smart cuts, getting himself into position for easy looks, and when he’s not doing that he’s repositioning on the perimeter to get himself an open look.
Vassell has been equally impressive on defense. He’s sticking his hands in to deflect balls and generate steals, he’s ball hawked some unwise passes, and held his own during the moments when he was matched up with James Harden.
We knew he was going to be good on defense but maybe we undersold it. He looks like he can be a truly special defender if he reaches his ceiling.
In the Spurs rematch with the Rockets, it could be interesting to see Vassell shadow Harden when he’s on the floor. Whatever your thoughts are on how he’s handling his situation in Houston, Harden remains one of the best scorers of all time. Test Vassell a bit, see if he can hold the former MVP down.
Next: Playmaker Lonnie
Aug 7, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA; 7: Lonnie Walker IV #1 of the San Antonio Spurs moves the ball against Georges Niang #31 of the Utah Jazz and Ed Davis #17 of the Utah Jazz at HP Field House. Mandatory Credit: Kevin C. Cox/Pool Photo-USA TODAY Sports
Will Lonnie Walker make improvements as a playmaker?
After a solid second season with the San Antonio Spurs, Lonnie Walker hardly wasted any time resting after leaving the bubble before he got back to work. He was locked in these past few months and even spent some time working out with Jrue Holiday.
Of all of the aspects of Holiday’s offensive game that we wanted Walker to emulate it was his playmaking ability that stood out the most.
An explosive athlete, Lonnie’s more than proven that he can get to the rim with ease. He’s also got one of the best jump shots on the team. Playmaking is one of the last pieces that still need to fall into place.
Through the first two preseason games, he’s only got two assists. The one he pulled off on Tuesday in Houston was a thing of beauty.https://videos.nba.com/nba/pbp/media/2020/12/15/0012000026/480/d43d897c-8909-1ce7-5419-c2302411514a_1280x720.mp4
These are the kind of passes that will hopefully become more routine for Walker. He’s always going to able to get to the rim but getting better at finding cutting teammates or shooters in the far corner or on the wing will only help round out his own game and the Spurs’ offense.
Next: How will Dejounte play
Aug 2, 2020; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; San Antonio Spurs’ Dejounte Murray (5) dribbles up the court against the Memphis Grizzlies during the first half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Mandatory Credit: Ashley Landis/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports
How will the play of Dejounte Murray impact the San Antonio Spurs?
I’ve seen a lot of mixed opinions about how Dejounte Murray has played in these first two games. Some fans are calling for Tre Jones while others remain ardent defenders of the San Antonio Spurs young point guard. I’m somewhere in the middle.
Murray’s had his high points and his low moments in the preseason. Sometimes I don’t know if he’s destined to have the ball in his hands as the leader of the Spurs offense. But he’s very capable of putting up averages like 13 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game.
Given how far he’s progressed and how much he’s had to overcome, I don’t think any of us should be nitpicking Dejounte’s game too much. But we’ve got to talk about the turnovers.
In these past two games, DJ has averaged four turnovers a night. Last year he led the team in turnovers per 100 possessions with 3.1, a figure that was more than twice that of some of the Spurs’ other lead ball handlers.
It seems like a combination of getting himself into high-risk situations, miscommunications with his teammates, and some plain old sloppy passing on Dejounte’s part.
In any case, what we’ve seen over these past two games can’t carry into the season if the Spurs want to win, especially if Derrick White is going to be out for an extended period of time. The San Antonio Spurs need Dejounte to clean this part of his game up.
These three points will be areas to watch in the San Antonio Spurs preseason finale with the Rockets and well into the season as well.