Nothing has been easy for the San Antonio Spurs this season. They've battled with COVID-19, lost arguably their best player for multiple stints, and are now finishing their season with seven games in 10 days.
The loss of Derrick White for the season is likely a blow the team won't be able to recover from to make any postseason noise. If they were a .500 team with him, their current five-game losing streak shows they're certainly not that without him.
While it might seem like a bad thing to struggle so much from the loss of one player, we have to keep in mind how unconventional this season has been. "Our cup is pretty empty," said Coach Popovich after the Spurs' most recent blowout loss in Utah. This team is exhausted in every sense of the word, and it's hard to blame them.
Despite the way this season appears to be headed, there's still plenty to look forward to for Spurs fans, mainly the rise of a promising young nucleus.
"We've got a lot of young guys and we're trying to make a name for ourselves," Derrick White told BasketballNews.com's Spencer Davies in a one-on-one. "It's been a cool transition."
In the extended interview, White opens up about everything from the transition from Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker to Coach Popovich turning to him as the team's new leader. "It's something that I'm continuing to develop in," admitted White.
In an offseason in which there's a strong chance DeMar DeRozan will depart, the Spurs will assuredly need a new leader both on and off the court. Luckily, they have plenty of candidates for that role already on the team.
'The 29 Boys' are the future of the San Antonio Spurs
"We're all, like, the '29 boys," said White. Since 2016, the Spurs have selected Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Keldon Johnson all at 29th in their respective NBA Drafts. While injuries slowed down White's progress this season, Dejounte is in the midst of his best one yet.
Putting up 15.7 points, 7.1 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per night, Dejounte is a prime candidate to take the torch from DeRozan as the team's top scorer and leader if he departs. The next step for Murray? Showing consistency on a night basis -- something I believe he's more than capable of doing.
Rounding out the 29 Boys is the exuberant 21-year-old with an infectious personality, Keldon Johnson. While he's a dark horse to become the team's leader any time soon, he's sure to be a part of the team's future for years to come.
The trio will be together at least until 2023-24, when Johnson's current contract is up. I fully expect an extension to be reached well before that summer, which is what the Spurs did with both Murray and White before they ever sniffed free agency.
Will White, Murray, or Johnson ever get to star status? It's tough to say for sure, and it's also too early to say. Murray is certainly on the cusp of that, and I'd be interested to see how he continues to improve in a regular season not ravaged by team injuries and a brutal schedule.
Johnson still has some things to add to his arsenal and an outside shot to refine before we can start talking about stardom, but the fact that he's shown glimpses as a 21-year-old sophomore is encouraging.
While they're not The Big Three, the Spurs could do much worse than turning the keys over to The 29 Boys as they continue to rebuild back to being a contender in the near future. Surround them with some big pieces this summer, and you just might have something special brewing in San Antonio once again.