The San Antonio Spurs haven't been getting blown out of arenas by any means, but a four-game losing streak is still troubling. Wednesday's five-point loss to the Mavericks after leading 25-5 was undoubtedly the low point of the season.
While I had a feeling the first week of the season would be a loud wake-up call, part of me expected they'd at least be able to pull off one underdog win against the NBA's best. Well, that didn't happen. The 104-99 loss in Dallas showed everybody once again that this team is going to go through some tough growing pains before firmly establishing what they're capable of doing.
There are certain guys on the roster that will need to prove something very soon. Derrick White is the first name that comes to mind. I've been touting him as the best overall player on the Spurs all offseason and he's always special on the defensive end, but his offense has been very subpar for his standards.
Additionally, having another substandard start to the season is the Spurs' first backup center option, Drew Eubanks. Through five games, the 24-year-old is putting up a ho-hum four points per game. While no one expects Eubanks to be a scoring machine off the bench, what really suffers badly in the minutes he plays is the team's defense.
There's often been a big momentum swing once Jakob Poeltl hits the bench, with opponents slashing to the rim for buckets almost immediately. With such a razor thin margin and the Spurs having lost by six or fewer three times, that's making the difference between wins and losses. This brings me to my question.
Why is Gregg Popovich gluing Jock Landale to the bench?
I think we all know by now what we're getting with Eubanks. He's a serviceable big man and has impressive flashes, but he's not going to move the needle a whole lot. Meanwhile, we don't really know what Jock Landale is capable of in the NBA.
Before the season, I wrote a piece with some encouraging quotes from the 6-11 center. Fighting an overseas contract he wasn't able to get out of until recently, he clearly has a chip on his shoulder and would bring energy and hustle off the bench. Obviously, Coach Popovich and the staff saw something in Landale or they wouldn't have brought him over to San Antonio. So why has he played a total of five minutes through five games?
All we heard from Popovich and the players over the summer is how everything was going to be loose and everyone was just going to go out there and have fun, experiment, etc. While there's some of that going on, I'm not sure enough of it is.
Thaddeus Young has already been glued to the bench, so who knows what's even going on with that situation. Eubanks and Poeltl seem to be the only two guys the Spurs are content with playing at center, and that seems like a mistake.
This young group thrives on ball movement and playing together, something Landale has experience with overseas and in the preseason. He's also not the typical rookie who's fresh out of college. He's been a pro hooper since 2018. I can't fathom why he's not at least being thrown out on the court for quick stretches to see what he can do, especially in a rebuilding year.
Do I think Popovich's refusal to play Landale has led to the 1-4 start? Not directly, but it certainly could've influenced a result or two. Ultimately, the Spurs will either right the ship when their schedule isn't jam-packed with multiple contenders in a row -- or they won't. But it'd be nice to see Landale be part of the process, even if for a little while.