Spurs' Luka Samanic: A Postmortem to a Puzzling Saga
By Nic Yarbro
Luka Samanic Shows Some Promise
The first real consistent play we saw from Samanic in San Antonio came when veteran forward Rudy Gay missed time in the middle of the season. Here we really got a taste of what a player like Luka could bring to the table. He still lacked in body language, but he had a sudden surge of incredible defense throughout this stretch, with his most impressive outing having him lock up Knicks All-Star Julius Randle.
Rudy returned to the lineup, and Samanic faded back into obscurity. Fans really clung onto the flashes he put on display in this small stretch, but little did they know it would basically be the last time Samanic would get his true opportunity to show out with the big club in an enhanced role.
Fast forward to October 2021. The Spurs sit in a pickle with their roster. The roster has Thaddeus Young, Zach Collins, Drew Eubanks, Jock Landale, and Luka Samanic to contend for minutes at the four spot. Two players need to be on the move to trim the roster down, and the fans honestly aren't sure who will hit the chopping block. Then the night of October 10th arrives.
San Antonio is slated to face the Orlando Magic in a preseason exhibition. So far, Samanic has looked like a mixed bag still with his preseason minutes, Thaddeus has looked extremely rusty, Jock has a concussion, Aminu hasn't touched the court since game two, and Drew Eubanks is absolutely showing the most effort out of the entire lot.
Enter... the 4th quarter *DUN DUN DUUUUUN*. Apologies for the dramatics, but this is where we see Samanic's career with the Spurs shot into the sun. His previous outings were... fine all things considered. He definitely didn't impress anyone enough to break the stigma surrounding him.
He is put into a close game with roughly four minutes left, and the following events almost require an NSFW tag due to the live career suicide put on display by Samanic himself.
He comes in and is immediately burnt on defense. Fine, he needs some time to limber up. A pass is thrown his way on the next possession, fumbled. He cuts to the basket, ball lost. Everything pretty much goes Threat Level Midnight for the young forward, but nobody would have been able to predict that a simple Cole Anthony fast break would be the final nail in the proverbial coffin.
It's not often you see somebody dispose of their ambitions so effortlessly. Usually, there is some type of build-up to the fall from grace, but when grace has always been out of reach, you soon convince yourself the only way is down, and that's exactly what Samanic displayed on this fatal drive.
He gave up.
Cole Anthony blows by Samanic and dunks the ball. The young forward doesn't even make a fake hustle play we generally see from Bryn Forbes. Luka's reaction was similar to my own when I dropped my dad's very first iPhone on a hunting trip. I knew the phone was cracked, but I didn't even make the attempt to save it. I just stared as it plummeted towards the single stone protruding just enough to ruin the device for good (There is a metaphor in here somewhere.)
Samanic gives up on the play and symbolically gave up on the Spurs. This would be the last time anybody would see him don the Silver and Black ever again as he was waived the very next day. Nobody, including myself, would claim to have been surprised by his departure, but a general sense of shock was clearly felt throughout Spurs fans and media that he was gone so soon.
So what is to be learned from this bizarre, epic, sprawling, and exhausting two-year saga?