Expectations for this Spurs team have varied wildly from Title Contender to Also-Ran. This team is not as obviously good as the Warriors and the poor performance of LaMarcus Aldridge has colored the view of even the most fanatic Spurs follower.
Still, this team has managed to produce ever year that it is a cliché. LaMarcus Aldridge apparently had a heart-to-heart and earned more touches early. He did not, apparently, spend time at Toast Masters. On the broadcast he mentioned ‘getting touches and getting into rhythm’ 8 times or so.
The questions about this team are and were approximately these:
- Who carries the offense without Kawhi?
- Can Dejounte Murray be the starting PG for this team?
- Which LMA do we get?
- Rudy Gay? What does he have?
Given the relatively successful integration of Pau Gasol — he was a net liability defensively for much of the year but he was a reliable contributor and a good defensive player situationally — we could reasonably expect a decent integration of Rudy Gay.
And so it went — he came in with the second unit and promptly dunked on a fast break. He played solid defense on Jamal Crawford. He was good.
Gay’s line: 14 pos on .651% true-shooting, 5 rebounds, 2 assists. Good.
Meanwhile Dejounte was a little frantic early, but he was good and active. He provides a level of energy that young TP provided, even if it gets a little wild. Pop circa 2004 would have not played DM, but this one is older and wiser and has coached through the Manu years.
I mean our starting PG produced 16 points, a couple of assists, a couple of steals, five rebounds, on 7/8 shooting. That’s good in 2017.
(Manu was good by the way he will never retire, apparently).
LaMarcus Aldridge got his touches. He had 30% usage rate, which is Kawhi level (31% last year) but not amazingly higher than LMA’s 2016’s rate of 24.5%. The important thing is that LMA feels more involved and that goes a long way toward making the team better.
Danny Green was Good Danny, meaning he made his jumper. He pulled up in transition which means he is Really Good Danny.
Like the Warriors, Cavs, and Rockets, this team is going to be defined by the playoff production and so this regular season experimentation is only so interesting.
The Spurs have integrated LMA, lost Duncan, added Dejounte, played fast, played slow, all while maintaining competitiveness in the league. It is silly to think they will not be able to handle a couple of injuries at the start of the year. The Wolves are a good talented team and that win was uglier than it probably would have been had Leonard been out there.
Right now this is going to be the Aldridge show, and we know that can be successful in the regular season. Take your time and get healthy, Kawhi.