Murray Is Going To Be A Star When He Can Go 40 Minutes

Remember when I wrote that progress was the goal? Yes, well this was also one of those times where everyone wanted to measure this Spurs team against the latest incarnation of a LeBron SuperTeam.

The Spurs came in with a great offensive rating and the Lakers, thanks to their length — and really Danny Green and Anthony Davis — came into tonight allowing sometime around 92.3 on defense. The Spurs hit that number tonight, sort of confirming the importance of a quality defense.

There were a fair number of missed shots that usually go in — that is to say, no one was unusually bottled up beyond LMA getting bullied and bumped and probably fouled a number of times. Bryn Forbes was ungodly bad from deep and that was basically the difference.

There is an argument to be made that this was just an off night shooting the ball and that is all the difference between the 5-1 Lakers and the 4-2 Spurs.

On the other hand, it is troubling that Aldridge and DeRozan combined for only 22 on 24 shots between them. DeRozan was off from everywhere and the aggression came from your star Dejounte Murray.

This, like that Cleveland game three years ago, will be another milestone in his progression. He got easy buckets because of steals and also crossed over Caldwell-Pope before getting a sweet lefty scoop shot+1 over Bron.

His minutes are still restricted and so then are the Spurs in that regard. Nate Jones tweeted this:

That is quality analyzing . LMA, and all big men, have some trouble with length. Javale and Anthony Davis do not make it easy to get the normal buckets he does. Poeltl was even more flustered, and slow to get the roll moves on the screens.

The length bothered San Antonio all game and it would improve in a playoff series as the team got used to it. On a Sunday night in early November? Well it led to easy buckets.

Murray led a furious little comeback himself before Kentavious Caldwell-Pope hit two ridiculous buckets to put the Lakers permanently ahead. The Spurs are still searching for someone not named Forbes to get hot from deep — which makes that Bertans deal hurt more — and even Bryn was cold tonight. He shot 1/8 from deep on looks he has been happy to get all season.

In the progress meter, we can call this one a success. The Lakers are more talented but the Spurs were right there, and should play better in better circumstances.

The Lakers however, are ridiculously talented and Bryn is happy to play Robin to AD’s Batman. The real threat? Well it was Spurs-nemisis Dwight Howard getting huge buckets all game long. He finished with 14 and 13, including 4 big offensive rebounds.

Progress Over Perfection

Some time in the 2000s when the Blazers were good and the Spurs were battling for the best record, the regular season matchups against them — and any team that was good — felt momentous.

They were fuel for the arguments I would have at school about the team and it’s place in the league and in history.

In the years since, it has been nice to get some confirmation that the players take some games more personally.

Last year against the Raptors when Kawhi returned to San Antonio, it felt like that again. DeMar DeRozan notched a triple double. Kawhi yelled after dunking early.

In this matchup against the Clippers, it is harder to get the same feelings. If I have to choose an LA team to hate it would obviously be the Lakers, even if the Clips — a version of them — were the last LA team to beat San Antonio in the playoffs.

Kawhi day out the first game to be prepared for the Spurs. He was criticized for sitting against Utah because those fans are missing out while the LAC crowd has 41 chances to see their guy.

That is another discussion. What is curious is that he sat the front in, and not the second night. He wanted to play SA?

DeMar was more crisp in this one partly because he is back home in Los Angeles, partly because he is in the fourth game of the season and is catching his rhythm.

In the end, the Spurs has no obvious answer for Kawhi doing Kawhi things. They stayed fighting but did not get enough clutch buckets late.

The real complaint will be about the first half, where LAC was struggling after the playing the night before and the Spurs looked like they had some jet lag.

This is where two things can be true, something I had trouble understanding when I was a kid looking for hot takes for school arguments.

The Spurs wanted to win this game but did not do everything they could to win it off the court. Playoff preparation is much more detailed. Regular season preparation is about building the team cohesion.

We saw the Spurs get better by just a little bit in this one. Young Dejounte was not nearly as dazed by Patrick Beverly as he was in that Rockets series in 2017.

In fact, Murray back-tipped Bev on a drive. The student had become at least an apprentice.


  • Marco Bellinelli is still slumping. He has a shooting slump last season but he has been just poor all over the court.
  • Still no Carroll eh? What is going on there?
  • Lonnie was scolded in the postgame by Pop.
  • Kawhi did actually say he looks forward to playing his old teammates.
  • LMA was held to 5. He didn’t catch the rhythm of the game and the Spurs didn’t really help him out. Having DeRozan go off for 29 was nice and kind is the point is having two stars.

Clutch Is About Shooting Even Though You May Fail

Damian Lillard missed two would-be tying threes to close the game out, after bringing his Portland Trail Blazers to the brink of a comeback against the Spurs.

DeMar DeRozan scored 27 but missed two free throws that would have made it four or five, and before that missed a fadeaway free throw line jumper that would have extended the lead.

Lillard has a reputation as a closer, a finisher, and a guy that hits big shots in big moments. That is true, and what is also very true is that he has missed some big ones as well. If those are not as prominent in your brain as the big ones he made, that is because big shots have a tendency to stick in the mind a bit more.

We remember Kawhi hitting the fadeaway jumper against Philly in the playoffs last year and almost have completely forgotten he missed some huge free throws in the 2013 Finals vs the Heat.

DeRozan has yet to have a big shot moment like that — it is certainly possible he never will have half as many as Lillard has had in his career.

What is great is that DDR is still shooting the shots. He is the closer and like Dame, he will miss some and he will make some like he did against the Wizards.


DeMar had 27, all of that through the early 4th quarter before the Spurs’ reserves started blowing the lead. He came in a little cold after that. No excuses, but that was a thing.

Missing Dejounte in the 4th quarter will be tough, as the Spurs allowed 39 in this final period, and it cannot imagine that would have been quite so easy with Murray harassing Dame a bit more.

The Spurs held a 15 point lead after Murray assisted Marco for a three and the Blazers were on the verge of pulling everyone and packing it up with about seven minutes to go. It is easy to get upset with the failure to close it out there, but this was a weird game. The Spurs were down big early, and got all the way back.

The Blazers were on the second night of a back-to-back (SEGABABA) and that means we can probably do some self-loathing — how could they allow this team to come back etc. The truth is that ugly wins are better than pretty losses and the Spurs are 3-0, with a good offense and a brilliant defender playing 20min a night and getting a little healthier with each game.

Spurs, Dejounte Are Back In Action

Dejounte Murray is fast and quick and long and young and it is weird to have someone like that on the Spurs. San Antonio still feels like it has a bunch of fogies, that even the knowledge we have — SAS has a ton of young guys — still doesn’t always translate to Feel.

DJ sliced through for buckets and got steals and for a second I allowed myself to think of what he and Kawhi would have done in the same backcourt tonight.

Instead, we saw him get a nice 18 on 7/10 shooting. He was in a competition with Bryn Forbes for leading scorer until LaMarcus’ late three pushed him to the top.

The Knicks should not have been much of a problem but you have got to like that the Spurs played defense in spurts, when their likely starting rotation was in, and that they scored 37 in two different quarters.

This all without a fully functional Demar. He missed free throw tosses in warm up. For a long stretch of the game he has only a single point, and went through a stretch where the Knicks were sitting on his drive-and-kick thing, stealing a handful of passes.

He had four turnovers.

The essence of a team, however, is that it is more than one guy. The role of primary scorer is one that multiple guys filled. Five guys were in double figures and Derrick White had 9.

Demar closed the game out with some drives and created some free throw line trips. He will get his rhythm and not look so out of sorts and the Spurs should be a little more dangerous.

New Season: New Problems

Dejounte Murray is out for the season, probably. This comes after an offseason of stories about his transition into the engine of the team. Pop said everyone was going to have to run with DJ if they wanted the ball. Now? Well, without Tony Parker, Hornet, the Spurs are going to have to rethink things.

This has been the worst offseason in a long while, and it got a little worse. Despite all that, there were some good feelings. Everyone is happy to be done with the robot problem that is Kawhi Leonard. Eventually, we all may reconcile with the KL and learn why, exactly, he hated being a Spur. For now, we all are very disappointed with the way it happened. 

Tony and Manu’s final season together was a valiant effort but it should have been as a contender — even if only in their own minds — instead of just as filler in the West. 

DeMar DeRozan is hungry, not as good as Kawhi, and yet perfect for the Spurs this season. Yes, he disappeared in the playoffs much like LaMarcus Aldridge did in years past and we all would rather someone who does not backdown from the moment. Every team wants that. As it is, the Spurs have two go-to guys and that is still very rare. 

Dejounte Murray was going to be a big part of this team, and probably the real determinant of the ceiling of this team. Now, the Spurs likely are going to be very good, but just not quite good enough. Compared to last year, that still will be so much more fun to watch. 

Clipper Cure All

Did San Antonio learn so this from Golden State and decide to turn it on in the third quarter?

Aldridge is steady with his 20+ ppg, and is vaguely looking like Timmy on the score sheet. Pay tossed in some threes but Rudy Gay and Dejounte Murray are battling for the Most Fun Spur to watch.

Rudy Gay can score and that is great fun to watch. He showed some extra range was fun but the he followed that with a heat check. For we playoff-minded folks, the Rudy Gay they gets into pass lanes and uses length to bother teams is the one that will change a series.

LMA and Pau were not the most highly rated defensive players coming into San Antonio yet have held their own (in spots, in Pau’s case).

As Captain Jack once said, “The Spurs staff helps you be a great defender” and all that is needed is mental and physical effort.

So far, everyone looks about where they need to be. Now that the IG rumormongering is that the Klaw will be returning next week, things are looking up.

Brace yourselves, Kawhi is coming.

Dejounte Murray: Leader?

Last night Murray pushed Pop away and took it upon himself to calm down Face Of The Franchise (?) LaMarcus Aldridge after the altercation with Ibaka.

Also? He contributed 15 rebounds and 16 points. Murray has long been a believer in himself and so this little show of bold leadership is unsurprising even if it is early in his career.

He wants the starting gig, and the Spurs would be poorer if he did not. For some guys — ahem FoTF LMA — the concern is that the moment is too big for them. Murray has never struck me as that kind of player.

No the question with him is if his work ethic and skill set can match his self-confidence. His work this summer and his early mentor-ship under Jamal Crawford means that he knows what is required and has honed that skillset.

He did get owned by Patrick Beverly in the playoffs but held his own against the Rockets’ guard in the next game. This minor thing with LMA is exactly what Pop was looking for last year. Kahwi is not going to do this kind of thing, because he is busy doing everything else. Dave had Avery. TD had Manu. Kawhi and LaMarcus can have . . Murray?

Spurs are 3-0 and took care of the Raptors last night.

Spurs Start 1-0

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:

  1. Who carries the offense without Kawhi?
  2. Can Dejounte Murray be the starting PG for this team?
  3. Which LMA do we get?
  4. 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.

Summer League Dreams 17: Forbes-ing

Bryn Forbes has always been very intriguing. He is a sharpshooter in a relative slump for the year. He has not had a memorable Spurs-moment and is not the shooter of the future the average fan thinks of — that would be Davis Bertans. Forbes has managed to hang around the organization for the season, which indicates the staff like what he can brings.

That was the stage for tonight’s performance where Bryn looked like the guy from Baylor. He torched the net and displayed some dribble-drive scoring ability — is it me or does he have a little of Derrick Rose-style wide steps?

While Dejounte Murray was not particularly impressive, he attacked the middle of the floor and found shooters. This is not a bad way to play. (Please know I write that knowingly). Blossomgame and White look solid, and Davis Bertans helped carry the load as we expected. We did not see too much off-the-bounce game from him as he predicted, but more of the same long-range bombing that we expected.

More as the summer league continues.

Summer League 2017

Last season Dejounte Murray was interesting. This season he is the old veteran and Derrick White is going to be the intriguing freshman. The Spurs released the Utah Summer League Roster this week.

Via Spurs.com:

Some observations

  • Murray is younger than Derrick White
  • So many 90s babies
  • Bertans, Forbes, Murray are the players to watch. Simmons balled out in two straight summer leagues and now is getting paid.
  • Another go ’round for Livio-Jean Charles
  • Will Hardy alone coaching. :(.