Leonard, Joseph lead Spurs in victory over Hawks

Summer LEagueLAS VEGAS – Game one of the San Antonio Spurs 2012 Summer League is in the books and it was a very successful debut for a couple of players entering their sophomore seasons.  Going into Summer League, we knew Kawhi Leonard would be the focal point of the offense, and while it took him a little while to get going, he did not disappoint. 

The Spurs other Sophomore, Cory Joseph, came in to Summer League hoping to show he can be a reliable back up to Tony Parker.  One game in he also showed a knack for running a team.

A few house keeping items to start off with.  The Spurs won 82-76.  After a really flat first quarter, the Spurs led for most of the final three quarters.  The offense that was run was a paired down version of what’s run during the regular season.  In fact, it’s probably almost exactly what Joseph ran in Austin for half of last season.  The first quarter was shaky but Joseph was incredibly aggressive.  Joseph finished with 18 points and four assists and showed a much improved jump shot.  Summer League Head Coach Jacques Vaughn said he was very pleased with how everyone played considering it was game one and signaled out Leonard and Joseph specifically.

“I think a few guys played really well. I think we competed which is great in Summer League basketball,” Vaughn said. “Cory and Kawhi really stepped up and played well.”

Leonard’s first quarter trying to create his own shot didn’t work out so well.  He was aggressive, but that led to a couple of blocked shots on jumpers, but also led to a really nice layup in traffic and several trips to the free throw line.  Leonard seemed to get comfortable after that, doing his best not to settle for jumpers.  By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Vaughn moved him to the primary ball handler in the pick-and-roll, and Leonard continued to attack the basket.  Midway through the fourth, Leonard performed a crossover that led to a three-point play, followed by a pull-up jumper off a screen, followed by a pick-and-pop where he fed Eric Dawson for a score.  He finished with 23 points and three assists.

“The time to test drive a little bit which was fun,” said Vaughn, “get him out there and put him in positions that he normally for us, doesn’t get a chance to be in so pick-and-roll, posting up a little bit so see if we can see a little glow.”

Leonard said he’s been working on creating off the dribble all summer, adding that he wants be more than a role player for the Spurs moving forward.

“I don’t want to be standing-in-the-corner guy my whole career. You know I like to take control of the game and just be a focal point to my team winning.”

A few other notes:

- San Antonio native Dawson finished with 10 points and 13 rebounds.  I’m not sure he has the size or mobility to ever be a consistent role player in the NBA, but he always seems to be in the right place at the right time.

- Ryan Richards got some extended run in the second half, showing some promise and a lot of raw ability (emphasis on the raw).  He finished with just two points and two rebounds, but he was aggressive the whole time he was in.  His athleticism showed when he came out to defend a pick-and-roll, forcing a traveling call.  The next time down the court, Richards got the ball at the free throw line, made a quick move and got fouled in the act of shooting.  Vaughn said he liked what he saw out of Richards, but that he’s very much a work in progress.

“I think Ryan needs to just continue to get better at all aspects of the game.  He was physical out there on both ends of the floor,” Vaughn said. “I think for a big, for us, it’s just being in the right place at the right time. Good screens, rebounding, real fundamental, doesn’t get too complicated with us.”

The Spurs next play Tuesday vs. the Los Angeles Lakers at 5:30 PM (CST).

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