“Nando (De Colo) kept us together pretty well,” said San Antonio Spurs head Coach Gregg Popovich Wednesday evening after the Spurs defeated the Orlando Magic 98-84. De Colo, who started in place of Tony Parker (Sore left ankle), finished the game with eight points, seven rebounds, six assists, two steals, and one block in 29 minutes of play.
Before the game, asked if De Colo has solidified himself as the backup point guard going forward with just seven games remaining until the playoffs, Popovich first joked that he’d prefer a Hall-of-Famer, but then did confirm De Colo as the backup at the moment.
“I’d rather have Magic Johnson,” joked Popovich, “(But) he’s the backup. It’s not a matter of anything else,” continued Popovich, “he’s the backup. He’s done a good job.”
“For the last games that he’s played recently the last few weeks, he’s made a marked improvement in competitiveness, defending, rebounding, and shown a bit more confidence in his game – that little spurt that he has made in the last couple of weeks.”
With seven games remaining in the regular season, De Colo might keep the position of backup guard even though he’s a rookie because of the Spurs’ limited options after him.
Gary Neal, is still not at full strength from his injury, and might be better suited as mainly a shooting guard. Patty Mills, a solid third option, but with his lack of play lately, it doesn't seem he would be a viable option in three weeks. Cory Joseph, a solid-defensive guard, but hasn’t shown the command of the offense and risk-ability De Colo has been displaying – jumping in front of passes for steals in the open court, no-look passes to teammates that can be spectacular or get him chewed out at times, or even the ability to step off a screen and hit a jumper.
Another reason De Colo could really be the backup going into the playoffs is due to the health of Manu Ginobili. Ginobili is expected to be out 3-4 weeks and may not even be back by the first round of the playoffs. By the time his body is conditioned, it could be later in the first series or longer.
De Colo is a player who came in with a point guard mindset after playing the position overseas with Valencia Basket in Spain. Yes, the opponents weren’t NBA players, but the caliber of play has prepared him in the NBA as he has shown he can compete with anyone in this league.
Another advantage De Colo had was being part of the French National team where he was able to get a heavy dose of the Spurs’ system the last two summers, and even as far as Parker has been guiding him.
When that Saturday or Sunday game one of the first round of the NBA playoffs rolls around in three weeks, it’ll be interesting to see if De Colo is the first player coming off the bench to relieve Parker and how he’ll compete – like a rookie, or someone Popovich can say kept his team together.