An Aggressive Devin Vassell Leads San Antonio in Preseason Loss to Houston

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San Antonio Spurs guard Devin Vassell plays during the first half of a preseason NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Oct. 6, 2021, in Detroit.
(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

“The third time doing anything is when one can expect to see a marked improvement. As the saying goes, “the third time’s the charm.” In his third NBA season, San Antonio Spurs forward Devin Vassell, is looking comfortable as a leader on the floor. With Keldon Johnson and Josh Primo out with injuries, he shouldered the scoring for the Spurs.

Vassell only played the first half of the team’s 134-96 loss to the Houston Rockets in Sunday’s preseason opener on Sunday. Still, he led San Antonio scorers for the game with 13 points on 4-13 shooting (30.8%).

The Hard Work is Paying Off for Devin Vassell

With Dejounte Murray and Derrick White no longer with the Spurs, the team is looking for a leader. Jakob Poeltl, the longest-tenured player on the roster would be the apparent fit, as would the aforementioned Johnson who has been with San Antonio the second-longest since being drafted by the team in 2019.

“I worked on my handle, I worked on getting to the basket, free throws,” he said at last week’s media day. “I would say I worked on pretty much everything – I want to take pride defensively too.”

While his percentages weren’t great against Houston, fans saw a more aggressive Vassell who earned five attempts from the free throw line, sinking four of them. The work he has put in appears to be paying off. Head coach Gregg Popovich had apparently seen all he needed to from the Florida State product in the first half, sitting Vassell for the final two frames. It isn’t just the staff taking note of his progress early this season, but his efforts have left an impression on his teammates as well.

“I’d probably say Devin,” veteran Josh Richardson said when asked who he’s seeing growth from at the preseason media availability.

“I think Keldon took a big step last year, and I think he’s going to take another step this year, but I think people are going to get to see what Devin can do a little bit more this year with the ball in his hands and seeing how much more of a versatile game he has than just spot-ups… Coming off ball screens, shooting his pull-ups, making plays for other guys – Kind of stepping into a bigger role generally.”

A team can never have too many leaders, as long as those taking charge are cohesive in the message. How Vassell’s role meshes with Johnson and Poeltl this season will be something to watch. With such a young squad, players need to know who they can turn to on and off the court. Even small amounts of friction can be volatile without a strong core.

San Antonio Spurs Next Game

San Antonio (0-1) will have little time to lick their wounds. The preseason continues on Thursday, October 6th against the Orlando Magic (0-1). Another young squad, the Magic are coming off of a 12-point loss to the Memphis Grizzlies. Orlando enters San Antonio armed with a pair of 2022 top-picks, first-overall selection Paolo Banchero, as well as Jalen Suggs, not to mention Cole Anthony and former Texas Longhorn, Mo Bamba, bring a lot.

Still without Johnson and Primo, the Spurs will be tested in the paint and on the perimeter. Orlando connected on 18 three-point attempts (30%) against Memphis but will have a size advantage inside against San Antonio. Devin Vassell will have another opportunity to continue his growth both as a leader and a lead option for the Spurs.

You can watch the Spurs vs Magic preseason game for free on the official Spurs App available HERE.

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