On Sunday night, the San Antonio Spurs preseason continued as they hosted the New Orleans Pelicans at the AT&T Center. The Spurs (0-3) were not able to take home a win despite the progress fans saw from their game last week against the Orlando Magic. San Antonio left the court with the scoreboard showing 97-111 at the final buzzer as New Orleans (3-0) continues to build momentum.
A strong factor in this loss for the Spurs was the absence of a number of veterans. Devin Vassell and Jakob Poeltl were out for rest, along with the already absent Keldon Johnson and Josh Primo who are out with injuries. With these key players unavailable, the Spurs were left trailing behind the Pelicans most of the game.
Veterans Take the Lead in the Spurs’ Third Preseason Game
Although San Antonio mostly played a game of catch-up, it wasn’t all bad. Their top scorer of the night was, once again, Doug McDermott, who has been the most consistent shooter. The nine-year veteran shot 55.7 percent from three, providing 14 points off the bench. According to head coach Gregg Popovich, McDermott’s recent contributions coming off the bench are encouraged and seen as a push or spark for the team.
“We want to see him come off the bench and add to us offensively,” Popovich said of McDermott. “That’s his major skill, and he knows it, he likes it. Who wouldn’t like to be able to shoot whenever you’ve got the green light? So, that’s good for him.”
Josh Richardson didn’t take a backseat either, finishing behind McDermott with 12 points from the starting rotation. He continued to show a mature ability to delegate on the court, hustling to the rim and finishing. As the season progresses, this could make him a potential primary ball handler in the fourth quarter. Richardson’s versatility on the defensive end was on display when he got thrown into guarding Pelicans forward Zion Williamson. He joked about the match-up speaking with the media after the game, stating, “That wasn’t on purpose, so don’t get used to it”.
Dominik Barlow is Making the Most of His Preseason Minutes
The standout rookie for this match-up was Dominik Barlow, especially as the Spurs battled back in the fourth. He posted nine points, one block, and an assist while playing a solid seven minutes down the stretch, going a perfect 4-for-4. The stat line reflects Barlow’s mindset about the type of athlete he considers himself to be.
When asked what positions he’s most comfortable playing, the Spurs’ Barlow is flexible. “I just consider myself a basketball player,” he told the media after the game. This mindset is shared amongst the younger core in San Antonio as they look to become an arsenal of versatile players. An undrafted free-agent rookie, Barlow is with the Spurs on a two-way contract. He will split his time between the Austin Spurs and the Alamo City this season. A 6’9″ forward, San Antonio has a strong foundation to start from with him.
It Isn’t About Winning Right Now for the Spurs
While it would be fun for San Antonio to have such a team of versatility, it’s just not realistic for everyone. It’s clear from the last few games some guys aren’t sure of their roles yet, and that’s okay. As Coach Popovich has stated, only Poeltl’s role is defined, thus landing him as the one lock for the starting rotation. Don’t forget too, it’s only the preseason.
The consistent revolving door through three games is giving the guys their moment to showcase their talents. Ultimately, despite the willingness to be multifaceted, some players just need a solid role description. Defining responsibilities could help the young roster develop a flow and maturity on the court, and hopefully limit careless mistakes.
The defined roles and more refined style of play come with time. Until then, growth is what matters to Coach Popovich and the team the most.
Up Next: San Antonio Spurs (0-3) @ Utah Jazz (0-0)
San Antonio will have one day of rest to review the tape and run it back, though a portion of that time will be occupied traveling to the Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City as they play the Utah Jazz on Tuesday. Project Spurs’ Paul Garcia is reporting that both Kelodon Johnson and Josh Primo could see the floor as the preseason winds down. This might give fans an early peek at the projected opening night lineup, which Johnson and Primo are expected to be on, as well as Vassell and Poeltl.
Coach Pop says Vassell and Poeltl were healthy, but out tonight. He expects Primo, Vassell, Keldon, and Poeltl to be back for the last couple preseason games
— Paul Garcia (@PaulGarciaNBA) October 10, 2022
After trading away star players Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert over the summer, the Jazz have entered a full rebuild. Coached by former San Antonio assistant Will Hardy, are coming off a win over the Portland Trail Blazers after falling to the Toronto Raptors to start the preseason. With holdovers Jordan Clarkson and Mike Conley Jr., Utah has an intriguing roster that includes. In the Mitchell trade, they acquired former Cleveland Cavaliers Collin Sexton and Lauri Markkanen who will enjoy a fresh start.
Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. CST and will be broadcast for free on the official San Antonio Spurs App.