Gary Neal stepping up


After suffering a four game sweep at the hands of the Phoenix Suns in last year’s playoffs, one area of concern for the San Antonio Spurs was consistent, reliable perimeter shooting.

Enter Gary Neal.

When the Spurs signed him many Spurs fans pondered “Who is this guy?” Some of you might have asked that question during the San Antonio Spurs game against the Los Angeles Clippers. Well, Neal played for Towson in college, went undrafted in 2007 and has spent the last several years playing overseas. He had a productive season in Italy and the Eurocup before coming to San Antonio

Neal had an outstanding 2010 Summer League performance in Las Vegas which earned him a 3-year guaranteed contract with the Spurs starting at $ 525,000. Although he was regarded as one of the top recruits overseas, his rookie debut did not come with any hype. He only played one minute and grabbed one offensive rebound in the Spurs’ season opener against the Indiana Pacers.

However, with more playing time, Neal proved to be a dependable player that plays hard on both ends of the floor. Against the New Orleans Hornets, he was part of group that nearly completed a fourth quarter comeback. He scored eight points, had two rebounds and two assists while shooting 50% from the field in the teams’ first season lost.

When George Hill was injured against the Clippers, Neal took advantage and provided the Spurs an instant offensive spark off the bench. His final stat-line for the night was 16 points, six rebounds and two assists. He also shot 6-10 (60%) from the field and 4-8 (50%) from behind the arc as he helped the Spurs to victory and overshadowed Tiago Splitter’s NBA debut.

It’s just three games, but Neal has shown confidence and he proves to be a savvy player too for an unconventional rookie. Let’s not forget he has played professionally overseas.

His greatest asset is his willingness to take the open shot. He is definitely a tremendous catch- and-shoot threat from three-point area. If Neal keeps playing this way, the Spurs might have found another “gem” and it could very well make their bench a lot deeper than most people expected.

If the Spurs wanted to address perimeter shooting, seems as if they found the right person.