The journey and resources it takes the average person to become a world-class athlete is astounding.
Completing two decades of toiling and training for the opportunity to play in the NBA is an incredible accomplishment. But to have all your hard work culminate into a nonexistent role can destroy your career before it begins.
Welcome to the NBA, Derrick White and Brandon Paul.
It’s easy to be excited about San Antonio’s new arrivals, because all we know about them are YouTube highlights.
The moment one of San Antonio’s “dispensable” assets makes a critical error, the masses throw that player into the trade machine while demanding the shiny new toy takeover.
Enter Danny Green.
On a recent episode of the Spurscast, a reader asked if head coach Gregg Popovich’s questionable rotations and decisions, for example overplaying Danny Green, costs the Spurs games.
But without Pop sacrificing a few meaningless regular season games, players like Danny Green don’t develop into critical rotation players.
Green logged under 90 minutes in his first season with the Spurs and didn’t become a regular rotation piece until the following year. Even then, Green didn’t become a starter until the 27th game.
In the battle of rotations versus development, Popovich usually sides with development during the regular season, and rotation in the postseason. Only emergencies or severe distrust can destroy that balance.
Which brings us back to White and Paul – two unproven rookies who have unlimited potential because of the environment surrounding them.
In trying to determine which rookie will have the biggest impact this season, the correct answer is neither.
“There is a spot over on the bench that is going to get polished by the seat of his pants,” Pop told the media prior to Wednesday’s game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“His role will be to watch, learn, absorb as much as he can. He’s a great kid, but there is no room at the inn.”
Those quotes were in regards to Derrick White’s role, but they could also apply to Brandon Paul.
Neither player has a modicum of the “corporate knowledge” that is so vital to San Antonio’s system.
Brandon Paul was deemed the perfect replacement to Jonathon Simmons, but why would Pop use Paul in a Simmons role? Those minutes are critical to Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes, especially with San Antonio’s emphasis on small ball.
Popovich’s blunt remarks about White’s role as a rookie could be defeating, but they are far from the truth.
As the season progresses and Pop begins to prepare his veterans for the playoffs, Paul and White will see their share of minutes. The hard job for Spurs fans is to remain patient and not overreact.
Brandon Paul may throw down a nasty tomahawk dunk one night, and shoot 0-for-6 from distance the next.
Derrick White might drop five dimes in a blowout. But what if White commits a critical game-deciding turnover the following night because Pop rested his starters?
Instead of questioning the random lineups, or why the Spurs beat the Warriors one night, then lose to the Pelicans, remember that sustained greatness is harder to accomplish than winning a Sunday afternoon game in March.
These players invested their entire lives to make it to the NBA. To not properly cultivate and develop their talents does everyone a tremendous disservice.
So while neither player will have a huge impact on the Spurs this season, Popovich will make sure their return goes well beyond the realm of basketball.
After all, Popovich has been invested in San Antonio longer than some of his players have been alive.