With NBA training camps opening this week, San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich opened media week by speaking to the media Tuesday. Here are some topics we’ll tackle in the Wrap-Up for Tuesday based on Popovich’s interview:
- White, Johnson, and Weatherspoon to Miss Training Camp
- Spurs to Continue Faster Pace Approach
- Poeltl to get more Opportunities on Offense
White, Johnson, and Weatherspoon to Miss Training Camp
Popovich opened the media session by answering questions about the health of the players going into camp. He said no player has tested positive for Covid-19, but he did say Derrick White (left second toe), Keldon Johnson (foot), and Quinndary Weatherspoon (left knee) are all sidelined to start training camp with “bumps and bruises.”
When asked later if the three players will only miss training camp, Popovich said the injuries could force the players to miss the start of the preseason and possibly even the season opener in late December.
“Both,” said Popovich of the three players missing the preseason games, “they’re not going to start training camp. I don’t think they’re going to be ready for the first games.”
White and Johnson were key members of the Spurs’ rotation during the bubble in Orlando. With both players and Weatherspoon out, the Spurs will have the following players available for training camp and the preseason.
Ball handlers: Dejounte Murray, DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills, Tre Jones
Secondary ball handlers: Lonnie Walker IV, Devin Vassell, Cam Reynolds
Floor Spacing Bigs: LaMarcus Aldridge, Rudy Gay, Trey Lyles, Luka Samanic, Keita Bates-Diop
Bigs near the rim: Jakob Poeltl, Drew Eubanks, Tyler Zeller
As written in the Sunday Wrap-Up, there’s going to be some tough decisions for the coaching staff to make to begin the season with the 10-man rotation since Aldridge and Lyles are getting added to the lineup again now that they’re healthy.
A starting five now for the preseason opener might look like: Murray, Walker IV, DeRozan, Lyles, Aldridge
A second unit could look like: Mills, Vassell, Samanic, Gay, Poeltl
Whatever lineups the team decides to go with while White and Johnson are out, new adjustments will be needed once they get healthy, because the two of them are key players in the 10-man rotation.
Spurs to Continue Faster Pace Approach
Popovich was asked if the Spurs will continue their fast paced approach with small ball units like they used in Orlando, and he said they would, even with the additions of Aldridge and Lyles.
“The strategy, the philosophy, the way we play is going to stay the same and everybody’s going to have to adjust to that, because the guys did a great job, they enjoyed it. We changed our approach as far as practice was concerned, how we wanted to teach. The young players really took time to understand what we were doing. People like DeMar and Rudy were great in mentoring these guys and actually ended up changing some of the ways they have played over the years pace wise – making defense more of a priority – they bought in. They really enjoyed the young guys and melded together with them so those two guys I was really proud of because they became leaders in that sense. So the growth that took place there in some ways was unexpected, but it happened. We’re just going to go forward from what we did there and I think that LA (Aldridge) will have no problem adjusting to how we play, because he wants to win. We want to get back in the playoffs and he is committed to taking another huge step as far as more of a three point shooter, which is necessary in this league for success we all know. He took a big step last year, he’s taking an even bigger step this year. His workouts all summer long and into the fall have centered around that and he’s bought into that and knows how much that can help us. So I’m excited for the whole group to come together.”
When asked about how the veteran players will adjust to the change, Popovich said the strategy last season just didn’t work at the end of the day.
“The bottom line in all frankness is I don’t remember winning a championship last year,” said Popovich. “I don’t remember being in the playoffs, so it’s time to make a change, play a different way – demand it, and move forward.”
If the team does indeed continue with the faster pace style, expect to see more lineups with one big and four wings like the team used in Orlando.
Poeltl to get more Opportunities on Offense
Popovich said while the Spurs are glad to have Poeltl re-signed and back with the team, as well as all the skills he does well – guards the rim, sets good screens, makes the right decisions, stays within his role – Popovich wants to see Poeltl do more on offense.
“He’s got to be a threat,” said Popovich of Poeltl. “He was a former Pac-10 player of the year.”
Popovich says while Poeltl won’t be shifting into a three point shooter, he does want him to become more aggressive in scoring the ball.
In his final season at Utah in college, Poeltl averaged 17.2 points per game. Popovich said he doesn’t know why Poeltl has become more timid in not being a scoring threat on offense, but he wants to see Poeltl become more of a force in scoring the ball going forward.