AT&T CENTER – The San Antonio Spurs fell to the Phoenix Suns on Sunday in their second preseason game of the 2013-14 season 106-99. Boris Diaw was not in uniform while Kawhi Leonard was, but didn’t play a minute in the game. Both players were fine physically but with the team preparing for a back-to-back in Denver on Monday, head coach Gregg Popovich elected not to play the two in the match.
In Leonard’s place was 15-year veteran Corey Maggette who made himself noticeable at the free throw line, while one of the new big men Jeff Ayres is looking more comfortable game by game, a training camp invite’s hustle got him noticed by Popovich, and one of the veterans continued to keep himself in the coaches dog house.
Here’s a look at some of the standouts in Sunday’s game and what was said in the locker room about them.
Coach Popovich on Maggette: “We’ve got a lot of guys that can play, but as an insurance policy it wouldn’t be a terrible thing to have a bigger body there so you don’t have to overplay people like Marco (Belinelli) or Danny (Green).”
Though he looked lost at times on the defensive end of the floor, Maggette made the most of his minutes offensively as he started and played all the way deep until the fourth quarter Sunday, amassing 27 minutes, 10 points (1-of-4 from the field), shot 8-of-8 free throws, grabbed two rebounds, passed for three assists, had two turnovers, and eventually had to exit the game with six fouls late in the game.
If there’s one thing he can do, it’s draw fouls and get to the line. On defense, he was out of rotation a few times and gave up open drives or 3-pointers to his opponent’s, but the Spurs’ defensive schemes are also something that will eventually take time to learn.
“He looks like he’s caught on to what we’re trying to do,” said Popovich of Maggette. “He’s an intelligent player. He’s been in the league a while.”
“He’s always had a pretty good game as far as getting to the rim and getting to the free throw line,” continued Popovich on Maggette. “That’s been something that’s been kind of a signature for him.”
Manu Ginobili post-game said bringing Maggette along would give their bench another small forward who can physically matchup with the ‘LeBrons’ and ‘Carmelo’s’ in the NBA, but that with the addition of Marco Belinelli and the departure of Gary Neal, the Spurs can still manage without a natural backup small forward.
For Maggette, he’s taking the opportunity to play with the Spurs as a humbling experience and said had it not been for R.C. Buford calling him this summer, he would have retired from the NBA.
Coach Popovich on Ayres: “When you combine his aggressiveness and hustle, he’s going to be a valuable player for us.”
Whether it’s playing with players like Ginobili, Tim Duncan, or Nando De Colo, Ayres is making his impression on his new team with his consistent productive play. He finished the game with 10 points (5-of-8 shooting), three rebounds, five assists, one steal, and one block and unlike most new Spurs players, he seems to be in the right place at the right time consistently on both ends of the floor.
“He’s a really solid player is what he is,” said Popovich of Ayres. “He has a good knowledge of what he does well and he pretty much sticks with that.”
Ginobili said that Ayres and Aron Baynes will likely be the two players coming off the bench with the second unit like DeJuan Blair and Tiago Splitter used to do in the past. He says Ayres runs the floor hard on every possession and it’ll take time for him to get used to playing with Ayres and putting the ball where he likes it in the post and off the pick-and-roll.
Coach Popovich on Courtney Fells: “I think he’s going to be a good player in this league eventually.”
If there was one unknown player on the roster who made the most of his opportunity, it was forward Courtney Fells. Fells came off the bench in the second half to finish with six points, two steals, and seven rebounds in 17 minutes of play.
His hustle and energy are something Popovich praised him for postgame.
“He’s got a feel for the game and he matches it with his hustle on the court. He competes every play and a lot players don’t really know how to do that, but he seems to do it.”
The French kid in the doghouse
Though he wasn’t a topic of conversation in the locker room, Nando De Colo’s play Sunday may have kept him in the metaphorical doghouse of his head coach as he finished the game with five points on 2-of-5 shooting, two assists, and two turnovers in his 12 minutes on the floor. De Colo didn’t sniff a minute of playing time in the first half but did start the third quarter. Within 90 seconds of the quarter, he got pulled from the game for a turnover and Coach Popovich immediately gave him a one-on-one talk and then sent him to the far end of the bench.
With Cory Joseph and Patty Mills continuing to set themselves as solid backup point guard options, De Colo’s inconsistent play is pushing him more and more toward the Austin Toro’s route since he’s still a player with a guaranteed contract.
Plus Minus really is interesting but it never tells the whole story. I don't pay attention to it. Ayers has potential to be a very nice upgrade from DeJuan. I'm pulling for he and Baynes to be physical rebounders because that is one of the Spurs Achilles heels. We need someone else to emerge besides TD and Kawhi as guys who can get boards. Rebounding was a weakness all season last year and finally caught up with us in the Finals.
I think Magette gets the nod solely because Pop's words say a lot: "He's going to be a good player in this league eventually." Since the Spurs are legitimate championship contenders and not in rebuilding mode, I don't see them giving a roster spot to a guy who will be good 'eventually.' That's just my opinion. When we rebuild, most definitely.
Doing the math and I don't think the 'end game' for the Spurs is sending De Colo to the Toros. I think this is survival of the fittest, and whoever emerges among PM, Joseph or De Colo as someone Pop trusts, that guy stays on the roster and the other two get shipped. There would be a market for any of the 3 guys.
Go back to all the smoke, tons of smoke this off season: About 70% of it seemed to be about the Spurs looking for a vet pg. Numerous names mentioned. About 30% was a big. That tells me: Pop knows an injury to TP means some young guy is suddenly given the keys to drive a Ferrari, or an injury to TD means the Spurs do not have a proven rebounder on their roster at the 4/5. Neither is acceptable if the Spurs are 'all in' for another championship.
Every year since that early exit v Memphis, the Spurs have adapted as they saw weaknesses exposed and bought in guys and made wrinkles in what they do... and advanced further and further. The Heat exposed three huge weaknesses: Lack of depth (and length) off the bench, lack of a reliable pg who could spell Tony effectively, and getting killed on the boards when it mattered most.
I think Marco over Neal addresses one weakness. I think Pop is hoping Ayers and or Baynes will help with the rebounding (though you know Pop's trust level of young guys in the playoffs goes down big time), and at backup point, I think PM or Joseph would be a perfect 3rd guy, a change of pace guy.
I still do the math with guys we have and needs to be addressed and the only conclusion I can come to is: trade(s).
And, it wouldn't surprise me, with his expiring contract, if Bonner gets moved as well. It's not like Pop can count on him in the playoffs, and Boris Diaw's performance in the Finals showed he can not only play solid D, but he can knock down clutch shots-The Moment is not too big for him. Boris hit a couple of 3's.
I think Boris would be a much better stretch 4 and all around utility guy than Bonner, making him and a point guard and a combo guard (De Colo) expendable. Such a trade could yield a very solid backup pg or backup big plus a pick.
The remaining need could be someone the Spurs find off the waiver wire. There will be some solid vets waived. Happens every year.
That's my theory at least
Jeff Ayres had the worst plus minus ratio on the team. I watched this game and the boy Baynes is a rebounding machine. I am not sure how to fill about Maggette. His defense is bad but he gets to the rim and foul line at will. That is an excellent trait to have. Fells did play hard. So far Manu is looking like one of the best players on the court again.
GO SPURS GO
I agree with most, get something for DeColo and keep Fells. Baynes will be ok. He will never be Wilt or TD, but Pecovich, yes. Maggette certainly can still contribute 10min of savy ball and it might be nice to not be bringing in a sf late in the year that just sits. If he doesn't get floor time, not much money is lost dropping him in Dec. An alternative is keeping Kabongo, & Fells and saying goodbye to Nando, how about the sixers or bucks ?
@Strategicagent1 tell my man to stay focused and it will all work out
Wait so de colos contract isn't guaranteed? Get rid of him already. And do something with bynes since he attempted the worst looking hook ive ever seen. Not a fan a bynes period.
I was glad that game was preseason, it was ugly at times. But I was impressed with Fells hustle! I doubt we sign him this year, but hope he lands a role on a team in the future. Ayres and Belinelli look like they will pick up the system pretty well. Maggette I could give or take, but wouldn't be upset if they signed him I guess. At this point I would say trade De Colo for any draft pick or a trade exception (if possible) and sign Maggette and Fells and let Fells develop in Austin.
@SpursAllDay11 Article says NDC has guaranteed contract plain as day
@spursfan80 i can see de colo be like beno udrich..... have a bad start in nba with spurs only to be a solid player with other teams like beno is with NYK.
@JeffProjectSpurs @spursfan80 I feel you. I don't doubt his abilities, I was pretty high on him his rookie year, but CJ & PM seem to have much more to offer at this point. It may his talents need to be utilized differently than what the Spurs want/need. And it could be that through all the bad plays in that game that Fells impression seemed bigger than it actually was... ;)
@spursfan80 @JeffProjectSpurs Beno did ok for himself but he never fully lived up to his potential. He's a decent journeyman pg. Nando is a talented player, but he's stuck in a crowded backcourt with a player that can do more on offense (Mills) and a player that Pop trusts more to be reliable (Joseph.) As for Fells, I like what I saw as well. I'm looking forward to seeing him with the Toros this season where he can continue to develop and learn the Spurs' system. After one game, I'm liking Ayres. Definitely an upgrade over Blair.