Posted on October 6, 2012 at 11:14 pm by Dan McCarney
Notes and observations from Friday’s preseason opener against Montepaschi Siena:
* Siena was obviously out of its league, so no need to make too much out of anything from this game. (Which I’m probably going to do anyway during the ensuing paragraphs.) But it had to be an encouraging sign, after coach Gregg Popovich
laid down the gauntlet on media day, that the Spurs played a smothering defensive game, holding Siena to 29.6 percent shooting and forcing 22 turnovers.
* Sixth-year veteran Josh Powell
was the first non-guaranteed big off the bench and he took full advantage, putting up seven points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes. Powell deflected any and all questions about possibly having taken the ridiculously early lead for the 15th and final roster spot. But even with six more preseason games left, he didn’t do anything to hurt his chances. Especially with Eddy Curry
(seven points, two rebounds) and Derrick Brown
(four points, one rebound) doing little to distinguish themselves.
* Early candidate for Hyperbole of the Year: Stephen Jackson
called French rookie Nando De Colo
“another Manu Ginobili
” following two-point, three-assist debut. Pretty massive leap from that to a future Hall of Famer like Ginobili. Like, Grand Canyonesque. But what was on display Friday verifies what we saw at the Olympics: Despite his errant stroke and shaky D, De Colo obviously understands the game at a pretty deep level. Witness his slick behind-the-back pass to Derrick Brown
for a fourth-quarter dunk. It was the best of a handful of passes that ranged from solid to sublime. He’s still got a long way to go as a shooter and a defender, but vision like that is a nice skill to build around.
* Like father, like sons. With an assist from Spurs Page Ranking chief Tom James
, Dante and Nicola Ginobili, the young twin sons of Manu, proved every bit as able at breaking up a play as their father, squeezing into the middle of the scrum to prematurely end his post-game interview.
That was followed by a visit from Gary Neal’s
toddler, already clad in his PJs. Adorable stuff.
* If DeJuan Blair
is harboring any lingering grudges for his continued presence on the team, he did a fine job hiding it Friday night. While the stats were nice — 10 points, five rebounds, three steals in 15 minutes — what really stood out was his wall-to-wall effort on both ends of the court — ran the court hard, hedged out on screens, vocal on defense. Much easier to bust your butt when you’re in good shape, isn’t it?
* In the Burgeoning Skills department, both Neal — the apparent leader for the backup point guard spot — and Kawhi “Future Face of the Franchise” Leonard
displayed much improved handles. Leonard, in particular, was impressive in the open court, at one point snagging a rebound and driving the length of the court for a layup attempt. He missed it badly, but the idea was good. One blemish — Leonard shot just 2 for 8, potential proof that his shot might not be as improved as hoped.
* Not that we need any more evidence after 15 years of sustained excellence, but Tim Duncan
is truly impressive. Four-time champion, two-time MVP, future Hall of Famer, yet he’s still taking the time to put his arm around one of the camp bodies who won’t even be here in a couple of weeks and coach him up with two minutes left in a preseason game at the start of his 16th season.
* Impressive second half for Cory Joseph
, who scored 10 points on 4-for-6 shooting despite sitting for the first two quarters. He had a particularly nice sequence midway through the third, breaking up a Siena fast break with his quick hands and whipping a pass up-court to Neal for an uncontested layup. Spurs Nation