Overall, Corey Joseph's performance wasn't eye-popping but he was solid on both sides of the ball. Corey did a good job staying out in front of his man on defense, working around screens, and grabbing three steals. Then again, Joseph was matched against 15 year veteran Anthony Carter for most of his 14 minutes, so the difficulty of this trial wasn't of great burden. Transitioning into the offense, Joseph did an admirable job pushing the ball out on the break, including a nice steal and long pass that led to a Derrick Brown dunk. Corey finished 0-1 from the floor, with his only 2 points coming from the line.
After the game, Coach Popovich had some approving comments on Corey's work during camp. ""He's had a great summer. He did a great job in the Las Vegas Summer League," said Popovich. "In open gym here, he's done a good job. Chip Engelland has done a great job with his shot and his confidence has grown." Teammate Stephen Jackson would later concur, saying that "CJ" has been the best player in camp. Joseph did his best to manage an offense that was nowhere near on the same page, and I believe some minutes with veteran Spurs players would be a true read on Joseph's development.
Nando De Colo
I definitely understand why Nando De Colo got the nickname "Mini Manu" There are several parallels between De Colo and Ginobili of 2002-03. Nando moves very well without the ball, knows where he needs to be for the most part, and seems to have no interest in playing at a lower gear. With the ball in his hand, it's almost foolish to expect a judicious decision from De Colo. Nando is a haphazardly aggressive attacker - he can easily find a runner on the break, create a great look for himself, and get himself to the free throw line. But Nando also seems to equally put up contact layups from nearly inside an opponent's jersey, force passes to a heavily-guarded teammate, and get overzealous with his creativity. I think Nando will be a solid player who will get a little bit of time throughout the season (like Mills in 2011-12). I can't think of two better players than Manu and Tony for Nando to work with throughout the next few seasons.
Josh Powell entered the game late in the first quarter and played through part of the second quarter as well. Powell only managed 2 rebounds and a single assist in seven minutes of play, but he seemed to flow well with the veteran players on the court. I wasn't too thrilled about his positioning on the boards, but Powell has never been really thought of as a rebounder in the NBA. Josh is also known to be foul prone and his 2 fouls in limited minutes point to that. Still he does have a nice mid-range game (with occasional deep ball) and can use his athleticism to get to the rim. Defensively, he worries me but I don't believe Pop is all that concerned about harvesting defensive minds anymore.
Last night's game was my first real observation of Derrick Brown, and I liked a great portion of his 16 minutes of play. Derrick showed great hustle and athleticism while actively communicating with teammates on both ends of the court. On the offensive end, Brown moves well the ball, sets solid screens, takes smart shots, and is able to both create and finish. Brown had several fast break finishes, but the highlight for me came in the 3rd quarter when he caught the ball near the top of the key. In one smooth motion, Brown ball faked to the perimeter, pulled in the defense with a turn towards the basket, and then kicked out to Jackson for a wide open 3-point shot.
On defense, Brown's primary weaknesses showed through on screens and with players away from the basket. Brown consistently ended up on the wrong end of high screens and, despite his athleticism, struggled with the fast, aggressive wing players. After the game, Coach Popovich commented that "[Brown] is more of four than he is a three." His energy on loose balls and rebounds is great but he seems to lack the awareness for positioning and boxing out (0 REB). Brown does have some active hands though and shows that he can be a defensive pest to the opposing front court. Derrick loves to hustle and get out on the transition both ways, a few things I'm sure Coach Popovich has noticed.
Out of the players battling for the last roster spot, Eddy Curry was the most disappointing. He looked lost and out of the flow too many times on offense and underwhelming on defense. Most of the screens he set for the backcourt were soft or at an awkward spacing that seemed to make life more difficult for the ball handler. With the ball in his hands, Curry forced a handful of ugly, heavily contested shots, including one out of a hectic double team. Curry was also too passive on the glass for my taste, not using his size to battle or position in the paint and mostly just waiting on the ball. Late in the 4th quarter, while the Spurs were battling to cut the lead down to four points, Iguodala snatched an offensive board and basket while Curry was waiting for a missed shot to bounce out of bounds. It wasn't all bad - Curry had a nice block near the end and was hustling down the court (if he wasn't behind a Denver fast break). Several players have commented on his work in practice so it might just be an issue of chemistry, or rather lack thereof.
Patty Mills did not play due to his ankle injury. There is a chance he may return to action against Houston this Sunday.
Wesley Witherspoon did not play and appears to be the next head on the chopping block. I am disappointed. I'm hoping the rookie out of Memphis will get some time in Austin as I think he can be a major contributor within a few years.
Of the veteran role players who played last night, I thought Tiago Splitter deserved the most praise. Splitter didn't put up any sexy stats in his short 7:31 minutes of court time, but he did a lot of little things that help make an offense click. Tiago moved well on offense, setting screens and moving the ball, but his best work came on the other end of the court. On defense, Splitter forced several attacking players (primarily McGee and Lawson) baseline which led to either a tough pass, TO, or a block by a help defender. However, Tiago was overly-aggressive at times, which usually leads to foul trouble (only 1 in the game), but I like this much more than his passive act during the worst times last postseason. Oh, and Splitter got some nice floor time with Duncan as well. I know how some of you tend to ask for that. Over, and over again.
Follow Aaron on Twitter: @DukeOfBexar