Marcus Denmon has a chance to be an NBA player, but if it's going to be with the Spurs this season he's probably got a difficult path ahead. And that's not necessarily on him. When you've been drafted late in the second round by a team with more guards than Buckingham Palace, you're going to have do something groundbreaking to even get a decent look at the next level (See: Gary Neal Summer League 2010). It's highly unlikely he'll be able to duplicate the numbers put up by Neal during his offensive explosion two years ago, but he's still got two more games to break out beginning today against the Miami Heat.
"The best part is he competes. That's what I want to see," acting Spurs head coach Jacque Vaughn said. "He competes, he wants to play, he's played the one and the two for us on the floor and he's done a good job picking up things and just competing."
It has to be a nerve-wracking feeling to be playing for a job with only five games to make an impression. Players go through 5-game hot or cold streaks in the NBA all the time, so it's difficult to imagine the pressure that comes along with an audition that covers such a short period of time. We've seen what happens with nerves in these scenarios, too. Guys tend to want to push things in limited minutes and perhaps play over their head when they get the opportunity, and rarely does this yield positive results. But Denmon seems different. He looks cool and collected on the court, and sometimes that's all a coach needs to see even when the numbers might not be there.
"That's just business. That could be how it is during the season. You just have to go out and adjust in the minutes that you do get. I'm getting my first feel of playing at this level and I think everything's been going good," Denmon said following the team's 86-80 loss to the Clippers on Wednesday. "I'm a pretty quick learner so I'm just picking it up as I go.
"Every time you go out and compete you're playing for a job. That's what I'm here doing ... I'm just trying to leave it on the floor," he continued. "The Spurs drafted me for the talent they felt I have so my job is to hold up my end."
But just in case he's wondering, Vaughn has noticed the young man's game.
"He definitely has (stayed calm)," Vaughn said. "He hasn't tried to do too much but has done enough, which is a lot harder for guys to understand, especially when you're trying to fight for a job."
Denmon is in a bit of a unique situation, however. He's basically the size of a point guard, but played primarily off the ball as a shooting guard in college. His skill set is clearly that of an off-guard, but we've seen players transition into the NBA successfully in the combo-guard capacity (Again, see: Gary Neal). So we've seen that it's possible to make the move to the league as an undersized two-guard, but Denmon has a much larger problem working against him as there seems to be a bit of a rift between he and his coach. It might even be the reason he hasn't gotten the minutes needed.
"I know he can play basketball, but unfortunately he went to Missouri," said Vaughn, the former Kansas Jayhawk. "He's a pleasure and a delight to be around, but he doesn't have a chance."
According to sources, there's reason to believe these differences have been worked out.
Editor Note: This piece was written prior to the Miami Heat Summer League game on Friday.