1 - True or false: the injuries to Mills, Leonard and Splitter could be a blessing in disguise because they allow Pop to see what other guys can do in expanded roles.
Michael Erler: It might be true but ideally you don't want injuries to come to a bunch of guys at once and you definitely don't want them at the very beginning when guys are still trying to build up their conditioning to play a full game. It's a good way to get other people hurt, trying to compensate. In the case of Joseph it can be a good thing for sure, because he's actually proven he's an NBA player already so now it's just a matter of seeing how good he can be. But I'm pretty queasy about the idea of throwing Kyle Anderson into the fire right away and I've seen enough of Ayres and Baynes where the idea of "expanding," their role seems fairly pointless. They are what they are. If anything, I'd rather give JaMychal Green a look there.
Bruno Passos: True. The team powered through its share of maladies last year and came out of it stronger top to bottom -- although it's clear Pop doesn't need injuries to have an excuse to experiment with lineups. The idea of a shooter like Patty coming off shoulder surgery and prolonged time off is a concern, but not a big one.
Jesus Gomez: False. The great thing about bringing everyone back is that Pop knows what he has. Ayres and Baynes won't likely shine in an extended role; if anything, it might make their flaws all the more noticeable.The same applies to Belinelli. And while Kyle Anderson is getting a look, once Leonard returns, there just won't be any minutes for him. I would have taken health over experimentation this one time.
Taylor Young: True, for the amount of play it should give Cory Joseph and the fact that injuries throughout the season will allow more minutes for Ayres, Daye and Anderson. Those three are the ones I could see potentially making the Spurs a 12 man deep rotation into the playoffs. I am ready to make some 12 Disciples jokes. The 12 tribes of Pop.
J.R. Wilco: True. If for only for the chance to see Kyle Anderson early in the season before everyone gets healthy and the rookie has to go to Austin for a chance to see some court time.
2 - Cory Joseph has been getting the back up PG minutes in Mills' absence. What are your early thoughts on his performance? Could he wrestle the role away from Mills or will the Spurs miss Patty?
Erler: They're different players. Joseph is working on his jumper and can get to the rim, but his nature will always be to defer to the others. Mills is more of a chucker and even when he gives it up it's with the understanding that he'll get it back once he gets open. For Joseph to really distinguish himself he'd have to really make a difference defensively and as a playmaker, to show he can do things Patty cannot. Run a competent pick-and-roll, things like that. I think Mills will definitely be missed, especially while Ginobili and Leonard work off the rust and definitely on back-to-backs while the squad is lacking in energy. The odds are pretty against Joseph supplanting Mills and the Spurs showed their commitment to the Australian with that contract.
Passos: I've always seen Cory as the backup starting point guard -- the guy who can pick things up in Parker's absence and keep that first unit humming along. As well as he's played, however, I don't think he will supplant Patty in his role as the second unit's point guard. He's just not enough of a scorer or playmaker, and the guys were so good last year in the ends of the first quarter and starts of the second at overwhelming opposing benches and creating separation.
Gomez: I'm never going to like the fit, not until Joseph shows that he can hit the three consistently. And I usually hate when people damn guys with this faint praise.... but Cory Joseph hustles. And that often goes a long way, especially during random nights in the regular season. He won't take Patty's job unless something goes wrong with his rehab but I doubt the Spurs will miss Mills early on.
Young: He won't wrestle the job away from Patty unless Patty fumbles it for himself. I am scared of Mills returning to a cold jumper and a lack of confidence that looks like a 2012 Gary Neal.
Wilco: Mills is far too efficient and prolific a shooter for the 2nd unit not to miss him, but Joseph's defense and stability in the offense will allow the team to make it until the team is at full strength. If Joseph has really developed his outside shooting over the summer, then things could get interesting, but he'd have to be lights out through the first half of the season for me to even consider having that conversation.
3 - Kyle Anderson had a great pre-season game against the Heat and so far has looked like he belongs in the league. How likely do you think it is for him to contribute this season?
Erler: Not very likely, unless Leonard or Diaw miss significant time. He's just too much of a defensive liability for Pop to play right now. He's got to go to Austin and work on getting his plays and rotations down. He's going to get pushed around in the post but he should at least be able to get into the right spots on the perimeter, a la Marco Belinelli.
Passos: 'Not very' to 'somewhat possible'. It's encouraging to see him get into the flow of the NBA game (and knock down a few corner threes), but there's no need to give him significant minutes this season, barring Kawhi Leonard missing extended time.
Gomez: Not likely. Anderson could get some minutes right away for a few teams but the Spurs have enough experienced guards and wings to fill up the rotation. And it's for the best to bring him along. Once he adjust to the speed of the game and works on his body, he could be special.
Young: I think likely. Right now he gives you more than several guys who should be on the active roster. I'd rather have him than Daye, Ayres, Baynes and Bonner. Surely there's a spot for him, whether it is behind Kawhi or filling in for Diaw.
Wilco: Unlikely, but SloMo is an unlikely player isn't he? With his height and skill-set, he's so intriguing that it's hard not to want to see him on the court right away, to find out what he's capable of doing. We'll see what Pop thinks he's ready for.
4 - What has been the most pleasant surprise of the pre-season so far?
Erler: Danny Green seems to have taken a couple of steps in his dribbling and playmaking. He's got system down now and is reacting without thinking, moving on next level stuff. Any option that discourages him from taking those awful floaters would be a good thing.
Passos: Manu being one of Lady Gaga's favorite players, and his sincere befuddlement around it: "I asked her if she was sure she meant me, that I was number 20." I would've paid good money to see this exchange.
Gomez: Tony Parker looking dominant again. It shouldn't really surprise me, since his sporadic struggles last season were the result of health problems. But I guess I wasn't ready to see Tony look like his 2012 self again so soon.
Young: That it's the preseason and nothing tragic has happened that has made us seriously analyze the preseason.
Wilco: I have to go with Passos and Gomez: Parker's form and Manu's hilarious humility. With the addition of Anderson's competence.
5 - What has been the biggest disappointment of the pre-season so far?
Erler: Besides all the early injuries? Just how far behind Ginobili is. He looks fine physically... better than fine actually, he looks like he's in great shape. But he's moving like he's carrying a piano behind his back and all of his actions are slow and telegraphed. Deception is a big part of his game and he's not even fooling dudes who aren't going to be in the league right now.
Passos: Robert Sarver's tacky in-game posturing, and the notion of fans "expecting a big-time game" in the preseason. Sounds like he needs an Robert Horry hip-check back to reality.
Gomez: I have to go with Boris Diaw's play. Because he played in the summer, I was expecting him to look great right away. And considering how BoBo has not always responded well to getting paid, I can't help but worry a bit about his motivation even if it's just pre-season. Prove me wrong, Boris!
Young: The turnovers. My biggest fear for this team is that they will resemble the 2006 Spurs team. That was a great team on paper and in record, but there always seemed to be a small piece missing. Turnovers and high amounts of them signify that the ball is moving, but it isn't going to the right place. My fear is that there would always be a little something missing from this team. I am scared it could come in the form of the ball never moving quite as smoothly as it did last postseason.
Wilco: The biggest disappointment has been how few of the games I've been able to see. Why is it that I can buy a cable/satellite/digital TV subscription, purchase League Pass on top of that so that I never miss a single NBA game, and STILL not have the rights to preseason contests? It simply makes no sense and I can't understand why the league can't get this right. How can showing a basketball game to an audience that's over 100 miles from the arena depress ticket sales? I don't get it.