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Morning Rehash: Those awkward teenage years

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As they incorporate slightly used players into the rotation throughout the season, the reigning champion Spurs will experience growing pains. It will make them better.

Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports

Being a teenager is a difficult, awkward thing to do. You're growing up, and you want to establish more freedom for yourself. The problem with that, though, is that in most cases, you're not going to be competent enough to be on your own. So, as you continue to grow, you make a ton of really dumb mistakes until you start to learn from them, and then start to minimize said mistakes.

My experience as a teenager was like that. I've never considered myself as lacking intelligence; but when I was in high school? I made some of the most absent-minded errors imaginable.

For example, my brother or his wife would sometimes tell me to pull out some food from the freezer to thaw it out so they could cook it for dinner later. I would end up opening up the freezer door, peer around inside for the food, and never find it. I'd check about three times more for it, and still there was no chicken to be found. Defeated, I'd go find one of them, reporting "Uhhhh...I can't find the chicken. Are you sure it's there?"

Five seconds later, they would be at the freezer, pulling the food out of the inside of the door that I had neglected to check, and I would stand there feeling like the biggest idiot in the world. I'm sure things of that nature frustrated my brother and his wife to no end.

In retrospect it's easy to call all of these mistakes dumb. I still make them sometimes, but it happens far less often than it did a few years ago. Back then, certain tasks were difficult because I hadn't done them often enough, even if the task was a simple one.

There are the kinds of problems the younger San Antonio players are dealing with. Cory Joseph, Austin Daye, and Kyle Anderson are the Spurs' teenagers. They haven't quite mastered how things work in San Antonio yet; and it showed up on Friday versus the Phoenix Suns.

Pop likes to give everyone minutes so that come playoff time, hopefully they'll be comfortable enough in their role to be able to contribute if the person in front of them on the depth chart goes down, or a matchup advantage deems playing them necessary.

Cory Joseph, who is the closest of the three to being a good contributor for the team (having already produced in big moments) will be the key to the Spurs' high-paced passing-attack of a second unit. With Patty Mills out until at least January, that unit will be missing a quick floor-spacer who can pressure the opposing point guard, and accelerate the tempo. Cory Joseph doesn't have to be a carbon copy of Mills, but he will have to play solid point defense, attack closeouts offensively, and be a last resort in running a high pick-and-roll when the shot clock is down. He can pressure opponents well enough, but will have to take the wheel on offense more. He's shown that he can come up in big spots, and the Spurs' bench will need him to become more consistent.

Pop started Daye at center for the game, and it didn't work out at all. Daye looked bad on Friday, missing shot after shot on offense, and looked lost on defense, as he was late on many rotations. He took the place of Splitter, who is out with a back injury. Daye's place on the team is probably the most uncertain of anybody's. Only one time he's gotten playing time has he looked great, and his performance on Friday didn't help. Still, I think we haven't seen the last of the Austin Daye experiment in San Antonio.

Kyle Anderson hasn't seen the floor yet this season, but his time will come. If Kawhi misses time at any other point past midseason, Anderson would be my guess to get some of those minutes.

This strategy of letting guys play to work out their kinks has worked before in recent Spurs seasons. It's why Kawhi Leonard was comfortable enough on the floor to contribute heavily in both Finals series. It's why Danny Green has become more familiar with dribbling the ball, and can at least maneuver himself out of trouble in a pinch. It's how Gary Neal and Patty Mills came to acquire and solidify their roles as the team gunner. Pop plays everybody over the course of the season, and everyone on the roster will get a chance to carve out a role. Until they do find their niche, the newer players will continue to make mistakes as they did on Friday. For now, those who follow the team just have to go through the growing pains and trust the process.

MVP OF THE GAME

Tony Parker - 19 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds

NUMBERS ON THE BOARD

  • 54: How many points Phoenix scored in the paint. Most of this happened when Tim Duncan was on the bench, and the main rim protector was someone like Jeff Ayres or Austin Daye. We miss you, Tiago.
  • 41: The field goal percentage for the Spurs.
  • 5: Seconds that a team has to get the ball in play from out of bounds, a rule that cost the Spurs a shot at sending the game to overtime when Boris Diaw was unable inbounds the ball or call a timeout in time.

GAME NOTES

  • Kawhi Leonard came back for his first action this season, and his performance was probably best described as "fair." He didn't really find his groove offensively, but he made a couple plays on defense. He also looked great on the boards, racking up 7 in the 1st half, and 8 total.
  • Phoenix played Isaiah Thomas, Eric Bledsoe, and Goran Gragic -- three point guards -- to close out the game on Friday, it certainly worked. Those little quick guards were able to get up in Spurs players' faces and create havoc, forcing the turnovers that eventually gave Phoenix the lead. Credit Jeff Hornacek for having the guts to play that type of lineup, and have it work.

TWEET GAME