The Spurs introduced themselves to the newly renovated AT&T Center with a 96-92 victory over the Detroit Pistons.
Since it's the preseason and the results don't matter, I'm not going to do much in the way of actually recapping the game. But there's still plenty to discuss:
Mills over McCallum: Patty got the start at PG as Tony sat out the game to rest. R.C. Buford said in a Summer League interview that McCallum would start on Parker rest days, but this is the second time in two preseason chances where Mills was given the role. I won't make much of it because a) it's preseason and b) McCallum ran the point with the starters for a few minutes early in the second quarter. Patty is a better playmaker than Ray, so I would expect McCallum to start when Parker gets a DNP in the regular season.
Midranged monsters: If the first quarter was an indication of anything, it's that the offense is going to prioritize the mid-range jumper much more than any year in recent memory. Leonard, Aldridge, Duncan, West, Parker and Mills are all above-average mid-range shooters.
Kawhi you so good? Kawhi showcased his whole offensive repertoire tonight. He displayed some fancy, new handles, juked Reggie Bullock with a gorgeous post-up move, and even followed a dribble-drive move with a wrap-around pass to West for an easy layup. He was the high-point man with 21 points on an efficient 7-12 shooting. Dude is special.
Butler looks lost: Rasual Butler can't seem to decide if he wants to be a big or a wing man. He's often caught awkwardly positioned in no-man's land on offense. This is a strange thing to say about a 13-year veteran. But Pop does love wily vets whose most ... athletic days are behind them, so don't be too surprised if he earns that 15th spot.
Aldridge is starting to mesh: I was concerned with how quickly Aldridge would assimilate into the Spurs' system. He seems to already fit in just fine, but there is certainly room for improvement. He missed multiple easy bunnies after some jaw-dropping passes from Manu and Tim. This was easily the best he's looked so far in a Spurs uniform, and if he had made a few layups, we'd be looking at an impressive statline for tonight. Instead, he finished with 9 points and 7 boards on 4-14 shooting.
Manu reborn: Manu's dropoff in play over the past few years has been significant and steep, but this preseason has made me (cautiously) optimistic. There's been far more good than bad so far because he seems to be much more aware of his physical limits than in the recent past. If he can maintain his play, this bench is one of the league's most offensively combustible groups.
Diaw's back! Boris Diaw made his preseason debut late in the third, and he immediately poked the ball away for a steal and shortly thereafter confidently swished a pair of threes. After losing Marco's three-point shooting, it's important that Boris can regain his confidence after last season's atrocious performance from deep.
Anderson looks capable: I have long questioned how well Kyle Anderson's abilities could translate to the NBA. Tonight was a very encouraging game for him that featured several smart passes, including a thrilling sequence where he found McCallum for an open corner three after Manu hit Diaw with a behind the back pass. He didn't take a shot, but finished with 5 dimes in just 14 minutes of action.
West's defense is harder, better, faster, stronger than expected. He disrupted several shots against Drummond and the Piston backcourt. His stateline of 8 points, 3 boards, and 3 blocks doesn't illustrate how much of an impact he had on both ends of the floor. Color me impressed.
Simmons plays... eventually: Jonathon Simmons finally checked into the game early in the fourth. In the Summer League and preseason, Simmons has displayed great instincts on both ends of the floor and some absurd athleticism, but he's also been overly aggressive on defense. He fouled two jumpshooters, which — more likely than not — ticked Pop off, but it's good to learn from these mistakes sooner than later.
Marjanovic vs. Drummond: Like Simmons, Boban Marjanovic didn't see the court until the fourth. While it was the fourth quarter of a preseason game, Boban didn't get an easy night off; he battled Andre Drummond in the paint in 8 tense minutes. He performed admirably with a pair of putback shots, 5 boards, and a key block in crunch time on Drummond. Marjanovic pushes up and down the floor at a surprisingly fast pace for a 7'3", 290 pound big man, but his lateral quickness is a problem that opposing guards will likely pick on going forward.
Tuesday, the Suns come to San Antonio for the penultimate game of the Spurs' preseason.