The San Antonio Spurs are set to hit the road and square off against the Houston Rockets as they continue to seek their first win of the preseason. Three straight losses are never encouraging, but soon exhibition records will be swept clean, and a new season will be upon us.
For now, the task at hand is a revamped Rockets team that reunited former Oklahoma City Thunder teammates, Russell Westbrook and James Harden, this summer. Whether Houston’s dynamic duo dresses for the game or not is yet to be announced. Regardless, fans of both squads are sure to be chomping at the bit to get this divisional rivalry reignited.
San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets
October 16, 2019 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: ATTSN-SW | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: None.
Rockets Injuries: Gerald Green (Out — Foot), Nene (Out — Adductor), Michael Frazier (Out — Ankle Sprain).
Take the results of this matchup with a grain of salt. The final score is irrelevant, and championships aren’t won in the preseason. What’s important is building chemistry and establishing an identity.
Gregg Popovich won’t care too much about the flow of the game or who has the hot hand. His goal is to create a rotation that is most conducive to winning basketball games come October 23rd.
Win or lose by 30 points? It doesn’t matter. Sit back, observe how the pieces are beginning to fall into place, and enjoy the process.
So many guards and so few minutes
San Antonio went into the preseason with an overabundance of capable guards, and only trade or injury would’ve relieved them of the task of allocating minutes effectively. No deals have been done to remove any guards from the roster, and thankfully injuries haven’t plagued a single Spur.
Keldon Johnson and Quinndary Weatherspoon can almost certainly be guaranteed to spend the majority of their rookie season in Austin with the Spurs’ G-Leauge affiliate. So, feel free to erase their names from the list of players in need of minutes in San Antonio.
Pop seems to be leaning towards a starting backcourt of Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes. And Derrick White has earned a substantial role, even if that means serving as the engine that powers the second unit.
Asked Pop if the lineup he's used with everyone available (Murray, Forbes, DeRozan, Aldridge, Poeltl) would likely be his opening-night lineup. He said he's strongly leaning that way, though not set in stone.— Jeff McDonald (@JMcDonald_SAEN) October 13, 2019
That leaves Patty Mills, Marco Belinelli, and Lonnie Walker IV on the board. Unfortunately for those who were hoping to see more of Lonnie this season, the prospects of a second-year outburst from the explosive two-guard are beginning to look slim.
Walker played 25 minutes in the preseason opener but has seen his role reduced significantly. Mills and Belinelli have continued to receive regular minutes, and Lonnie has logged just 25 minutes total over the last two games.
Keep an eye on their usage against Houston. While Marco and Patty bring the steady presence of veteran know-how, Lonnie carries the defensive versatility and three-level scoring neither possess. That could ultimately be the deciding factor in who plays and who rides the pine.
New-look Rockets, same old team
It was out with the old and in with the new for Houston this offseason. The Rockets acquired Russell Westbrook, Ryan Anderson, Ben McLemore, and Thabo Sefolosha, and shed themselves of Chris Paul and Kenneth Faried.
There is a wealth of fresh faces in H-Town, but don’t let that fool you into believing our divisional rivals have found a new identity. This isn’t a rebrand. If anything, the Rockets will be a more exaggerated version of what we saw from them last season.
Harden and Westbrook own two of the highest usage rates in NBA history, and that should lead to a heavier dose of isolation basketball. Spurs fans might not witness the full extent of a Russell Westbrook and James Harden-led lineup, but there will be plenty of time for that when the two teams meet in San Antonio for their first regular-season matchup on December 3rd.
The Houston Rockets are fairly banged up at the moment, and there may be a few healthy scratches on both sides tomorrow. Overall, that shouldn’t take away from the entertainment value of this contest.
A few minutes of Harden, Westbrook, DeMar DeRozan, and LaMarcus Aldridge are always worth taking the time to tune in. As for the rest of the Silver and Black, project players like Chimezie Metu, Drew Eubanks, and Luka Samanic are usually good for a few SportsCenter-worthy sequences.
For those of you who take a more practical approach to these outings, don’t ignore Rudy Gay, DeMarre Carroll, and Trey Lyles. Gay and Carroll are slated for sixth-man duties and situational starts, and the interchangeability of both make them intriguing options for coach Pop. Though Lyles has been somewhat of an afterthought, he has the tools to become an invaluable two-way stretch-four.
For the Rockets fans’ perspective, visit The Dream Shake.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed if you don’t have a radio around.