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What to expect from Keldon Johnson when the Spurs play in Orlando

KJ has boundless energy and a contagious smile, but he could bring more than that to Orlando.

NBA: Utah Summer League-San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

We’re now less than two weeks from watching televised NBA games, and the Spurs are grinding away at practice as they prepare to resume the season shorthanded. LaMarcus Aldridge and Trey Lyles will be recovering from surgery during San Antonio’s minimum eight-game stint in Orlando, and the good guys will have to look elsewhere to fill several holes in their lineup.

Derrick White, Jakob Poeltl, and Lonnie Walker IV figure to benefit from the absence of Aldridge and Lyles with the league-wide restart on the horizon, but there are a handful of fresh legs vying for minutes. Keldon Johnson wasn’t the Spurs’ first pick in the 2019 Draft, but he was the clear-cut alpha for their Austin G-League affiliate and the lone rookie making progress towards breaking into the rotation before the hiatus.

Johnson’s defensive motor and fearless competitiveness were always his selling points coming into the season, and his infectious energy and toothy smile have only further endeared him to the Silver and Black faithful. Fans aren’t the only ones who’ve taken notice of the 20-year-old’s unfalteringly upbeat aura, teammates Dejounte Murray and Derrick White had plenty of praise for Keldon during today’s media availability.

While Johnson may have a perpetual grin across his baby-faced mug, the first-year Spur is more than a happy-go-lucky locker room presence waiting for his turn to hit the hardwood. San Antonio rostered one of the worst perimeter defenses in the league this year, and if they have any hope of improving their performance in that department, adding a healthy dose of Keldon Johnson into the mix might not be the worst idea for PATFO.

It may be hard to get excited about the league restart in terms of their playoff hopes, but if nothing else, seeing what the Spurs youngsters are prepared to bring to future should be reason enough to tune in — and Coach Gregg Popovich has said that “development is more important than anything right now”.