San Antonio Spurs Assistant Coach Mitch Johnson took the lead on the second scrimmage game inside the Orlando bubble. Although Head Coach Gregg Popovich is attending games, he has assigned an assistant to each of the scrimmages.
Becky Hammon took the first lead in the Spurs game against the Milwaukee Bucks. Will Hardy reportedly will take the reins in tomorrow’s final scrimmage game. But for Saturday’s match-up against the Brooklyn Nets, fans were treated to the newest members of the Spurs coaching team.
Although new to San Antonio, Mitch Johnson is not new to the Spurs. He spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Austin Spurs and was there when they acquired the 2018 G League Championship, so working with Derrick White is nothing new.
Johnson also as an assistant at the University of Portland, played three seasons playing in the G-League as well as in Europe before making the move to Texas.
Here are some comments from his post-game Zoom interview.
Note: The questions come from various journalists covering the Spurs locally. I have edited quotations relevant to content for coherency and was not a participant in the interview.
What are you looking for Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, and Lonnie Walker IV?
“The biggest thing is experience and reps . . . what that looks like part of this . . . you want to see success, you want to see different guys do different things, but you want to evaluate what that looks like . . . it’s kind of a balancing act of both of those things. You want them to set the tone and be aggressive.”
Thoughts on Keldon Johnson’s aggressiveness.
“He’s the guy at this stage he played in Austin a lot this year, and the game’s still going fast for him, but he has such great energy we want him to continue to play that way until the game slows down . . . he’s inquisitive and asks a lot of questions . . . we don’t want him to overthink and take away from his instinct.”
How great are minutes in the bubble for the young guys?
“We are looking at teams that are looking to make deep runs in the playoffs or teams that are fighting to get into the playoffs . . . it’s unheard of before because of the circumstances . . . they are getting some opportunities now that they wouldn’t have gotten, so it’s great.”
What’s it like getting a coaching opportunity like this?
“It’s fun. It’s just basketball, I’m not doing anything different than we’ve done or talked about as a staff. When you get into coaching, something you have passion about, it was fun, so I appreciate the opportunity.”
Three of the young guys (Luka Samanic, Chimezie Metu, Drew Eubanks) were out there in a tight contest, were they out there to see how they would respond?
“We’re just looking to see how they’ll respond to anything. They have such a lack of experience of playing at this level. Any experience is good experience for them and it was a close game so it lends itself to some intensity at the end of the game and it was fun to see.”
Coach Johnson confirmed that while the Spurs are in the bubble, there is a lot of bonding going on. We can expect the Spurs youth movement to improve over the course of time. Whether there is enough time left in this season to set next year’s stage remains to be seen. It’s going to be a one-game-at-a-time finish to this season before that can truly be discussed.
The Spurs play their final scrimmage tomorrow against the Indiana Pacers at 3:00 CST. This is the first game since the NBA season resumed that will be available on Fox Sports Southwest.
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