After losses to the Bucks and the Nets, the Spurs are heading towards their last scrimmage before the games begin to count. The Indiana Pacers await on Tuesday, with Victor Oladipo in the fold but no Domantas Sabonis.
It will be a good test to see where San Antonio stands, but the result won’t matter as much as showing improvement in some key facets and maintaining the good things this new version of the team has shown so far.
With that in mind, here are some lingering questions that the Spurs could answer in their game against the Pacers.
Can DeMar DeRozan snap out of his funk?
The shakeup in the starting lineup introduced some uncertainty, but the ones expected to struggle to adjust the most were the young newcomers. Instead, Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV have acquitted themselves well enough to their new roles while DeRozan seems out of place.
For DeRozan, who after two games has yet to score in double digits, the problem might simply be one of effort and focus. The Spurs are trying to develop the young guys, which means sharing the ball a lot more, and there’s no need for a veteran like him to go all out in scrimmages that won’t determine his role. It wouldn’t be surprising to see him be a little more assertive in the last game after letting others shine. The Spurs absolutely need him to, since he’s the one player on the roster who can consistently create for himself and others. DeRozan is supposed to be the steadying presence on an otherwise chaotic offense, and so far he hasn’t been that.
Maybe with the restart of the season upon him he will sense the urgency to contribute more. That’s certainly the hope.
Can the young guys stop turning the ball over?
Walker IV, Dejounte Murray and White have combined for 17 turnovers in the past two games. Even considering that those were just scrimmages and they were all playing new roles, that’s too high a number for the Spurs to be successful. It hasn’t helped the team that other typically turnover-averse players have also been coughing the ball up routinely, but the struggles on that area start with the youngsters.
It’s hard to blame Walker, White or Murray for being overly aggressive when the criticism of them often centers around their inconsistency or passivity, but they have to find better ways to channel that assertiveness. Sometimes it’s better to launch semi contested three-pointers, like White did against the Nets, than try to barrel through the paint with no plan, like Murray did on Saturday. Not every pass has to have extra sauce in it, especially when everyone is trying to get used to playing with one another. Sometimes the simple play is the best play.
It’s good to see the young guys push the pace in transition and try to make things happen in the halfcourt. A lot of the issues we are seeing with turnovers have to do with a severe lack of spacing making everything harder, too. But the fact remains that the Spurs have been making too many mistakes so far, some of which have been completely avoidable. The game against the Pacers is the perfect opportunity to reverse that trend.
Can Drew Eubanks claim the backup center spot?
Eubanks had a bad game against the Bucks but bounced back against the Nets, logging 12 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. His energy was infectious and earned him the 23 minutes he got. With Jakob Poeltl also having a good game, the Spurs suddenly found themselves with some unexpectedly solid center play.
It will be interesting to see if that can continue against the Pacers. With no Sabonis around the matchup in the paint gets easier, but Myles Turner will still present a challenge for the big men and the small lineups Indiana will use when the bench checks in could give Eubanks trouble on defense. If that happens, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Rudy Gay take some backup center minutes, as he did for a few possessions against the Nets, which could relegate Eubanks back to spot minutes. A good showing, on the other hand, could be enough to solidify Eubanks’ place in the rotation.
Arguably no player in the roster has more at stake in Orlando than Eubanks, who might be fighting for his career. If he can claim a permanent role going into the restart of the season, he’ll get the eyes he needs on him to get a new contract. As for the Spurs, they still need someone to emerge as a viable option to back up Poeltl, and at this point, Eubanks seems like the best bet. Both sides want it to work, so hopefully it will.
The Spurs will face the Pacers on Tuesday, July 28 at 3 p.m. CST. The game will be televised by Fox Sports Southwest.
For the Pacers fan’s perspective, visit Indy Cornrows.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up for those who want to chat through the game.