As the bubble seeding games conclude in less than 48 hours, and as Spurs fans anxiously await the 5:30 PM tipoff with the Utah Jazz, here are some noteworthy items that commemorate the team’s surprising 5-2 record in Orlando and, more importantly, the key actors that contributed to those critical wins. And though the PtR staff debated the timeliness of this youth movement, there is no question that it restored hopes for the unlikely continuation of the team’s 22-year playoff streak and in its upcoming years.
The transition from a roster led by “Midrange Maestros” to a more position-less existence provided a national stage for Spurs fans to see their recent draftees make their mark in games that counted and it didn’t go unnoticed by the national sports writers. SI’s Rob Mahoney certainly was impressed with the franchise’s pivot away from its sputtering attack by necessity into its current edition.
SI’s Michael Shapiro awards ‘San Antonio’s next generation’ of backcourt studs as one of his early winners in the bubble. Shapiro points out:
“four of San Antonio’s last five first-round picks are averaging at least 10 points per game in the NBA bubble, led by guard Derrick White. It’s not quite evident which, if any, of the Spurs’ young guards and wings will emerge as an All-Star in the 2020s, though each brings an enticing skill set. Murray has already received a $64 million investment from San Antonio, and while he hasn’t quite taken charge as an impact scorer, his truly jarring length and athleticism gives him the highest upside. White can be a reliable starter in the coming seasons. Keldon Johnson and Lonnie Walker remain relative question marks, but both have shown flashes in Orlando.”
CBS Sports’ James Herbert unveiled his list yesterday of “just 12 guys — role players, All-Stars and everything in between — who have caught my eye.” Herbert gushed on guard Keldon Johnson, who he recognized for being “athletic, crazy long, and might wind up starting for them next season, should they choose to fully commit to this youth movement.”
Young Keldon received higher honors from SI’s Jeremy Woo for being one of only five breakout stars identified from the Bubble Games. Woo delves deeper into Johnson’s attributes, citing his
“toughness, competitive spirit and scoring ability have started to shine through, and per usual he’s done most of his damage around the rim. But he’s stepped up defensively, and if his catch-and-shoot play is for real, he should be able to fill a valuable role for San Antonio moving forward. He’s the type of glue guy whose actual on-court value adds up to more than the sum of his skills, and after a so-so year at Kentucky, he looks to be back on track. It’s been a valuable showcase for Johnson, and he looks like the Spurs’ latest strong value at No. 29th in last year’s draft.”
The Ringer’s D.J. Foster went one step further and attempted to forecast whether the success of the Bubble’s standout players was sustainable or not. Derrick White was feted for his stratospheric bump in production these last seven games. Foster noted that White “shined as a no. 1 option offensively during San Antonio’s push for the play-in game. White’s pump fake is the trickiest this side of the Mississippi, and his footwork attacking closeouts has no wasted movement” and given 4 out of 5 “Sustainabubble Stars.”
Though he just turned a not-so-spry 32 years old, Patty Mills was recognized in the New York Times for his exemplary work by not only fighting and working through racial abuse and discrimination in his native Australia, but for his recent philanthropic efforts to support indigenous and other populations that have continue to be affected by those traumas.
“See” you all for the most important game of the season tomorrow afternoon!