Watching the team you support struggle to compete is a frustrating experience. Last night was a prime example of that. The Spurs managed to build a small early lead on the back of Keldon Johnson surprisingly hitting a couple of three-pointers, but the Mavericks soon caught up, and once they were in front again, it never really felt like the Spurs were in the game. The Mavs had Luka Doncic, length, and long-distance shooting; the Spurs don’t have an MVP candidate, they were short without Jakob Poeltl, and they didn’t shoot as well as the Mavs do. That’s pretty much it.
- He remains my favorite, but I must admit I’m afraid Derrick White’s not going to have the career I hoped he was going to have in a Spurs uniform. Last season, he was forced into a shooter’s role. He had some 7 of 11 nights from beyond the arc, but he’s just not a shooter first and foremost. This year, we have three guys on the roster in Doug McDermott, Bryn Forbes and Devin Vassell who are clearly better and more willing shooters than him. In principle, it’s in the team’s best interest they shoot before Derrick does. And though I consider Derrick the superior playmaker, it’s also in the team’s best interest that Dejounte has the ball in his hands, because Dejounte Murray is a better isolation scorer and has turned into a passable playmaker himself, though his eight assists per game overstate his playmaking abilities. Where does that leave Derrick? He may well be the team’s best perimeter defender and he might even be their second-best interior defender. But if he continues to pass up multiple scoring opportunities, like he did last night, it will be hard for him to stay on the floor. Five shots from a starting guard in today’s NBA are not nearly enough. With better shooters than him on the roster, he simply must take the shooting opportunities he has. He won’t pump-fake his way out of a shooting slump. No one ever has.
- With Kristaps Porzingis back in action for the Mavs, but with Jakob still out for the Spurs, what was to be expected turned out to be the case exactly: The Spurs had no answer for the Doncic-Porzingis pick and roll, and I felt pity for Dejounte and Derrick trying to defend Porzingis. Porzingis in the zone was pretty much a man among boys. That’s not happening with Jakob around. His return really can’t come soon enough. Also, I’m thrilled to find out if the Austrian big man can keep up his scoring. Thinking back to last season, I criticized Jakob in the same way I’m criticizing Derrick now. I remember writing something along these lines: For all of Jakob’s great defense, he must find ways to contribute on the other side of the floor. Can’t wait to see him rule the paint again – on both ends of the court.
- As much of a disappointment last night’s game was, it wasn’t all doom and gloom. This season is about development. And one guy in particular is taking major leaps forward. Devin is everything he came advertised as – and more. I remember scouting reports that said he can’t really put the ball on the floor. Can’t he? Yes, he can! Boy, did he out-dribble Jaylen Brunson, who’s much smaller than him, to start the second quarter and finish off the iso possession with a mid-range jumper so pure that it had me think: We’ve got ourselves a potential difference maker. Not just in that situation it appeared to me that his release has become much quicker than it was last season. But what I’m really most impressed with is the lad’s motor. Over and over again I get the impression that he’s easily able to out-effort guys. We have a word in the German language I can’t find a good English translation for. The word is austrainiert and it basically means peak physical condition. That’s what Devin’s in. I’m so excited he’s is with the Spurs. And I’m so excited to find out what the Spurs can do with him and other lottery picks. Another one is already with them. And yet another one is likely to arrive next summer.