The Austin Spurs overwhelmed the Texas Legends from the first tip to the final buzzer, routing their fellow interstate G League affiliate 125-98 away from the friendly confines of the H-E-B Center. Though every starter for Austin scored at least 16 points, it was newcomer Jock Landale who gave the most outstanding performance as he brought a new dynamic to the hardwood for the Silver and Black.
Jock faced an uphill battle towards earning minutes when he inked a two-year league-minimum contract with San Antonio this offseason. Not only did the 26-year-old rookie have to adjust to a higher level of competition in the NBA after winning the Grand Finals MVP with Melbourne United in the NBL. But Zach Collins, Drew Eubanks, and Thaddeus Young all figured to have more direct routes to a role within the rotation.
An inadvertent shoulder to the dome from Lonnie Walker IV in the middle of an exhibition against the Miami Heat kept Landale off the hardwood for the remainder of preseason and training camp. As if that untimely collision wasn’t enough, the Australian big man landed in COVID-19 protocols just eight games into his rookie go-round in with the Spurs, putting him further behind schedule.
Following eight brief appearances for the Silver and Black, predominantly in cleanup duty with the results of each matchup all but determined, San Antonio made the somewhat surprising announcement to assign Jock to their G League affiliate. Although the decision drew a bit of scrutiny from certain parts of the fanbase, this was undoubtedly the right move for a first-year player looking to find a rhythm.
Landale immediately left his mark on the game in his Austin Spurs debut, scoring the first bucket of the night on a beautiful hook shot over his left shoulder. And he kept things going with a strong finish at the rim out of the pick-and-roll, a straightaway three as a trailer, and resounding slam after he patiently slipped his way into the dunker’s spot after setting a sturdy off-ball screen.
The six-eleven bruiser continued displaying an expansive repertoire of intriguing offensive skills on his way to 26 points, eight rebounds, and three assists on 12-of-14 shooting. Jock was by far the most dominant player on the court for either team, using his physicality and 256-pound frame to get deep post positioning before pulling out a bevy of shimmies and ball fakes to catch his defender off guard.
His polish shined in a featured role for Austin, and his ability to stretch the floor, step into single dribble midrange jumpers, and deliver pinpoint entry lobs and pocket passes are why PATFO were excited to bring him aboard this summer. There aren’t many seven-footers who can map the court like Landale, which could earn him a few brownie points with a coaching staff that loves ball movement.
Despite his versatility as a shooter, screener, rebounder, and back-to-the-basket big, Jock also illustrated a concerning lack of lateral mobility to go along with limited vertical pop versus the Legends. Carlik Jones blew by Landale in drop coverage, none of the opposing guards hesitated to drive into his body, and he was often a second or two late when attempting to contest or alter shots at the cup.
While the defensive miscommunications with unfamiliar teammates were understandable, Jock looked lost on an island when Texas was running in transition, frequently taking awkward angles and fouling while scrambling to stop the fastbreak. There were also a couple of occasions on switches on the perimeter where heavy feet left Landale looking more like a classic plodding big more than the rim-protector he was in the NBL.
The good far outweighed the bad. Considering this was the first time Jock played more than 20 minutes since the Tokyo Olympics, it’s hard to blame him for looking gassed here and there. Head coach Petar Božić deployed Landale in seven-minute spans throughout each quarter. And the Bronze Medalist responded with productive basketball as the Spurs outscored Texas by 27 points when he was on the floor.
Landale probably won’t drain 85.7% of his shots for the rest of his stint in Austin, but he won’t have to if he wants to prove himself to this coaching staff. From powerful boxouts and unselfish passing to relentless offensive rebounding and immoveable screens, the former Saint Mary’s University standout checks all the boxes when it comes to fundamentals the Spurs look for in their players.
If Jock can remain aggressive and assert his dominance while keeping his chin up throughout the entirety of a tried-and-true G League process, he might grab head coach Gregg Popovich’s attention. And at the very least, receiving consistent in-game burn could help him return to peak physical conditioning, which could very well come in handy if and when the San Antonio Spurs require him to make the short trip down I-35.