The San Antonio Spurs suffered an embarrassing 38-point blowout at the hands of the Houston Rockets in their preseason opener on Sunday night, looking disoriented without a surefire go-to option on the floor. Despite an inadequate performance on the road, there were positive takeaways from rookies Malaki Branham and Jeremy Sochan.
The Silver and Black will have a chance to redeem themselves at home as they host the similarly young and inexperienced Orlando Magic in front of what should be an exuberant audience at the AT&T Center. This matchup has all the makings of a back-and-forth battle, so buckle up as fresh and familiar faces look to create some synergy.
San Antonio Spurs (0-1) vs. Orlando Magic (0-1)
October 6, 2022 | 7:00 PM CT
Watch: Spurs App | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)
Spurs Injuries: Keldon Johnson (Out — Shoulder), Josh Primo (Out — Knee), Gorgui Dieng (Out — Inactive)
Magic Injuries: Admiral Schofield (Out — Knee), Markelle Fultz (Out — Toe), Gary Harris (Out — Knee), Jonathan Isaac (Out — Hamstring)
What To Watch For
- Jeremy Sochan had a couple of defensive miscues, but he was a menace on that end in his first professional action with the Spurs. The rookie took all of his assignments to heart and showed off the versatility that enticed San Antonio into selecting him with the ninth overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft. Sochan made solid weakside rotations to protect the rim, though no block was more impressive than his effort to pursue Josh Christopher and erase what looked like a sure-fire fastbreak layup. The former Baylor Bear also exhibited palpable chemistry with fellow combo forward Isaiah Roby. That pairing could work relatively seamlessly if Gregg Popovich opted for small-ball lineups off the bench this season. Their combined switchability and event creation was a joy to watch on Sunday, and hopefully, they see plenty of minutes together against a supersized Magic team.
- As expected, Devin Vassell was the de facto primary option for the Spurs against the Rockets, with Keldon Johnson and Josh Primo on the sidelines for the preseason opener. While the third-year swingman was measurably more assertive from the instant he stepped on the court, his team-high 13 points came on an inefficient 4-of-13 night from the field. Vassell seemed comfortable taking more ball-handling responsibilities, though his handle faltered in tight spaces, making it nearly impossible to get clean shots off the dribble. His vision and passing still leave much to be desired, and Tre Jones is probably the best person to run the offense. Perhaps the former lottery pick will improve once Keldon returns, and he can take a backseat as an off-ball threat. Continuing to test drive Vassell as a self-creator is a potentially low-risk, high-reward exercise for his development. The early returns were messy, but rebuilding is rarely a painless operation.
- Orlando has lost more than 150 games since trading their middling core of Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, and Evan Fournier for young prospects and a handful of draft picks. Their transition into a rebuild has landed them Mo Bamba, Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs, Markelle Fultz, and Wendell Carter, as well as cornerstones Franz Wagner and Paolo Banchero. Though that pool of talent is still learning how to gel, the Magic have the pieces to compete for a play-in berth. And a first-round series wouldn’t be far-fetched if they can get on the same page. Banchero has the refined scoring repertoire of a perennial All-Star, and Wagner looks like a potential breakout candidate after a stunning display for Germany at EuroBasket 2022. The Spurs don’t have much star-power with Keldon Johnson on the sidelines, but they will have an excellent opportunity to give fans an entertaining matchup in their preseason home opener.
For the Magic fans’ perspective, please visit Orlando Pinstriped Post.
PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.