Welcome to the Week in Review: a Monday feature that looks back at the week that was for the San Antonio Spurs, takes a look at the week ahead, and more. Enjoy, and any helpful feedback or suggestions to improve the content is appreciated!
Week 16: Another week of mixed results before the Rodeo Road Trip
What a whirlwind of a week that was. All was quiet for the first few days, as the Spurs were in the midst of a four-day hiatus while packing up for their 20th annual Rodeo Road Trip, with the main news being Dejounte Murray was named an All Star to replace an injured Draymond Green. Beyond that, the assumption was the Spurs would stay mostly quiet as the February 10 Trade Deadline approached.
Sandwiched around a “scheduled loss” against the Cavaliers to kick off the Rodeo Road Trip (in which the Spurs looked rusty at times but fought hard against an Eastern contender), the Spurs made a “fringe” move, sending recently acquired forward Juancho Hernangomez to Utah as part of a three-team trade that netted them Tomas Satoransky and a second round pick, and later they were able to move Thaddeus Young and Drew Eubanks to Toronto for a protected 2022 first round pick and Goran Dragic (whom they will buy out).
Then came “da boom”. They made one last unexpected trade that shook the fanbase and the franchise to its core, sending Derrick White to Boston for Josh Richardson, Romeo Langford, and another protected 2022 first round pick. (Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite “franchise-shaking”, like say the Kawhi Leonard trade was, but it was still unexpected considering White’s status with the team and the assumed direction they seemed to be taking.) Why the Spurs made the move is clear enough, but it was still painful for all involved, from the players and coaches, down throughout the fanbase.
However, the Spurs didn’t let the moment of heartbreak impact their play. In fact, they came out and responded with their two best consecutive games since at least since December, with wire-to-wire road victories over the rising Hawks and Pelicans. Devin Vassell looked extremely comfortable in his new starting roll, and Dejounte Murray proved Adam Silver made the right call in selecting him for the All Star game, averaging a ridiculous 31.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 13.5 assists and 3 steals, joining some elite company along the way.
Dejounte Murray has become the fifth player in NBA history to record at least 32 points, 10 boards, 15 assists, and 4 steals in a game.— Noah Magaro-George (@N_Magaro) February 12, 2022
Who are other four you may ask? Pete Maravich, LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and Magic Johnson. Not bad company for Murray to keep.
Play of the Week — Jakob Poeltl’s half-court three
This is how well the Spurs had it going from three-point land against Atlanta. After shooting just 8-33 in Cleveland, they exploded two days later to hit 18-32, including the most nonchalant half-court heave you’ll see courtesy of Jakob Poeltl. It was his first three as a Spur and second of his career. (For the record, that makes him 2-3 from above the arc for his career, or 66.7%. Time to add the three to his arsenal?)
In case you missed it
John Schuhmann, NBA.com — 19 (Last week: 23)
Pace: 100.2 (5) OffRtg: 111.1 (15) DefRtg: 110.7 (18) NetRtg: +0.4 (15)
While it’s noteworthy that the Spurs made three trades last week (having already made one last month), they’ve retained six of the seven guys who’ve played at least 1,000 minutes for them this season. The one departure was Derrick White, maybe for the sake of promoting Devin Vassell to full-time starter (and creating more minutes for rookie Josh Primo). Among 279 players who’ve played at least 500 minutes in each of the last two seasons, Vassell has seen the eighth biggest jump in points scored per 36 minutes (from 11.6 to 16.3). That’s mostly about usage rate, but he’s also seen an uptick in efficiency with the increased usage.
Before the White trade, the Spurs had outscored their opponents by 3.5 points per 100 possessions in 633 total minutes with Dejounte Murray and Vassell on the floor together. And in their first post-deadline start together on Friday, the guards registered a plus-37 in less than 23 minutes in Atlanta. Murray had the first 30-point, 15-assist game of his career, while Vassell shot 9-for-13. Twenty-four hours later, the Spurs had a second straight efficient game and improved to 2-0 against a team (the Pelicans) they could be fighting for the final Play-In spot in the West.
The Spurs are 2-1 on the rodeo trip. They’ve lost 11 of their last 12 games against the 15 teams that are currently over .500, but the one win was over the Bulls 17 days ago. They’re in Chicago on Monday.
ESPN Staff — 23 (Last week: 24)
Dejounte Murray had 32 points, 15 assists and 10 rebounds against Atlanta on Friday night, and he followed that up the next night with 31 points and 12 assists against the Pelicans. He had just one turnover in each game. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Murray is the first player to record back-to-back games with at least 30 points and 10 assists with one or fewer turnovers since turnovers were tracked in 1977-78. — Andrew Lopez
The Spurs have just two games left before the All Star Break, the first being a rematch against DeMar DeRozan and the Bulls after the Spurs bested them at home a couple of weeks ago. We all saw what DeRozan did when the Raptors visited San Antonio during his time here, so watch out. The final game of the “first half” of the season should be a win on paper, but somehow the Thunder always manages to be a thorn in the Spurs’ side in OKC, so they’ll need to play focused and not overlook the opponent.
Prediction: 2-0 — Maybe this is optimistic, but who cares? Even if it’s not sustainable, the Spurs’ play the last two games, and especially Murray, have me pumped up for more. Besides, it’s about time the Rodeo Road Trip started working its magic again after taking a few years off.