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The Spurs’ young veterans are ready to become leaders

Keldon Johnson, Devin Vassell, and Jakob Poeltl are not shying away from the challenge to help lead a young team.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Dallas Mavericks Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs hosted their media day on Monday, and there’s a lot to talk about. One of the biggest topics of discussion during availability, and something fans have been wondering all offseason, was who is going to take bigger leadership roles now that guys like DeMar DeRozan, Derrick White, and Dejounte Murray are gone and there are a lot of new faces are around.

Fortunately, all three of the Spurs’ young veterans who have been around for a while seemed ready to take on the challenge, going by what they said.

Most eyes are going to be on the newly extended Keldon Johnson when it comes to being a vocal leader, and he agrees that he has earned the position.

“I definitely feel like a leader, whether it’s leading by example or leading vocally,” Johnson said. “Having so many young guys, I think definitely I can speak my opinion and show them the right way.”

A new contract and a huge leap the season prior, not to mention an undeniable charisma and, as Jakob Poeltl said, a tendency to be loud, makes Johnson an obvious choice as a leader. But Devin Vassell, who only became a starter after the Derrick White trade last season, is eager to also help out by showing the newcomers the ropes.

“We have a lot of young guys, new guys,” Said Vassell. “Just have to try to help them out, whether it’s offense, defense — just, you know, with everything. We just have to be that type of leader and especially on me, I think it’s a big year for me to step up my leadership role.”

The longest-tenured Spur, Jakob Poeltl, is also aware that the players will look at him for guidance and the coaches will ask him to set the tone. It will be a new challenge for the quiet Poeltl, but he’s been preparing for it for years and has already started leading.

“For me, personally, it’s something that I grow into,” the big man explained. “Over the years I felt like I had to take on more and more responsibility. In the beginning, I was told to try to find my way myself, and then every year, with some of the older guys leaving, I had to do more and more of that. This year, again, is like a new experience for me, with (Dejounte Murray) gone a couple of us other guys had to step up and really take on that leadership role, and I think we’ve seen it in open gym already. So I embrace the challenge, I’m having fun with it.”

It’s comforting to see guys that have been around for a few years playing important supporting roles be so excited to step up. As Vassell mentioned later on, the Spurs still have veterans like Doug McDermott, Josh Richardson, and Gorgui Dieng around, but the fact that the players who should be part of the foundation going forward are not only willing but eager to take over as leaders is an encouraging sign for the future of the franchise.