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The curious case of Dejounte Murray and the Spurs

Were Murray’s comments on “All the Smoke” critical of the Spurs, complimentary, or both?

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More often than not, Spurs fans are used to hearing nothing but praise about the organization from current and former players, so it always comes as a surprise when someone starts mouthing off and making seemingly unfounded or misguided comments. Stephen Jackson and Robert Horry are usual suspects fans have learned to just ignore, but a new member might be joining the club of Bitter Former Spurs: Dejounte Murray.

As recently as April 2022, there probably weren’t any Spurs fans who would have guessed Murray had an issue with the club. Projected to be a lottery pick, nearly every team passed on him before the Spurs picked him up with the 29th overall pick in 2016. Considering they were still championship contenders and had two of the Big Three a plus healthy, prime Kawhi Leonard (or so we thought), it was no surprise to fans that Murray had to wait his turn, just like most other rookies before him under Gregg Popovich.

But it wouldn’t take long for him to break through the ceiling, as he claimed the starting job the next season after Tony Parker tore his hamstring in the 2017 playoffs. Murray began 2017-18 the season as the Spurs starting point guard and later reclaimed it for good after Parker returned but never regained his previous form. Unfortunately, Murray himself would miss the entire 2018-19 season after suffering a torn ACL in the preseason, but the Spurs showed faith and offered him a nice contract extension despite him having played in just 119 games and started 56. He would then rise up the ranks to All-Star by 2022.

It all seems like a good story and yet another case of the Spurs developing a player into a star, but apparently Murray doesn’t see things that way. Or does he? In a recent interview on the All the Smoke Podcast, hosted by none other than the notorious Stephen Jackson (and Matt Barnes), Murray had some words about his rookie season, and it has Spurs fans divided over what his actual intentions were.

He certainly comes across as bitter that he couldn’t beat out Parker and Patty Mills (and briefly, Nico Lapravittola) on the depth chart his rookie season, and who knows what “mind games” he’s referring to. He then acknowledges that the Spurs recognized his improvements in year two and handed him the reins, but then, he seemingly takes another u-turn back into chiding the Spurs, criticizing Parker for not “mentoring” him and being upset when Pop announced Murray as the starter going forward. He also seems to take a bit of pride that he played a role in Parker leaving for Charlotte.

In public, Parker was complimentary of Murray at the time and agreed he’d earned the position. That being said, does Murray expect Parker to be happy that he lost a job he had held for 17 years? That wouldn’t make anyone in any industry happy. Of course, Parker is another divisive topic for fans, as he doesn’t quite as squeaky clean of an image has his star teammates, but he also seems to be often misunderstood, like how his comments comparing his injury to Leonard’s got misconstrued by Uncle Dennis and the media.

Regardless, the responses across Spurs Twitter — even within the ranks of Pounding the Rock — have been divided. Some see Murray just telling it as it is and not intending to criticize the Spurs, other see him as an ungrateful, bitter former player who expected everything to be handed to him from day one.

Personally, I find myself stuck in the middle. I can see both sides of the argument, and it should be noted that no organization is perfect, even the Spurs, but there are two big factors working against Murray in this case. One is this isn’t the first time he has sent mixed messages, with another example being him sparring with fans on social media and saying the Spurs will take 20 years to rebuild just hours after sending a heartfelt thank you to the organization after he was traded (at his own request).

The other is his decision to make these comments to Jackson, who has a history of criticizing the Spurs despite all they did for him on two separate occasions, when his career seemed on the fritz. Throughout the interview, Jackson seems to be egging Murray on with his own critical comments. He too goes off on Parker, calling him a selfish player and saying he prevented the Spurs from winning more championships (which really doesn’t make sense, just like when Horry said the same of Manu Ginobili). Perhaps more disturbingly, at one point Jackson went all Charles Barkley and criticized fat women in San Antonio, which Barnes pushes back on while Murray awkwardly laughs.

I guess my conclusion is while I don’t believe Murray means any harm, whether he realizes it or not, his social skills are lacking and at a minimum, he tends to comes across as bitter. I don’t have a problem with players being honest, but if you’re going to criticize your former club (especially so soon and while you’re still an active player), be professional about it, and maybe choose a better platform than the always-controversial Stephen Jackson.

Of course, this is a two hour long podcast, and he did have other definite complimentary things to say about the Spurs, like how Pop informed him he was an All-Star and the joy he felt that day.

If you have two hours on your hand, you can check out the whole thing below, and let us know what your takeaways are. Has Murray officially jointed the B.F.S. Club, or is he simply misunderstood? Feel free to discuss in the comments below!