No Victor Wembanyama, no problem. Despite missing Wemby, Malaki Branham and Sir’Jabari Rice, the San Antonio Spurs summer squad put on a show in their first game of the California Classic. The Spurs dominated all four quarters in a convincing 98-77 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
It was the returning two-way players that led the way. Newly re-signed forward, Julian Champagnie, led all scorers with 30 points while hitting five threes. Dominick Barlow has not signed a new contract yet, but could be putting pen to paper soon if he continues this level of play. The big man posted a double-double, putting up 24 points and 11 rebounds on super efficient 10 of 13 shooting. He locked it down on the defensive end, erasing shots at the rim, and switching onto guards. He had one of the most emphatic dunks of the summer league thus far.
The Spurs put in an all-around effort on defense. They jumped out to a double digit lead in the first 5 minutes and never let the Hornets get back into it. They consistently put pressure on the Hornet’s ball handlers, and forced them to cough the ball up 17 times. Offensively they moved the ball well, assisting on 20 shots. Undrafted rookie Erik Stevenson shined off of the bench, putting up 13 points and hitting three of his four three-point attempts.
The Hornets were led by the second-overall pick in the 2023 draft, Brandon Miller, who put up 18 points on 5 of 11 shooting from the field. Nick Smith Jr. and James Bouknight both chipped in 12 points a piece.
The Spurs will get the day off tomorrow to celebrate Independence Day before they take on the Los Angeles Lakers on July 5th. The Lakers lost their first game to the Miami Heat 107-90. You can catch that game on ESPN at 7 p.m. CT.
- Not enough can be said about Barlow’s performance. He absolutely dominated this game on both ends. He switched onto Miller, Smith Jr. and Bouknight, swallowing up all of them. He was +26 (!!!) in his 23 minutes. The most impressive skill was the mid-range shot making. Barlow showed glimpses of his touch last season, but it looked consistent and legit against Charlotte. If he can continue his stellar play through the rest of summer league and into training camp, he could have a larger role next season.
- Sidy Cissoko had a solid first game in the Silver and Black. He was awesome defensively, especially on Miller. His ability to navigate screens, either fighting over the top of them or switching when necessarily was particularly impressive. He was blowing up a lot of Charlotte’s offensive actions with his defensive intensity. It’s not really a secret anymore that Cissoko can dish the rock. He had a few pinpoint outlet passes that got the Spurs going in transition, and an awesome no-look to Champagnie that could have been a Sportcenter Top-10 play had he finished the dunk. The box score wasn’t anything to brag about, but he positively impacted the game on both ends.
- Blake Wesley has a lot to prove this summer. The Spurs are putting the ball in his hands and letting him run the show. There are minutes to be earned in the backcourt, and now is his chance to show he’s improved. Wesley had 8 points, 8 assists and 6 rebounds in 26 minutes. He also turned the ball over 7 times and shot 33% from the field. Cutting down on turnovers and finishing at the rim are going to be a focus point for him. He had some skilled lefty finishes and some strong reads in the pick and roll. It will be a process for him this summer, and one certainly to keep an eye on.
- Stevenson was impressive off the bench. Not only was he effective as a catch and shoot threat, but also on pull-ups. He seems like a player that could easily play his way into an exhibit-10 contract if he continues to shoot the ball well this summer.