Spurs Rumors

Texas Notes: Iwundu, Wall, White, Hammon

The Mavericksquarantine issues could give Wesley Iwundu his first real opportunity since joining the team as a free agent last month, writes Eddie Sefko of NBA.com. Dallas is playing without Josh RichardsonDorian Finney-Smith and Jalen Brunson, who are all out of action for at least a week.

Iwundu has gotten into four games so far, but is averaging just 5.0 minutes per night. He spent his first three seasons with the Magic before getting an offer from the Mavericks.

“Coming to Dallas, the focus on winning is higher,” Iwundu said. “You have a better team, better players and it’s just something you got to come in with that mindset that you want to get better each and every day.”

There’s more from the Lone Star State:

  • John Wall believes the Rockets‘ bench can be among the best in the league, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Wall often plays alongside the reserves, who are shooting 50% from the field, which is the best among NBA bench units. “I know I can score the ball,” Wall said. “At the same time, I can put pressure on the defense pushing the pace, running pick-and-rolls. And I can find my shooters, guys like Eric Gordon, Ben McLemore, DeMarcus (Cousins) out there, Jae’Sean Tate, Sterling Brown, (David) Nwaba. I have guys that can make shots.”
  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich expects guard Derrick White to miss four to six weeks with a fractured toe, tweets Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. White had surgery on the toe in August and was sidelined through the first four games of the regular season. He reinjured it on New Year’s Day.
  • Popovich confirmed that assistant coach Becky Hammon is one of the Spurs‘ staff members who aren’t with the team because of health and safety protocols (Twitter link from Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News). Two staffers and reserve big man Drew Eubanks have been required to quarantine.

DeRozan Building Offensive Game

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan has added a three-point shot and built upon his passing game this year, all while taking a step back from lead ball-handling duties, according to Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. In his 12th NBA season, DeRozan is shooting a career-best 42.9% from deep on 2.6 attempts per contest, while averaging a career-high 7.3 assists per game.

Tjarks notes that DeRozan is averaging 10 fewer touches a game this season than young Spurs guard Dejounte Murray. DeRozan has also closed games as a small-ball power forward, carrying over a sped-up, shooting-heavy offensive approach that coach Gregg Popovich first implemented during the 2019/20 season restart in Orlando.

Drew Eubanks, Two Spurs Staffers Out Due To COVID-19 Protocols

Due to the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols, third-year Spurs reserve big man Drew Eubanks and two other Spurs personnel members will not be with the club as it faces off against the Lakers tonight, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press (via Twitter).

In three games this season, Eubanks is averaging a career-high 19.3 MPG. The 6’9″ Oregon State alum has posted 3.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG, and 2.0 BPG for the 3-4 Spurs, while shooting a lackluster 23.1% from the field.

At present, the Spurs and the league have not supplied any other information about tonight’s absences, including the identities of the other two unavailable Spurs staffers, categorized by Reynolds as “members of the Spurs travel party.”

The absences could stem from exposure to someone who later tested positive for the novel coronavirus, or could have recorded a positive or inconclusive coronavirus test result.

Spurs Guard Derrick White Has Toe Fracture

Spurs guard Derrick White has a minor toe fracture in his left foot, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. White’s return will be based upon his response to rehab, Charania adds.

It’s the same digit — the second toe of his left foot — that was surgically repaired in August. White re-injured the toe during a loose ball scrum against the Lakers on New Year’s Day. White missed training camp, preseason and the team’s first four regular-season games while rehabbing from the surgery, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News notes.

White scored nine points in 23 minutes in his season debut before retreating to the bench.

“This is bad, bad luck for him and for our team,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, whose team departed on a five-game road trip this week.

White signed a four-year rookie scale extension worth $73MM just prior to the start of the regular season. White averaged 11.3 PPG, 3.3 RPG and 3.5 APG in 24.7 MPG last season, his third year in the league. He started 20 of 68 games after starting 55 of 67 games in his second season.

Southwest Notes: Spurs, Ingram, Rockets, Gabriel

The Spurs have started the season with a 2-3 record, but the franchise believes the best is still yet to come, Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News writes.

Although San Antonio finished with just a 32-39 record last season, the club is recognized as a world-class organization with a proven track record. Before the 2019/20 campaign, the Spurs had reached the playoffs 23 straight seasons.

“It’s about learning now and not later,” DeMar DeRozan said. “As long as you get the heartaches and the learning curve out of the way the first 10 games of the season, it can take a big turn in the next 60 games. We are leaning toward that.”

The Spurs competed with the defending champion Lakers on Friday, ultimately losing 109-103. The team has a healthy mix of veterans and young players that could propel it to the play-in tournament or possibly beyond, with four of those veterans (DeRozan, LaMarcus Aldridge, Patty Mills and Rudy Gay) set to reach free agency next summer.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division tonight:

  • Pelicans star Brandon Ingram continued to build on his impressive campaign last game, ESPN’s Andrew Lopez writes. Ingram has been the team’s leading scorer in four of six games so far, and had a season-best 31 points on Saturday. “Brandon has been playing great overall,” teammate Zion Williamson said of Ingram, who recently was named the Western Conference Player of the Week. “He always steps up for us. When we need him, he’s there for us.”
  • The Rockets are still searching for answers when it comes to their rotation, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Houston has a talented roster led by former Most Valuable Player James Harden, but health issues and COVID-19 protocols have prevented Houston from establishing a consistent rotation so far.
  • Pelicans big man Wenyen Gabriel (right knee/quadriceps tendinosis) recently participated in some three-on-three work and hopes to play in Monday’s game against Indiana, according to Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). The team is currently listing his status as questionable.

White Available Against Lakers

Becky Hammon Becomes First Woman To Coach NBA Game

When Becky Hammon took over the head coaching reins for the Spurs on Wednesday night following Gregg Popovich‘s ejection, she was focused on trying to “win the game” rather than the historical significance of the moment, as Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News writes. However, after the game, she was able to appreciate the fact that she had become the first woman to act as head coach during an NBA game.

“Obviously, it’s a big deal,” Hammon said, per ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “It’s a substantial moment. I’ve been a part of this organization, I got traded here (as a WNBA player) in 2007, so I’ve been in San Antonio and part of the Spurs and sports organization with the Stars and everything for 13 years. So I have a lot of time invested, and they have a lot of time invested in me, in building me and getting me better.”

The Spurs weren’t able to come back and knock off the defending champion Lakers in Hammon’s unexpected head coaching debut, but San Antonio players were happy to see her get a chance to run the show in Popovich’s absence.

“Any player who knows the history of women’s basketball knows what she meant to the sport,” Spurs guard DeMar DeRozan said. “You don’t think twice about it. She’s one of us. When she speaks, we are all ears.”

Spurs Will Continue to Not Allow Fans In AT&T Center

  • The Spurs have announced in a press release that they will keep fans out of the AT&T Center for the foreseeable future this season. “While we are confident in the plans and protocols we have in place, we are uncomfortable hosting fans at this moment as the COVID-19 numbers and data in our community continue to trend in the wrong direction,” team president R.C. Buford said in the statement.

Popovich: Derrick White "Should Return Soon"

  • Spurs coach Gregg Popovich told reporters tonight that guard Derrick White is making progress with rehab work and “should return soon” after having offseason toe surgery, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter link). White signed a four-year extension earlier this week.