Editor’s note: This story includes information from The Associated Press.
SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs are confronting basic questions they have not faced in decades.
Who is taking the last shot of the game in a critical situation? Which player will provide the team with leadership?
It’s a dilemma Gregg Popovich has not had in 25 seasons while coaching players like David Robinson, Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan with the Spurs.
All the uncertainty has the 72-year-old absolutely stoked as he prepares to open the season at home against Orlando Wednesday.
“I have no idea who I’m going to give it to or what play we’re going to run,” Popovich said. “That’s something we’re going to figure out as we move along, and to me, that’s exciting as hell.”
San Antonio went all in on its youth movement this season, allowing DeRozan and veterans Patty Mills and Rudy Gay to leave through free agency. The franchise is now fully entrusted to 20-somethings like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White, Keldon Johnson, Lonnie Walker IV and Devin Vassell.
“We all love to be around each other on and off the court,” said Walker, a Reading High grad. “There is a lot of opportunity on the court as teammates. We have a lot to prove.”
Walker, 22, is likely to begin his fourth season coming off the bench. The Spurs’ first-round pick in 2018, 18th overall, averaged 11.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 60 games, 38 of them starts, last season. He shot 35.5% on 3-pointers.
“I just want to win,” Walker said during a session with the media posted online by San Antonio TV station KENS 5 on Oct. 10. “I couldn’t care less about shooting 30 shots, about shooting five shots. I’m there to play defense, play Spurs ball and get that W.”
Murray, 25 and in his sixth season, is the most-tenured player on the roster and has taken a leadership role.
“Leading by example,” Johnson said. “I feel like for such a young group, we’ve got a really strong bond.”
The Spurs also return Jakob Poeltl and Drew Eubanks at center along with free agent addition Jock Landale from Australia.
The Spurs brought back Bryn Forbes, who won a championship last season with the Milwaukee Bucks, and added Doug McDermott, Zach Collins, Thaddeus Young and Al-Farouq Aminu for 3-point shooting and a veteran presence.
Still, the Spurs are willing to let their youths run wild.
“I’m thrilled with this group,” Popovich said. “They are basically young, energetic, have got a lot of speed. There is no need to pace yourself. Nobody is going to play 39 minutes a game, don’t have to worry about stats or individual honors or anything like that. These guys are just going to have a ball playing. It’s going to be simple, simple stuff at both ends of the court. We want a lot of activity and a lot of pace. Just play fast. Hopefully smart along with fast, but the pace should be really enjoyable to watch.”
Walker, for one, is ready to get going.
“You look at a lot of the players on the team, we’re used to being underdogs,” Walker said. “We’re used to fighting and having that grit and that grunt. I’m very excited for the season.”
Source: Berkshire mont