SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs held their 2019 media day on Monday. Here are some key takeaways as we got our first look at the squad.
The Spurs enter the 2019-20 regular season with a better understanding of who they are.
Last season was one of flux and unanswered questions after Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green were traded for DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl.
The Spurs now know how DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge play together and know what to expect from Derrick White and Bryn Forbes, both of whom gained valuable experience and exceeded expectations.
Dejounte Murray missed last season but was around the team and, by his own and DeRozan's accounts, grew closer over the summer.
Media day is about getting to see the entire team, but all eyes were focused on Dejounte Murray.
Murray has intangibles that can not be coached. He's hungry, competitive, dedicated, shows leadership qualities and seemingly always plays with a chip on his shoulder.
The Spurs point guard did not want to focus Monday entirely on his rehabilitation but felt a sense of accomplishment discussing the hard work behind the scenes that went into his return from his injury.
When asked about the moves other Western Conference teams made this summer, Murray said he does not care about what other teams do. He said he's a Spur and that is all he cares about. His tenacity will be much needed.
Derrick's continued improvement
Derrick White had a whirlwind summer that included stops in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Australia and China, all for Team USA in the FIBA World Cup.
The experience can be invaluable and White said he felt playing with the team helped his development.
White came out of nowhere last season so expectations will be on the Spurs guard to improve and work with Murray to form one of the best defensive backcourts in the league.
Let Lonnie and Dejounte fly
Coach Popovich said Murray is one of the fastest players he's ever coached and that's saying something, since the Spurs had a guy named Tony Parker in the lineup for years.
Then, Popovich added that Lonnie Walker might be faster. The thought of having Walker and Murray racing down the court together would bring a dynamic the Spurs have not seen much in the past.
Rudy Gay also said Monday that he's seen Walker make some significant strides this offseason.
Sense of urgency
Speaking of Gay, the Spurs forward was asked if he felt a sense of urgency among the veterans to make a playoff run and hopefully win a title. Gay's response: Yes and yes.
Gay, DeRozan and Aldridge have all had some form of success in the playoffs, but a title eludes all three.
DeRozan had to watch his old team win the championship last season and is headed into a contract year.
Aldridge has been plagued by questions about his postseason performances.
Aldridge and DeRozan mostly dismissed the question, but the thought is there. It remains to be seen if it translates to success.
Pop is still Pop
Gregg Popovich returns for his 23rd full season after a busy summer with USA Basketball. He was on his game Monday.
Popovich spoke about the importance of Tim Duncan returning to the bench, answered some questions with one-word responses and side-stepped a question about Becky Hammon potentially replacing him on the sideline.
Popovich then discussed the Davis Bertans drama that ensued over the summer, saying the team was blindsided by Marcus Morris reneging on his deal with the Spurs and that Davis will be missed.
When asked if Morris had reached out to the organization, Popovich said "not really."
Coach Tim Duncan
Tim Duncan did not speak at media day. Surprise. But he was brought up a few times. Rudy Gay joked that Duncan is always there, so now he's just getting paid.
Dejounte said Duncan will be invaluable on the bench and LaMarcus said it shows how much Duncan loves the game that he would return.
Popovich said Duncan will probably see things on the court that no one else sees and there is no doubt in his mind that Duncan will help in ways the team may not even know about yet.
Fans will get to see coach Duncan and the rest of the squad in action on Saturday when the Spurs tip-off the 2019 preseason.