🏀 Spurs’ Game Preview: Young stars hit the road, face Rockets in preseason opener on Sunday

Tip-off set for 6 p.m. in Houston

San Antonio Spurs forward Zach Collins (23) works against Houston Rockets center Alperen Sengun (28) during the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 4, 2022, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

SAN ANTONIO – The new-look San Antonio Spurs will hit the hardwood for the first time this season in their preseason opener on Sunday when they face their intra-division rival Houston Rockets in Houston.

Tip-off is scheduled for 6 p.m. at the Toyota Center.

The Spurs come into the game with a roster consisting of just two players 30 years old or older, with 13 players presently listed in their 20s. Five players on the team are just 19 years old, and the roster is now littered with 2022 first-round picks, including Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, Blake Wesley and two-way player Dominick Barlow, as well as last year’s first-round selection, guard Josh Primo.

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich during team media days brought the team’s expectations this year into focus by telling reporters that they “shouldn’t go to Vegas with the thought of betting on [the Spurs] to win the championship.” Instead, the team’s focus is on developing its young core and giving them every opportunity to shine.

During his press conference at 2022 Media Day, Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich broke convention by telling reporters that they shouldn't 'go to Vegas with the thought of betting on [the Spurs] to win the championship.' Instead, San Antonio's focus is on developing its young core of players and give them an opportunity to have long NBA careers.

The veterans on the team say they are pleased with the direction of the youngsters, saying they all want to learn as much as possible from the older guys.

“It’s been good. We’re just having conversations with them, asking them questions. I asked J. Rich, Zach Collins, all them guys — just questions on how to get better on defense and on offense. It’s been good, learning day by day,” rookie Malaki Branham said.

Two key players for the Spurs, however, will not be in action against Houston, as forward Keldon Johnson and Primo are both out. Johnson, 22, is one of the team’s vets as a fourth-year player, but he suffered a right shoulder posterior dislocation during a recent open gym. His injury comes just months after he was given a four-year, $80 million contract extension. The team said he is now actively rehabbing and is expected to be available for the start of the regular season. Primo, another highly-touted second-year guard out of Alabama, suffered a left MCL sprain but is also expected back for the start of the season.

(Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Meanwhile, the Rockets are also in the midst of a rebuild, coming off a 17-55 campaign that saw them end up with a top 3 selection in the NBA draft for the second year in a row. The team looks to feature young guard Jalen Green, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft, along with Jabari Smith, the No. 3 pick out of Auburn this year. This offseason they waved veteran point guard John Wall and traded talented big man Christian Wood to Dallas, in exchange for a draft pick used in a later trade and a collection of players. The team is expected to play and develop their youth this coming season.

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About the Author:

Ben Spicer is a digital journalist who works the early morning shift for KSAT.