Can DeMar fit in? The Wild West: Biggest Spurs storylines as season tips off tonight
SAN ANTONIO – After more than two decades of stability, the Spurs begin the 2018-19 regular season tonight with a rare sense of uncertainty in the air.
The Big Three era is over after Manu Ginobili retired and Tony Parker left in free agency.
But the biggest shockwave the Spurs felt this summer was the loss of disgruntled all-star Kawhi Leonard, who was traded to Toronto for DeMar DeRozan.
Stalwart guard Danny Green was also sent to Toronto and the Spurs lost Kyle Anderson in free agency as well.
With that much roster turnover, the Spurs will be hard pressed to make the playoffs for the 22nd straight season. Here are more of the biggest storylines headed into the season.
INJURIES HIT HARD:
The Spurs were eager to turn the page after the injuries and the drama surrounding last season, but the hard luck continued this preseason.
The most devastating injury was to point guard Dejounte Murray, who will likely miss the season after tearing his right ACL on Oct. 7.
Rookie first-round pick Lonnie Walker IV is also set to miss significant time with a torn right meniscus.
Murray's replacement, Derrick White, has since suffered a heel injury that will cause him to miss time.
Bryn Forbes and veteran Patty Mills will most likely share point guard duties until White returns to the starting lineup.
Ginobili's retirement and Parker's departure leaves a leadership gap in the locker room that will have to be filled by the group of veterans that remain on the roster.
LaMarcus Aldridge proved he could lead with his play. Rudy Gay is back along with veterans Pau Gasol and Mills, who is now the most tenured player with the Spurs.
The Spurs added veteran guard Marco Belinelli through free agency to assist with the corporate knowledge head coach Gregg Popovich seeks in the locker room.
Away from the locker room and games, Ginobili and franchise icon Tim Duncan continue to take an active role and have been seen working with the team at the practice facility this preseason.
CAN DEROZAN FIT IN?
Being traded from a city and franchise he loved angered DeRozan, but he has since embraced San Antonio and its response has overwhelmed him.
The question is now whether DeRozan can fit with the Spurs offense and find room to operate alongside Aldridge.
Both are primarily mid-range threats, which has led some analysts to believe that spacing may be an issue.
Popovich learned it's never good to try and change what a veteran is used to, which is good news for DeRozan.
Popovich adjusted his approach prior to last season after Aldridge was unhappy with how he was being used.
"DeMar is already an All-Star and he plays a certain way," Popovich said at media day. "So, there will be some things that we will try to add to his game, if he's willing, but I'm not going to jump on him like I did L.A."
DeRozan has also said he has a chip on his shoulder and is ready to have another all-star caliber year.
THE WILD WEST:
Aside from their own play, the Spurs biggest hurdle to making the playoffs may be the loaded Western Conference.
Golden State and Houston are once again title favorites, but the Lakers' addition on LeBron James immediately puts Los Angeles on the playoffs radar.
Utah, Oklahoma City and Denver are all expected to be strong, youthful playoff contenders.
Portland, New Orleans and Minnesota all qualified for the playoffs last season, meaning every conference game will have added importance and value come April.
It all gets started Wednesday at the AT&T Center when San Antonio hosts Minnesota.
Copyright 2018 by KSAT. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.