SAN ANTONIO – The Spurs held their annual Media Day at the team’s training facility on Monday and while there are many questions surrounding the ceiling of this current team and who will take on more of a leadership role, head coach Gregg Popovich said he’s thrilled with the makeup of the roster.
“We are not worried about stats or individual honors,” Popovich said. The Spurs head coach, who is returning for his 26th season, said the Spurs will be “energetic,” play with pace and “show a lot of speed.” Popovich added that no one is expected to play heavy minutes and the lineups will be interchangeable.
He also said while he is looking at Spurs veteran guards Dejounte Murray, Derrick White and third-year forward Keldon Johnson to be team leaders, there will be not be a set closer on this year’s team, a role that DeMar DeRozan generally had during his time in San Antonio.
“It’s exciting as hell,” Popovich said. “I have no idea who I am going to give it to or what play we are going to run. That’s something we are going to figure out.” The season tips off on Oct. 20 at home against Orlando. Here’s some more highlights from Spurs Media Day.
Pop says the roster is 100% vaccinated
COVID hit the Spurs hard last season while the team was over .500 and playing well. Several players were forced to miss games before the All-Star break and San Antonio never fully recovered. Popovich said this year’s roster is 100% vaccinated and he received his booster shot recently, joking “I even had my booster the other day because I am over 90.”
All jokes aside, Popovich said the Spurs are using caution when it comes to COVID and need to stay disciplined day-to-day to ensure they do not suffer another outbreak.
Manu Ginobili returns to help Spurs in a variety of ways
Beloved Spurs icon Manu Ginobili is returning to the franchise in a front office role this season and Popovich indicated Manu will be assisting the team in a myriad of ways.
Popovich said Manu is “going to do everything, help with management, coaching, scouting, probably figure out a two-week trip to Italy, I might go with him,” Popovich joked.
The Spurs head coach added it’s just great to have Ginobili back because mainly “we love the guy, it’s Manu Ginobili and who wouldn’t want to have him around.”
Keldon Johnson ready to take game to new level
Fresh off a Gold Medal this summer in the Tokyo Olympics, Spurs forward Keldon Johnson says he’s worked extensively on his overall game and wants to improve his outside shooting. “Hopefully I’ll be a better player all-around,” said Johnson.
Johnson said he understands this is a young team, but they are a tight-knit group on the same page and will compete every night. Johnson averaged nearly 13 points and six rebounds per game last season. “I’m going into this season confident and I’m ready,” Johnson said.
Derrick White says he’s healthy and ready to go
Spurs guard Derrick White went through an injury riddled year last season that included missed time due to COVID. He said on Monday that his ankle is fully healed and he’s excited to start the season healthy after suffering two broken toe and a badly sprained ankle.
He said he’s been called a “medical marvel” due to the oddity of the injuries he had last season. White played in only 36 games last season for San Antonio and averaged 15.4 points, 3.5 assists and three rebounds per game. He was also video-bombed by Keldon in a funny moment during media day. Keldon also has more jokes.
Dejounte Murray addresses trade rumors, being a team leader
Hard to believe but Spurs guard Dejounte Murray is now the longest tenured player on the roster and he’s only 25 years old! Popovich said he’s expecting Murray to be one of the team leaders and Dejounte added on Monday that he’s ready to take on that role and his work ethic with speak for itself.
Murray also addressed trade rumors this offseason that included a potential deal for Philadelphia guard Ben Simmons. “I don’t care because I am somebody who understands the business part of this sport. I have zero control over the front office. I just focus on Dejounte Murray,” said the Spurs guard. DJ averaged career-highs in points (15.7), rebounds (7.1) and assists (5.4) last season. Murray also averaged 1.5 steals per game. It’s worth noting that Murray has improved every season that he’s been healthy, something Simmons has not done despite the accolades he’s received in his career.