Spurs media day highlights: Popovich excited with team makeup, jokes Manu returned because ‘wife needed him gone’; Dejounte Murray talks trade rumors, leadership

(AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

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.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO BELOW: Popovich talks team youth, makeup, vaccinations and jokes about why Manu Ginobili returned

WATCH: Spurs coach Gregg Popovich talks team youth, makeup and jokes about why Manu Ginobili returned

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.”

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO BELOW: Manu returns to franchise in front office role

WATCH: Spurs legend Manu Ginobili attends media as new front office role begins

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.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO BELOW: Keldon Johnson sneaks up on Derrick White during Spurs media day

WATCH: Keldon Johnson sneaks up on Derrick White during Spurs media day

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.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH VIDEO BELOW: Spurs guard Dejounte Murray discusses taking more of a leadership role, offseason trade rumors

WATCH: Spurs guard Dejounte Murray discusses taking more of a leadership role, offseason trade rumors

About the Author:

RJ Marquez is co-host of KSAT News Now and reports for Good Morning San Antonio. He's been at KSAT since 2010 and covered a variety of stories and events across the San Antonio area. He also covers the Spurs for on-air and digital platforms, including his Spurs newsletter. RJ has reported stories for KSAT Explains.