The San Antonio Spurs’ 2017-2018 regular season is right around the corner after the Spurs began the opening stages of a new season with media day Monday. Core players Kawhi Leonard, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker and LaMarcus Aldridge addressed the media, while Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich also spoke a bit about basketball, but more-so about the current political state that has intertwined both sports and politics.
You can watch the full interviews of each player and Coach Popovich in their entirety at Spurs.com, but here were a few interesting takeaways from the players and Coach Popovich Monday.
Ginobili said over the summer it was a “close call” between deciding whether to continue playing professionally or eventually retire, but ultimately, he’s excited about his decision to return for another season with the Spurs. When asked about the roster movement across the league in which several All-Stars have moved from the Eastern Conference to the Western Conference, Ginobili had this to say.
“It’s fun,” said Ginobili. “It’s great. It keeps you focused every night because of the amount of talent.”
Dejounte Murray will be entering his second season with the Spurs being only 21 years old. While he’s still one of the younger players on the roster, he could get a bit opportunity this season in the point guard role, and Ginobili mentioned how Murray has the talent to be a very productive player in the NBA either soon, or later. “He’s been working out a lot,” said Ginobili of Murray. “He’s been working hard here in the gym getting his shot off and working on his technique. He’s going to be a great player and potential All-Star. You just don’t know if it’s going to happen now or in five years, it just depends a lot on him.”
Head Coach Gregg Popovich
Popovich opened his interview with a few questions about the roster. When asked about Tony Parker being ready to play earlier than expected, Popovich commented, “It’s good news, the sooner the better.”
After a few basketball questions, Popovich was asked about questions relating to the current political state of the country, in which sports and politics have been part of the main stories lately each day after the President of the United States said NFL players should be fired for kneeling during the National Anthem. The following day, the President brought the NBA into politics by uninviting the Golden State Warriors to the White House through Twitter.
Popvoch said that if any of his players felt the need to protest or show their beliefs in some sort of way, he and the organization will back them 100%.
“Each one of them has the ability to say what they want to say and act the way they want to act,” said Popovich of his players’ ability to demonstrate free speech. “They have our full support and no matter what they want to do or might not do, it’s important to them and respected by us and there’s no recrimination no matter what might take place (unless it’s ridiculously egregious.)”
Popovich went on to give his full thoughts on how the current political climate has continued to unfold and if you’d like to see those comments, refer to the Spurs.com link.
Shifting back to basketball, Popovich was asked about LaMarcus Aldridge entering his third season with the Spurs. Over the summer, Aldridge was involved in numerous trade rumors citing he was ‘unhappy’ with his role in the Spurs’ system. Popovich responded with the following words. “It takes time to get used to a program when you’ve got nine years under your belt (elsewhere),” said Popovich of Aldridge transitioning from the Portland system to the Spurs’ system. Popovich mentioned how he saw Aldridge’s frustration on the offensive end, but Popovich did mention Aldridge’s “defense was fantastic.”
Popovich too mentioned in developing a game plan this season, he needs to do more to make Aldridge more comfortable on offense. “We’ve got to help him a little bit more to make sure he’s comfortable in his own space and I haven’t done a very good job of that,” said Popovich.
Over the summer the Spurs also signed Rudy Gay. Popovich referred to Gay as, “highly intelligent,” and mentioned that the Spurs will be patient in easing Gay into the team after he too is coming off a serious leg injury as well.
Parker spoke with the media about how his recovery from the quadriceps tear was one of his toughest obstacles to come back from in his career, but he did reiterate he’s shooting for a full return by late November. “End of November is a realistic target, mid-November,” said Parker.
With the NBA trending toward more small-ball and spread pick-and-roll formations, Aldridge said he worked on his game over the summer to implement the 3-point shot. “I worked on the 3-ball a little bit more so we can open up the floor a little bit more.”
When asked about the talent shift from East to West, Aldridge mentioned how the Western Conference became even tougher. “Everyone from the East came over here to the West. The West is definitely looking more tough this year.”
“I think Rudy’s going to help play small ball against certain teams because he can play 1 through 4,” said Aldridge of the addition of Gay.
Aldridge was asked about his name in the trade rumor mill over the summer and while he said most of that discussion is between his agent and the Spurs, he did admit to being frustrated a bit in the past. “A little bit of frustration at one point,” said Aldridge. “Try to get more out of me in the system (this season).”
When asked about Parker returning by possibly November, Leonard said it was a good thing because heading into training camp Tuesday, the Spurs aren’t sure just who the starting point guard will be until Parker returns. “That’s good because we don’t know who is going to start at the point guard position at the moment,” said Leonard.
Lastly, Leonard was asked about the addition of Gay, who he feels will defiantly bring more versatility to the Spurs’ roster. “I feel like Rudy is going to be a big help for us,” said Leonard. “I don’t know how we’re going to implement him in the system yet, but, just from his length and his scoring and various ways, and him being able to rebound and guard different positions, I feel like that will help us a lot.”