Season 51, Game 35
San Antonio 109, Brooklyn 97
24-11, 3rd in the West

35 games in, we’ve finally reached the first “real” game of the season.

On Tuesday night, playing the Nets at home, the Spurs fielded their entire roster for the first time this season.

This is really the only thing that matters about this game. (Sorry, Nets; you’re a fun young team and I love what the front office and coaching staff is doing there. But in this story, you matter not.) It’s nice the Spurs won, because it’s always nice when the Spurs win. But the biggest victory from this game is that the team is approaching wholeness.

In many ways, this means starting over. Roles and rotations need to be reconfigured and rediscovered. Yes, Kyle Anderson and Bryn Forbes have had nice starts to the season; but where do they fit now? Rudy Gay looks to be a super 6th man, but where do his minutes come now? He only played 16 minutes against Brooklyn, and that seems far too low. Can he play with Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge at the same time?

Pop needs to find out.

Is there room for a 3-man rotation at point guard (Tony Parker, Patty Mills, and DeJounte Murray), shooting guard (Danny Green, Manu Ginobili, and Bryn Forbes), and small forward (Kawhi Leonard, Rudy Gay, and Kyle Anderson)? Who can play small-ball 4? How much does the team want to play small?

Pop needs to find out.

Can last season’s Kawhi and this season’s LaMarcus coexist together? How much isolation can the team afford to play with those two? Conversely, can those two figure out how to fit their offense into the team’s sharing and ball movement ethos? Is Kawhi’s next evolution as a playmaker?

Pop needs to find out.

In “Game 1”, the team looked ragged and disjointed at time. Players looked uncomfortable with certain lineups. The team lacked a crispness that is typically a hallmark of Spurs’ basketball.

Rotations and lineups were varied. Pop threw a lot of different looks out there. The lab is open, and it’s experimentation time. Expect to see a lot more of this, and expect to see some “bad” basketball from time to time. It’s all part of the learning and growing process.

The most important piece, of course, is Kawhi Leonard. This was the game he looked the most like his old self out there. He was assertive on offense, getting to his spots and his shots. And his stroke still looks good. He seemed a bit more locked in on defense and caught up to the speed of the game.

Still, he doesn’t look 100%. His conditioning isn’t there, as he is often out of breath (not typical for him). He also doesn’t seem totally sure of himself. Most interestingly, he seems really out of sorts with his teammates and the system. He went into isolation several times on offense, often to the detriment of the team.

He is tasked with getting his body up to speed but also rediscovering chemistry with his teammates. He is a great individual talent, but the team’s ultimate ceiling lies in how well he can integrate himself into the team concept.

The good news: we’ve only just begun. Sure, we’re already 35 games into the season. But we have a lot more to go.


The Spurs host the Knicks on Thursday night.

Go Spurs Go.