The summer league contest between the San Antonio Spurs and the Orlando Magic in Las Vegas was interrupted by an earthquake in California — and I’m not talking about the bombshell that Kawhi Leonard is signing with the Los Angeles Clippers. Play continue during the earthquake but the NBA decided to pull the plug after the third quarter.
The Spurs were likely okay with the decision. Through three quarters, San Antonio trailed Orlando 75-59 and had fallen behind by as much as 29 points. Outside of Lonnie Walker IV’s offensive play, not many positive story lines were written on this night.
While Quinndary Weatherspoon missed the game due to knee soreness, the rest of the Spurs summer league squad was available to play. However, Keldon Johnson missed time in the first half after needing three stitches to close a gash over his eye.
Spurs Summer League Grades After Loss* To Magic
Lonnie Walker IV
Through all the ugliness, Lonnie Walker IV played really, really well. Offensively, he flashed star potential. His ability to create space, pull up off the dribble, attain total balance and smoothly knock down shots is remarkable. What’s exciting is these very moves should translate well to real NBA games. Walker was also better tonight at attacking the rim and patiently finding crevices. All in all, his ability to score appears to be ready for the bright lights.
Defensively, he was locked in. His individual defense was better than usual. Walker’s rotations were relatively crisp. His work on the defensive boards could have been better, though.
A couple weaknesses are still apparent despite the success. First of all, Walker is the opposite of a natural playmaker. He can score the rock but his feel for setting up teammates is nonexistent. Secondly, it’s concerning that he isn’t comfortable taking three-point shots. Walker routinely passed up open looks from deep in order to drive the ball into traffic. I’m not sure the Spurs can survive another main scoring threat who shies away from three-pointers.
The tools remain impressive. Luka Samanic missed a couple dunks in which he showed off supreme athleticism. At his size, his speed and quickness is a weapon. He also didn’t hesitate to shoot three-pointers tonight.
All that said, Samanic needs to back up his tools with some actual production. Against the Magic, the 19-year-old wasn’t good. When he wasn’t hoisting a questionable shot or missing a wide open pass, he was easily getting his pocket picked as he drove to the rim. He also didn’t rebound or otherwise move the needle on defense.
The one area where he actually shined brightest versus the Magic was passing. When Samanic wasn’t being hardheaded with the ball, his court vision was actually impressive. A couple times he made quick, smart reads that resulted in easy buckets.
It was a forgettable evening for Keldon Johnson. And I don’t mean the earthquake or the three stitches. Offensively, Johnson struggled. He tried an assortment of runners and floaters in the lane and the results weren’t pretty. Instead of looking like skilled shots, they looked like ill-conceived prayers. Since he doesn’t have the size or athleticism to always finish strongly at the rim, he’ll need to work on his touch.
Defensively, Johnson was better. He wasn’t as good as we witnessed in Salt Lake City but his effort was there and he played with tenacity. Johnson also deserves credit for crashing the boards.
Going forward, is Johnson’s current level closer to what we saw tonight or that 29-point explosion from earlier in summer league? We’ll see.
The only guy offering Walker a helping hand was Drew Eubanks. Offensively, he efficiently took advantage of his touches. He finished with ferocity around the hoop and mixed in a hook shot for good measure.
On defense, Eubanks finally regained his timing for blocks in the third quarter. Up until then, he had gone for a ton of blocks but came up empty each time. In the third, he angrily swatted way three attempts. He didn’t finish with many boards but his boxing out was impressive.
After a strong start to summer league, Ben Moore has really cooled off. He was passing up more shots against the Magic and struggled to impact the game positively at either end. It looks like he might be pressing because the smarts and natural talent that he’s known to play with have been missing in action as of late.
For being a pass-first point guard, Josh Magette makes some iffy decisions with the ball. He dribbles too much at times and will break off plays prematurely. He played decently well against the Magic based on his potential but I don’t think he’s helping his cause of proving he’s an NBA player.
Summer league grandpa couldn’t turn the tide for the Spurs on this night. Jeff Ledbetter missed all three of his attempts and his energy wasn’t as relentless as usual.
Talk about a disastrous four minutes of action. Darius Morris tallied three turnovers and a missed shot during his time on the court. Needless to say, the coaches couldn’t pull him fast enough. For an NBA vet, an outing this bad is surprising.
Thomas Robinson had a great dunk. That was about it … but a memorable night due to that dunk, nonetheless.
More of the same from Kenny Williams: really good defense, extremely sub par ball skills for a guard.
Strange game. Play didn’t pause for the earthquake but the Magic scored 13 consecutive points after the shaking stopped as part of a 20-0 run. After Orlando went up by 29 points, the Spurs regained their footing and eventually cut the deficit to 12 points. Soon thereafter, the game was called. Let’s hope Becky Hammon gets a fair shake next time out.