The San Antonio Spurs started the 2022-23 regular season with a 129-102 loss to the Charlotte Hornets. Considering that this might have been San Antonio’s most winnable game on paper early in the season, this has to be considered a disappointing outcome for those fans who want the Spurs to win. For those fans most interested in the Spurs tanking as much as possible, things couldn’t have gone much better.
The Hornets, who were playing without LaMelo Ball, took control early. Charlotte led 38-22 after the first quarter and 68-47 at halftime. The Spurs, spearheaded by Keldon Johnson, made a run in the third quarter to get within ten points. Right away, the Hornets responded with another big run and put the game to bed by the start of the final period.
It was a strong start to the season for Johnson, as he stuffed the stat sheet on his way to 20 points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals in 30 minutes. His three-point shooting came alive in the third quarter and gave the Spurs a lift. Unfortunately, he didn’t get enough help on this night. Then again, Johnson’s defense wasn’t helping matters and his passing could have been better.
It was a nightmarish beginning to the 2022-23 campaign for Vassell. He missed his first nine shots of the game and looked uncomfortable throughout. At times he was rushing shots. At other times, his lack of coordination made shots more difficult than they needed to be. I also wasn’t impressed with his defense.
Poeltl is another starter who could have been a lot better on defense. His reactions in the paint were uncharacteristically slow. Offensively and on the boards, he produced enough … but if Poeltl doesn’t bring the effort on D, his overall impact is limited.
For a 19-year-old rookie in the starting lineup, I was actually impressed with Sochan’s defense. For a player his size, he moves his feet extremely well and can challenge shots on the perimeter with ease. That said, while his defense looked solid, his effectiveness on that end was minimal. Offensively, his lack of shooting is painful to watch right now but his ball-handling and passing skills stop him from being a liability.
The good: Jones efficiently scored the ball. He was really good when he put his head down and attacked. He even buried his first three-point attempt of the season after really struggling last season from distance. The bad: Jones’ defense was largely lackluster. His playmaking was poor. If he wants to stay as the starting point guard, he has to create plays and make life easier for teammates. He didn’t do much of that on opening night.
Primo was San Antonio’s sixth man and he delivered a mixed bag. On one hand, his ball-handling was sloppy, his passing was off the mark, his defense was missing in action and he struggled to routinely make smart plays. On the other hand, he was one of the few players on the team to show the ability to make plays for himself and others. He could have shot it straighter but he exhibited a lot of skill and vision. In upcoming games, hopefully Primo can clean up his game and put the pieces together.
Richardson is supposed to be a steadying force on this young Spurs team. In the season opener, that was not the case at all. If anything, he looked like the rookie blinded by the headlights. From costly turnovers to blown defensive assignments, Richardson couldn’t have played much worse.
From the second he stepped on the court, McDermott helped the cause. His confident shooting gave the Spurs direction. He was also moving really well without the ball. I even thought his defense was noticeably better than usual.
Collins had four blocked shots in 12 minutes. That was, unfortunately, the extent of his positives. The rest of his evening was unsightly. He didn’t hit a shot from the field or grab a rebound. He struggled to hold his ground in the paint as the team’s backup center. He was also making matters worse by needlessly fouling.
Roby got in during garbage time and did well. He was active in the paint on defense, ran the court hard and showed off his athleticism.
After a really slow start in preseason, Langford is starting to show signs of life. Against the Hornets, he was playing with confidence and was in constant motion. Granted, this came in garbage time … but it was still good to see.
Dieng got the garbage time center minutes. He basically did what Dieng does: rebound, shoot threes and play a heady brand of basketball.
Bates-Diop was in the regular rotation in the first half as the team’s backup power forward. It didn’t go well. He passed up a couple shots on the offensive end and looked like a fish out of water on the defensive end.
I loved that Pop has Sochan in the starting lineup and that Primo has the leading role off the bench. However, no minutes for the two other first round picks (Malaki Branham and Blake Wesley) left me scratching my head. In blowouts, why not give all the youngsters a run in garbage time?