TP9 Loses Starting Spot, Kawhi is Growing "Unhappy": What’s Next for the Spurs?

Kawhi Leonard San Antonio Spurs

It appears that San Antonio will have their hands full in the next few months

Ever since Tim Duncan came into the NBA back in 1997, the San Antonio Spurs have yet to miss the playoffs. They have won 5 championships along the way and it could have been 6 if not to Ray Allen’s clutch three-pointer back in the 2013 NBA Finals. Even with Tim Duncan probably rocking his chair elsewhere, enjoying his retirement, the Spurs have managed to keep themselves competitive despite injury problems that have hit Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Kawhi Leonard.
Right now, the Spurs have a 30-18 record and are in 4th place in the Western Conference. They have dropped 6 of their last 10 games and are on a 2-game losing slide. What’s worse is that they are set to face the Cleveland Cavaliers next.
And things are not looking good for the Spurs. Earlier this week, Tony Parker has been demoted from his starting position as Gregg Popovich has promoted Dejounte Murray as the team’s new starting point guard. While this move has been anticipated by many considering the mere fact that Tony Parker has been dealing with injuries over the course of the past few seasons, Parker has openly embraced this decision by his team, even saying that this move was already expected.
While the Spurs can still enjoy Tony Parker’s presence on the floor, things have been strangely different with the Kawhi Leonard situation. To begin with, Leonard has only played sparingly this season as he just recovered from the injury which kept him out during last season’s playoffs. Now? Kawhi Leonard is rumored to be possibly missing the rest of the regular season but that’s not the bad part.
According to sources, Kawhi Leonard has grown “unhappy” and apparently, his relationship with the Spurs has been strained as of late. While the former Finals MVP’s camp and the Spurs front office have denied this story, various elements on the ways of treating and rehabilitating Leonard’s injury have a chilling impact on the star- the sources claimed.
If it’s true that Kawhi Leonard has grown “unhappy” with the Spurs despite the Spurs being known as a good team due to their ways of managing their players and, with aging stars slowly losing their minutes to younger teammates, this could only mean one thing: the Spurs are already preparing for life after Gregg Popovich.

What’s next for the Spurs?

Losing Kawhi Leonard for the rest of the season could force San Antonio could make the necessary moves to ensure that their playoff streak will continue. While there’s a lot of potentials for Dejounte Murray to develop into a star point guard in the near future, it will take a long time before that could materialize which means that the Spurs will have to rely on someone else aside from LaMarcus Aldridge. 
While it’s impossible for now to see the Spurs trade Kawhi Leonard, we all have to face the reality that Kawhi Leonard is no longer the same player he used to be during the past few seasons. He may have been one of the best two-way players but getting injured and growing unhappy? It’s a big problem. 
For the Spurs to avoid losing Kawhi Leonard for nothing, they must make the decision: trade him for their future superstar. 

Conclusion

Kawhi Leonard has only appeared in 9 games this season including in two of their last 10 games. Tony Parker has returned to being a role player off the bench. Only the Spurs themselves can really tell us what their next move will be. But if they want to ensure that they can stay competitive come playoff time, sacrifices must be made. 

By the Numbers: Defense, Kyrie Irving, Rebounds Help Boston Beat San Antonio

The Celtics handed the Spurs their 3rd straight loss

LaMarcus Aldridge only made 5 of his 13 attempts against the Celtics
First, they lost to the Orlando Magic who dominated the game from beginning to end. Next, came along another stunning defeat at the hands of the Indiana Pacers. Now? The San Antonio Spurs just lost their 3rd straight game, this time losing to Kyrie Irving and the Boston Celtics on a 108-94 victory by the Celtics. So how did the Celtics do it against the Spurs?  Below are the numbers:

Defense Shut Down San Antonio

To win a basketball game, you have to score more points than your opponents while trying to limit their offensive output. 
Both things were achieved by the Celtics against the free-falling Spurs. Boston, as a team, shot 47% in the field but struggled from long distance as they only made 35% of their shots from outside. 
Defensively, the Celtics successfully shut down the Spurs’ stars as LaMarcus Aldridge scored 11 points but had to take 13 shots and only made 5 of them. Pau Gasol went 4 of 10 from the field for 11 points on his own while Dejounte Murray had 10 points on 5 of 11 shooting. Rudy Gay added 14 markers on 5 of 12 shooting. 
The Spurs  did manage to finish the game on a 41% field goal shooting but we all know that Gregg Poppovich was visibly upset with how the offense of the Spurs faltered especially in the 3rd quarter when the Celtics outscored the Spurs, 26-18. Now that’s how you defend, folks. 

Kyrie Irving’s 24  Points

With the Spurs struggling on offense and equally struggling on defense, Kyrie Irving took advantage and poured in 24 points as he led his new team to another victory against another elite team in the West which improved Boston to 5-2 in the season. Irving was efficient on offense, making 10 of his 16 shot attempts in 30 minutes of action. He also had 6 assists and 3 steals plus a rare block.

54 Rebounds

If you allow a team to grab 54 rebounds against you, don’t expect to win. Especially in the NBA. 
Out of those 54 rebounds that the Celtics grabbed against the Spurs, 15 came from the offensive end. In addition to this, the Celtics had two 2 players finished the game with double-digit rebounding numbers:
  • Jayson Tatum- 11 rebounds
  • Al Horford- 13 rebounds
On the other side, the Spurs, a team who is averaging 49 rebounds per game- 4th in the league, only managed 40 rebounds- 12 from the offensive end. No wonder why the Spurs lost.

Conclusion

It’s still early to tell whether the Boston Celtics have improved since the blockbuster swap between Kyrie Irving and Isaiah Thomas during the off-season. And while it’s rare for the San Antonio Spurs to drop 3 consecutive games, everyone is asking, “What has suddenly hit the Spurs?” Is the absence of Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard finally catching up on the Spurs? 
But one thing is certain: Kyrie Irving is in a better position than his former team, right?  

By the Numbers: LaMarcus + Murray + Defense= 4-0 Start

People are underestimating San Antonio. Again. And they shouldn’t

LaMarcus Aldridge has all the reasons to smile as the Spurs are to another 4-0 start to open a new season. 
People are talking about the Golden State Warriors dominating the season. People are talking about the new Big 3 in Oklahoma. People are talking about LeBron James’ impending departure from Cleveland.

Again. But not everybody is talking about the one team who could have defeated the Warriors during last season’s playoffs if not to the injuries that bugged two of their superstars. Which team is that? Folks, it’s the San Antonio Spurs, the team currently atop the standings in the Western Conference. 

After dismantling the Miami Heat 117-100, the San Antonio Spurs already have 4 wins in 4 games which is why they one of the two remaining teams in the league, both from the West, who have yet to lose a game this season. And mind you, folks, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard have yet to play a single second this season which proves Gregg Poppovich’s ability to coach and win with a team that is filled with young guys blending with the veterans. Chemistry, isn’t it?
If you’re wondering what enabled the Spurs to start the 2017-2018 season, spotless, despite not having their franchise player who is struggling to climb the stairs just to board the plane, around, this basketball pundit on wheels listed down the three things that equalize to the Spurs’ dashing start:

LaMarcus Aldridge: 28 Points and 8 Rebounds

Over the past few years since coming over to San Antonio, LaMarcus Aldridge has received all sorts of criticisms mainly due to his inconsistency on both ends of the court. While many thought that Aldridge would be traded before the start of the season, many were surprised when it was announced that Spurs and Aldridge signed an extension, extending LA’s stay in Texas for 3 more years, for 27 million Dollars. Many were surprised with this development considering for a player who only averaged 17 points per game during the previous season Well, we all have our different perspective and in the eyes of those who working at the Spurs’ front office, they still believe that LA will be a valuable asset to the team especially in the long run. 
And it turns out that the investment is worth it as Aldridge has been producing big numbers for San Antonio to cover the absence of Kawhi Leonard. In 4 games which he started and won, Aldridge has averaged 27 points and 8 rebounds per game- leading San Antonio in both categories. If Aldridge can keep up this level of consistency, Leonard can rest longer until he’s ready to dominate again.

Dejounte Murray: Stability at the Point

We all know that Tony Parker will be hard to replace once he retires, soon. And with TP9 still missing in action due to the injury he sustained during last season’s playoffs, someone has to perform well while starting at the point guard position. Fortunately, the Spurs have someone on their roster for that position. That someone is none other than the 21-year old, Dejounte Murray.
Murray has started in 4 games for the Spurs, so far and even though his numbers (10 points and 4 assists per game) aren’t as high as the other guards in the league, one thing Murray has provided for Gregg Poppovich is the stability at the point guard position and for someone who is only in his second season in the NBA, Dejounte Murray has proven that he is the future of the Spurs, especially once TP9 walks out, for good. Mind you, he had 16 points, 14 REBOUNDS and 6 assists in the Spurs’ victory against the Toronto Raptors. We can expect more performances like this from Murray throughout the season and beyond.

Defense: Playing the Poppovich Style

Gregg Poppovich’s name has been associated with DEFENSE. His dedication to playing D more than anything else is what makes him one of the greatest coaches in the NBA. And this season is no different at all, at least in 4 games to open the season. While the Spurs are not really an offensive-minded team as evident by their 103 points per game- 18th in the league, San Antonio has been an impressive job in limiting the opponents’ total points to 93 points on the average- 2nd best in the league. 
San Antonio may be in 25th place in steals per game, norming 6 steals per night but they are at number 2 in blocks per game, blocking 7.3 shots per night, just behind Golden State’s 7.8. 

Conclusion

It’s still early to say whether or not the Spurs will dominate anew. But one thing is certain: they are already filled firepower without Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. Just imagine if both stars are back in uniform, healthy and playing.