New Orleans, LA The New Orleans Pelicans, and San Antonio Spurs are teams heading in the opposite direction. The Spurs have lost 10 of their last 11 games, while the Pelicans just completed a 6-game home stand going 4-2. Wednesday night’s game in San Antonio will mark the first regular season game between these two since the Play-In Tournament game in April. Project Spurs journalist Jazz Tamir discussed the Spurs’ season and the upcoming matchup with the Pelicans.
Pelicans Scoop: How have the Spurs been adjusting to life without Dejounte Murray?
Jazz Tamir: Trading “Dj” has led to the guys re- figuring out the offense completely. I spoke with Jakob Poeltl in a practice once and he said the hardest thing for him was having to learn the direction of new point guard Tre Jones and also becoming acclimated to the rookies roles like Jeremy Sochan. They don’t play as much small ball five, it’s super fast pace and very team oriented. Where as previously DJ had more touches than anyone. Sochan and Jakob seem to be developing their passing chemistry. Like you notice Sochan giving these low/ trick passes that Jakob is still figuring out where they are coming from and how to be in the right space for them. Sometimes lack of communication and chemistry lead to most of the turnovers.
Pelicans Scoop: Most were surprised by the early 5-2 start by the Spurs. What has gone wrong in their recent slide of losing 10 of their past 11 games?
Jazz Tamir: In their recent losses I think the flaws are just coming out. Certain things you can’t hide or run away from like youth. Everyone is really young and when you have a young team they get used to playing with a certain group and certain way so remove a piece of the puzzle due to injury or illness and it’s like their learning a whole new game. Also lack of defense. Jeremy Sochan said that they were just soft this time around on the road. And they can’t afford to be soft they have to bring the first punch all the time but when you have a game every other night and a back to back sometimes it’s hard to bring that same energy.
Pelicans Scoop: Which player/players have you been most impressed by early on this season?
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Jazz Tamir: A player I have been most impressed by is honestly Devin Vassell. I started writing about him last year and following his journey of growth and he surpassed all of my expectations so far. You can really see him still being traditional and being that reliable catch and shoot player who’s really good at defense however now he is working on creating his own space for his shots he’s very aggressive as well. He’s raised his points per game from like 12 to 20. And he’s great at finding scoring opportunities when the job of delegation is in his hands to create a shot for his self with his teammates being his support. He always finds a way to get open if you don’t lock him down and his mid range jumper is undefeated , that almost always goes in. He’s also a big leader off the court even when he was hurt and on the bench he was still very vocal with the team I’m just very impressed because for a 22-year-old he’s definitely taking on the leader ship roll seriously.
Pelicans Scoop: A guy like Jakob Poeltl’s name has been on the trade rumor mill this season. Do you expect any moves from the Spurs before the deadline?
Jazz Tamir: My prediction is before the deadline I do think Jakob has the potential to be traded for the pieces that they’re looking for. The only thing about that is if we trade him we would need a replacement and I think because Jakob has been increasing his scoring that may have been a signal from his management to up his stock by putting more points on the board. While Charles Bassey is really taking on this role as a back up center and earning a lot of minutes really soon he could end up being in the new center. He may need more time so our next option is Gorgui but I don’t think he can produce like Jakob so trading Jakob is a big deal and leaves question marks.
Pelicans Scoop: Do you think that Gregg Popovich will remain as the Spurs coach after this season?
Jazz Tamir: So nobody really knows when Pop will retire. He made a joke that he was honestly thinking about retiring before this year and somebody asked him was he coming back and he was like I guess lol. However my personal theory is he is going to develop this team and instill some Spurs traditional principles and then once they kind of got a hang of that then he may take a backseat role and retire from head coaching but I don’t think he’s going to not be involved at all.
Pelicans Scoop: Give us one thing (matchup/lineup/stat etc…) we should be looking for in Wednesday night’s game versus the Pelicans.
Jazz Tamir: One matchup that everybody has their eyes on is Jeremy Sochan and Zion. Sochan has this ability to guard all five positions and they have been encouraging him to so he will come face to face with Zion. Because he is the one who made the comment about being soft many are curious if he will be more aggressive and dominate Zion tomorrow with his defense.