The San Antonio Spurs have their core returning from last year’s championship team, but their bench may look a little different. Let’s take a look at which new addition could make an impact. By David Galvin.
The San Antonio Spurs’ training camp has began with 20 players on the roster. Not every player will be suiting up for the Spurs on opening night, but the Spurs hope that one of these new faces will provide the X-factor to reach this years finals.
Pos: G Ht: 6-5 Exp: 6 years
Belinelli was the most heralded free agent signing for the Spurs this off-season, with the returned core of players, and looks to replace Gary Neal in the Spurs system. While his field goal percentage dipped below 40% last year, his free throw percentage was a career best of 84%. The Spurs are hoping that he can team up with Manu Ginobli to run a formidable back-up backcourt. Expect Ginobli-Belinelli to run more than a few Italian league inspired plays.
Jeff Ayres (formerly Pendergraph)
Pos: F/C Ht: 6-9 Exp: 3 years
The player formerly known as Pendergraph (changed his surname he got from his stepfather, to his biological father’s surname after the birth of his daughter) is the next prominent acquisition of the free agent market. He has not had big minutes with the Trailblazers or the Pacers, but he rebounds well and is a solid athlete that will give the Spurs 10 hustle minutes of play. There’s a chance he will be paired up with Kwahi Leonard at the forward spots in the Spurs’ up-tempo formation, but the Spurs will require him to learn their pick and roll system if he wants to earn big minutes next season.
Pos: F Ht: 6-5 Exp: Rookie
Nwailele is not the typical rookie. He is 29-years old and has served with the Air Force in Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia. In 2007 the Spurs offered him a two-year contract, but the Air Force wouldn’t release from his five-year commitment. He has a great three point stroke, finishing his college career at the 45% mark from beyond the arc. With fellow Air Force Alum Popovich on his side, great shooting ability and great work ethic; he might be the next hidden gem for the Spurs.
Pos: G Ht: 6-2 Exp: Rookie
Coming out of high school, Kabongo was rated as a future 1st round pick. Yet, after a suspension marred season at the University of Texas he declared for the draft and found himself undrafted. Former Longhorn Cory Joseph may have made a case for him to Popovich and now Kabongo finds himself at the bottom of a very stacked list of guards. It’s now up to him to use his bevy of skills to make the team.
Pos: G/F Ht: 6-6 Exp: Rookie
The 27-year old rookie last played for Hapoel Jerusalem in the Isreali Winner League (take that other league names) and for the Boston Celtics in the Orlando summer league. He does however possess the DTA (Defense/Three Point Shooting/Athleticism) designation that Popovich loves to use in his system. If he makes the team he might see some minutes this season running the 3 spot in the Spurs’ small ball rotation.
Pos: C Ht: 6-11 Exp: 1 year
26-year old Cousin has played all over the world: Turkey, Israel, the D-league, Venezula, the Dominican Republic, and finally in Spain. He is listed as 1 year in the league however, that was four games with the Utah Jazz for a total of 18 minutes of play. He was a solid player for Houston in college, but the Spurs are looking to make a championship team. He’ll have to show the Spurs why he should play over Matt Bonner or Aron Baynes during this camp.
The biggest changes for the Spurs will come not from the players, but from the replacement of assistant coaches Mike Budenholzer (Head coach of Atlanta Hawks) and Brent Brown (Head Coach of Philadelphia 76ers). Here is how the Spurs have reloaded on the end of the bench.
Pos: Assistant Coach
Pos: Assistant Coach
Pos: Assistant Trainer
Popovich will subject them to his secret CIA brainwashing technology and they’ll instantly become head coach material for other teams.