Game Preview: San Antonio Spurs at Houston Rockets – Pounding The Rock

The San Antonio Spurs have completed their annual training camp and hit the road for their preseason opener against the Houston Rockets. Though both franchises might have their name etched in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes by the time we reach the All-Star Break, both rosters are full of players hoping to establish themselves as foundational cornerstones.

Jalen Green, Alperen Sengun, and Jabari Smith Jr. are the headliners for a gifted core yielded from the James Harden trade. Meanwhile, head coach Gregg Popovich bid adieu to Dejounte Murray three months ago and must replace his former All-Star by committee with young standouts like Devin Vassell, Tre Jones, and Jeremy Sochan. Buckle up for a fast-paced ride.

San Antonio Spurs (0-0) at Houston Rockets (0-0)

October 2, 2022 | 6:00 PM CT

Watch: Spurs App | Listen: WOAI (1200 AM)

Spurs Injuries: Keldon Johnson (Out — Shoulder), Josh Primo (Out — Knee)

Rockets Injuries: JaeSean Tate (Day-to-Day — Ankle), Ty Jerome (Questionable — Trade), Derrick Favors (Questionable — Trade), Moe Harkless (Questionable — Trade), Theo Maledon (Questionable — Trade)

What To Watch For

  • San Antonio has enough rookies to create a starting lineup comprised of newcomers, which is bonkers considering they housed the oldest team in the NBA roughly five years ago. While two-way contract signees Dominick Barlow and Jordan Hall are fascinating project players, the organization is unlikely to prioritize finding them minutes during the preseason, so don’t hold your breath if they make abbreviated appearances. Jeremy Sochan, Malaki Branham, and Blake Wesley are another story. All three 2022 first-rounders will undoubtedly see extended run as the Spurs configure their rotations. Sochan missed Las Vegas Summer League because of COVID-19, but the fiesta-haired lottery selection should have a shot at cracking the starting five thanks to his status as the highest lottery selection since Tim Duncan. Branham can man the two or three, and a shortage of depth at both positions might help him earn a backup role. Romeo Langford and Joe Wieskamp are his main competitors. A solid showing could propel him into the second unit. As for Wesley, a Josh Primo MCL injury has opened the door for him to prove he can manage ball-handling responsibilities. The teenage guard said his shooting and finishing have improved from the last time we saw him in Sin City, and he will have the stage to show off the fruits of his labor.
  • The Spurs made their intention to rebuild abundantly clear by trading All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray to the Hawks this summer, and by doing so, they also left tremendous amounts of scoring and ball-handling duties on the table. Keldon Johnson was the prime candidate to inherit the bulk of vacated shot attempts. Unfortunately, a dislocated shoulder has forced the fourth-year forward onto the sidelines for all of San Antonio’s five-game preseason schedule. Perhaps this untimely injury will give the rest of the youngsters a chance to prove to the coaching staff that the offense can run through them, at least for a couple of possessions here and there. Devin Vassell could be the beneficiary when the Silver and Black travel to Houston for their first exhibition action. The 22-year-old swingman has packed muscle onto his once-slender frame, become more vocal on the court, and earned praise from Gregg Popovich, Josh Richardson, and Doug McDermott during training camp. The oldest and most experienced lottery pick on the roster will probably receive plenty of touches against the Rockets, so keep an eye on how efficiently he puts points on the board as the centerpiece for an ensemble of developing prospects.
  • Cutting Tommy Kuhse and Alize Johnson before the regular season starts should be a relative no-brainer for PATFO. Those players are on Exhibit 10 deals, which effectively amounts to a training camp contract. San Antonio owns the G League rights to Kuhse and Johnson even if they fail to make the opening day roster. With that said, the Spurs would still be one player over capacity if they went that route. That begs the question, who should get the final spot? From a logical standpoint, Keita Bates-Diop and Romeo Langford are presumably on the bubble. They are both expendable pieces in the context of this rebuilding organization. Only one can emerge as the victor once the dust settles, and Bates-Diop may have the upper hand as the veteran with corporate knowledge. Romeo has undeniable defensive versatility and possible untapped upside, though his laundry list of injuries makes him a risky investment. Though there are pros and cons to keeping one over the other, this decision could be inconsequential in the grand scheme of a developmental season. Nonetheless, a battle to retain NBA employment is genuine motivation to perform, and it could provide fans with an entertaining storyline worth tracking.

For the Rockets fans’ perspective, please visit The Dream Shake.

PtR’s Gamethread will be up this evening for those who want to chat through the game. You can also follow along with the action through PtR’s Twitter feed.

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