“We have a lot of young guys that don’t have a lot of teachers around them,” Elliott said about San Antonio’s current roster.
SAN ANTONIO — The San Antonio Spurs boast the youngest roster in the NBA, with the average player at 23 and a half years old. It also marks the youngest squad of Gregg Popovich’s long San Antonio tenure.
And with youth comes inexperience.
With just eight wins through 44 matchups this season, the Silver & Black have yet to put together a winning streak of more than two games. On the court, the team struggles on both ends with glaring mistakes that a young roster will make.
From turnovers, playing an entire 48 minutes, defensive schemes and more, the Spurs are still trying to figure things out as the franchise’s rebuild progresses.
Part of rebuilding is constructing a proper team to utilize the youth, complement it with established players and lean on the NBA Draft.
Spurs legend Sean Elliott spoke about just that and more with San Antonio Sports Star’s “The Blitz,” saying that using a mix of the draft and veteran players is the way to go.
“I think it’s a combination,” Elliott said. “When Big Dave (David Robinson) and I came in, we had Terry Cummings here. We had Mo Cheeks. We had Caldwell Jones. Later, we had Paul Pressey. We had a lot of veterans to help guide us.”
Elliott – who suited up for a total of 13 years in San Antonio – added that as a young player in the league, he would watch basketball games, not individual player highlights. Also, he came into the NBA with four years at Arizona, but still needed veteran help.
“I stayed four years in college, so I felt I had a game,” he added. “But I just needed a little help from the veterans as far as how I play this guy and how I make this cut.”
Ultimately, Elliott believes the issue with the current Spurs roster is a lack of veteran guidance to get them over the hump and be a better team.
“We just don’t have a lot of that right now. We have a lot of young guys that don’t have a lot of teachers around them, in the locker room, or in the huddle, or on the floor that can help them out.”
“It’s just the coaching staff trying to hold the player’s hands through this process, and it’s been tough,” he added. “We need combinations of veterans and young guys that I believe to get it done.”
Elliott went on to explain that today’s young NBA players lack adequate practice time, adding the players’ union limits practice time. This, he says, adds up to poor play on the court.
“We’d be out there for three hours. We would go through fundamentals, we’d go through defense, offense,” he said. “Now, with the new rules and the player’s association, you can only practice the guys for an hour and a half. You have to get the guys off the court and get them rest.”
Said Elliott: “You don’t have time to go through the fundamentals of the game.”
The Spurs are young, and that inexperience is apparent throughout this season. They acknowledge it, and coach Gregg Popovich repeats it in wins and losses during postgame conference sessions.
In time, it will click. But for now, Elliott believes the learning curve is long before the team climbs back to the NBA’s peak.
“You’re inserting guys into complex schemes and formulas when they don’t know basic math,” he said. “That’s a hard thing to do. They don’t have time to sit there and teach these defensive slides and deny position and things like that.”
Elliott reinforced how much experience and basketball IQ matter by asking Popovich a few years ago why he no longer runs a certain play called “Floppy Down” as he did with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
According to Elliott, Popovich explained it’s because the players can’t do it.
“Our guys, they can’t run it,” he said.
The Spurs have assets to bring in established veteran players as the rebuild progresses.
From multiple first and second-round picks, financial cap space and players on the current roster to use as trade chips, the team can mesh veteran players to guide the young squad the way Elliott says happened during his tenure with the Spurs.
With the NBA Trade Deadline nearing and this summer’s offseason, San Antonio is poised to shape the roster with the right experienced players to build around.
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