Young Body, Veteran Effort
In his first ever NBA Regular Season game, Kawhi Leonard played with the heart and presence of a seasoned veteran on the court. Although he did make a few rookie mistakes, he played his heart out. Leonard, picked 15th overall by the Indiana Pacer’s first pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, was traded along with two other players for George Hill – a move that turned many Spurs fans into skeptics. However, after last night’s performance, Leonard has shown the potential to be a powerhouse in the years to come
Playing smart and going after loose balls, making second efforts on a busted play, or doing something any other rookie might not have done or even thought of in the situation, but Leonard did, the amazing three-point shot he made after Manu Ginobili’s stellar behind-the-back pass to him capped off his hot start to his inaugural NBA season, and summarized the theme of the night for the gifted, young, and talented Leonard.
Leonard is showing exactly why the Spur’s front office traded for him by coming up with two major steals and going the length of the court on one. This man has great presence of mind and knows how to react in certain situations. Leonard can shoot, play amazing defense, and fight for rebounds. At this time, Leonard is the total package. Yet, one question for Leonard remains; can he be consistent and continue to play like this throughout the year?
Tiago Splitter is another young player, who although he did not have as great a night as Leonard, he still played to the best of his abilities. In only his second year in the league, the experience of having his first NBA season under his belt shown through the entire game. However, Splitter passed up shots he could have taken, in addition to missing a rebound. Yet, despite the errors, he made the best of it and put forth the effort of a player who is well versed in the league.
Splitter played in other professional leagues in the years past, the result being his creation of an astounding résumé. Regardless of his training the Spanish and European leagues, nothing can quite compare to the stiff, elite competition that the NBA is known for. However, let’s not look past his professional basketball history. Splitter has won numerous gold medals with the Brazilian national team, and his global training shows in his play. Drawing from this, Splitter utilizes what he has learned in the past and contributes a great team effort, eventhough he may not present an astounding individual effort.
His help in getting the Spurs to conquer the Memphis Grizzlies is to be commended. Splitter walked off the court in the fourth quarter to a standing ovation in the AT&T Center, no doubt basking in the love pouring forth from the Spurs’ fans.
Third year player DeJuan Blair, had a positive and productive night as well, contributing to the Spurs’ win, not anything to gloat about statistically, but made his presence felt on the court, and got points when needed, coming up in a must score situation. Blair, who has had a decorated tenure in the NBA thus far, earning Co-MVP in the NBA Rookie Challenge, and making the Second NBA All-Rookie Team.
Only playing two years in college at the University of Pittsburgh, he entered the NBA Draft after his sophomore year, a talented young player despite being so young, he has proved his worth and has exceeded expectations, drafted in the second round, 37th overall by the Spurs, Blair is making a home for himself in San Antonio, and is becoming a fixture in the Spurs lineup, and will hopefully stay there for many seasons to come.
With the aid of Leonard, Splitter, and Blair, it was an excellent opening night for the entire Spurs team. Led by Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, also known as the Big Three of San Antonio, last night’s game is a great indication of what is to come this season. The Spurs were once thought to be too old, and were seen as declining in their performance. However, last night has put to rest those statements and the Spurs have yet again utilized their small market and have gotten younger under the radar of the league’s watchful eye. The Spurs’ front office is certainly one of the best in the league by prospecting foreign talent and showing how valuable these new players are to success.
The Spurs have high expectations this year, not just from themselves but from their fans and the city of San Antonio. After last night’s success, the Spurs look willing and able to take the league by storm and raise another banner in the Alamo City
– Richard Perez