Training camp report: No debate homework for Spurs

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich made a point to ask his players to watch the first presidential debate between incumbent Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney, going so far as to dispense DVD copies the following day.

There was no such homework assignment after Tuesday’s rematch, however, as the Spurs went home empty-handed. Popovich, an Obama contributor, also declined to give his thoughts on the matter.

“My opinions aren’t very important,” he said.

Popovich might have skipped the DVDs because his message sunk in. Boris Diaw, despite being unable to vote due to his French nationality, said he actually watched part of the debate.


* Popovich said Tim Duncan returned to work Wednesday after an undisclosed illness forced him to take a rare day off on Monday. Duncan might have passed on whatever he had to reserve guard Gary Neal, who stayed home on Wednesday, but Popovich wasn’t willing to speculate.

“What do I look like, Louis Pasteur?” he said when asked if a bug was sweeping through the team.

* The Spurs practice facility was swarming with a crew on hand to film one of the popular H-E-B spots starring Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

Judging by , Parker is playing some kind of club doorman – maybe a bad choice considering his experience last summer in New York? No matter – Diaw expects him to nail his latest role.

“He’s a great actor,” Diaw said. “The best French actor since…who do you guys know? Gerard Depardeu. And the guy who got the Oscar. The Artist. Dujardin. Jean Dujardin. He got the Oscar in front of every American actor. That was pretty good.”

* Even though it won’t matter, Popovich said he’ll use Saturday’s preseason game at Miami as a measuring stick.

“It’s a championship team, a championship program,” he said. “You play a team like that, you get some questions answered. I’m looking forward to it.”

* Popovich also said he’s looking forward to the second leg of the Spurs’ two-day road trip to Florida, where they’ll face former Spurs assistant Jacque Vaughn in his new gig as Orlando’s head coach.

“In the preseason it’s great fun,” he said. “In the regular season we’ll be trying to beat each other’s brains in, probably after having dinner the night before. We’ll have a lot of fun with that, maybe try to screw with him, just for kicks.”

Vaughn could probably use some good advice instead; the Magic are 0-4 in the preseason.

* Popovich contrasted the presence of rookie assistant coach Ime Udoka with that of the departed Don Newman, who left to take the lead assistant role in Washington.

“Ime is going to be wonderful,” he said. “He really commands respect from the guys. The kind of professionalism he had as a player extends to what he’s trying to do now as a coach.”

Perhaps Udoka can also fill Newman’s role preventing Popovich from tearing onto the court after bad calls – although that job might be easier to fill.

“He didn’t have to work very hard at that because I rarely get (technical fouls),” Popovich joked. “He just acted like he was holding me back all the time. It was like a game.”

* Backup point guard Patty Mills (ankle) participated in non-contract drills.

Twitter: @danmccarneySAEN

Spurs 116, Rockets 107 – Green, Witherspoon get hot

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Danny Green had his best shooting game of the preseason and Wesley Witherspoon made the most of a chance to start as the Spurs beat the Rockets 116-107.

Green shot 6-of-9 from the field and 3-of-5 on 3-pointers for 15 points. Witherspoon shot 6-of-9 including 2-of-4 on 3-pointers for 17 points.

DeJuan Blair led the bench with 16 points and 6 rebounds. Cory Joseph had 12 points and 3 assists. Manu Ginobili had 11 points, Gary Neal had 10 points and 3 assists and Eddy Curry had 10 points and 3 rebounds.

Kawhi Leonard had the game off and most of the other Spurs’ starters had their playing time limited. Tim Duncan played 12 minutes and had 5 points, 6 rebounds and 3 blocked shots. Tony Parker played 12 minutes and had 6 points. Boris Diaw played 20 minutes and had 2 points and 6 rebounds.

Fourth quarter: Gary Neal and Eddy Curry are up to 10 points each. The Spurs lead 108-99 with 2:44 left in the game.

Nando De Colo had a crazy pass to Derrick Brown for an assist earlier in the fourth quarter. Now a smooth De Colo pass to Eddy Curry for a basket.

Both teams are firing up 3-pointers. The Spurs are 9-of-27 on 3-pointers for the game. The Rockets are 11-of-24. The Spurs lead the Rockets 99-93 with 5:30 left.

Gary Neal and Nando De Colo hit 3-pointers midway through the fourth quarter. The Spurs lead 99-90 with 6:20 left.

Wesley Witherspoon and Danny Green shooting a combined 12-of-18 from the field and 5-of-9 on 3-pointers. They have 15 points each. Witherspoon had the Spurs’ first two baskets of the fourth quarter. The Spurs lead 93-75 with 8:54 left in the game.

Two young Spurs team up. Nando De Colo makes a behind-the-back bounce pass to Derrick Brown, who turns it into a three-point play.

Spurs 72, Rockets 71 – third quarter: Wesley Witherspoon, making his first start of the preseason, has 11 points. He’s one of the young players in Spurs camp competing for a roster spot.

Danny Green has 15 points, Manu Ginobili 13 and Cory Joseph 10. The Spurs lead the Rockets 75-70 with 2:29 left in the third quarter.

Cory Joseph has eight points. He’s doing better this season. But he still might be the Spurs’ fifth or sixth point guard. Spurs point guards: 1. Tony Parker; 2. Gary Neal; 3. Nando De Colo; 4. Patty Mills or Cory Joseph
Not including the possibility of using Manu Ginobili as a point guard in an emergency.

The Rockets are going with their starting five – at least the five who started this game – early in the second half. Those guys have cut the Spurs’ lead to 56-55 with 8:59 left in the third quarter. Jeremy Lamb has 11 points.

The Spurs go with a three-guard lineup to start the second half: Cory Joseph, Gary Neal and Manu Ginobili are on the floor together. Boris Diaw and DeJuan Blair round out the Spurs’ five to start the half.

It looks like the stats are starting to work in Houston now in time for the second half.

Spurs 52, Rockets 44 – halftime: Danny Green has 12 points. Green shot 5-of-7 from the field including 2-of-3 on 3-pointers. Jeff McDonald reports Tim Duncan blocked at least three shots in the first half.

The Spurs lead the Rockets 48-38 with 2:20 left in the second quarter.

Spurs center Eddy Curry and guard Nando De Colo enter the game late in the second quarter for their first action of the game. Veteran Matt Bonner is also in the game.

It’s subs time. Cory Joseph has picked up the scoring for the Spurs. They lead the Rockets 43-32 in the second quarter.

Danny Green has 10 points. This is his best offensive showing of the preseason. The Spurs lead 34-28 in the second quarter. It’s Green and four subs on the floor for the Spurs.

Danny Green blocks a shot early in the second quarter. He’s playing with a lot of energy – might be generally feeling a little more confident after hitting back-to-back shots at the other end.

Spurs 27, Rockets 16 – first quarter: The Spurs starters look sharp including Danny Green hitting two long shots.

Danny Green hits a long jumper. Then Green hits a 3-pointer the next possession. It would be nice for him to start getting in a groove with his shot.

Tiago Splitter, who sat out the Spurs’ first preseason game due to a sore back, enters the game late in the first quarter. Splitter and Tim Duncan are on the court at the same time.

The Spurs lead the Rockets 20-10 with less than three minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Spurs starters – plus Manu Ginobili – are playing well together. As you would expect.

Manu Ginobili comes in off the bench midway through the first quarter. Ginobili sat out two of the first three preseason games with a sore foot.

The Spurs lead the Rockets 11-8 at the first timeout midway through the first quarter. Four of the five usual Spurs starters begin the game together. The rest of the game it’s going to be lots of crazy lineup combinations with lots of young guys.

And the game is under way. Join is in the live chat (below).

Spurs starters: Tony Parker, Danny Green, Wesley Witherspoon, Boris Diaw and Tim Duncan. Witherspoon gets the start in place of Kawhi Leonard.

Wesley Witherspoon hasn’t looked bad – rookie guard/forward from Memphis. I just don’t see room on the Spurs’ roster for him. I wonder if he’s bound for the D-League for this season. Starting today will give scouts from some other teams a chance to take a good look at him.

Lineup update: Jeff McDonald reports Wesley Witherspoon will start for the Spurs. Earlier today it looked like Manu Ginobili might start, but now it looks like that’s not the case.

The Rockets are trying to win their 13th straight preseason game. There’s not much correlation between that and winning in the regular season.

Houston Rockets report Kevin Martin, Patrick Patterson and Toney Douglas will not play today.

The experience factor isn’t such a big deal in preseason. You figure Pop uses most of the game to give his newest and youngest players as much game time as he can.

Huge contrast between these two teams in the togetherness factor. The Spurs’ Big Three have all been together going back to the 2003 championship season. Most of these Rockets have been together since the beginning of October.

The Spurs play on the road today against the Houston at 1 p.m. in Houston.

Join our live chat beginning at 12:30 p.m.

Things we’ve learned (or think we have) about Spurs

With four out of seven exhibition games in the books, the Spurs are a little more than halfway finished with their preseason. Though it’s difficult to draw too many conclusions from a set of games featuring more minutes from Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo and Eddy Curry than Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan, Express-News beat writer Jeff McDonald gives it a stab:

De Colo is part Argentine

He’s French, and he plays a little point guard, but that’s about the only similarity rookie Nando De Colo bears to Tony Parker. Where Parker emerged from the womb a scoring guard, De Colo at times seems allergic to shooting. Oh, but can he pass. De Colo’s slick assists — he’s averaging a team-best 4.8 per game — remind many Spurs of a young Manu Ginobili. With the Spurs jam-packed at both guard positions, De Colo is likely to begin the season at the end of the bench. If he ever does crack the rotation, however, get your popcorn ready.

Eddy Curry is hungry

No, not that kind of hungry. Hungry for a job. At 7-foot, 295 pounds, Curry arrived at training camp as in shape as he can be. The former fourth overall NBA draft pick has been a model camper, clearly motivated to resuscitate his career after appearing in only 24 games the past three seasons. Curry can still score, having notched double-digit outings in two of the Spurs’ four preseason games, but won’t help much in the rebounding or defensive departments. If he doesn’t earn the Spurs’ 15th roster spot, he’s bound to help some team this season.

There’s talent at the bottom

The Spurs don’t always carry a full 15-man roster into the regular season. But with NBA-experienced big men Curry, Josh Powell and Derrick Brown all providing positive moments, this is a year the Spurs might wish they could keep 17. Curry has size and offensive skill, Powell is averaging seven points on 9-of-10 shooting, and Brown has showcased his athleticism and enough versatility to defend small and power forwards. At this rate, cut day could come down to a high-stakes game of “eeny, meeny, miney, moe.”

Neal gets the point

In the race to become Parker’s primary backup, the incumbent holds a narrow lead. Gary Neal has been the first point guard off the bench in each preseason game, averaging a team-best 13 points while also contributing 2.5 assists and keeping his turnovers in check. More important, Neal — a shooting guard by trade — has done a credible job of running the second unit. Patty Mills, Joseph and De Colo can be expected to keep pushing Neal. If the season began today, however, he’s the backup point.

Size matters (maybe)

It hasn’t happened often. If you blinked, you probably missed it. But twice in the past two games, coach Gregg Popovich has deployed a lineup using 6-11 Tiago Splitter alongside 6-11 Tim Duncan. It is a Twin Towers look the Spurs largely avoided the past two seasons but one that could come in handy against, say, the Dwight Howard-Pau Gasol Lakers in the regular season. Stay tuned.

Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN