The Amoeba is a new weekly column with four thoughts a basketball topic du jour. Named after Jerry Tarkanian and his frantic Amoeba Zone Defense at UNLV.
Hi there. You knew things were not well when Tony Parker sat sideways motionless on the ground, gripping his leg. You could hear a pin drop throughout southern Texas. Chuck and his churros included. The good news in this muck is the Spurs have someone waiting in the wings, waiting for that thing called opportunity. Here are four thoughts on Dejounte Murray.
Many rookies will become complacent sitting on the pine, whereas Dejounte soaks things up like a tortilla. A la Cory Joseph, he spent a dozen games with the Austin Spurs in the D-League where he averaged 17 points, seven assists and two steals. When Tony Parker went down with a midseason injury, Murray immediately stepped in to do THIS in Denver, had the game winning shot against Toronto, then did this in the Land:
I remember about 15 years ago, L.A. Dodgers rookie catcher Russell Martin had an mid-game argument with pitcher Derek Lowe. He called time and ran to the mound and chewed out the veteran on national television Lowe had refused to throw the pitch Martin had called for, and it resulted in a run. After the game, Lowe was asked about the altercation and said, I knew then and there Martin was special and he’d have a long career.
I noticed something very similar with Dejounte. Midseason, on a pick and roll, he split the defenders and threw a lob to Dewayne Dedmon for what should have been an easy dunk. Dedmon never rolled to the basket, and it ended up being a broken play. A timeout was called, and while walking to the bench, the 20-year-old wrapped his arm around the 27-year-old’s neck and firmly said, “Roll to the rim.”
We live in an era where guys who don’t look like a traditional basketball player can fall later in the draft. Ask Isaiah Thomas, Nikola Jokic, and, sadly, Jeremy Lin.
Dejounte is built like a toothpick and dropped into R.C.’s hands with the 29th pick. Eric Fawcett, our resident NCAA expert at Press, had these thoughts:
He shot the ball very poorly in college, and also lacked the explosiveness to finish at a high level around the rim. He scored a lot in the midrange with floaters, but the perception was that he couldn’t shoot or finish at the hoop well. He wasn’t much of a playmaker and turned the ball over a TON. …Also, the Washington team he played for was really bad, so it doesn’t help your look when you’re the best player and point guard for a very underachieving team.
Pop has never been big on trust with young floor generals; Parker is the first to admit how much his eardrums were rattled his rookie year. Yet Murray’s game is very reminiscent of Mike Conley’s—aggression, composure, smoothness, sneaky athleticism. And that lankiness and preternatural instinct on defense. The Spurs waived Argentinian point guard Nicolas Laprovittola when they realized what they had.
“He’s intelligent,” Popovich said. “He understands when he comes out why he came out. He doesn’t pout or hold a grudge or act like he’s above it all. …He needs to get repetition on pick and rolls, making decisions on the fast break, that sort of thing. He will still do double duty (in the D-League) in that sense, but I just think his potential is off the charts.”
With Tony Parker out for the playoffs, do not be shocked if Pop injects Dejounte into the starting lineup. This is Travolta sticking the needle into Uma Thurman’s heart. The coaching staff wants Manu and Mills playing together off the bench for continuity. Starting the kid ain’t a crazy idea.
Dejounte has done it before, and he will do it again.