Building The Future In Austin

By: Lorne Chan Spurs.com

 In the 10th season of the San Antonio Spurs’ ownership of the Austin Spurs, the organization’s use of the D-League reached another milestone.

For the first time in franchise history, the majority of players on the Spurs roster – 8 out of 14 – have D-League experience.

Five Spurs - Kyle Anderson, Dewayne Dedmon, Danny Green, Patty Mills and Jonathon Simmons – played in the D-League in previous seasons. Three more - Davis Bertans, Bryn Forbes, and Dejounte Murray – have spent time in Austin this season.

“We’re on a decade now, and Austin has been one of our real focal points,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said. “It has been impactful in a lot of success stories, the latest being Jonathon Simmons, but also Kyle Anderson, Cory Joseph and a list that goes on.”

For the second straight season, the Austin Spurs will make an appearance at the AT&T Center as they take on the Delaware 87ers on March 9. Tickets starting at $10 are available at ticketmaster.com

This weekend, fans will get two chances to see present and potential future Spurs play for Austin.

Two Austin Spurs games will be televised on Fox Sports SW this week: the Spurs play at the Houston Rockets’ affiliate RGV Vipers at 7 p.m. Friday, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, they host Golden State’s affiliate the Santa Cruz Warriors. Stars general manager Ruth Riley will provide color commentary with Andrew Monaco on play-by-play.

Spurs guards Dejounte Murray and Bryn Forbes are currently with Austin and will play on Friday, as they've split the season with both Spurs lineups. Murray has been assigned to Austin eight times this season while Forbes has had seven assignments.

Murray, the Spurs’ 2016 first round draft pick, has played 11 games in Austin. He’s averaging 15.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.9 assists in the D-League.

“When we have Dejounte we have an electric guy who does a few things every night that make you go, ‘I wish I could do that,’” fifth-year Austin Spurs coach Ken McDonald. “He’s so young and so eager, so you can see the improvement every day.”

Forbes is making the most of his time in Austin as well. He’s averaging 23.4 points per game including a 29.3-point average in his last four appearances.

In his second D-League game on Nov. 19, Forbes hit a game-winning turnaround corner 3 at the buzzer to lead Austin to an overtime win against Erie.

“I think it is great for Bryn,” said Spurs coach Gregg Popovich. “He needs to learn the physicality part of it in the game. And just get time with the ball in his hands and be in a lot of different situations. Playing all those D-League games is helping him do that. We’re glad he's doing what he's doing. Dejounte [Murray] will try to do that once in a while.”

On Nov. 6, Forbes, Murray, and Danny Green were assigned to Austin and didn’t move at all. Austin was holding training camp at the Spurs practice facility already, so the three San Antonio Spurs simply joined Austin for practice.

Bertans has also played two games with Austin, averaging 16.0 points and 4.0 rebounds.

The assignments have been convenient, with Austin’s H-E-B Center located less than 100 miles away from the AT&T Center. With the exception of the Spurs’ Rodeo Road Trip in February, all but one Austin Spurs home game for the rest of the season takes place within 24 hours of a San Antonio Spurs home game.

 “There aren’t opportunities for everybody to play in San Antonio all the time,” Buford said. “To have the ability to take advantage of the proximity of the team in Austin and the synergy with the coaching staffs, we’re beneficiaries of the commitment to the D-League that ownership gave in 2007.”

Other familiar faces in Austin include Ryan Arcidiacono, Pato Garino, and Livio Jean-Charles, who were in San Antonio’s training camp.

They hope to follow the path of Simmons, who made the Austin roster through an open tryout in 2013. He spent two seasons in the D-League before signing in San Antonio and becoming a Spurs sparkplug.

Or they hope to follow the path of Green, who played for the D-League’s Reno Bighorns after he was cut twice by NBA teams. Now, Green is in his seventh season with the Spurs.

At this point, the path from the D-League to the NBA is well-worn.

A record 135 players with D-League experience were on NBA rosters on opening night, representing 30 percent of the league.

“The D-League is now established to where there’s enough critical mass,” said Tim Salier, SS&E Vice President of Franchise Business Operations. “You can see the development and the impact of Austin at every San Antonio Spurs game.”

When Spurs Sports & Entertainment bought the Austin Spurs (then the Toros) in 2007, the Spurs became the second NBA team to own a D-League franchise.

The D-League has continued to expand, with three new teams in the 2016-17 season for a total of 22. Sixteen of the teams have an NBA parent club as their owner, and two more teams have been announced to start play in future seasons.

 “People have more and more respect for this league as we go on,” McDonald said. “There are so many great athletes and great college players, and when you see how many go on to NBA success, it just shows you how good the talent is here.”

The excitement has continued to build in Austin, as attendance and season ticket membership has tripled since 2012-13. For the first time, Austin’s first two rows are sold out for the season.

Austin added a partner in VirtuCrypt, a locally-based cloud security service, in addition to Central Texas Pain Center, Dahill and season presenter SWBC.

“Being able to partner with such a rising force in the D-League has been so much fun for us,” said Adam Cason, Director of Product Marketing at VirtuCrypt. “The Spurs are recognized everywhere in Austin and San Antonio, and to see the rising stars in Austin and take ownership of that is a thrill.”

 

lchan@attcenter.com

For the second straight season, the Austin Spurs will make an appearance at the AT&T Center as they take on the Delaware 87ers on March 9. Tickets starting at $10 are available at ticketmaster.com

Related Content