I don’t know what prompted such a sudden change of heart, but it seems all but official now: the Basketball Gods hate the San Antonio Spurs. The team announced today that point guard of the present and future Dejounte Murray suffered a torn ACL in their Sunday night defeat to the Houston Rockets.
Dejounte Murray has a torn ACL, the Spurs announced today. pic.twitter.com/mrHtUEm6k4
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) October 8, 2018
In his three preseason appearances this year, Murray averaged 8.7 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists per NBA.com.
Last season, he won the starting job over veteran Tony Parker in mid-January. He looked primed to become an essential part of this new post-Tim Duncan/Manu Ginobili/Parker/Kawhi Leonard San Antonio core. He won All-Defensive Second Team honors in his sophomore season and was steadily improving his raw offensive skill set too.
The Spurs encountered plenty of drama this offseason with the Kawhi Leonard relationship quickly deteriorating. Many had assumed the proverbial torch was going to be passed from Duncan to Leonard the way it was passed between David Robinson and Duncan. Of course, Leonard’s unhappiness with the team prevented this transition of power.
Thankfully, the Spurs were able to salvage the team by trading Leonard to the Toronto Raptors for DeMar DeRozan. And while DeRozan is not on the same level as Kawhi, he is a more than capable All-Star caliber player. And alongside a budding Dejounte Murray, who is much more facilitator than scorer, there was hope that head coach Gregg Popovich would find a way to make it all work together – developing Murray and getting the most out of DeRozan at the same time.
On October 1, Sports Illustrated’s Michael Shapiro wrote a column entitled “Can Dejounte Murray Lead the Spurs Into a New Era?”
In it, he ultimately asserted that Murray probably wouldn’t be the face of this new era but will be a critical building block for it:
“… Murray’s ability through two seasons should thrill the San Antonio faithful, with another late first-rounder showing the promise of a potential building block. Murray will make his money as a defensive ace, but expect a significant leap on the other end of the floor in year three. Murray is quick with his head and feet, and will continue to evolve his shooting form. He won’t be the next Kawhi, but Murray should become another homegrown member of the Spurs’ core for years to come.”
But now, Murray is out indefinitely.
And a torn ACL is nothing to scoff at. It may affect some of what makes Murray so effective, namely his leaping ability which gives him an edge in rebounding against other backcourts. Torn ACLs typically take six-to-nine months to return from.
In ESPN’s story about the injury, San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was quoted saying:
“Devastating injury for him and the team, but life goes on. Everybody will pick up, and we will do the best job we can to carry on without him.”
As the team awaits Murray’s recovery, Patty Mills will likely start in his place. Mills started in 36 of his 82 appearances last season. While he performed decently, the team clearly prefers the look he provides for the second-unit and alongside the starting point guard.
One silver lining in Murray’s injury is that it may free some minutes up for second-year guard Derrick White, who the Spurs seem excited about. So far this preseason, he’s averaged 7.3 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per NBA.com.
Still, what Popovich said is right: Murray’s situation is devastating for himself, the team, and Spurs fans.
The biggest worry is that the time Murray will miss will stunt some of the positive momentum he’s had rolling through from last season. For a point guard that so desperately needs to improve his jump-shot and general feel for the offensive side of the ball, he needs reps. Tons of them. And this injury forces him to postpone the inevitable growing pains he must go through.
No doubt, Murray’s absence will make the San Antonio Spurs’ road to a 22nd consecutive playoff appearance that much tougher.