Spurs (14-7) vs. Memphis Grizzlies (7-13)
When, where: 7 p.m., Wednesday, Memphis
Season series: Spurs 104, Grizzlies 95
Last meeting: Spurs 104, Grizzlies 95, Nov. 29, 2017, AT&T Center
Grizzlies’ last game: Lost to Spurs 104-95, Wednesday, AT&T Center
Spurs’ last game: Beat Grizzlies 104-95, Wednesday, AT&T Center
Grizzlies’ last 10 games, streak: 1-9, lost nine
Spurs’ last 10 games, streak: 7-3, won three
Notable: LaMarcus Aldridge is the first Spur to score at least 40 points on less than 25 shots since Manu Ginobili had 44 on 13-of-18 shooting at Minnesota on Feb. 21, 2008.
He isn’t the most athletic player you’ll ever see in an NBA uniform, and his nickname pretty much nails how he moves on the court.
But Spurs forward Kyle Anderson, aka “Slo Mo,” can flat-out play basketball.
“Just a very crafty, all-around player,” guard Patty Mills said this week, describing Anderson. “For his size, his length, his ability to handle the ball, he can definitely do a lot. As we laugh about it (his lack of speed), it is true.
“He definitely has a unique way about him and the pace that he goes about it, which is effective and catches defenders off guard. He’s obviously making a big impact in a good way for our team this year.”
After taking Thursday off, Anderson and the Spurs (14-7) play the Grizzlies (7-13) at 7 p.m. Friday in Memphis. The Silver and Black beat the Grizzlies 104-95 Wednesday night at the AT&T Center, handing them their ninth consecutive loss.
Long praised by coach Gregg Popovich for his “high basketball IQ,” Anderson has been one of the team’s most consistent players through the Spurs’ 21 games the season. He has started every game at All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard’s position since the preseason, averaging 9.2 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 27.9 minutes – all career highs.
Anderson, 24, was selected by the Spurs with the No. 30 overall pick in the first round of the 2014 NBA draft. He played two seasons at UCLA before turning pro.
Ask Anderson what aspects of his game he enjoys most and his reply reflects his blue-collar, team-first mentality.
“I would say just being unselfish and rebounding,” Anderson said. “Not necessarily always getting the assist, but hitting the right man. That’s the way the game’s supposed to be played. I think grabbing rebounds shows you’re out there giving effort. I would say those two would be my favorite.”
Anderson is the only Spur this season who has recorded a double-double with points and rebounds and another with points and assists. He had 12 points and 10 rebounds against Dallas on Monday, and finished with 13 points and 10 assists against Atlanta on Nov. 20. Anderson also had a career-high five assists in a win at Charlotte last week.
Whether he’s scoring, passing for an assist, rebounding or playing defense, Anderson makes plays on both ends of the court. While not flashy or great at any one thing, he simply gets the job done.
“I guess just his overall basketball IQ,” Popovich said, when asked if there’s one aspect of Anderson’s game that stands out. “He’s like a utility infielder in baseball. He can do a little bit of everything. He sets an example. He works hard.
“He’s worked into this role. Obviously, he’s gotten more minutes because of Kawhi’s injury, but he’s been like that from day one. He got a lot more minutes last year in the playoffs, and really started to blossom.”
Anderson, 6-foot-9 and 230 pounds, has scored in double figures in 12 games this season. His season high for double-figure games heading into the season was 10 (2015-16).
After starting for a quarter of the season, Anderson is playing with confidence and contributing in ways that don’t always appear in the box score.
“I’m just going out there and playing basketball,” Anderson said. “Nothing really special, just finding the open teammate, things like that, playing my game.”
Does Anderson feel more relaxed now that he’s starting?
“You still want to play to stay in the game, but I guess you get that leeway,” he said. “You’re a little more open to try different things and take that risk. It’s obviously tougher playing when you’ve got someone coming to get (replace) you if you do mess up.”
Leonard has been out since before the start of training camp with tendinopathy in his right quadriceps. Popovich said this week that Leonard is getting closer to returning.
“I haven’t really thought about it,” Anderson said. “Just trying to play well enough, so I can stay on the floor when he (Leonard) does come back. I don’t want to go back to the bench. I’ll come off the bench, but I don’t want to go back (to playing limited minutes).”
Who could blame him?
Up next for the Spurs after Friday's game: at Oklahoma City, Sunday, 6 p.m.