SAN ANTONIO — The Spurs played with a new roster on Monday night, and even with the rust you'd expect in a preseason opener, San Antonio looked like a crisp and effective team from top to bottom in a 111-85 win over the shorthanded Jazz.
Dejounte Murray led the way early and finished with 17 points in a balanced effort that turned into an early blowout, and 18-year-old rookie Josh Primo delighted fans with 17 points of his own in his home debut, scored in a variety of ways.
As he left the court fans chanted his name, and it's a moment that will stick with him for a long time.
"It was crazy, just knowing that I haven't played in front of a big crowd like that ever, so hearing that, we have great fans, clearly, and they made sure we all knew that during the game," said Primo, who credited his teammates with keeping him confident and telling him to be aggressive and play freely.
Primo said this was a good game for everyone to build rhythm and confidence, and coach Gregg Popovich agreed.
“What I was interested mostly is what kind of carryover we would have from practices, and I was pleased with that," he said. "A lot of guys tried to do what we talked about, so that was good. Their effort, their aggressiveness lasted for the whole 48. That was impressive also. When we finally started making some more shots, that was even more impressive. Overall, I think it was a good outing. Obviously, they didn’t have all their guys, so don’t get too excited, but it was a very good effort by a lot of guys.”
Keldon Johnson scored 10 points, playing a bit more with the ball in his hands. Doug McDermott didn't hit a three, but showed off his ability as a cutter in the starting lineup. Jakob Poeltl anchored a stout and switchy team defense, Drew Eubanks' effort, energy and shooting stroke popped, and Jock Landale hit a couple of threes in his NBA debut.
It was a good shooting night for Bryn Forbes and Devin Vassell, not so much for Derrick White and Lonnie Walker IV, but this team is built to move the ball and attack from all angles. Every unit worked well to generate open shots, even if they didn't fall.
"That’s one thing we’ve been working on in open gym to training camp is sharing the ball and want the best for your teammate, because we all have the same goal, which is win," said Dejounte Murray. "We’re just trying to share the ball. Shots are going to fall.”
"They hit the open man, pace was real good, the ball moved, people moved just the way we need to play," said Popovich. "That was very fine.”
One guy who seemed to move differently out there was Primo, who showed so much more than the catch-and-shoot style that he played at Alabama. He showed creativity off the bounce and hit 7-8 from the floor, including a game-high three triples.
San Antonio shot six more attempts from deep than they averaged last year and hit 35%, with many short misses attributable to rust. The defense looked crisp, attentive, angry at times.
PHOTOS: New-look Spurs dominate shorthanded Jazz in preseason opener, Josh Primo dazzles in San Antonio debut
Sure, it's game one of the preseason, and as Coach Pop was the first to point out, the Jazz were without key guys. Still, San Antonio showed a lot of encouraging signs in a big win on Monday night.
Neither Thad Young nor Al-Farouq Aminu played in the preseason opener, further fueling speculation about what comes next for the players the Spurs acquired in the DeMar DeRozan sign and trade.