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'It would mean a lot' | Spurs' Lonnie Walker IV sees Play-In berth a huge step in young team's development

San Antonio is closing in on a spot in the 2022 NBA Play-In tournament.
Credit: AP
San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 9, 2022, in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

SAN ANTONIO — Currently, the Spurs are 29-44 good for the 11th spot in the West and are close to a possible Play-In tournament spot.

Ahead of them in the standings are the Lakers and Pelicans, making Saturday's game versus New Orleans critical to moving into the Play-In.

And should the Spurs secure a spot, it would be a huge accomplishment for a young Spurs team. "It would mean a lot," said Spurs' Lonnie Walker IV at the recent LaVernia High School "Never Give Up" pep rally. "This is truly our first time playing together as the young core. So all the experience we're getting, we're still growing, we're still learning, we're still getting better day by day."

Since the inception of the tournament, San Antonio has played in it once as the 10th seed in 2021 versus Memphis. That team had veterans Patty Mills, Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan leading the charge in the 100-96 loss.

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Now with the veteran players gone from the roster, making the Play-In would be a boon for the young Spurs' development as they eager to prove they can handle a high-pressure game.

"Being able to get into the Play-In and be able to play in that type of atmosphere and get that gain, that type of experience is one to none," Walker said. "And God willingly, if we continue to do what we're doing and play hard, make it to the playoffs."

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Granted, there is something to say about adding more losses to the record in a talent-rich 2022 NBA Draft.

However, a playoff-like atmosphere, a team without much NBA playoff experience, and the youngest roster in the Gregg Popovich era, a Play-In berth would definitely be something the player would embrace and see as a positive step in the right direction.

"That's something that we all want to endure and enjoy and embrace and live through and play through and grow," Walker said. "We're a young team." 

Credit: AP
San Antonio Spurs guard Lonnie Walker IV (1) during an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in San Antonio, Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The debate about whether the Spurs should tank or not hasn't missed the team.

Earlier this season, Popovich address the topic saying as a coach, he cannot ask his players to intentionally lose but sees the logic in the debate.

"You have to understand that about fans. It's totally logical that they might think that way," Popovich said. "You can't go to your team and ask them to lose. You can't do that."

Keep in mind, this young Spurs squad could gain value in their basketball development that could pay dividends in the franchise's current rebuild.

The team already has a war chest of draft picks, three first-round picks, more than enough cap space, and young players seeking to prove themselves.

RELATED: Live updates on the Spurs play-in chances and draft lottery odds

GM Brian Wright showed he isn't opposed to making a flurry of trades and that could happen again in the offseason if it means fast-forwarding the rebuild to bring the Spurs back to the NBA's upper echelon. 

Adding any kind of playoff-like experience would help.

It is why Walker sees value in the team's future to make the Play-In tournament this season.

"Being able to hit certain goals, such as the Play-In or the playoffs, I think it would mean a lot to the future of the Spurs organization," he said.

Twitter: @KENS5, @JeffGSpursZone

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