For more of my coverage of this game, visit the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. For my Spurs’ season preview, click here.
DION WAITERS STEALS THE SHOW
Dion Waiters is far from the first player who comes to mind when you think about Oklahoma City’s end-of-game options.
But Waiters stepped up in the final minutes against the Thunder’s 112-106 opening night victory against San Antonio, knocking down two jumpshots over Spurs’ guard Tony Parker to give OKC the lead.
With Kevin Durant struggling in his matchup with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, Kawhi Leonard, and with San Antonio putting defensive ace Danny Green on Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City went to Waiters, who had a size mismatch on Parker.
“A lot of point guards like to guard our (shooting guard),” Westbrook said. “I think it’s my job to be able to find the mismatch. Dion did a good job of knocking down some big shots.”
Waiters’ first shot was a pull-up jumper late in the clock with 2:11 to play, which tied the game at 103. On the next possession, the Thunder ran a mid-post isolation for Waiters, who faced up Parker and drilled a stepback jumper to put OKC ahead by two.
“(I) got a chance to do what I do,” Waiters said. “We went to the mismatch and I made big shots.”
JUMPMAN, JUMPMAN, JUMPMAN
Hip-hop is the music genre of choice in most NBA lockerrooms.
However, anyone who hasn’t been in the San Antonio Spurs’ lockerroom might assume coach Gregg Popovich has Bethoven’s 5th Symphony playing on an endless loop instead of Rich Homie Quan’s latest single.
In reality, the Spurs are rarely jamming out to anything before games, but that didn’t stop Spurs’ guard Manu Ginobili from learning his name was a lyric in Drake’s hit new song “Jumpman.”
“It’s kind of hard not to be find out about those things nowadays,” Ginobili said.
Ironically, Oklahoma City’s entrance music on Wednesday night was “Jumpman.”
“I hit that Ginobili with my left hand up like woo,” Drake says in the first verse of the song, which is a collaboration with fellow rapper Future.
Although Ginobili, who hails from Argentina and likely has a musical taste more in line with his coach, didn’t seem overly impressed by the mention, one of his younger teammates, guard Ray McCallum, celebrated the achievement for him.
“It’s funny that you say that,” McCallum said, “because he hasn’t mentioned one word about it.
“The rest of us know about it. If that was me, I would embrace it, but that kind of stuff is not really important to him. You wouldn’t know he was on one of the hotest verses out there unless you brought it up to him.”
On Friday, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was named the coach of Team USA for 2017-2020. When asked if Thunder star Kevin Durant is a player he’d like to coach with the national team, Popovich responded in a way only he can.
“I don’t know if he is good enough,” Popovich said.
When asked if he was pleased with the way LaMarcus Aldridge has fit in with the Spurs offense, Pop offered up another sarcastic reply.
“Sure, I am,” Popovich said. “And if I wasn’t I wouldn’t say that. I would just lie to you. So, silly question.”
After the game, Thunder coach Billy Donovan said it was special to go up against Popovich in his NBA debut, detailing how Popovich had welcomed him to be around the Spurs last year so he could pick the collective brain of San Antonio’s coaching staff.
This was surprising to hear, for three hours earlier, Popovich had a one-word response when asked if he had ever spoken to Donovan about anything basketball related or otherwise.
“No,” Popovich said.