Spurs win: San Antonio tops Orlando in preseason finale.
Third-year point guard latest to take over what has become the most cursed position
ORLANDO, Fla. — Bryn Forbes believes he can do this, and that should surprise nobody.
In his two-plus seasons with the Spurs, a lack of confidence never has been Forbes’ weakness.
So when the Spurs’ newest starting point guard says he has no fear about manning what has suddenly become the NBA’s most cursed position, believe him.
“We’re going the make it work,” Forbes said Friday before drawing his first start of the preseason in the Spurs’ 100-81 victory at Orlando. “The last three years, that was the biggest change in my game, learning the point guard position. That was what I worked on the most.”
A dead-eyed shooter, Forbes earned an NBA contract after going undrafted out of Michigan State because of his ability to put the ball in the hole.
Now, with point guards dropping left and right around him, Forbes is going to be asked to run the Spurs’ whole show.
The Spurs have lost three guards to injury in the past week. The most recent was Derrick White, who it was announced Friday tore the plantar fascia in his left foot during Wednesday’s preseason loss at Atlanta.
White had replaced Dejounte Murray, who earlier in the week succumbed to a torn right anterior cruciate ligament. Two days before that, the Spurs lost another player who might have figured in the guard rotation — rookie Lonnie Walker IV — to a torn meniscus in his right knee.
Forbes wasn’t the Spurs’ first choice to be their opening-night starting point guard. For now, coach Gregg Popovich believes Forbes to be the best remaining choice.
Even so, Popovich cautions not to expect the world from Forbes as a lead guard.
“He’s not going to be John Stockton,” Popovich said.
Upon his arrival to the Spurs’ program in 2016, the team immediately began to cross train him as a point guard. Players of Forbes’ size — he is 6-foot-3 — generally need point-guard skills to survive in the NBA.
The Spurs sent Forbes to their G-League team in Austin, with instructions to play him primarily at the point.
“He got some experience,” Popovich said. “He’s not a point, but it gave him a chance to work on his ball-handling and his confidence.”
Forbes’ inaugural point guard start went well enough Friday. He scored eight points on 8-of-11 shooting, logged six rebounds, three assists and committed two turnovers in 26 minutes.
More importantly, considering the way the week has gone for the Spurs, Forbes left the Amway Center upright.
He spent much time working on his body during the offseason to better survive the rigors of the NBA calendar. Forbes worked out
near his home in Michigan, living in the weight room while also running on hills and sand.
He said he put on about eight or nine pounds of muscle, a reshaping that also included a change in his diet. Forbes said he ate four or five meals per day during the summer, loaded up on carbs and protein, and cut out fried foods and sweets.
French fries and pizza were the most difficult sacrifices to make, he said.
“I take my body seriously,” Forbes said. “That was a big part of the deal the summer, lifting and trying to stay healthy.”
If Forbes is able to accomplish that second goal, he will already have an advantage over others to man the Spurs’ point guard position this preseason.
“You don’t ever expect that, three point guards going down,” Forbes said. “I think we’ve got so many threats offensively, and a lot a guys can bring the ball up. We’re going to be OK.”
Defense returns: Popovich and other Spurs veterans say they were pleased with the team’s defensive improvements Friday, two days after allowing Atlanta to score 130 points.
By halftime in Orlando, the Magic needed a 100-point second half to match the total the Hawks laid on the Spurs. They wouldn’t get it.
The Spurs held Orlando to 37.1 percent shooting and took control of the game early by limiting the Magic to 10 first-quarter points.
The Magic were the third opponent in five preseason games to hit less than 40 percent of their shots against the Spurs.
“I thought the defense was very good,” Popovich said. “They took a step forward in some of the things we were trying to do gameplan wise.”
LaMarcus Aldridge called Friday night “a good step in the right direction, being better with schemes.”
It will take a collective effort for the Spurs to maintain their usual defensive standard, especially with Murray — their lone representative on last year’s NBA AllDefensive team — out for the season.
“I think these guys realize they’ve each got to pick it up,” Popovich said. “It’s all about the defense, especially on the road. They showed that tonight. Hopefully, it will continue.”
Recalling Winter: Spurs center Pau Gasol remembered Hall of Fame coach Tex Winter as “a special person and special coach.”
Winter, the architect of the famed “Triangle” offense Phil Jackson road to 11 championships with Chicago and the L.A. Lakers, died Wednesday at 94.
Winter was an assistant with the Lakers when Gasol arrived in 2008 and later was a frequent practice visitor in his role as unofficial consultant.
“He would come around every so often,” Gasol said. “He would still bring his spirit and his principles. He would still be a critic when you weren’t executing the ‘Triangle’ well or doing what you were supposed to do. His presence was always noticed.”
Gregg Popovich and the Spurs won the preseason finale, but enter the regular season with three point guards lost to injury.