The San Antonio Spurs are on the postseason bubble and jockeying for a spot in the play-in tournament, but their fight got a little bit harder after losing point guard Derrick White for the remainder of the regular season with an ankle injury.
White sprained his ankle on Monday night. He was ruled out of Wednesday’s game and, just before tip-off, head coach Gregg Popovich confirmed that the Spurs will shut White down for the rest of the regular season. The Spurs have 11 games remaining.
“You can imagine his spirits are not high,” said Popovich.
White was averaging a career-high 15.4 points, 3.5 assists, and 3.0 rebounds for the Spurs this season. He missed almost a dozen games in January due to a toe injury. White emerged as the Spurs’ third-best scorer behind DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray.
The Spurs selected White out of Colorado with the #29 overall pick from the 2017 NBA Draft. He’s steadily improved every season, starting in 107 out of 188 games.
San Antonio’s Slide
The Spurs (31-30) struggled in the second half of the season with a 9-14 record since mid-March. They had a pair of five-game losing streaks during their recent slide.
The plan is to give White as much rest as possible and hope he can return to the team for the play-in tournament if the Spurs can finish the season with the #9 or #10 seed. The Spurs currently occupy the #9 seed. The Golden State Warriors are also on the playoff bubble with the #10 seed, but Steph Curry and company could seize this opportunity to make up ground on the Spurs while White is down.
The New Orleans Pelicans are #11 and currently four games behind the Spurs. The Pelicans would have to embark on a winning streak to coincide with a Spurs collapse.
Just before the trade deadline, the Spurs parted ways with veteran big man LaMarcus Aldridge. They agreed to a contract buyout and he signed a deal with the Brooklyn Nets. Aldridge’s stint with Brooklyn was short-lived; he had to retire prematurely due to a newly diagnosed heart condition.
Devin Vassell Next Man Up
Pops and the Spurs will now rely on rookie Devin Vassell to fill in for White. The Spurs selected Vassell out of FSU with the #11 overall pick from the 2020 NBA Draft. He averaged 4.9 ppg in limited action this season. Now, Vassell gets a chance to become an impact player with a postseason berth on the line.
“When Devin gets minutes, he’s played well,” said Popovich.
In his first game replacing White, Vassell tallied 11 points in 25 minutes of action in a loss against the Miami Heat.
Without White, Pops will lean on DeRozan and Murray to provide a bigger scoring punch. Expect swingman Keldon Johnson (12.9 ppg) to elevate his game down the stretch. Lonnie Walker IV (10.7 ppg) should also see increased playing time for the final 11 games.