OK, so the closing seconds of a preseason game isn't exactly the most dramatic moment or most pressure-packed proving ground a player can face, but still, as was the case with the game-clinching layup that Ty Lawson dropped in over the weekend, it's just cool to have some late-game intrigue back in our lives. So thanks for that, San Antonio Spurs and Atlanta Hawks, and thanks for giving us the kicker, Nando De Colo.
Coach Gregg Popovich kept stars Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili (as well as point guard Patty Mills and noted pugilist/forward Matt Bonner) on the bench for the team's preseason opener, so with the score tied in the game's final minute, it was up to the Spurs' reserves to send the AT&T Center crowd home happy. With less than five seconds to go and the two teams knotted at 99, rookie swingman Wesley Witherspoon triggered the sideline inbounds to De Colo, who'd cut from the far block to the center of the court above the 3-point arc.
The 25-year-old guard quickly squared up, attacked Atlanta defender Carldell "Squeaky" Johnson, dribbled left and drained a semi-contested 20-footer from the left elbow with less than one second remaining, nailing down a 101-99 San Antonio win. (And perhaps most importantly, as Andrew McNeill of Spurs blog 48 Minutes of Hell wrote, save everybody from the horrors of preseason overtime on a Wednesday night.)
The game-winner jumper brought a satisfying end to a solid NBA debut (11 points, nine assists, two rebounds, two steals, three turnovers in 28 minutes) for De Colo, whom the Spurs drafted in the second round of the 2009 NBA draft but has played in Spain for the past three seasons. And according to Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News, the 6-foot-5 rookie has not Coach Pop, but rather his French national teammate to thank for the opportunity to drop the dagger:
It came out of a play drawn up by Parker in the timeout huddle, just after the Hawks had tied the game on a 3-pointer by Mike Scott.
[...] Parker put the ball in the hands of De Colo and issued instructions usually reserved for a certain Argentine.
Just make a play. [...]
"I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do," De Colo said. "I saw (Johnson) far off me, so I took a shot."
It's not the first time Pop's let one of his stars take the reins on the sidelines in preseason — McNeill reminds us of Manu Ginobili, whiteboard in hand, scribbling an offensive set in Mexico City a couple of years back — and hey, with results like these (and virtually no stakes whatsoever), who can blame him?
De Colo was one of six Spurs in double figures on Wednesday night, led by ex-Los Angeles Lakers bench big Josh Powell, who scored 14 points in 17 minutes. Former No. 4 overall pick Eddy Curry, in camp battling Powell and Derrick Brown (10 points, two rebounds, one assist) for San Antonio's final frontcourt roster spot after winning a ring last season with the Miami Heat, started for Duncan at center, chipping in 11 points and eight rebounds in 25 1/2 minutes of burn. Scott and Damion James led Atlanta with 11 apiece.