Spurs’ Blake Wesley to take on more responsibility

Photo of Jeff McDonald
San Antonio Spurs guard Blake Wesley (14) drives as Utah Jazz guard Ochai Agbaji (30) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

San Antonio Spurs guard Blake Wesley (14) drives as Utah Jazz guard Ochai Agbaji (30) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Rick Bowmer, STF / Associated Press

Ninety minutes before the Spurs tipped off in Utah on Tuesday, coach Gregg Popovich seemed confident he might finally have a full complement of point guards at his disposal.

Tre Jones was on the court warming up, testing his sore left foot in hopes of playing for the first time since Feb. 11 at Atlanta.

“He’s going to give it a shot,” Popovich said.

The workout did not go well enough. Jones was eventually scratched for the ninth time in 10 games.

By the end of a streak-ending 102-94 victory over the Jazz, the Spurs were down to one healthy point guard.

Rookie Malaki Branham, who had been starting in Jones’ spot, limped off the floor in the second half with back spasms.

That left fellow rookie Blake Wesley to handle the ball for much of the second half.

Wesley responded with perhaps his best all-around game as a pro, scoring nine points with six rebounds and tripling his season high with three steals.

On ExpressNews.com: Spurs’ Bates-Diop hopes his best NBA season leads to another one

Spurs (15-47)

at Pacers (28-35)

When, where: 7:30 p.m., AT&T Center

TV/radio: KENS, 1200 AM, 1350 AM (Spanish), 107.5 FM (Spanish)


Spurs: PG Malaki Branham (6-4, 1st), SG Keita Bates-Diop (6-8 5th), SF Keldon Johnson (6-5, 4th), PF Jeremy Sochan (6-9, 1st), C Zach Collins (6-5, 5th).

Pacers: PG Tyrese Haliburton (6-5, 3rd), SG Andrew Nembhard (6-4, 1st), SF Buddy Hield (6-4, 7th), PF Aaron Nesmith (6-6, 3rd), C Myles Turner (6-11, 8th).


Spurs: G Devonte' Graham (6-1, 5th), F Doug McDermott (6-7, 9th), G Blake Wesley (6-4, 1st year), F/C Charles Bassey (6-9, 2nd), F/C Gorgui Dieng (6-11, 10th), F/C Dominic Barlow (6-9, 1st). Inactive: Tre Jones (foot), Khem Birch (knee), Isaiah Roby (ankle), Romeo Langford (adductor), Devin Vassell (left knee procedure), Julian Champaigne (G League, two-way).

Pacers: F Jordan Nwora (6-9, 2nd), G/F Bennedict Mathurin (6-6, 1s), F Jalen Smith (6-10, 3rd), G T.J. McConnell (6-2, 8th), G Chris Duarte (6-6, 2nd), F Oshae Brissett (6-7, 4th), G George Hill (6-4, 14th), F Isaiah Jackson (6-10, 2nd), F/C James Johnson (6-7, 13th), C Daniel Theis (6-8, 6th). Inactive: Kendall Brown (tibia), Trevelin Queen (G League, two-way).


Spurs: Gregg Popovich

Pacers: Rick Carlisle


Spurs: Points, Johnson, 21.8 per game; rebounds, Collins, 6.0; assists, Jones, 6.3; steals, Jones, 1.3; blocks, Bassey, 0.9.

Pacers: Points, Haliburton, 20.1 per game; rebounds, Turner, 8.0; assists, Haliburton, 10.1; steals, Haliburton, 1.7; blocks, Turner, 2.3.


• With Tuesday's 124-122 win at Dallas, the Pacers have won two in a row on the road after losing 11 straight. They are 10-20 on the road overall.

• The Spurs have lost five straight home games and are 9-21 overall at the AT&T Center. In the season's first meeting between the former ABA foes, they beat the Pacers 137-124 on Oct. 21 in San Antonio.

• In his last 10 games, Turner is averaging 18.2 points, eight rebounds and 2.3 blocks. The Texas-ex had 24 points on 10 of 13 and four blocks against the Mavericks on Tuesday.

Tom Orsborn

“That’s the Blake Wesley we’re used to seeing,” forward Keldon Johnson said. “I told him he’s looking like himself. He was picking up and getting into people and disrupting the game.”

The speedy Wesley, drafted 25th overall out of Notre Dame, missed 2 ½ months after suffering a torn MCL two games in October.

He is at last beginning to find his footing after the false start to his professional career.

Depending on what happens with the Spurs’ injury report, Wesley could be the starting point guard when the team returns to the AT&T Center to face Indiana on Thursday.

Wesley played point guard part time during his one season in college, but earned most of his minutes playing off the ball for the Fighting Irish.

Handling the ball has been a big part of his adjustment to the NBA game.

“There’s some tough defenders out here,” Wesley said. “I still have to get better with my handles, but overall I feel good.”

On ExpressNews.com: Gregg Popovich praises Keldon Johnson, Zach Collins for toughness

Wesley played a key role in the Spurs’ victory on Tuesday, which snapped a club-record 16-game losing streak.

Not only did Wesley knock down a pair of 3-pointers against the Jazz, he was a veritable defensive menace playing baseline to baseline.

“When Blake is picking up full court,” Johnson said, “it’s a game-changer.”

With his top-shelf speed, Wesley often finds himself in the paint with decisions to make.

Making the right ones is the next step in Wesley’s development, Popovich said.

In the second half Tuesday, Wesley blew a fast-break opportunity by missing a tough reverse layup that was heavily contested. A few moments later, Wesley drove the lane then fired the ball into the front row when looking for teammate Charles Bassey.

“Blake is starting to figure out he’s got some speed,” Popovich said. “He understands that decisions at the rim are what he’s got to figure out now. He’s a young man. It takes time.”

Sochan makes new fan of Jazz’s Hardy

Consider Utah coach Will Hardy among the growing legion of Jeremy Sochan fans.

After watching the Spurs rookie forward in consecutive games this week, Hardy came away with a keen understanding why Popovich loves him so much.

“He is tenacious,” Hardy said. “The way he approaches the game, from the minute the ball is tossed up, is impressive.”

Over two games against the Jazz on Saturday and Tuesday, Sochan totaled 35 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists.

He made an impression on Hardy, a Spurs staffer from 2010 to 2021.

“That’s something Pop probably enjoys very much, that defensive mindset and toughness every game,” Hardy said. “I really respect the way he plays the game. He doesn’t take possessions off.”


Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN