McDermott: ‘There’s nothing like playing at home’

Spurs’ to play final game at AT&T Center Wednesday night against Utah

Luke Lawhorn, Sports Editor

With seemingly nothing to play for, there is no quit in the Spurs.

Unlike many veterans in the NBA, Spurs rookie Malaki Branham is happy to be a part of an organization that continues intense practices with only two weeks left in the season.

“I love it,” Branham said. “I’m glad the coaches are not BS-ing it.”

San Antonio is entering its final seven games of the regular season and is practicing as if they are heading into the playoffs and not the association’s draft lottery. 

With almost no guarantees on who will remain on the team’s roster next season and what new additions General Manager Brian Wright will make, all the players can do now is improve together.

“I think every game counts. Every practice counts, especially when you have a young team like we do,” forward Doug McDermott said. “Every rep for these guys is good. We just got to keep building. We know we have two weeks left, so we might as well give it our all going into a long summer.”

The ambitious and competitive attitudes the young talent brings to the team are contagious. Instead of packing it in, Branham and the rest of the team feed off of the 74-year-old coach’s energy.

“He’s got so much energy every day,” McDermott said. “I hope I have that same energy when I’m in my 70s.”

Same here, Doug.

“Every day he keeps it fun, he keeps it loose,” McDermott continued. “It’s bigger than basketball with him. It’s great to have that perspective every day.”

McDermott, who is the second oldest player on the team at 31 years old, often forgets his own league experience amongst his squad along with his joyful head coach.

“I think this group keeps us all young,” McDermott said. “It even keeps me young. I feel like I’m in my fifth year, not my ninth.”

The teams’ youth has come with tons of growing pains, though.

The inexperience of Branham, alongside 19-year-old Jeremy Sochan and leading scorers Keldon Johnson and Devin Vassell, has resulted in San Antonio’s 56 losses with seven games to go.

With a bottom three-seed seemingly locked up, the Spurs’ competitive edge still says to go out and play hard.

“We still want to win each game,” McDermott said. “I know we haven’t won a ton this year, but we go into the mindset every game trying to win.”

The Spurs head into Wednesday’s game against Utah, their final game at the AT&T Center.

San Antonio has seen four world championships since moving into their home building in 2002 and will be more than happy to close this year’s disappointing — but expected — campaign.

Four of San Antonio’s 41 home games are played outside of the AT&T Center.

The first came on December 17 in a loss to Miami in Mexico City; the second was the Spurs’ return to the Alamodome on January 13 in a loss to Golden State.

The final two home games for San Antonio will take place in Austin at the Moody Center in an attempt to grow the Spurs’ fanbase.

“I forgot those games were in Austin, so I got to start packing now,” McDermott chuckled. “It’ll be cool playing in front of those fans up there as well, but there’s nothing like playing at home.”

The Spurs will hope to win at least one of the two home-away-from-home games. 

“It’s been so much fun with these guys,” McDermott said. “Losing sucks, obviously, but we know there is a bigger picture here.”

The first game to take place at the Moody Center will be on Thursday, April 6, against the Trailblazers. The second game will come against the Timberwolves on Saturday, April 8.