Aron Baynes and other notes from Spurs 102-78 win against Bobcats

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AT&T CENTER—New to the San Antonio Spurs, the city, and the NBA itself, Australian rookie Aron Baynes is still finding his way around.

For all intents and purposes, Baynes has been living in the Spurs practice facility, spending hours trying to get up to speed on learning the Spurs system and lacking time to settle into a proper dwelling just yet. Not everyone gets the Boris Diaw recruiting package. Patty Mills, after all, doesn’t have a guest house and car available for fellow countrymen.

“I think Tony’s got a little extra square footage,” quipped Spurs guard Danny Green.

They may not share living accommodations, but Baynes and Mills shared a moment the French might be envious of, connecting on a lob pass in the closing minutes of the Spurs victory over the Charlotte Bobcats.

“I’ve been playing with him for four years,  I have an understanding of the way he plays,” Baynes said. “I just wanted to finish that one, I didn’t want to kill his assist.”

Baynes finished his first extended NBA run with a respectable line of seven points and nine rebounds. There were also three turnovers, a byproduct Baynes need to get accustomed to NBA officiating (he can set some jarring picks, but he also has a tendency to lean into them).

On defense, Baynes moved his feet surprisingly well, being the only big man to attempt to hedge on picks with any bit of success. It remains to be seen how Baynes protects the rim, but if he can hedge and recover—something he showed the potential to do—it adds a wrinkle to the Spurs defense when or if he finds a spot in Gregg Popovich’s rotation.

“He’s a very strong and a very hard playing young man,” said Pop after the game, “It was good to give him some minutes and to get a look at him. I thought he did a fine job.”

The minutes will be important but likely scarce for Baynes, who understandably was lost at times on the court. There were a few times teammates directed him to the proper spots on the court and either Diaw or Tim Duncan appeared to spend a good amount of time in his ear.

“There’s still a lot for me to learn, everyone can help me out and get me to the right place if I’m not in the right place,” said Baynes.

[Stuff] happens, especially while Pop’s gone: The Spurs turned in a sloppy performance against the Bobcats, giving the ball away 23 times.

Baynes, whose NBA debut began with a turnover on an inbounds play against the Mavericks, opened his night up with another turnover, setting an illegal screen for Parker and setting up this funny exchange with Danny Green:

Baynes: “It’s not the way you really want to start out. But at the same time, [stuff] happens.”

Green: “Pop’s going to be all pissed off at those [stuff] happens plays, I can tell you that. We had a few of those while he was away. It was like we were thinking for ourselves three games in a row.”

Kawhi Leonard, Rising Star: Given his skill set of defense, rebounding, spot-up shooting, and off the ball cuts, I expect Leonard to get lost some in an All-Star weekend environment as a participant in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge. While his ability to create offensive plays remains a work in progress, he does a lot of the little things on that end that help teams win games.

Last night, Leonard showed a staple of his early self-created offense: the two dribble pull-up jumper. Leonard doesn’t possess a lot of creativity off the bounce yet, but he has enough burst to get a step on the defender—not too dissimilar from Richard Jefferson, though less explosive.

Against Charlotte, Leonard showed great comfort in driving baseline for a dribble or two before pulling for a jumper. The footwork on his pull-up jumper was excellent, maintaining balance the entire way (something easily lost on shots of those nature) and his follow through was consistent and repeatable.