Spurs feeling confident after strong start to second half

Austin has won its last two games and surged to third place in the G-League’s Southwest Division


With the season just over halfway done, the Spurs feel pretty confident about where they’re at. 

Austin has won its last two games and surged to third place in the G-League’s Southwest Division, just half a game behind the Texas Legends and Rio Grande Vipers for the division lead.

“It’s been great,” first-year head coach Blake Ahearn said. “With the new two-way contracts and everybody going through that for the first time, it’s been a challenge for everybody. I tell the guys, all you can control is your attitude and effort and that’s been phenomenal.”

The team returned home for two games after the mid-season G-League Showcase in Mississauga, Ontario. The event features 26 games over four games, and Austin beat the Windy City Bulls 119-108 before falling to the Wisconsin Herd 93-92. 

Matt Costello and Darrun Hilliard are the two players on the roster with two-way affiliated contracts, which was instituted by the league before the season. It allows players to spend up to 45 days in the NBA while spending the rest of the season in the G-League.

Ahern said play on the court has been normal since schemes are largely the same. He took over in the summer after Ken McDonald — who had spent more than five years with the team — didn’t have his contract renewed. 

“Off the court stuff (has been surprising),” he said. “It’s the group of guys and what they have in that locker room. As coaches, we’re just trying not to screw them up. We’re fortunate to have a group like that and coach them. It’s pretty neat.”

The trio Jaron Blossomgame, Hilliard and Costello has been a strong core for Austin this year. Hilliard is the team lead in points per game at 21.5 and Blossomgame is second with 15.8 and leads the team with eight rebounds per contest. 

“We feel good,” Blossomgame said. “We have a good team. We have a lot of good players and character people. There are going to be ups and downs during a 50-game season, but we benefit from our great leadership.”

He singled out Costello and Darrun Hilliard as two guys that have helped them out the most.

Costello is currently sidelined with a hand injury but has averaged nine points and 7.6 rebounds in 19 G-League games this year. He’s been called up to the San Antonio team twice this year and appeared in three games. 

Blossomgame was named First-team All-ACC as a junior at Clemson in 2016 and Third-team All-ACC as a senior last year. He was drafted by the Spurs in the second round in 2017 and was sent to Austin after impressing during the summer league.

“The speed is different and the physicality is different (than college),” Blossomgame said. “It’s been fun and it reminds me a little bit of summer league. We just continue to play together. We have a lot of guys that can do a lot of good things for us and we’ve got to stay together.”

Ahearn has been pleased with the progression in Blossomgame’s performance since the beginning of the season — especially with his rebounding. 

The Spurs spend nearly two weeks on the road with games in California, Utah and Nevada. They return home on Feb. 1 when the Memphis Hustle comes to town for a 7:30 p.m. tip. 

“These next four to six weeks are big,”  Ahearn said. “These are the dog days. You may get guys called up or two-way contracts or jobs in Europe. There may be frustration that seeps in, but we play 50 games and we can only control what you can and hope for the best.”