With George Hill traded to the Indiana Pacers on draft night and San Antonio Spurs rookie Cory Joseph as the only backup to Tony Parker on the current roster, I played with the idea of the Spurs targeting J.J. Barea once the NBA season resumes.
With the Spurs thin on point guard rotation, coach Gregg Popovich will likely ask Neal to log spot duty at point guard.
But instead of spending the summer in the gym with Spurs development coach Chad Forcier, as Hill did between his rookie and sophomore campaigns, Neal has been left to figure out the nuances of a new position on his own.
“I feel like I have the ability to play point,” Neal said. “I’ve always been a scorer. I just think for those 10 or 15 minutes where I get to play point guard, I just have to change my mind-set. Pass off the pick-and-roll, not shoot it.”
Having split seasons in Italy and Spain before arriving in the NBA, Neal says he hasn’t ruled out heading back to Europe to hone his craft if the lockout persists into January. But not right now.”
Earlier this month Neal also played the role of a facilitator for three quarters at a Summer Pro-Am game with success.
Last season, Neal appeared in 80 games, averaging 9.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.2 assists in 21.1 minutes per game playing mostly as the team’s backup shooting guard.
Neal’s main asset is his shooting stroke.
He shot 45.1 percent from the field including 41.9 percent beyond the arc in his first year with the Spurs, and became just the second undrafted player in NBA history to earn first-team All-Rookie honors.