Dejounte Murray Says San Antonio Spurs Are Brain Warped | Jealous Vets Played “Mind Games” In An Attempt To “Break” Him

Atlanta Hawks guard Dejounte Murray opened up about his time with the San Antonio Spurs on the “All The Smoke” podcast, and he said the team played mind games in an attempt to break him.

Were the Spurs trying to break him?

“They bring in a point guard from Argentina that’s close with Manu [Ginobli] playing in front of me,” Murray said. “Mind you I’m behind Tony [Parker], Patty [Mills]. But they playing these mind games. They trying to see if they can break you. Not knowing they can’t break me. They want you to break yourself. … What they put me through I don’t understand.”

It’s fair to point out this is one person’s side of the story and his perspective on what went on. It’s likely the franchise would see it different and possibly dispute the idea of playing mind games.

Who Is Dejounte Murray?

But let’s look at the scenario Murray was drafted into. He was the 29th pick in 2016.

The Spurs went 61-21 in the 2016-17 season and advanced to the conference finals. They had Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Manu Ginobli, and Tony Parker. A rookie would have to be excellent to crack that rotation.

The next couple years as Kawhi suffered an injury and was ultimately traded, the team started trending downward. But they finished above .500 the following two seasons and made the playoffs in the tough Western Conference.

Murray’s playing time increased, and he eventually improved. But he wasn’t good those first three seasons. Defensively he started to show signs, and made an All-Defensive team in 2018, but he was inefficient as a scorer and not a very good playmaker.

In the 2020-21 season he had his first net positive in EPM at +1.8. He was just 24 years old. He entered the NBA at 20.

Last season the game really slowed down for Murray and everything clicked. He averaged 21 points, eight rebounds, nine assists and two steals per game and was named an All-Star for the first time in his career. His EPM was in the 94th percentile at +3.4.

Seems like he had a normal progression for an NBA player given where he was drafted and the situation he was in.

Is it possible the Spurs were playing mind games? Sure. Head coach Gregg Popovich is a former military guy and he uses all sorts of techniques to motivate. Is this what he did to Murray? Only he can say for sure.

But if you’re Murray, what’s the problem? It worked.

Nothing is handed to you in professional sports. The NBA is the best and most difficult basketball league in the world. There are roughly 450 players, and you have to be elite just to make a roster. Never mind cracking the regular rotation.

Take a look around the league and look at starting fives. Even on teams with bad records, you need to be at an even higher level to play regular starter minutes.

Stephen “Stak” Jackson, the “All the Smoke” co-host, played for the San Antonio Spurs and seemed to agree with some of Murray’s comments about mind games. Stak recently spoke about his issues with Popovich.

“I knew Pop was a good coach, but I didn’t 100 percent trust him because I know he had three people he cared about: Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker. I knew I wasn’t one of his guys, so I made it work for me. I got a ring out of the situation and I bounced,” said Jackson candidly. “They tried to lowball me and give Ginobili the money. So, I have all the respect for Pop for giving me that opportunity but San Antonio was not a place for me. As you see, I left San Antonio and had better years. That system wasn’t meant for my game. I’m glad I left. I’m thankful for the Championship, but I’m glad I was able to leave San Antonio and be the best player I could be, ’cause I wouldn’t have been that had I stayed there.”

So maybe San Antonio isn’t the perfect franchise many people trumpet that it is and perhaps like anywhere else it has its warts. Stak and Murray’s comments seem to suggest so.

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