Jacob Boltle will play a bigger role in his sixth season in the NBA, and his fourth with the San Antonio Spurs. The Texans have not only given top scorer DeMar DeRozan to the Chicago Bulls in the past few weeks, but they’ve also let other veterans go with Patty Mills and Rudy Gay. It is also up to Pöltl to fill the void. The Fiennes, who will return to the United States on Thursday after nearly two months at home, knows this.
In an interview with Austrian news agency APA, Pöltl said: “We have lost some of our leading players – both in the dressing room and among the top performers on the field. The next generation will now have to rise even further.” It will be up to players like Dejounte Murray, Derrick White or himself to lead the team. “We have to take another step to lead a team as a leader.”
Pöltl compared the situation to his second and final year of college in Utah (2015/2016), when he rose to be captain and suddenly became more focused. It does not require any special preparation. “This happens naturally.” The 25-year-old, who has so far been noted as a solid defender in the North American NBA, assumes his point average will rise as well.
Last season, the center scored 8.6 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.8 blocks per game, but after being promoted to start in February, it already averaged double-digit points. “We saw the start of last year, but hopefully it’s happening more and more now,” Boltel said of his role as target. The coaches told him that he should take the next step – after all, some points had to be redistributed. In DeRozan it was 21.6 per game.
Pöltl will spend his first year in the NBA without the 32-year-old, with whom he already played in Toronto and was transferred to Texas in 2018. “It would be weird and strange to play a season without Demar,” the Austrian said. He would have developed a good understanding of his game in recent years. Mills (now the Brooklyn Nets) and Gay (now the Utah Jazz) will leave a big gap, as they are both “emotional leaders” for the team, according to Pöltl.
Young Tottenham’s expectations have fallen without the trio. The five-time champion kicks off the season starting October 19 as a blatant outsider. “The good thing is that we can go in relatively without pressure,” Pöltl explained. “I still think we have what it takes to play in the play-off or the tournament.” It will take time to get used to it. “When you lose a lot of important roles, you have to find yourself again as a team.”
Pöltl is linked to Tottenham for another two years. Playmaker Murray appears as captain of the Texas team, with whom he trained and spoke extensively prior to his stay in Europe. Pöltl should form a strong duo with the 24-year-old. Team training begins in San Antonio at the end of September. Pöltl flies from Vienna to Las Vegas on Thursday morning. After a few days of training on the outskirts of the Summer League, she’ll still go to Los Angeles for individual prep.
The Lakers based there caused quite a stir in the summer with the signing of Russell Westbrook. Their success, Pöltl said, will depend largely on how Californians “integrate another star player who is very much in control of the ball into the team”. The best contenders for the title are the Brooklyn Nets on paper. Defending champions Milwaukee Bucks and emerging teams from Atlanta and Phoenix shouldn’t be ignored either.
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