Jock Landale ready to report for NBA and Spurs, duty

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When it comes to the “welcome to the company” moments, Jock Landale’s first meeting with his new boss was as low-key as it gets.

There was no cafe to get to know each other, no happy hour over a cocktail.

In fact, Gregg Popovich hasn’t spoken to Landale at all.

“I got a pat on the butt,” said the Australian star. “And that was it.”

In a coincidence of events, Landale agreed to a two-year contract with Spurs on the morning of August 5.

Hours later, he and the rest of the Australian national team faced Popovich and Team USA in an Olympic semi-final match in Tokyo.

For Landale, 25, it was a strange experience. Before he could meet his new boss, he had to try to beat his new boss.

“I wasn’t thinking of the (NBA) year to come,” Landale said.

In a good omen for Landale’s future job security, the United States won 97-78 on their way to the gold medal.

It was a bitter defeat for the Australians, who nevertheless recovered to beat Slovenia for bronze. It is the first Olympic medal in the history of Australian basketball.

Coming off the field after the loss to the Americans, a downcast Landale passed through the 72-year-old who would soon be his first NBA coach.

Popovich offered only a welcome slap in the back.

“We didn’t say a word to each other,” Landale said. “At the time, we were competitors. I really wanted to beat him, and I’m sure he really wanted to beat us.

Having been unable to beat Popovich in Tokyo, Landale is grateful for the opportunity to join him with Spurs.

The 6-foot-11 Landale was once a star in Australia, where he led Melbourne United to the National Basketball League Championship last season and was named MVP in the NBL Finals .

Before turning pro, Landale spent four seasons at Saint Mary’s College in Calif. – alma mater of former Spurs player and Australian compatriot Patty Mills. As a senior in 2017-18, Landale was named West Coast Conference Player of the Year.

While Landale averaged 12.8 points, 4.7 rebounds and 2.2 assists in Australia’s historic Olympic medal race, Popovich was sort of in the front row.

The coach left Tokyo in awe of their future new rookie center.

“He’s one of those guys on this team, they play the same way,” Popovich said. “They play smart, selflessly, hard, and he’s one of those guys. He’s an Australian. There is nothing he can do about it.

Landale had been considering a jump to the NBA for a few years when the Spurs came to sniff this summer.

As focused as he was in the Olympic tournament, Landale had temporarily pushed the idea of ​​making such a move into the back of his mind. Then his agent called him in Tokyo.

“He said, ‘Hey, you’re not going back to Europe or Australia, you’re going to the NBA next year because you got an offer from Spurs,'” Landale said.

Landale’s first reaction?

“I was like, ‘No way, man,’” Landale said. “Don’t mess with me. We’re about to play the United States, so don’t mess with me.

Once Landale confirmed that the April Fools had not moved to August, he was immediately intrigued by Spurs’ offer.

Landale had closely followed Mills’ career with Spurs and saw the benefit of following the same path from Australia to San Antonio.

“There are a few organizations in the world that people try to strive to be,” Landale said. “He’s one of them.”

Landale showed up well at the start of his first NBA preseason, although he did not play in the Spurs’ exhibit on Sunday in Orlando due to his status in the NBA concussion protocol.

In three previous preseason appearances, Landale 5.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists.

Although he’s only made 2 of 7 3-point attempts so far, Landale comes across as a big man who can stretch the ground around the perimeter.

Landale’s new Spurs teammates were impressed with his passing skills, which point guard Dejounte Murray compared to those of future Hall of Famer Pau Gasol.

“He’s not shy about making a pass that might not be 100 percent sure,” starting center Jakob Poeltl said. “It is important.”

With a full bag of tricks, Landale projects himself as the kind of all-round, all-round big man who prevails in the modern NBA.

Call him a Jock of all trades.

“I love playing against him,” said great man Drew Eubanks. “He can handle the ball for a big guy, and he’s a great passer as well. You can’t just relax on him if he has the ball on top of the key.

In the meantime, Landale has started to move into his new home in San Antonio.

The presence of assistant coach Matt Nielsen – himself a former Australian star who was on the national team’s staff in Tokyo – facilitated Landale’s transition.

So have Mills and his wife, Alyssa. Although Mills made the switch to the Brooklyn Nets this season, the couple was quick to give Landale information on San Antonio-area cafes.

“They’re constantly whispering to me ‘Try this’,” Landale said.

Over time, Landale hopes to become more comfortable in her new job and workplace.

Someday soon, he might even mark this date with his new boss.

For now, Landale remains determined to make a good first impression and maybe win more slaps on the butt.

“I am not concerned with my role,” Landale said. “I’m just trying to focus on learning and improving myself every day and fitting in where I can.”

jmcdonald@express-news.net

Twitter: @JMcDonald_SAEN


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