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Spurs' second unit passing early chemistry test

Danny Green says the Spurs' second unit has its "chemistry down probably better than the first unit" at this point. Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports

SAN ANTONIO -- Gregg Popovich's admission at the start of Spurs camp that fitting in all the new additions with the old "will be one of our main concerns, if not the main concern," has seemingly turned chemistry into a daily catchphrase around the club's facilities.

While there's still work to be done before the starting group gains the chemistry required to push for a championship, one positive development from the first week of training camp is the way the second group seems to be jelling.

"We've done a good amount of playing together, scrimmaging, pickup," starting guard Danny Green said. "But we definitely do need some game time. It's coming together more each day. Second unit is looking really good. We don't know who the first and second unit is as of yet. But the second unit right now that we're playing against is really good. They've got their chemistry down probably better than the first unit."

That's not an indictment on the starters as much as it is an endorsement for the second group.

Popovich said he really doesn't "know who's going to be the second unit right now," as the Spurs prep to open the preseason on Friday at Sacramento, and the team -- understandably -- hasn't been forthcoming about the players it is currently using on the second team. A little deductive logic would indicate the team is playing with a second-team lineup at practices comprised of Manu Ginobili, Patty Mills, David West, and Boris Diaw with players such as Kyle Anderson, Ray McCallum, Rasual Butler and Jimmer Fredette sprinkled into the mix.

Anderson is coming off a strong summer in which he earned recognition as MVP of the summer league, while Fredette and Butler could be fighting for the final spot on the roster. It's expected Popovich will tinker with several lineups throughout the preseason to find the most effective mixes of players.

Remember, the team lost several key contributors during the offseason in Cory Joseph, Tiago Splitter, Aron Baynes and Marco Belinelli, and needs to find a way to get similar production in 2015-16 out of its new role players.

So the quick development of the second unit during the first week of camp should bring about optimism as the regular season approaches.

"It's basketball," West said. "We've got a pretty high IQ group. I think guys are getting comfortable and familiar with one another, and just trying to find out who does what in some of those random situations where we don't have a play called, where you just kind of got to get a feel for what guys like to do, where they like to be. But that will come as time goes on."

Popovich thinks so too, and summarized the first week of training camp as "informative, cautionary conditioning-wise, making sure we don't go too fast," while adding the team is making "sure we get vernacular across, a level of comfort with everybody so they know the terms. It's gone well."

Green called chemistry "probably the biggest key of winning" while Popovich opted for a less simplified explanation for what the club is seeking.

"I like to think about respect, camaraderie and empathy more than chemistry," Popovich said. "It's kind of weird. I hated chemistry in high school and college. You want players to be able to feel responsible for each other and respect each other. That allows them to play for one another. So a lot of that depends on their character coming in, initially.

"I think as coaches, we can do things. We can create an environment off the court, on the court, with the things we do away from basketball to help get them to know each other better. We all know: You know somebody better, it's hard to be angry or start to hate someone. Most hate comes out of fear or ignorance. So the more familiar they are with each other, the more likely they are going to get along."