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San Antonio Spurs Season Preview: What Can Sandro Mamukelashvili Do This Year?

Getting a full season of practice with the San Antonio Spurs has made all the difference for Sandro Mamukelashvili during his second stint in Silver & Black threads — but how much of that difference will translate onto the court?
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When this offseason's restricted free agency period expired and the San Antonio Spurs had failed to extend a qualifying offer to Sandro Mamukelashvili, confusion set in.

The big man had just finished an extremely shortened season in San Antonio, quickly become a fan favorite in the process, which was largely due to his increased production. In just 19 games, Mamukelashvili averaged 10.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 0.9 stocks — all vast improvements from his two seasons in Milwaukee. 

But then he wasn't extended ... for about three days. 

The Spurs chose to let Mamukelashvili hit the free agency market with intent of bringing him back on a one-year, $2 million deal. The only contingency was whether or not he'd agree to come back, but luckily for San Antonio, he was keen on returning.

"My teammates are great," Mamukelashvili said of the Spurs. "They [bring] positive energy and trust me. ... That goes a long way as a young guy. When you see your teammates trusting you and believing you, it goes a long way."

Call it how you will, San Antonio gave Mamu — as he's better known — something that not every team could offer: a spot in the rotation, an adoring crowd and a positive locker room. And now, he'll be around for at least one more season.

So, how much will that impact his game? 

Oct 2, 2023; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Sandro Mamukelashvili (54) poses for photos during media day in San Antonio.

Oct 2, 2023; San Antonio, TX, USA; San Antonio Spurs forward Sandro Mamukelashvili (54) poses for photos during media day in San Antonio.

Standing 6-10 as a power forward, Mamukelashvili brings a unique athleticism to the court. He qualifies as a big man, but isn't big enough to be an unconventional Victor Wembanyama-type power forward. He plays his role well — running fast breaks, grabbing boards and spacing the floor — however, despite only being with San Antonio for the latter portion of the season.

"Last year, I came in and had to start from the jump," Mamukelashvili said. "This year, I really learned from the ground up. I'm trying to fit in and find out how I can help the team. It's been great, especially learning from the coaching staff." 

Safe to say, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich has found as many positives coaching Mamukelashvili as the power forward did learning. 

"He's European, which makes me love him right off the bat," Popovich said of Mamukelashvili. "I think those guys are unbelievably well-coached and overall understand the game better than most of us here." 

Popovich aside, more time with the Spurs is the obvious difference for Mamukelashvili's second stint in San Antonio. But the power forward also mentioned one key factor that's made his time in Silver & Black threads uniquely positive.

"We compete a lot," Mamukelashvili said. "[There's] high intensity. I just love how we are working. In Milwaukee, it was different because of the vets. Right now, it’s young guys, so a lot more conditioning, a lot more running, a lot more five-on-five."

So, whether it's creating locker-room chemistry with a young team or focusing on development during practices, Mamukelashvili is ready to run it back in San Antonio for one more season, likely off the bench. 

Now, it's up to him to show why he was brought back and what he brings to the Spurs.