This season, much will be made of the fact that San Antonio Spurs rookie guard Josh Primo is the NBA's youngest player, but don't let that overshadow the fact that his game is already quite grown.
NBA.com recently had the chance to catch up with the 18-year-old, whose youthful exuberance finds a way to shine, even over a phone conversation in which he displayed wisdom well beyond his years through his approach to his rookie season.
MORE: What Primo brings to the Spurs
If you're unfamiliar with Primo, the Toronto native saw his draft stock skyrocket following a standout performance at the 2021 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago. After initially testing the waters, his performance propelled him into being rated as a solidified first-rounder. He would ultimately decide to keep his name in the draft, where he was selected with the 12th overall pick by the Spurs, an incredible journey that even he needed some time to process.
the moment dreams became reality. all the feels 🥲☺️- San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 30, 2021
"Just before I got to San Antonio, I got a chance just to take a week or so and just, like, mentally just break down what happened, and how much has changed in the past couple of months, cause it's been really crazy," Primo told NBA.com. "I'm blessed - super blessed to be in this position, and I was able to just soak that in, and now I've gotten down to San Antonio, gotten settled in, now I'm ready to go."
first time seeing the name on the jersey 🤩🙌 https://t.co/LD8uHtY9vI pic.twitter.com/tB5qjqQqeO- San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) July 31, 2021
The last few months have been nothing short of a whirlwind for Primo, who hasn't gotten a chance to return to Canada since beginning his preparation for the pre-draft process. In the months since, he became an NBA player, got his first taste of NBA action during the Summer League in Utah and Las Vegas, and returned to his new home in Texas, where he's getting acclimated to his surroundings in order to officially get his professional career off to a great start.
If his performance over the summer is any indication, he's well on his way.
Primo averaged 14.3 points over four games in Utah and Las Vegas, including a 21-point performance against Brooklyn and a 17-point showing against Memphis, with two points coming on a step-back move that few veterans could make look this smooth:
IN HIS BAG 🎒 @JoshuaPrimo4 pic.twitter.com/2GX1YT0x6n- San Antonio Spurs (@spurs) August 7, 2021
"(Spurs assistant) coach Mitch Johnson really helped me out during the summer," Primo said of his Summer League experience. "We were breaking film down after every game and just figuring out how I can continue to be effective and just fix the mistakes that I was making.
"The thing that everyone's been preaching, it's just trusting the process and continuing to focus on growth, so that's what we've been doing."
Understandably, growth is a focus of a young Spurs team that will usher in a new era of basketball, with players like Primo at the forefront of the youth movement. Having young teammates going through similar adjustments is something that can help ease the transition.
"I think coming in with guys like Tre Jones, Devin Vassell and Joe Wieskamp," Primo added, "(we're) just ready to learn and ready, ready to work. We're all competing. And I think we did a good job of that in Summer League, but I think we're doing that even more coming into training camp."
MORE: Get to know the Spurs' young core
"We've all been working out together, all been playing, working out together so it's been fun getting to know guys like Dejounte (Murray)," the rookie continued. "I already knew Keldon (Johnson) from before - he used to come for runs when I used to play at Huntington Prep, so there's a little bit of a connection there.
"We're all just trying to figure each other out right now and it's been really good. I think we got a great group of guys, great young core. I feel like we're gonna be able to do some great things. We've just got to take it slowly. Focus on the growth and I think we'll be fine."
For the first time in franchise history, San Antonio missed the playoffs in consecutive seasons, resulting in the back-to-back lottery selections of Vassell in 2020 and Primo in 2021. When asked about goals for the upcoming season, Primo alluded to the fact that this Spurs team wants to see to it that the streak doesn't reach three in a row.
"Our goal as a team is to be in the playoffs and have a good run. So, that's all we're trying to focus on - whatever I can do in order to help that move along, is what I'm going to do … I'm just really trying to work on my guard skills, being able to be a versatile player out there on the floor so that I can help the team any way that Coach Pop sees fit."
Of course, you can't speak of anything pertaining to the Spurs without mentioning head coach Gregg Popovich, who is entering his 26th season at the helm and is just 26 wins away from moving to first on the NBA's all-time list. One of the greatest coaches in league history, Popovich saw something in Primo that led to San Antonio selecting him with the No. 12 pick in the draft.
As we switched the topic over to his new coach, Primo's exuberance again shined through as he interjected by saying "oh yeah, he's goated!" - an official submission to the conversation of who should be considered the NBA's greatest coach of all time.
He opened up more on the experience of playing for Popovich, adding that "it's nothing short of amazing - being able to be in his presence and learn from him and just be able to talk to him and just knowing that he has some type of trust that I'm going to work to be a great player in this league and work to help this team accomplish a lot of things.
"It's humbling and I'm thankful for it. I've been able to talk to him a couple of times, he comes in and we don't even really talk about basketball, it's more just life. He's really interested in people, not always just basketball, so that's what's really great about him."
Spinning things forward to his rookie campaign, I posed the question of what he was most looking forward to, be it a specific matchup or his first game at Scotiabank Arena, to which he again interjected with an excited "absolutely!" before diving even deeper into what he's most eager to experience. Just as the exuberance shone, so too did his genuine approach to Year 1.
"I'm excited to compete," Primo began. "Just get out there and compete against the rest of the guys that are in this league that I've been watching for so long.
"I mean, it's going to be great to come back home and play at Scotiabank. I already looked ahead at that part of the schedule … (I'm also looking forward to) competing against all the rookies that are coming into the same position that I am, so I'm just ready to go. Training camp is about to start. So, I think we're all just chomping at the bit, we're all ready to get to it."
Primo and the Spurs will open their preseason schedule with a meeting against the Utah Jazz on Monday, Oct. 4. He'll make his NBA debut against another rookie guard in Jalen Suggs and the Orlando Magic on Wednesday, Oct. 20, and he'll make his homecoming when the Spurs visit the Raptors to help ring in the new year on Jan. 4, 2022.
If it's one thing you should take away from Primo's journey up to this point, it's that it's one that you'll want to follow. He's impossible not to root for.
Quotes have been edited for length and clarity.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.