Dejounte Murray shows he belongs in Spurs' starting lineup

SAN ANTONIO -- LeBron James dialed up Dejounte Murray's phone to say congratulations just minutes after the San Antonio Spurs used the 29th pick in the 2016 NBA draft to select their point guard of the future.

Perhaps momentous nights somehow link Murray with James these days.

The Spurs' 114-102 win Tuesday over the Cavaliers proved as much.

James drained a jumper with 1.1 seconds left in the first quarter for his eighth point of the night to move to 30,001 points for his career, becoming just the seventh player to enter the 30,000-point club.

On the same night, Murray, a second-year player starting his second consecutive game since veteran Tony Parker was moved to the second unit, produced a breakout performance in front of a national TV audience. He scored 19 points to go along with 10 rebounds and a career-high seven steals.

"Man, it's great," Murray said when asked about sharing the stage with James on such a big night. "At the same time, he's on another level -- 30,000 points is a lot. That's a lot of buckets. His game speaks for itself, and he's really humble off the floor. It's just one game. It's over with now. I thought I did a lot of good things. There are a lot of things I could learn from. I'll just move on and prepare for [Wednesday] night's game."

After playing sparingly as a rookie last season, Murray already owns more career games with 10 rebounds or more (five) than all but one point guard in franchise history. (Johnny Moore had nine career games with 10 rebounds or more.)

"He kind of grew up tonight," Spurs All-Star forward LaMarcus Aldridge said.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich met with Parker on Sunday before the team's loss to the Indiana Pacers to inform the future Hall of Famer he "thought it was time" to insert Murray as the starter. Parker took the news in stride and came off the bench Tuesday to produce 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting and six assists. Murray's 19 points came on 8-of-15 shooting from the floor, and he also contributed three assists.

"It just happened like that. Every game is going to be different," Parker said. "But this game, we were both performing. So that can only help the team. That's great for his confidence. I'm trying to get used to my new role, but it's fine. I'm just going to still be aggressive. The ball is in my hands, too, even if I'm coming off the bench."

Murray admitted there's still "a lot to do" in terms of improvement before he can reach a level of play similar to Parker, whom he said has "paid his dues, and done everything in this league."

But Murray put in some sweat equity himself in the matchup against the Cavaliers, even guarding James one-on-one and coming out on the successful end of a fourth-quarter sequence in which he knocked the ball away from the Cleveland forward out of bounds.

James slapped hands with Murray after the play and leaned in to give him some advice, according to the second-year point guard.

"[James said], 'Great D, just don't reach at the end,'" Murray said.

Popovich characterized Murray as fearless, adding, "he's not impressed" playing in important moments.

Popovich was asked why he allowed Murray to guard James one-on-one in some situations.

"He's going to be in those positions a lot, in those situations, and it's good for him to end a game, see how it feels," Popovich said. "He made a turnover earlier, but it doesn't faze him. He just goes on to the next play. That's a great sign. He doesn't get depressed or feel bad. He just goes and plays."