These lists are of candidates for multiple general management positions. Both the Hornets and Suns have expressed interest and have scheduled interviews with him. Meanwhile, he's trying to evaluate talent for both the Spurs' and Toros' upcoming seasons, shaking hands with colleagues and answering questions from media twerps like me. It would be natural for Demps to look tired, worn, the same semi-dead look most NBA GMs tend to wear from time to time, especially in Vegas with an endless supply of sub-roster players throwing passes to no one among the diamonds in the rough. With all the rumors swirling, I inquire as to whether Demps is still the man to talk to about the Spurs' developmental functions.
"I hope so!" he jokes, nodding his head.
But here's the thing. He looks like he doesn't have a care in the world. He breezes in and out of conversations, usually laughing or smiling, and generally seems bemused by everything going on around him. And when you speak with him, you get the sense that there's not a thing he considers outside of his range.
As a player, Demps appeared in a whopping 20 NBA games from 1993-97, spending much of his career in Europe, but since joining the Spurs he's been an integral part of one of the most successful franchises in the NBA. His primary responsibilities have focused on development, particularly as General Manager of the Austin Toros, the Spurs' D-League affiliate that they purchased in 2007. It's been Demps' work as part of the Spurs' development plan that has put him on the map.
Demps has also been a part of the Spurs' drafting process, which has consistently yielded not just talented players, but ones that contribute. Sometimes, to the point of it being concerning. Take, for example, George Hill, a late-first-round pick out of IUPUI, who all of a sudden is creating questions about the future of the Spurs' backcourt with Tony Parker. I ask Demps if they had any idea drafting Hill would work out the way it has.
"Nah, we had that planned out," he jokes. "George is great. He jumped into the developmental plan and made himself a great player. Our coaches have done a great job with him. Can't be happier for the kid. He's a great kid. High level NBA player and we're happy for him, in any situation."
Demps talks a lot about that developmental plan, a program that is well-conceived and executed with the Spurs organization. I ask him for his thoughts on Alonzo Gee, the Toros' guard-forward who was called up by the Spurs and looks like he could possibly be the small forward of the Spurs' future.
"With Alonzo his upside is through the roof. As a credit to him, he really bought into our development plan. It's a testament to the teaching of our coaches in Austin and with the Spurs to make him into a good player. I'm really happy for him because he understood what he needed to do to get better, and everything he was asked, he did it, and did it a high level. "
If it seems like Demps has a personal investment for his players, it's because he does. When you work every day on trying to make players' careers take off, you're bound to wind up caring about their successes, and their failures. Take Marcus Williams, the forward out of Arizona who has spent three years in and out of the Toros' system, never breaking into the NBA outside of a few summer league stints and a cup of coffee with the Clippers in 2008. I ask Demps what he thinks Williams needs to make the leap.
"Opportunity. I really believe in Marcus. He had a really good year in China. Came back late. He just needs an opportunity. If he gets that, he'll prove himself. Sometimes you just need to be in the right place at the right time, and I think he'll get that.."
Then there are players like Gary Neal (sounds like Jerry, not like Busey, despite what the Summer League PA would have you believe), a guard out of Towson who has spent two years in Europe. Neal has torched this Summer League session each game, showing killer perimeter speed and unbelievable shooting touch. He's another player Demps is obviously invested in. (Three days after this interview, the Spurs would sign Neal to a contract.)
"He's done a fantastic job this summer. I'm really happy for the guy. When he came back from Europe, he came and worked out for us. He just got married and came here to prove himself. Guys like that you root for. I'm so happy he played well."
All these players, being successful in the development plan, the plan Demps has been in charge of, and in a few days, the plan he'll take to the Hornets, who will hire him as their General Manager. When we speak, Demps doesn't know it but within 10 days he'll be meeting with Chris Paul to try pulling him back from the trade-request ledge. He's got a roster to construct and a development plan to build for the Hornets, who have so often in the past opted for veteran players instead of working towards the future. All of these projects are delicate matters. I ask Demps what the secret to the Spurs' development plan has been. His answer speaks volumes for the path ahead of the Hornets.
Sounds like a pretty good start for what the Hornets need. How it ends up working out will of course be another matter. In the midst of all the activity at Summer League, talking to players, executives, staff, and trying to evaluate players, I ask if handling all the interviews he's had to is stressful.
"Nah, it's been fun. You know, it's fun to be involved. "
Just then, a vendor at Las Vegas' Thomas & Mack's food court comes over and interrupts to thank Demps for all his work with the Spurs. Demps just smiles, laughs, and shakes the man's hand, then saunters off to catch the next game, or talk to the Hornets or Spurs brass some more. Confident, in control, and ready to execute the plan.