Davis Bertans, the Spurs rookie forward, won’t turn 24 until Nov. 12, but his professional career, which began at age 15 in his native Latvia, has already taken him to pro leagues in Slovenia, Serbia, and Spain.

Nothing prepared him for the affection between San Antonians and the Spurs, a reality driven home on Tuesday night when he walked onto the court at the AT&T Center for an open scrimmage and was greeted by roughly 12,000 screaming fans.

“It was amazing,” said Bertans, one of the stars of an intra-squad game in which one player, rookie Patricio Garino, spent time playing for both teams. “I couldn’t believe it when I walked out before the game. It was wild. I think in some other cities during the season it isn’t that wild and crowded.”

Gregg Popovich has seen the arena packed for the open scrimmage in seasons past but never tires of the happy experience, which includes a lot of mingling with the fans before and after the game.

“It’s great,” he said. “The place was packed for an intra-squad scrimmage. Like (new assistant coach) Monty Williams said, he’s never seen that many people for an intra-squad scrimmage before. And he’s been at a few places.

“The fans are important to us, they are great, they love their guys, guys know what their place in the community is. It’s just fun to be there. You don’t care about winning or losing. It makes me a little looser, so I had fun with them.”

There was no admission for the scrimmage and many of those in attendance lined up outside the arena hours before the doors were opened in order to get seats that cost hundreds of dollars for regular season games. Most were there to see the team’s stars: Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Pau Gasol, a six-time All-Star who will start at center this season as the replacement for retired superstar Tim Duncan.

Some of the more discerning attendees showed up Tuesday for their first glimpse at newcomers like DeWayne Dedmon, DeJounte Murray, and Bertans, a 6-foot-10 power forward with a quick-release 3-point game.

In a 48-minute game played with a running clock and no halftime break that lasted just under an hour, Bertans squeezed off 13 shots, 11 of them from behind the 3-point arc. He made six of his shots from long range and scored 18 points, second to Leonard among all scorers.

After his eight seasons in Europe, where there are no illegal defense rules and the 3-point line is not defended as vigorously as it is in the NBA, Bertans is trying to find a balance between just hanging outside the long-range line and making the occasional foray to the rim.

“I’m trying to get the feel for it and kind of get used to the fact I have to do it just to maybe get an open look on the 3-point line the next time,” he said. “So sometimes I have to drive to the basket.

“Actually, I want to shoot every time. That’s the truth. But keeping it cool and make the right play to an open teammate.”

Drafted by the Spurs in 2011, Bertans’ path to the Spurs was slowed when he tore a ligament in his right knee in 2013 and then tore the same ligament a second time in 2015. Now on a contract that is fully guaranteed for two seasons, he appears to have a legitimate chance of earning some meaningful playing time this season, and his 3-point accuracy in the scrimmage didn’t hurt it.

“It looks like he is healthy and is doing exactly what we thought he could do when we drafted him,” Popovich said. “He’s been very, very good. I won’t have to tell him to shoot when he is open, which is great. And he gets it off pretty quickly, too. At 6-foot-10, that’s a good thing.”

Aldridge, whose name cropped up in a specious trade rumor on Tuesday morning, warmed up with his teammates but did not play.

“We are just going slow with him,” Popovich said. “Just going slowly.”

Mike Monroe

Mike Monroe is a longtime, award-winning NBA and Spurs reporter who recently retired from the Express-News and is now contributing to the Rivard Report.