Why San Antonio is already the summer’s big winner.
By: Joe Mags
If San Antonio keeps making the best moves in basketball, but nobody seems to care, it totally still happened.
Quietly, remaining true to one of the strongest virtues of the much-applauded San Antonio Spurs infrastructure, the team announced on Wednesday that basketball’s best head coach Gregg Popovich is returning for multiple seasons.
In an off-season dominated by not-news, it’s pure insanity that this story has failed to make major waves. LeBron James is LeBron James – he is going to play basketball next season, and we’ll find out where as soon as he has decided.
As far as real basketball news goes, however, the man who just championed the most impressive offensive performance in recent NBA Finals history just announced he isn’t retiring for multiple years. Not next season when Hall of Fame power forward and face of the Spurs Tim Duncan most likely retires, but some time after that.
Actually, according to Woj, Popovich may be interested in coaching four or five more seasons.
Do you know what that means? (No, seriously, stop checking your LeBron-Samsung app and pay attention. This is important.) THE BEST COACH IN THE LEAGUE IS GOING TO KEEP COACHING THE BEST TEAM IN THE LEAGUE FOR MULTIPLE SEASONS.
Add this sotto voce move to a growing list of likewise transactions by the geniuses managing the Spurs.
Boris Diaw nearly won Finals MVP this spring – Sidebar: That would have been the most unexpected NBA Finals MVP performance in over 30 years (see: Cedric Maxwell) – and it was Diaw’s insertion into the Spurs starting lineup that pushed the Spurs to win the final three games of the series, all by double-digits. Diaw’s unique combination of deft passing out of the post, girth on the defensive end and a dangerous perimeter shot is an inspiration.
Diaw was an unrestricted free agent this summer. He would probably be a great fit in…
Nope. San Antonio brought back their guy on a healthy three-year, $22 million contract. The deal is front-loaded so that he earns most of the money over the first two years – the seasons he has the greatest chance of swinging playoff series in the Spurs direction.
Then there’s Patrick Mills. Arguably the game’s best backup point guard a season ago – San Antonio scored 109 points per 100 possessions with him on the floor last season, and that figure hopped on an airplane and took off for the skies to over 117 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs – Patty Mills figured to be the object of many team’s desires…
No chance. Mills suffered a shoulder injury that should keep him off the floor for seven months. San Antonio wasted no time, and within days they secured their Australian gunslinger version of Tony Parker for three years, $9 million.
This all comes after participating in the most predictable part of June’s NBA draft: they sat at selection No. 30 – you know, the one that the champions get at the end of the first round – and waited for some vastly underrated prospect to fall to them. Then they took him – Kyle Anderson, the most Spurs draft pick I could imagine. They even followed that pick with another classic Spurs move: they turned a couple American-born second-rounders into a lengthy European guard that nobody in the States has ever heard of named Nemanja Dangubic – who I have to assume will become nothing less than Hall of Famer.
The math for next season: The Spurs will pay Tony Parker, Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili about $30 million; Tiago Splitter, Danny Green, and NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard are set to make just $16.5 million; and key reserves Diaw, Mills, and Marco Belinelli are making $13 million.
Yes, the Spurs nine-man core from last season costs them just under $50 million. Yes, the Brooklyn Nets are set to pay Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Kevin Garnett in excess of that number by about $5 million. Yes, that’s hilarious.
After Anderson’s rookie contract, whatever the team decides to do with Matt Bonner, plus contracts to Corey Joseph and Jeff Ayres, the Spurs can still use its Full Mid-Level exception on Pau Gasol, which would be new levels of “Wow, the Spurs are the best organization and team in basketball.”
Gasol can make more money elsewhere, like Chicago or Los Angeles – teams that are poised to miss on Carmelo Anthony and that suddenly have money burning holes in their pockets – but for $5 million per season, San Antonio would be able to find minutes for Gasol, who would love to join the Foreign Legion in San Antonio.
Oh, and with Popovich not retiring for multiple years, it’s possible that Gasol could be the heir to Duncan’s starting power forward spot after the big man most likely hangs up his sneakers next summer. That’s not a bad reason for Popovich to stick around; either Gasol or Duncan has been the starting power forward on the Western Conference champion six of the last eight seasons. (The other two years it was Dirk Nowitzki and Serge Ibaka.)
Popvich, Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, Leonard, all of those shooters, Diaw’s passing wizardry AND Gasol? Yeah, they’d be pretty good.
(Okay, now you can go back to Twitter to see if a couple free agents returned to teams that aren’t the best teams in basketball. I’m sure the Spurs will be too old to defend their title next season anyway.)
(Hahahaha – The Spurs have the entire NBA exactly where they want them.)