10 Jul What is it in San Antonio?
It’s still early in the offseason but the San Antonio Spurs might have already won the 2015 free agency with the biggest signings so far. But while landing big names in free agency may come as a surprise for a perennial contender like the Spurs, how they got them is an even more intriguing question.
Kawhi Gives A Big Hand
Kawhi Leonard has agreed in principle to a maximum contract extension with the Spurs: http://t.co/FMjXUlKvk8
— Brian Windhorst (@WindhorstESPN) July 1, 2015
18 seconds into the 2015 free agency, the Spurs retained 2014 Finals MVP and 2015 Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard. We say retained because Leonard has yet to sign an official contract. What he’s done though is agree in principle to the general framework of a deal that would pay him $90M in the next five years. But even when the Spurs had the primary right to keep Leonard because he was a restricted free agent, Leonard could have hastened his financial security by immediately demanding a formal contract (he’s earned that right) or even test his market value elsewhere. But no, Leonard didn’t act like a superstar that he is and instead gave the Spurs a big hand, per Mike Prada of sbnation:
Yet there’s an easy solution here assuming Leonard goes along with the plan. He is eligible to earn 25 percent of the cap on the first year of his maximum salary, which will be around $16.5 million. But that dollar figure doesn’t go onto San Antonio’s cap sheet until the deal is officially signed. Until then, Leonard’s cap hold, which comes out to about $7.2 million, sits there. Seven million is a lot less than 16.5 million.
Leonard went along with the plan, even if the plan was LaMarcus Aldridge who could be taking over his role as the Spurs’ main man.
Green is Back to Black
— Bleacher Report NBA (@BR_NBA) July 1, 2015
On day 2 of the free agency, the Spurs announced that they had re-signed guard Danny Green to a 4-year deal worth $45M. Now while this is no paltry deal at all, what Danny Green did was he virtually skipped his first crack at free agency by signing with the Spurs almost immediately as the free agency period started. After averaging a career-high 11.7 PPG last season and leading the Spurs with 191 three pointers made last year, Green could have easily tested the waters and listened to offers because after contributing the third most win shares on the team last season ( behind Kawhi Leonard and Tim Duncan), he could have easily gotten a bigger deal considering Khris Middleton signed for 5 years and $70M, DeMarre Carroll for 4 years and $60M and even Iman Shumpert for 4 years and $40M. Not Danny Green though, he was a class act and offered the Spurs no trouble that DeAndre Jordan gave the Clippers. He immediately settled his part so the Spurs can immediately focus on the bigger target (Aldridge) even if it was rumored earlier that the team might let him go if it had to choose between him and LaMarcus.
— SpursNation (@SpursNationSA) July 4, 2015
With Leonard and Green locked in, the stage was set for the Spurs to make a big run at their primary free agent target in LaMarcus Aldridge. To do so, the Spurs needed to make cap space and a good sales pitch. The former was easier to do because of what Leonard and Green had already done in the first two days of free agency. Then the Spurs traded Tiago Splitter to the Atlanta Hawks and let Aron Bynes sign with the Detroit Pistons to make room for Aldridge’s max contract. With that done, the sales pitch was next. But what were San Antonio’s selling points?
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) July 2, 2015
— SB Nation NBA (@SBNationNBA) July 5, 2015
and more importantly, these:
According to Jabari J. Young of CSNNW:
During his recruitment, Aldridge would leave no stone unturned. He met with whoever wanted to talk and sold him on a plan to win. He listened to the Blazers, too. But outside of the meetings, those close reminded Aldridge to consider family, happiness, and winning now. It’s why the Spurs were always the favorite. He could be closer to his two sons, his mother, and at the same time compete for championships right away.
Aldridge would have gotten the same money anywhere he chose to sign. Heck, he could have gotten more. But this was a chance to be close to home and to be close to the ultimate goal: winning the NBA title.
But the Spurs were no longer defending champions, the Warriors are. However, if you take a close look at last season, you will find out that the 6th seeded Spurs were one win away from being the #2 seed. They were also up 3-2 against the Clippers in the playoffs with a Game 6 on their home floor. They also lost Game 7 on a buzzer-beating bank shot by Chris Paul. Bad luck? Perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. But neither did they look over the hill or too old to win. Remember they won 11 games in a row before losing to the Pelicans to finish the regular season? The Spurs are still a dangerous team but with the rise of teams like Golden State and Cleveland, winning the title isn’t a guarantee.
West Goes West
David West has signed with the Spurs. pic.twitter.com/zcyyZslyw1
— SpursNation (@SpursNationSA) July 6, 2015
When David West decided to leave Indiana, he said that he wanted to play for a team that had a legitimate chance of winning the NBA title. When he said that, the Spurs weren’t the only contenders who offered him a spot on their teams. The upstart Washington Wizards had their full mid-level exception of $5.4M to dangle to West while the defending Eastern Conference Finalists Cleveland Cavaliers offered their taxpayer’s mid-level exception of around $3.8M to the 35 year old forward. Instead, West went west: to San Antonio.
In declining his $12.6M player option with the Pacers, West left a lot of money on the table to sign on a veteran’s minimum deal. In essence, West has ended up paying $11M for an NBA title he might not even win. But he took the chance and took it with the Spurs.
What is in San Antonio?
IF the Spurs can pull off LMA, resign Green/Leonard/Duncan…that's one heck of an off season.
— Brant Freeman (@Brant_Freeman) June 25, 2015
The Spurs didn’t just do that, they even added David West. And then they also lured Manu Ginobili out of a possible retirement:
— Manu Ginobili (@manuginobili) July 6, 2015
The idea of linking free agents with big markets and big contracts is now fool’s gold, thanks to the Spurs.
San Antonio has always been labeled as a small market in the NBA and superstar free agents of the past left small markets to go to the big cities. Remember when Shaq went to the Lakers, LeBron and Bosh to Miami, Carmelo to New York etc? Well not anymore after LaMarcus Aldridge signed with the Spurs. And what about going to free agency to cash-in? Not anymore too, after David West left $11M in Indiana to come to the Spurs.
A lot has been said about Kobe Bryant’s $24.5M salary and Carmelo Anthony’s $124M deal and how those affect their team’s flexibility in free agency. Remember that Dirk Nowitki signed a 3 year $25 million deal last summer so that the Mavs could add pieces to their team? Well Manu Ginobili took that to a whole new level when he signed a 2 year $5.7M deal a couple of days ago and if that’s not a bargain I don’t know what to call that. Tim Duncan? $10.4M for two years. That’s even more ridiculous. But hey, these are the Spurs and they are the masters of sharing the wealth inside the basketball court. Remember last season? When Gregg Popovich didn’t play anyone more than 30 minutes per game? So it’s no surprise that they are going to share the wealth off the court too.
The Spurs are the measuring stick of excellence in the NBA not only because they’ve won at least one title in each of the last three decades but because they’ve won at least 50 games per season in the Tim Duncan era. That’s 18 consecutive season for you and I won’t be surprised if it will be 19 after this one. But what is it in San Antonio really?
They say it’s unselfishness, trust, teamwork, loyalty, excellence and many more. I think it is a combination of those and even more. It’s magical and it can’t really be explained in words. One thing is sure here though: Those things happen only in San Antonio, where basketball and winning are above anything or anyone else.
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