Summer school out of session for Spurs

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Much of the offseason player movement has trickled to a halt, so barring another point guard that David Kahn just has to have, a final destination for Shaq, or another scathing LeBron column from Adrian Wojnarowski, the majority of the summer’s story lines have played out to their finish.

For the most part, as has been the norm for every summer they are not trading for Richard Jefferson and signing Antonio McDyess, the San Antonio Spurs have had a relatively quiet — and quietly nice — summer.

As has come to be expected, some (like John Hollinger) have included the Spurs in a small group of offseason winners. But what have we truly learned so far about next year’s San Antonio Spurs?

R.C. Buford and Gregg Popovich are still smarter than most of us

Even in moments when the front office appears the most questionable, it should be assumed that there is some method to the madness. Often, it simply requires stepping away from each individual move to discern the bigger picture.

Richard Jefferson opting out of $15 million guaranteed was the NBA’s largest joke-turned-savvy business move. The San Antonio Spurs opting back into Jefferson for $38.9 million over four years quickly launched a few “have the Spurs hired Isiah Thomas” jokes.

Overpaying on an overextended contract for what was, last year, a poor fit will do that.

This has been the most fiscally sound front office of the past decade, right? They did score Tiago Splitter on the cheap after all. Well, through the confusion comes a little bit of clarity through the words of ESPN’s John Hollinger.

So the Spurs ended up with both the best and worst contracts of this offseason. But on balance, they’re paying $13 million a year for the next three years for a Splitter-Jefferson combination. I’d take that deal any day, and between it and drafting James Anderson, I think the Spurs are in much better shape for next season than many people realize.

Headed into the offseason, many assumed Tiago Splitter would command, and was deserving of, the Spurs’ entire midlevel exception. Once the shock of Richard Jefferson opting out subsided, some were amenable to re-signing him to a contract between $5-7 million.

So ignoring how the money is distributed, the combined contracts of Jefferson (who is seen as overpaid) and Splitter (who signed for, again, Johan-freaking-Petro money) is perfectly reasonable for the two players over the next few years.

If the length of the Jefferson contract seems a bit much, it should be remembered that a small market Spurs team that far over the luxury tax might not have been able to afford Splitter, and Richard Jefferson probably does not opt-out without some security.

If nothing else, we can at least extrapolate one tidbit from the contracts.

Tiago Splitter is hardwired like many Spurs before him

While many view Splitter as the long-awaited front court cavalry for Tim Duncan, if most are being honest with themselves Tiago Splitter is for the most part a mystery.

Outside of two video breakdowns, one from our own Andrew McNeill and the other from NBA Playbook (both worth taking another look at), there is not a lot of extensive analysis of Splitter’s game stateside. But that contract speaks volumes.

Tiago Splitter could have received more money staying overseas. And unless R.C. Buford kidnapped Splitter and kept him away from all NBA free agent news, he undoubtedly knows his value is higher in the NBA than what he signed for.

Priorities. In Europe, Tiago Splitter is a much bigger star. On almost any other roster he’s probably a wealthier man. But in San Antonio, Splitter had an opportunity to play out a lifelong dream: to be on a winning team against the greatest competition in the world.

Given that there were much easier options to pursue, it can be assumed that his career priorities begin and end with the basketball court. Which should fit in nicely with the Spurs culture.

A different kind of player movement

While the core ages, the team is quietly getting younger, and with that youth movement comes a new dynamic to the Spurs — motion. Gone are the role players that were limited to launching standstill jumpers from the three-point line.

New additions James Anderson and Gary Neal (helpfully scouted by Jay Aych earlier this week) should not only provide shooting, but enough versatility to do so on the move, should defenses close out too hard. Tiago Splitter, it has been noted, is an adept passer with a high basketball IQ.

All of which should open up new offensive options for Gregg Popovich to utilize besides the pick and roll, options that just weren’t available last year. Between Duncan, Splitter, and Manu Ginobili, the Spurs have three superior passers from their positions with a (presumably) healthy Tony Parker to get the ball rolling (and the defense out of position).

Those curls, drives, and additional a passing big man open up a lot of possibilities. In particular, having a capable and mobile passer from the high post should open up a lot of those baseline cuts which Richard Jefferson is so fond of, which in turn should make Spurs fans much fonder of him.

Of course, if any of that movement can translate to moving one’s feet on the defensive end, that would be great too.

  • TDzilla

    Malik Hairston signs with Montepaschi Siena
    http://www.menssanabasket.it/site/detailNews.aspx?K=6165

  • Jason

    You mentioned those baseline cuts that RJ is so good at, NBA playbook also had this awsome breakdown: http://nbaplaybook.com/2010/07/22/can-he-bounce-back-richard-jefferson/ on RJ’s potential to bounce back next year. It looks like some better passing could be just what the doctor ordered. I can very easily imagine a play for RJ where the opposing 3 is drawn into the post to help on twin towers of Duncan/Splitter leaving a wide-open RJ slashing to the basket. The NBA playbook writeup suggests that RJ needs to be able to do more cutting without the ball so it seems like a natural fit to set him up with some passing big-men that will draw defenses off of him.

    This also means that RJ and Tony are gonna have to work something out. Either TP needs to learn where RJ needs the ball or they won’t see much playing time together next year. It seems like last year their games didn’t compliment each other very well. Perhaps if we played a fast line up with Tiago, RJ, Gee, Hill, and Parker that break could give opposing Ds fits for stretches when Duncan needs to rest. We’ve got the youth now to try and play a fast kind of 4-down when Duncan’s out

  • Bentley

    Wow Malik Hairston signing with an Italian team. Talk about a curveball. I figured he was actually gonna crack the rotation this year. Guess the Neal signing was his undoing..maybe the FO has their eye on someone else as well

  • Jacques

    I still think RJ was paid way too much. Most of us predict that he will improve after an awful first year, but nothing is guarenteed, cuz any sort of catastrophe can pop up during the season. (which would make him untradable by the time he at the end of his contract).

    At the same time, there weren’t better options at SF, but why not offer him like 32 million and wait a few more weeks and see if he takes it? I doubt he is gonna go to other weaker, unproven teams just because he is not gonna make money…..

    But again, can’t change the past. Glad to have him after all.

  • Tyler

    I can’t wait to see what new wrinkles we implement on the offensive end. I’d expect to see Tiago at the high post, with TP, Manu, and RJ constantly back cutting their man. That’s going to be tough to guard.

    Might Malik signing in Italy usher in the Gee era?

    And does losing Malik really hurt us that much? I agree that outside of RJ (and an unproven Gee) we don’t have another true small forward. But for defensive purposes, how many guys are there in the Western Conference at small forward that we really have to game plan for? Isn’t it really only Durant and Carmelo Anthony and Odom at times?

    My point is this: the SF for the Spurs isn’t going to be asked to lock down the other team’s SF on a nightly basis. Defensively, as long as he makes the right rotations, can’t we get by defensively with Manu, Anderson, Temple, or Neal, while also putting a better shooter on the court for offense?

    Just a thought. We’ll see…..

  • Jacques

    “for defensive purposes, how many guys are there in the Western Conference at small forward that we really have to game plan for? Isn’t it really only Durant and Carmelo Anthony and Odom at times?”

    @Tyler

    I agree with you, but if we face the Nuggets and/or OKC in the playoffs, then that could be a problem since there are no other options to stop them.

  • Jacob

    Like Andrew pointed out in a video analysis a week ago, Gee is far from ready to contribute consistent backup minutes for us. Our system doesn’t lean heavily on athleticism, which is Gee’s strongest aspect, but rather on defense and the 3. Suffice it to say that these two areas are where he showed to be struggling more often than the Spurs would like, and all at summer league level competition.

    If Malik is really gone, I can’t see Gee, Anderson, or Neal having the experience, or height to cover a sf effectively night in and night out. Maybe Temple can do it, but he is really lightweight in contrast to many small forwards and I think that would be too easily exploited, even for backup minutes. I think the Spurs will need to add another SF to our roster since we are now left with only one.

    Butler is back with the clippers, and almost everyone who was on the market is gone.

    Who is left? Is there anyone realistic out there to consider?

  • Jacques

    @ Jacob

    Bogans

  • McShane

    You forgot a colon behind “http” in the link with the text “helpfully scouted by Jay Aych earlier this week.”

    Great article.

    I can’t help but wonder if the Spurs FO will make an interesting trade by February.

  • Jason

    @ Jacob

    Pickins are slim at the SF position on the free agent market. At this point it seems that a trade packaging up some of the young talent we don’t have space for (like Jerrells, Squeeky Johnson, maybe even Gee, Gist, or Temple) for a more proven backup SF may be the best option. It doesn’t need to be a big trade, but a small one for say Sacramento’s Greene, LR Memba Amoute, Chase Budinger, or Carlos Delfino might make a big difference. Houston has like 5 SFs under contract and needs some back-up gaurds, which we have in spades. Just sayin…

  • Tyler

    @ Jacques

    Right, but isn’t stopping the Durants and Melos of the world a futile endeavor in the first place? Against the A-list SF’s, we need someone who will make them work for their shot. I think if focused, RJ can be ok in that dept. That’s also why Hill has been our best defender on Durant – he does a great job of denying him the ball and making him work to catch.

    Having said that though, we really do need another SF who, when called on, can soak up minutes at the SF spot. I wouldn’t expect anything more than 10 minutes a night typically, maybe a few more if we do play OKC or Denver.

    This will be interesting.

  • td4life

    Ater Durant and Melo, I’d expect to see some improvement from Ariza and Artest. Those are two guys that can beat you on a given night, despite the fact that they are fourth and fifth options, respectively, on their clubs. Batum might break out too. With his height, it sure would be nice if RJ can improve defensively, but I’m not holding my breath. I’d say RJ is about midpack league-wide, among SFs, and on the Spurs, I don’t expect him to ever become any better than that.

    It does seem like we might be poised for a trade, however, I think the FO is likely to wait until next summer to shake things up. I am sure they are eyeing Shane Battier, but for better or worse, I think they will give TP and RJ one more season. And if the FO doesn’t think they can actually upgrade over RJ, we could be stuck with him for season after season. Then again maybe he really delivers.

    I am really excited to see Tiago play. And am hoping for a big role for Anderson, Neal, or Temple. Now that I mention it, I’m excited to see DeJuan and Hill, and what Tony brings in his contract year… how many days til preseason?

  • http://fundamentally-sound.blogspot.com Jaceman

    I am excited to see a resurgence of the Spurs with a legit center now. Just out of curiosity, how good is Tiago’s high-post/mid-range game?

  • Daniel

    In terms of this year’s draft, the only better players than Splitter are Wall (if he keeps his turnovers down), Cousins (if he can keep his fg% over 45%), and potentially Favors and Turner. He would have at least been a top-10 pick had he been in the pool this past season, and he already has a 25-year-old’s maturity, strength, and knowledge of the game.

  • Mike

    Jesse,

    Your Gary Neal: The Painted Area link is broken, has an extra “http://” in it.

  • Jim Henderson

    Jacob
    July 29th, 2010 at 7:31 am

    Well put, regarding the Hairston departure.

    “Houston has like 5 SFs under contract and needs some back-up gaurds, which we have in spades.”

    Jason
    July 29th, 2010 at 7:55 am

    Houston is not going to deal Budinger. That guy’s going to be very good. The Rockets are two-deep at every position, including SG & SF. Budinger is more a SG than a SF.

    SG – Martin, Budinger
    SF – Ariza, Battier

    I think they’re content with their depth, at least until Battier’s contract comes up in 2011.

    Donte Greene I would love to get, but even Sacramento might not be too keen on giving him up (he backs up Casspi). But it’s perhaps worth making some overtures.

    td4life
    July 29th, 2010 at 9:07 am

    “I am sure they are eyeing Shane Battier, but for better or worse, I think they will give TP and RJ one more season.”

    That’s probably a pretty good guess, but I think we’re stuck with RJ for awhile now. I hope it works out better than many of us fear.

  • L-Man

    Agreed on all fronts. Spurs will be better this season and beating Dallas wasn’t too bad for last season.

  • Shawn_b

    Bring Oberto back we will have the 4th man who can pass nicely besides the 3 you mentioned.(Manu,TD, & Tiago)

  • albert

    RJ doesn’t deserve a 38.9 M contract may be 38.9 M in 5 yrs. not 4… the spurs should gone after barnes because he is a better defender… they should have use the 2M left in the MLE for barnes… now kobe will have 2 good defenders to help him barnes and artest… Another player that they should have gotten is Eddie House he is a pure clutch 3 pt. shooter that can really help them specially during playoffs, Now, He is in Miami…. Spurs offseason moves are not so bad actually and many think they have done good but if they just do the above mention they will definitely be the team to beat in the west…

  • Manolo Pedralvez

    I wonder whether all this RJ bashing is counterproductive. Until he returns to the floor, unburdened by his previous contract, and plays, my judgment is out on him.
    At least, we now know he’s shrewd enough in renegotiating his contract and returning to the team I still believe he knows he can contribute. Of course, let’s see if he has the basketball smarts as well the second time around with Tim Duncan and Company.

  • Jim Henderson

    Manolo Pedralvez
    July 30th, 2010 at 2:07 am

    “Until he returns to the floor, unburdened by his previous contract, and plays, my judgment is out on him.”

    Yeah, I’m trying to keep an open mind on RJ as well. He does still have some talent.

  • rob

    It’s been an interesting summer. And it appears that the team is looking at playing a different style compared to the past 5 years.

    Athletic young players (though not household names) in Temple, Gee and Neal seem to be the formula the Spurs are heading regarding how they will play as a team.

    There are no so called “defensive stoppers” the Spurs have acquired this off season. Bogans and Hairston…supposedly two of the team’s best perimeter defenders are gone. While more offensively gifted youth such as Temple, Gee and Neal have been awarded contracts. Temple, being the best defender out of those 3, has solidified himself as Pop’s new “crush” and rightfully so IMO. Temple does reflect himself as the consumate Spur and at times probably could play some SF.

    The rotation of Parker, Hill, Ginobili and Jefferson on the perimeter doesn’t contend to the typical Spur’s defensive teams of the past. There increased ppg last year solidify that aspect. And now with Temple, Gee, and Neal….it’s even more pronounced than ever if these players become part of the regular rotation. And then there’s Anderson. How fast is he going to be a contributor and to what level will he excell? Could he also play SF?

    Could it be Pop and company have a new plan of attack? Is defense not going to be the focal point of this team to the extent it was just 2 years ago?

    With the addition of Splitter, and the development of Blair…it is possible that we are going to see more zone defense than ever before on this team looking to channel opposing players more so than defending them one on one. Also looking to rely more heavily on transition offense than the typical half court set we’ve all been used to seeing. It would make sense in that regard seeing who the Spurs have kept and quietly acquired.

    We’ll see. The summer league showed lots of promise in the talent the Spurs presented. Are the players that raised eyebrows and earned contracts going to be enough to keep the Spurs in contention of a title?

    I contend that at least another athletic, defensive big is needed on the team if this is the direction the Spurs will be heading next year. That…unless…Matt Bonner will have improved his help defense over this summer to make another impact on the team besides being a big that’s only attribute is hitting the 3-point shot.

    And then there’s Jefferson. Funny how A LOT is going to depend on how he comes back next season.

    Lots of questions that will be answered as the season begins. And not a lot of off season manuvers to get who many of us think we should be getting to make the team competitve for a title.

  • http://www.sanantoniospurs.com Spurs fan since 89

    Honestly the Spurs FO and Pop will have to bite the bullet on RJ and Bonner. In my opinion the Spurs front office and coach Pop started going down hill in 08. It was trade deadline and all the FO could do to help out Timmy was bring in Kurt Thomas. After barely beating the Hornets in the second round in 7 games the Spurs went to LA. After losing in game 1, the Spurs were up by 20 in game 2 at the end of the 3rd quarter with Bowen holding Kobe to 0 points. Then coach POP decided to rest Bowen, took him out and the 20 point lead was blown. Then in game 5 the Spurs had a 16 point lead in the 3rd quarter but their role players hit 0- whatever in 3% the second half on 3’s and blew the lead. In my opinion the Zen Master outcoached Pop. The aging Spurs were showing their true form and the rest is history. In 09 the Spurs FO got a steal in the draft with Hill but brought in bums as role players that didn’t pan out. We got knocked out easily in the first round. In 10 the Spurs FO got a steal with Blair in the draft but again brought in more bums as role players. We got knocked out easily in the 2nd round.
    Sometimes just because a coach won 4 championships doesn’t mean that you can’t question him by his calls, plays, and stubborness. E.G. Bill Bella- CHEAT for the Patriots. He started making very questionable calls last season like going for it on 4th down when his team was already up and etc…..
    PEOPLE JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND. SOMETIMES THE MADD SCIENTIST GETS TOO MADD. IN THIS CASE BELLA-CHEAT AND POP HAVE GOTTEN TOO MADD. THE PATS AND SPURS WILL ALWAYS BE RELAVENT, BE GREAT FRANCHISES, THEY WILL MAKE IT TO THE PLAYOFFS EVERY YEAR BUT WON’T REACH THAT CHAMPIONSHIP LEVEL THEY ONCE HAD. THERE TIME IS OVER.
    We had a great run people. In the Td era we had 4 championships and 6 Western Conference Finals apperances. That’s almost 6 championships which would’ve tied us with Chicago. We were the team of the decade alongside the Lakers. When the Lakers weren’t 3 peating we were winning championships.
    I still want revenge on L.A. from 04, & 08. (They beat us in 01 also.) If you couldn’t already tell from my bitterness toward L.A. Now it’s time to step aside and let T.D walk away into the sunset with 4 championships rings, 6 Western Conference Finals apperances, 3 finals mvp’s. Unless the Spurs front office can start making moves like L.A, Miami, Chicago, etc… we won’t ever win another one. But just like the Pats, you can never count us out and if we go out we will go out fighting to the very end. We will never go out quietly.
    Beat L.A.

  • http://www.sanantoniospurs.com Spurs fan since 89

    Good observations Rob. I also think we need another defensive big to help out Timmy if we want to defend for another championship. I don’t understand what was wrong with Ratliff? Obvioulsy he’s good enough for L.A. and their front office.
    No matter how you look at it, L.A. is still the team to go through in the West. They are still way too big for us. And if we are getting away from defense, then we might as well hire coach Nelson from the Warriors and score 120 points a night but give up 125. Defense and 3 point shooting is still what it takes to win championships in the NBA. Look at Boston in 08, L.A. in 09 but especially 10.
    We can’t just totally defer away from what brought us 4 championships along with 3 point shooting and just get by with our new youth ,athleticism, and a couple of 3 point shooters. No way. If the Spurs think they can get by with this they obviously didn’t learn anything from the playoffs last year. The Spurs could’ve won that series but again their defense couldn’t get important late defensive stops when they needed it in the games. They missed ridiculous amounts of freethrows and their 3 point shooting was awful. Goran Dragic was a serial Spurs killer. The Spurs were beatten in every category and were outcoached. Sorry I know this is harsh but it’s the truth. Even if we would’ve beaten Phoenix we would have gotten annihilated by L.A. (who I hate with a passion.)
    Just keeping it real
    Been on board for over 20 years
    Have the scars to prove it
    BEAT L.A

  • http://www.sanantoniospurs.com Spurs fan since 89

    Someone at my work made a funny yet harsh comment about RJ. He hasn’t been any good since he was with New Jersey and played alongside Kidd. Just keeping it real sometimes hurts also. So if we are atuck we this guy for 4-5 years we better get the most use out of him. If coach Pop gets frustrated with him and pulls him out of the game because he gives up 2 wide open 3’s to Artest like he did last year, then we will be seeing alot of RJ on the bench. We will be hearing alot of comments like “our role players played like dogs.” If Matt Bonner passes up 18 wide open 3 point shots like he did last year Pop will get frustrated with him and put him on the bench.
    So in all reality we could have 15 million dollars a year sitting on the bench collecting splinters.
    I can rip RJ and Bonner all I want until they prove me wrong. Bonner had his chance since 07, and RJ had his chance last year.
    While other teams like L.A. were picking up Matt barnes a tough hard nosed defensive guy with great three point shooting to add along side Artest and now Blake & Ratliff we added RJ and Bonner. While Chicago landed both Reddick and Korver- 3 point specialists and Boozer, and are still looking at T-Mac we signed one guy who had the worst year of his NBA career and another guy who when is healthy and not passing up wide open shots, shot over 40% from beyond the arc .
    Just keeping it real
    because if I don’t, then who will

  • Jim Henderson

    rob
    July 31st, 2010 at 9:51 am

    “Temple ……….. probably could play some SF.”

    Sorry, impossible. He’s too thin, and not enough size overall.

    “Athletic young players (though not household names) in Temple, Gee and Neal seem to be the formula the Spurs are heading regarding how they will play as a team.

    There are no so called “defensive stoppers” the Spurs have acquired this off season.”

    Let’s hope that’s not the way we’re truly heading, because it’s a formula for disaster.

    “And then there’s Anderson. How fast is he going to be a contributor and to what level will he excell? Could he also play SF?”

    I would stick to developing him as a SG. That’s where his potential is best suited. Plus, at least in his rookie season, he’d have difficulty adequately defending at the three spot.

    “Could it be Pop and company have a new plan of attack? Is defense not going to be the focal point of this team to the extent it was just 2 years ago?”

    Again, let’s hope we’re not deliberately heading in that direction. It would be a big mistake, in my view.

    “Also looking to rely more heavily on transition offense than the typical half court set we’ve all been used to seeing. It would make sense in that regard seeing who the Spurs have kept and quietly acquired.”

    The problem is, it’s usually excellent all-around defense that is the best at successfully triggering a potent transition game.

    “Are the players that raised eyebrows and earned contracts going to be enough to keep the Spurs in contention of a title?”

    A big fat NO.

    “I contend that at least another athletic, defensive big is needed on the team if this is the direction the Spurs will be heading next year.”

    Absolutely!

    “That…unless…Matt Bonner will have improved his help defense over this summer to make another impact on the team besides being a big that’s only attribute is hitting the 3-point shot.”

    Not gonna happen. Bonner is who he is.

    “Lots of questions that will be answered as the season begins. And not a lot of off season manuvers to get who many of us think we should be getting to make the team competitve for a title.”

    Can’t argue with that.

    Spurs fan since 89
    July 31st, 2010 at 10:14 am

    “We can’t just totally defer away from what brought us 4 championships along with 3 point shooting and just get by with our new youth ,athleticism, and a couple of 3 point shooters. No way.”

    You got that right.

  • http://sanantoniospurs.com Spurs fan since 89

    Just wanted to see what everyone thought about this. Since the Spurs lost to the Lakers in 5 games in the 2008 Western Conference Finals these are the players that the front office has brought in for Timmy starting in the 08 season and trade deadline. Kurt Thomas, Udoka, Roger Mason Jr., Keith Bogans, Richard Jefferson, McDyees, Ratliff, Neal. In my opinion this is an insult an a slap in the face to T.D. also this is no championship caliber team the last 2-3 years. If I was Timmy I would be pissed and voice my opinion to the front office about not being happy about the bums the Spurs have been picking up the last few years. Timmy should have had a say in Bufford signing Bonner and RJ to absurd lucrative deals. I’m sure Timmy wasn’t happy about that. I know he is a laid back, quiet guy but he should speak up and voice his opinion about the bums the Spurs FO are bringing in. We want to keep our hall of famer happy, right? right. I’m not saying I agree the way that Kobe, Wade, James, Paul are threating thier FO’S to leave if they don’t surround them with more talent but enough is enough. No more bums or our future hall of famer might be the next superstar to threaten the FO for a trade if he doesn’t surround him with more talent.
    Just keeping it real

  • viper160

    The Spurs actions this summer will pay off in huge rewards for the coming years. Spurs nation -this summer brought youth, athleticism and scoring to the Spurs and it will take time for this summers decisions to payoff. Patience something that Spurs nation we are not accustom to , but we will need to be this year. Yes, last year was painful and some of this coming season could be just as difficult but it will payoff come the post season. The starting lineup will be a question mark besides Tim because of the new additions to the team. Pop will need to manage Tim’s court time so he is not dragging his knee around come playoff time. Can Manu and Tony stay healthy enough to keep the other players stretching the court and opening lanes for their cuts and passes? The new players bring youth and athleticism but Pop’s offense and defensive schemes take time to learn and Pop can be so demanding and challenging that players could become mental. So yes the Spurs look good on paper and should be much improved but time will tell, so be patient we will need it and the Spurs will need us(Spurs nation) to be just as loud -boisterous and aggressive in our support of our Spurs as ever. Our Spurs are building slowly but the time for our core is not remotely over, they are like a fine wine only getting better with age. Add a few new pieces, get some experience under their belts and this team will be a threat come playoff time. I can’t wait for tip – off time our Spurs will be the team to watch.

  • Jim Henderson

    Spurs fan since 89
    August 1st, 2010 at 12:38 pm

    Barring trades, we’ve had very little financial room to bring in better talent over the past few years. Keep that in mind. Also, you left Splitter off the list. He doesn’t really count as a draft pick because we had to use MLE money to sign him.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Spurs fan since 89:

    Good to see another long-timer around. I appreciate your comments.

    About Duncan demanding or else leaving: Sorry, but not in a million years. If he didn’t do it before, when he was the best player in the league and he had the chance to team up with Grant Hill in Orlando, he won’t do it now. Besides, he’s just not wired that way.

    On Pop and R.C.: I’ll second Jim Henderson’s comments and point out that the front office not only brought in Splitter, they also brought in DeJuan Blair last year. Free agency and the draft are different tools for performing the same task. You really can’t separate them.

    Look, I know a lot of us are frustrated. We got used to the Spurs being the best basketball team in the world for a pretty long span of time. Everyone praised Pop and R.C. a little too much in those days–as Pop has always freely admitted. And now that Tim Duncan is no longer the best player in the world, their mistakes are no longer invisible. The same thing happened to Jerry West and Phil Jackson. The same thing happens to every “genius” if they stick around long enough. (Red Auerbach’s secret? Retiring as a coach before Bill Russell was finished and retiring as a GM before Larry Bird was.)

    So let’s cut the guys a little slack, alright? Here are the basics: When they’ve had high draft picks, they’ve drafted well (Sean Elliot, Duncan). But they’ve also been very lucky. Remember, just like everyone else, the Spurs wanted Danny Ferry instead of Elliot, but the Clippers surprised them. (I was at the draft party for that one and I remember being amazed when the whole stadium groaned after the Clippers picked Ferry. Personally, I had never seen him as that great of a player.) And getting Duncan was obviously a matter of luck, not intelligence. When they’ve had low picks (most years), they’ve had a mixed bag of results. Some have been busts but, because they were diligent and willing to gamble, they have found some very, very good players that the rest of the league missed (Manu, Parker, Blair, Hill… Hell, even Udrih qualifies). It’s really, really hard to draft well from the bottom, but Pop and R.C. have done it. And while Pop hasn’t been a perfect coach, he has been very effective at getting a lot out of his teams–enough that he won four titles. There have been teams with as much talent or more that have won fewer championships–or even none at all. (See Sacramento and Cleveland in the 00s, Portland in the 90s, Philadelphia during Dr. J’s tenure, the Lakers in the 60s, and Phoenix throughout the ages for examples. For that matter, the Spurs blew several good opportunities in the 70s, 80s, and 90s.)

    Have Pop and RC missed opportunities to add good players? Absolutely. Has Pop missed some opportunities to win more than he did? Absolutely (2006 is a good example). But most careful basketball observers with long memories agree that they are as good at what they do as anyone in the sport. So perhaps we should all just chill a bit and remember that nobody has ever really succeeded at what we want them to do: rebuild a champion without dismantling the old one first.

  • lvmainman

    @ Tim in Surrey,

    Spurs fans are in the here and now. Buford and Pop have been making puzzling decisions in the past year.

    Having 6 expiring contracts! and not using any of them to upgrade the talent on the roster? Especially when Stephen Jackson is available, or Caron Butler? Why? Knowing the team wouldn’t be able to sign any free agents if all 6 walked because the Spurs would still be over the salary cap!!!

    Having Hairston and Mahinmi and not giving them minutes during the regular season to see if they can contribute? Or giving Blair more minutes? Why?

    Signing Jefferson to 4 yr – $40 mil and Bonner to 4 yr – $16 mil as free agents? Why? Why not 4 yr -$30 mil and 4 yr – $12 mil?

    Signing a potential Bruce Bowen clone in Bobby Jones but letting him go and signing Keith Bogans instead? Desperate to retain Alonzo Gee? Why?

    The Spurs as currently constructed can’t compete for a championship. But, moves could’ve been made to change that, but weren’t.

    We don’t have a deterrent at the rim, like a Ratliff or Mahinmi.

    We don’t have a wing defender, like a Bowen, Artest, Posey or Ariza that have won the last 6 championships!!!

    We don’t have proven clutch 3 pt shooters like the last championship did with 5! in Barry, Finley, Horry, Bowen, and Ginobili. We only have Ginobili, with Hill showing promise.

    As a Spurs fan, I disappointed Buford and Pop haven’t been in pursuit of those type of players.

  • http://sanantoniospurs.com Spurs fan since 89

    CP3 anyone?

  • Jim Henderson

    No.

  • http://sanantoniospurs.com Spurs fan since 89

    I heard that Splitter wasn’t a good freethrow shooter. If this is true then the Spurs need to strongly address this (freethrow shooting) during the offseason this summer. As I remember correctly the Spurs blew a 16 point lead because they missed 7 straight freethrows in a row in game 4. That was a huge momentum killer. I wish the Spurs hadn’t got swept and at least got one game 4 for the fans. They really should have gotten that game.
    In my opinion the West is up for grabs from 2-8 ( L.A. being at #1 still.)
    Keep the hope alive