Spurs forced to suffer fools gladly
Amusing as it is was to watch Isiah Thomas sign Jerome James to a contract more loaded than his waist line while teaming Stephon Marbury and Steve Francis with Larry Brown, and thankful as San Antonio is for the finest stretch of basketball in Nazr Mohammed’s career, these general managers have to stop.
Because funny though it may be to watch a David Kahn try and build an NBA roster by drafting and signing multiple players at only one position each year (if you bring in five point guards, one has to stick right?) eventually they will find a way for ineptitude to damage more than their own team. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo sports reported:
There were undoubtedly some eyes rolling into the backs of heads in the Spursâ€™ front office with the Minnesota Timberwolves close to an agreement with European center Nikola Pekovic(notes) on a three-year, $13 million contract. The Spurs are negotiating to bring over 2008 first-round pick Tiago Splitter(notes) this summer, and Pekovicâ€™s deal promises to elevate Splitterâ€™s leverage.
A 7-foot center from Brazil, Splitter is considered a far superior prospect to Pekovic. The Spursâ€™ ability to pay Splitter from its midlevel exception and still have some of that money to use on another free agent has been somewhat compromised.
The lavish and foolish spending has pushed average free agents beyond the Spurs reach, created dramatic shifts in power, and eventually will cost us one of the final years of Tim Duncan’s career.
Joe Johnson given a max deal. Rudy Gay provided the same. Then there are the Channing Frye’s and Darko Milicic’s of the world gaining premium dollar in a market featuring a number of teams that stockpiled cap space without really planning on what to do with it. At the rate teams are spending, there is a slight chance that Richard Jefferson opting out is not as foolish as it once seemed.
The San Antonio Spurs can only be thankful that they resigned Manu Ginobili when they did. ESPN’s John Hollinger credited R.C. Buford with being one of the smartest general managers in the league for getting his work done early in a market that is vastly inflating players’ value.
Several GMs have looked at the landscape and realized this phenomenon, which is why the bidding has increased on even secondary players. It only makes sense — a rising tide lifts all boats. If the players normally targeted with midlevel money are suddenly angling for much bigger prizes, it means lesser players now become targets for the midlevel.
So why should San Antonio Spurs fans care about a free agent summer that their team did not have the resources to join in the first place? Because for teams like the Memphis Grizzlies or Minnesota Timberwolves, the contracts of today will eventually turn into the Pau Gasol’s little brothers of tomorrow. In some ways, Chris Wallace’s Gasol blunder marked the end of the current San Antonio run.
For the Spurs it was the end of the three-stars and defense philosophy that held them atop the league for most of the decade. It was also perhaps the beginning of the end for Bruce Bowen. Though age and slippage had something to do with it, the Spurs began to ween themselves off of defensive stalwarts like Bowen and Kurt Thomas in favor of the extra offense Michael Finley and Matt Bonner offered in hopes of keeping pace with the Lakerâ€™s juggernaut.
After the trade Gregg Popovich joked that there should be a trade committee to scrap such horrible deals. While no such committee will ever exist, the NBA does have one means of protecting itself from some of the foolish, excess spending, and it’s one that causes suffering for us all.
It’s called a lockout, and it could end the Spurs as we know them.
At some point during the season the owners and players will get together and the owners will try to convince players that there is not enough money to go around in the current system and keep the NBA viable. It’s a position that would have been hard to sell under any circumstances. But now that position has been compromised even further.
Because in a summer where David Kahn and Chris Wallace handed out large sums of money to Darko Milicic and Rudy Gay, with owners willingly cutting the checks, how can they argue there is no money to spend?
So there is a chance Richard Jefferson signs a large contract somewhere, and deep inside Spurs country there will be jokes made and fans amused, but be warned: nothing good comes from suffering fools gladly.