Summer outlook: An all-you-need-to-know guide to the Spurs’ offseason

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It’s been one week since the Spurs’ heartbreaking Game 7 loss in the Finals, and now it’s time to put the pain in the rearview mirror. Some of you have moved on while, undoubtedly, some of you have not. Which is understandable, because that was about as brutal an ending as you’ll likely experience.

But life goes on, and in accordance with it, so does the NBA’s offseason. Despite an ever-aging core, San Antonio has a chance to return to the promised land in 2013-14. It’s going to take some smart decision-making and perhaps a little creativity, but those are two attributes the Spurs’ front office has in spades.

As we move farther and farther into the new age of the current collective bargaining agreement — this will be the third offseason under its textual guidance — we’ll begin to see its effects on a larger scale. With the incoming impact of the new luxury tax rate and the ensuing escalating penalty for repeat taxpayers, long-term frugality is going to be paramount for teams without bottomless pockets and endless revenue streams. (The new CBA was designed with small-market success in mind, but for the most part, teams in major markets will be the only ones able to realistically sustain consecutive years of tax payments.)

The Spurs have always been intently aware of their standing in relation to the luxury-tax threshold, so adapting to the new rules shouldn’t be a terrible issue for a group that has practiced brilliant cap management for nearly two decades. But what should be a concern, to some degree at least, is how other teams decide to approach the situation. San Antonio has two restricted free agents in Tiago Splitter and Gary Neal, so their futures essentially depend on the initial actions of other teams, some with not-so-glamorous track records.

But we’re moving into different times in the NBA. There’s a greater movement toward analytics and, if you believe the new CBA will ultimately be effective, more responsible spending. Of course, the fabric of this league is sewn from the threads of past insane contracts and gaudy payrolls, so only time will tell if general managers and those who advise them have actually gotten smarter.

 

The Manu Ginobili conundrum

San Antonio has finally come to its first true crossroads of the Big 3 era. And not surprisingly, the directional decision involves the future of the team’s awkwardly physical dynamo, Manu Ginobili. One of the most popular players in Spurs franchise history, Manu’s future seemed cloudy at best during an NBA Finals run in which he was historically bad at times. Despite vintage brilliance in Game 5, it was his ugly performance in Game 6 and his fourth-quarter turnovers in Game 7 that left the most bitter taste for those used to seeing postseason excellence from Numero Veinte.

Where Tim Duncan’s performance during the 2011-12 season left few doubters in his ability to return for another effective season, this city is split nearly down the middle in fan support for Ginobili. The $14.1 million he made last season probably doesn’t sit right to some, but if we’re keeping things in perspective that isn’t really a terrible number. Manu had some great games against the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals two seasons ago, and $14 million for a guy in the final year of his contract with a team that had neither roster space nor the dire need to utilize extra cash wasn’t a bad deal. You can view it that way if you’d like, given his performance for the most part over the course of the season, but hindsight is always 20/20. He was quite good in 2011-12, and missing his predicted decline by less than a year is pretty darn impressive.

But with Ginobili now coming off the books, the Spurs have a great chance to clear significant cap space whether they re-sign him or not. At more than $19 million, Manu’s cap hold is looming large. San Antonio can either renounce his rights or re-sign him to a new, cheaper contract, which seems to be the most likely scenario. At least, if he gets his way.

And let’s be clear: the Ginobili of old will never be back. The herky-jerky, blurry first step is gone, and the legs aren’t there underneath the jumper the way they used to be. But I believe (prior to the turnovers in the fourth) his Game 7 performance is indicative of how effective he can be moving forward. His passing, ball-handling and selective scoring are still invaluable to the Spurs’ bench, he just has to realize that he can’t function as wildly as he once could.

I believe it’s an insult to the intellect of Ginobili to say he can’t change the way he plays. Sometimes it takes a while to realize the old way doesn’t work anymore. We’ll probably see Manu in San Antonio for at least another year, and maybe two. After all, that would mean his contract would expire at the same time as Duncan’s player option and Tony Parker’s current deal at the end of the 2014-15 season.

Quite fitting, I’d say.

There’s more to come later in the article on the Manu front.

What to do with Tiago Splitter

To preface, this scenario is one in which the Spurs decide they’d like to try and re-sign Splitter.

Perhaps the highest level of drama surrounding San Antonio this summer is the current status of restricted free agent Tiago Splitter. Which, you know, sure speaks to the Spurs’ flair for the dramatic. The Brazilian big man’s season ended quite unceremoniously against a Heat team that ate him alive, but his presence in the starting lineup elevated San Antonio’s defense to a top-3 position throughout the regular season and through most of the postseason.

Splitter’s pick-and-roll offensive strengths were a perfect match for a team that utilizes the play more than any other squad in the NBA, and his improvement on the defensive side of the ball meant great things for the aging Duncan. With Splitter in the fold, Timmy could spend more time off the ball, patrolling the paint rather than banging bodies with his lighter frame throughout the course of a game. No doubt it played a part in Duncan’s resurgence this season, and it has allowed for greater longevity from the future Hall-of-Famer. Despite a poor Finals performance, Splitter was great in the opening round against the Lakers and in the Western Conference Finals against the Grizzlies, two teams with dominant low-post players. He allowed San Antonio to defend the paint and still operate at the offensive pace they desired.

But against Miami, the story changed. Splitter was overwhelmed by the quickness and speed of the Heat, and the defensive swarm he felt early in each game had a significant impact on his psyche. It all became too fast, and by Game 5 he had been supplanted in the starting lineup by Ginobili (he was pulled for Gary Neal 47 seconds into Game 4 when the Heat started small, as well). It remains to be seen whether or not his Finals fallout hurt his value on the open market, but it’s safe to say it didn’t help it.

The Spurs can submit a qualifying offer to Splitter of just less than $5 million by June 30, after which time any team in the league with cap space may offer a contract of their own. If another team makes an offer — which will almost assuredly happen — San Antonio will have three days to match the signed offer sheet. It is believed that Splitter would like to remain a Spur, and it appears the team would like to retain him for the right price, but it’s going to be interesting to watch and see exactly how much money Splitter might command and how much the Spurs will be willing to match.

With the new CBA in mind, this process will be an interesting one. Splitter is a very specialized big man with no real elite-level skills. He’s very good in the pick and roll, but a big man’s ability to roll to the basket does not hold the same level of importance as, say, shot-blocking, rebounding and scoring. Tiago is excellent within the Spurs’ system, but you can’t really dump it to him in the post or count on him to put up double-doubles on a nightly basis. San Antonio wants him back, because losing him for nothing would be potentially devastating without a replacement in line (other than Aron Baynes, who is no more than a prospect at this point).

In the past, big men have demanded, on average, larger contracts than they likely deserve at times. After all, it’s much more difficult to find quality, skilled 7-footers than it is wing players and point guards. It’s just science. There are fewer giant human beings in this world than average-sized players (by NBA standards), so when you locate the ones who can put one foot in front of the other, catch the ball, score around the basket and play a little defense, all while being at least decently athletic, typically you’re going to pay up.

But with the threat of the escalating rates for repeat luxury taxpayers imminent under the law of the new CBA, it’s likely we’ll start seeing shorter contracts. Instead of the 4- and 5-year deals that often seem to hamstring franchises, we’ll probably be looking at more contracts of the 2- and 3-year variety. Similar dollar signs might be there, but teams aren’t going to let these deals cripple their futures any longer. The smart ones won’t, at least. Splitter is skilled, make no mistake about it. But, again, he lacks an elite-level skill that so often commands top dollar.

San Antonio is shedding salary heading into this offseason with the likely Ginobili pay-cut and the elimination of Stephen Jackson’s $10 million contract (remember that one?). So they’ll have an ample amount of cash to throw at Splitter, if it’s a reasonable amount in their eyes. Before, I’ve been quite hesitant toward any thought of a potential offer that nears the eight-figure ($10 million or more) mark for Tiago, but looking forward, it all depends.

Splitter, at 28 years old, is nearing the magic age of 30, which means it’s not likely he’ll be offered a lengthy contract that would spill over years into his 30’s. Let’s say Portland offers Splitter a 3-year deal (sources have said the Trail Blazers are interested) for more money than San Antonio would prefer to pay.  The Spurs have done an excellent job setting up their financial future, and if they decided to match a Splitter offer sheet and backload the contract (a fairly standard practice), they’d be paying Tiago the largest portion of his salary when they have the most cap space available.

As the Spurs currently stand, only two players — Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph — are under contract for the 2015-16 season, and those are just options at this point. Leonard will almost assuredly have already signed an extension by that time, probably for something close to a max deal, but the fact of the matter is San Antonio has a ton of cap flexibility moving forward after the Duncan/Ginobili era ends. Even paying Splitter a bit more than he’s worth wouldn’t be the end of the world, so long as the contract isn’t too long. In the mean time, it isn’t like this team is trying to free up a ton of cap space anyway in the next year or two (especially if they decide to bring the band back together again). But if Duncan and Manu both hang it up after next season, then we’re talking about a whole new thing altogether.

For a team that came so very close to winning a fifth title, losing Splitter and not finding a legitimate replacement would probably do much more harm to the Spurs and their frontcourt than overpaying him would. Unless he receives a completely outrageous offer (which, after his Finals performance and given his age, I doubt), I’d expect the Spurs to match whatever sheet he signs. Despite his age, Splitter is still improving, and it has been evident over the course of the last couple of years. He’s close to or at his ceiling by now, but as the roster is presently constituted, San Antonio would be best suited to bring him back, unless they locate a better option.

 

Who wants to get them some more Gary Neal action?

One of the most enigmatic Spurs in recent memory has reached restricted free agency after three years with the team, but exactly what the demand is for Gary Neal remains to be seen. The inconsistent San Antonio bench scorer has had his ups and downs, which were more Everest-like peaks and trench-like valleys than crests and troughs of a wave. And his Finals performance was indicative of these sort of tendencies. On one hand, he was essentially nonexistent during off nights, only serving as a backup body that must be accounted for. And yet, the reason the defense couldn’t afford to lose him was because of what he did in Game 3.

Neal had a down year in comparison to his first three seasons in the league, drawing the ire of many Spurs fans along the way. But in one great game, on a night in which he hit six 3-pointers on his way to 24 points, Neal might have earned himself a payday San Antonio may not be willing to match.

But before we get ahead of ourselves in that regard, we must note that Neal has definitely been a bargain over the length of his contract. Even his cap hold — just more than $1.1 million if the Spurs decide to make a qualifying offer — is totally manageable for now. The question becomes: How much are teams willing to pay a 28-year-old fresh off his worst season as a professional (despite his one great Finals game)?

I’d say, in the interest of continuity and depth, so long as the price is reasonable the Spurs should pay to bring him back. Now, what’s reasonable? Considering that Danny Green’s contract has him right around $3.5 million, I don’t think you pay Neal more than a salary within the $2-3 million range. Many would likely argue even that’s too much, but when he’s right, Neal can be a major factor. His skill set is replicable to an extent, but there’s a certain I-don’t-give-a-crap mentality that can be invaluable at times. It can also be detrimental, but he’s certainly not afraid of the big stage. That’s not something that can necessarily be taught.

If you can get him on the cheap, he’s worth having around.

 

Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw: Complements or casualties?

Matt Bonner and Boris Diaw both have statuses currently up in the air, though they’re each operating under different circumstances. Diaw has a player option worth north of $4.7 million while Bonner is under contract for nearly $4 million himself, but his salary is not guaranteed for next season. The Spurs can decline their team option on the 33-year-old sharpshooter if they please, and Bonner also remains one of the only amnesty options left on San Antonio’s roster. (If they decline his option, they’ll still owe him $1 million next year, but if they use the amnesty provision, his contract won’t count against the cap at all. He’ll still get paid, but his salary will be off the books.)

Both of these bigs offer very unique skill sets for their position. Diaw is essentially a point guard in the frontcourt and is one of the most creative players you’ll ever see, and Bonner is an elite shooter from the 3-point line at the four position. So both have value if they are to return at their current rates. But there were certainly times this season and during the playoffs when one of these guys hardly saw the floor from game to game. Their presence offers the Spurs the chance to match up differently with specific opponents depending on individual matchups, but $4-5 million is still quite a bit of money to be paying a player that spends long stretches on the bench.

Diaw has yet to make a decision on his player option, and while it’s a decent amount of change, at this point in his career he could be more interested in looking for a little less money right away if it means a longer contract (think Richard Jefferson). Who knows? But let’s say he does exercise his option and return to San Antonio for one more year. The Spurs are in no danger at this point of crossing the luxury-tax line (which is predicted to be set at just more than $71 million), and if they are interested in keeping a nearly title-winning roster intact, Diaw’s contract won’t do any damage to their bottom line.

(Patty Mills was the other Spur with a player option going into the postseason, and he exercised it quicker than you could swing a towel at.)

But let’s just say for a moment that the Spurs aren’t interested in another conservative approach. What if they don’t think they can win title No. 5 with this team that got oh so close to doing it? The Big 3’s window is shrinking by the year, and it’s difficult to expect another All-NBA First Team Duncan and Second-Team Parker. And what if Manu’s wheels have finally come off? If that’s the case, this team is going to need some help against the rest of the rising NBA stars.

So…

 

How the Spurs can make their biggest splash

As I wrote earlier, the way this team has managed its cap situation is nothing short of brilliant. The Spurs have the capability to bring back nearly the entire group that would likely once again be among the league’s best, but, on the other hand, they’ve put themselves in a position where they can bring significant help to the Alamo City. Hell, at a certain expense, it’s not impossible to free up enough cap space for a maximum contract heading into 2013-14. Though that is quite unlikely. The possibilities are there, but again, it would take great creativity and a high level of risk to pull off a move we’re not exactly accustomed to seeing out of this franchise.

Sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures, and the Spurs don’t have much time left with their Hall-of-Fame trio. They’ve given themselves the flexibility, so perhaps it’s time to go for it. Maybe through good fortune, health and exceptional improvement from role players they can make yet another run, but it’s a very difficult proposition for a team whose stars are on the brink of retirement. The years take their toll, and without reinforcements San Antonio will be up against it.

If the Spurs do intent to take the high-risk, high-reward route, the sequence will soon be initiated. And it all starts with Splitter and Ginobili.

Most of the offseason chatter has been about the narrative surrounding these two players. And while the popular (and conservative) opinion seems to be that San Antonio must re-sign Splitter, that might not be the best course of action. It’s the safest, but likely not the best. As I outlined above, Tiago is a restricted free agent, and his cap hold is worth nearly $7.5 million. In order to clear that hold, the Spurs must re-sign him or let him go. In this high-risk scenario, we’re going to proceed with the latter in mind.

In this scenario, we’re going to renounce Splitter’s rights. No qualifying offer. No waiting out the restricted free-agency period. Nothing.

By not signing a qualifying offer, Splitter would immediately become an unrestricted free agent. And by letting him go, the Spurs would waive their Bird rights — or Larry Bird exception — and their ability to exceed the salary cap in order to sign him. Without Splitter’s cap hold and on top of Jackson’s big expiring contract, San Antonio would potentially have the cap space to pursue Tiago in free agency at a later point, but that’s not a road that typically has a happy ending.

“Hey Tiago, we’re going to renounce your rights and let you go in free agency. We’re going to use the money we got from your cap hold to pursue another player, but if we’re unsuccessful we’re going to come back to you and pay up after all. Cool? We good? Wanna hang out?”

But I digress. There’s more that must happen for this scenario to play out this way, and a ton of it depends on how much money Ginobili takes if he indeed returns for another season. Again, Manu’s cap hold of more than $19 million is crippling until that contractual situation is ironed out, and given his play it’s unlikely he’ll even see half of the $14 million he earned in 2012-13. For argument’s sake, let’s say San Antonio comes to terms with a $5 million deal in the near future (and that might even be generous). Couple that with Jack’s expiring and Splitter’s renounced rights, and the Spurs are looking at a pretty decent chunk of change.

If, in addition to these results, San Antonio decides to let Neal and DeJuan Blair go while the rest of the roster’s contract situations stay the same with a predicted salary cap of $58.5 million, the Spurs would be looking at nearly $11 million in cap space.

So, to summarize this scenario:

  • Stephen Jackson (already gone), Tiago Splitter (renounced rights or lost in RFA), Gary Neal (renounced rights or lost in RFA) and DeJuan Blair (not re-signed) are no longer with the Spurs.
  • Manu Ginobili accepts a contract worth $5 million (total guess) for 2013-14.
  • San Antonio would have roughly $11 million to spend in free agency, taking $893,500 rookie wage from 28th pick into account.

Ah, but it can get better. Crazier, but better.

I described the situations surrounding Diaw and Bonner a bit earlier. They’re both different in the sense that one is under the team’s control (Bonner) while the other can decide whether or not he wants to spend the next year in San Antonio. Let’s say Diaw picks up the $4.7 million tab the Spurs would owe him (and who could blame the guy?). If San Antonio wants more than the $11 million in cap space to make roster changes, it’s quite conceivable that they part ways with the Red Rocket.

It would be so so so sad if this happened, for whatever that’s worth.

Because of the good standing Bonner has with this organization, I could see the Spurs using the amnesty clause in this situation. If they simply declined his option, they’d still be on the hook for $1 million, which would count against the cap. If they amnesty him, he’d get his full salary and the total value would be off the books.

So, on top of the earlier scenario, if Diaw opted in for the $4.7 million and the Spurs decided to amnesty Bonner, San Antonio would be looking at nearly $15 million in cap space. Again, this would mean (Jack), Splitter, Neal, Blair and Bonner would all be gone. Which would leave the Spurs with 10 active players pre-draft. With that kind of cap space, a rookie draft, the mid-level exception available and the inclusion of veteran minimum contracts, San Antonio wouldn’t have much of a problem filling that roster out. Ten players would be more than enough of a starting point if they want to devote most of that $15 million to one player.

But hey, while we’re at it, wanna get a little more crazy?

First of all, if Diaw decides to opt out and leave the Spurs with nearly $5 million in extra spending money, well yippidy doo da. If this does happen, I doubt San Antonio would part ways with Bonner. It’d be tough to lose both of those players after also renouncing Splitter’s rights. If Diaw decides to move on and the Spurs keep Bonner, they’d be looking at more than $15 million in cap room.

Now, what if Diaw opts in but San Antonio decides it doesn’t want him? NBA contracts are obviously guaranteed, so even waiving the guy wouldn’t make things any better financially. Unless, that is, you take advantage of the loopholes.

The collective bargaining agreement allows for what’s called a “stretch provision” for teams that want to cut a player it doesn’t want on its roster. (Geez, the NBA is great. There are so many ways to get out of crappy contracts and relationships with underperforming players, no wonder GMs have been inclined to offer ridiculous money in the first place.) This clause allows for a team to waive a player and stretch his remaining salary over the span of several years. To be exact, said team can take the remaining length of the contract of a waived player, multiply it by two and add a year. It can then spread out its payments evenly over that time span.

In the case of Diaw, if the Spurs were to utilize this provision, they’d only have to pay the man $1,567,500 per year over the next three seasons. If they choose to keep Bonner and waive Diaw (probably a slim chance), they’d be looking at a little more than $14 million in cap space. However, if San Antonio wants to part ways with both big men (Bonner via declined team option and Diaw via “stretch provision”), would $18 million below the salary cap and nine players on the pre-draft roster sound good? And what about if the Spurs decline Bonner and Diaw opts out? That would give San Antonio more than $19.5 million in cap space and essentially enough to offer a max contract at worst.

Clearly this is pushing the limits of sanity for which the Spurs are so notoriously known, but I do feel we must summarize:

  • Remember: 
    • Stephen Jackson (already gone), Tiago Splitter (renounced rights or lost in RFA), Gary Neal (renounced rights or lost in RFA) and DeJuan Blair (not re-signed) are no longer with the Spurs.
    • Manu Ginobili accepts a contract worth $5 million (total guess) for 2013-14.
    • Rest of roster remains intact ($11 million to spend in free agency)
  • Diaw opts in for $4.7 million/Spurs amnesty Bonner (just under $15 million in cap space)
  • Diaw opts out/Spurs exercise team option on Bonner (just over $15 million in cap space)
  • Spurs use “stretch” provision on Diaw/Spurs exercise team option on Bonner ($14 million)
  • Diaw opts out/Spurs amnesty Bonner (or waive) ($19.5 million in cap space ($18.5 million))

 

Manu’s financial situation is key here. I’ve based this whole scenario around the $5 million mark, but that’s a relatively arbitrary number. If he accepts less, that’s huge for San Antonio. But we have no idea how that situation will pan out.

Again, these are pretty extreme scenarios, but the possibilities are there. San Antonio has left itself with some pretty unbelievable flexibility in terms of what product it can put on the floor for the 2013-14 season. Heading into the offseason with just nine players (draft picks not included) is far from ideal, and it just doesn’t seem plausible to part ways with so many frontcourt players.

But when it comes to Splitter, the decision will be an interesting one. This from Spurs General Manager R.C. Buford:

“I can’t tell you what the interest in the market is. In principle, nobody is allowed to express interest until July 1. I think we approach every decision we make, here (are) our opportunities with Tiago, here (are) our alternatives, and what are the opportunity costs that go along with either signing and keeping Tiago or facing the alternatives.

 

“He’s been a big part of our success. Until we know what the market says and how that impacts our planning for the future, you can’t answer one with incomplete information. But he’s been a great fit for both our team and our culture.

 

“You guys have seen it. He’s a great team player. He has been a great fit for us, culturally. I think his passing, his movement on the perimeter as a screener and a roller is superior. He’s not at a point where I think that he’s going to command a double-team in the post, and you’d love to see that develop, but I’m not sure it’s fair to put him in that position. And you’ve got to evaluate a cost for what that is.”

Buford provided a great perspective on what Splitter has meant to this franchise, especially over the last year. He’s been important to San Antonio’s success, not just as an on-court presence, but as an all-important locker-room piece that fits in with the team’s persona. But, at 28 years old, he is what he is. Judging by these quotes, the Spurs don’t seem interested in overpaying for the guy if they believe there are better options out there. One thing I did not outline was the potential for a sign-and-trade, but it’s so difficult to explore any possibilities without knowing who’s interested and what San Antonio could possibly get in return.

There are reports of San Antonio’s interest in Houston Rockets’ forward Thomas Robinson, though we have not heard who the Spurs are dangling. Robinson was a previous Sacramento lottery pick, but he has yet to even come close to proving himself at the NBA level. The potential is theoretically there, but at this point it’s a bit of a crapshoot. He made his mark at the collegiate level as a physical, decently athletic rebounding presence at the forward position, something San Antonio could certainly use in a youthful body. We’ll have to see how this unfolds.

Another aspect of this offseason I did not address to any extent is the draft, but speculation over who the Spurs are interested in and gauging the kind of interest they might have in moving up is nearly impossible with this team given its secretive nature. Still, with an underwhelming draft stock and the potential cost of moving up to a position that would produce a questionably worthwhile bounty would seemingly necessitate action in the free-agent market regardless. San Antonio must win now, and considering what they’d have to give away to make a significant move up in the draft order, the return might not be worth the effort.

But who knows? Maybe there’s some interest from outside in Spurs overseas prospects, and perhaps the difference in someone like Danny Green or Tiago Splitter and an overlooked incoming rookie could put this team in a more competitive place. But I doubt it. For a group that wants to win right now, it’s far more probable that it would be an established player alongside the San Antonio stalwarts that would put the Spurs over the top. Still, San Antonio has worked its magic in the past. It wouldn’t be a shock to see it conjure up yet another trick.

Time is running short for the longtime triumvirate of players that has brought so much success spring after spring, summer after summer to this town. As Duncan, Parker and Ginobili near the finish line, the chances at another title grow slimmer and slimmer. They need help, and if the Spurs decide to bring most everyone back, they’ll have access to mid-level players (and depending on their final cap situation, several million dollars in mid-level exception money) and veterans looking to possibly ride with Timmy for one last run. But with what potentially exists in free agency, due diligence would benefit San Antonio during this pivotal moment.

With players like Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Andre Iguodala and Josh Smith (and the pie-in-the-sky possibility of Dwight Howard) looming on the market, The Spurs might be tempted to take a risk in order to cement one last hurrah. They’ll be competitive either way, but as the league grows more dangerously youthful by the moment, the likelihood of replicating last season’s success is dwindling.

The Spurs are rumored to have made a promise to Virginia Tech guard Erick Green, the leading scorer in the NCAA who’s great at pushing the pace in transition. Tough to say at this point, but he’s the type of guy that could give this team the extra boost it needs behind the overloaded Parker in the backcourt. But again, rookies, especially in this draft, are far from a sure thing.

If San Antonio takes a swing at it but strikes out, at least they know, with a little good luck they could be right there at the top once again. And if ever there’s a team capable of defying odds and taking advantage of opportunities the rest of the league may afford it, it’s this one.

But if they take a high-risk chance in search of the ultimate reward, and the Spurs connect? Well, last week’s fall in Miami may not have been San Antonio’s final stand.

 

Update: The Spurs drafted Livio Jean-Charles with the 28th overall pick in last night’s draft. LJC (as I’m going to be calling him) is from Cayenne, French Guiana and is currently playing for L’ASVEL Lyon-Villeurbanne, the team Tony Parker has stake in. He’ll likely remain overseas, but when it comes to signing the guy, it’s going to help that Parker is one of the team’s owners. In the mean time, his nearly $900K cap hold for a rookie contract from the 28th pick is now lifted, giving the Spurs a little extra money to operate in free agency.

Another rumor from last night — one that was actually reported by the New York Daily News — was that Brett Brown was hired as Philadelphia’s new head coach. R.C. Buford said after the draft that folks were jumping the gun on this, and it turns out he was right. As of right now, Brown has not been hired by anyone, but is still very much active in the interview process.

 

Thanks to Tim Varner for his contributions and explorations into the salary cap situations for this piece.

  • TheFG21

    Thanks for the read Matthew. If I didn’t know the moves that PATFO is accustomed to doing, I’d say you’ve covered in 100% the chances of the events that may occur in the offseason. But w/ this FO we never know for sure until strong rumors start flowing.

    W/ the Big 3 -hopefully- returning at least for 2 more years, I think theres 2 possible scenarios:

    1) The FO decides to give the Big 3 the necessary support (Free Agency) to win a championship NOW. Kind of honoring their careers and dedication for this Franchise. And nothing is better than a Goodbye-Bang to celebrate.

    2) Settle for the status quo and go rejuvenating the team gradually, without drastic changes, more like a long-term rebuilding.

    At the end, even though we do not want to take it like that, this is still a private business. And profit in many cases, is more important than anything, even players loyalty.

    We, as romantic Spurs fans, hope for choice number one. They deserve it.

    GO! SPURS! GO!

  • TrueFan

    Great article, Matthew. It will be interesting to see what (if anything) the draft tonight may indicate about the Spurs summer plans. For example, if they take Erick Green, I would assume that means they are ready to part ways with Neal. If they take a foreign “draft and stash” player like Livio Jean-Charles, could we infer that they want maximum cap space to make a run at a certain big-name free agent?

    Also, I said this two years ago before the 2011 draft — I think the fact that it’s a so-called “weak” draft works to the Spurs advantage, because it’s easier to move up for a player you really like (as they did with Kawhi). Could they have their eye on someone like Karasev, who is one of the few players in this draft who can be expected to contribute immediately?

    The Spurs don’t need to make a lot of changes to have another shot, but they need to do more than just resign Manu and Tiago (at reasonable prices) and add a rookie. It will be interesting to see what they do, starting tonight.

  • gloomis99

    We need a competent point guard that can just ease the burden on Tony and so Manu isn’t the defacto back up (remember Speedy Claxton). Manu proved he can’t play within himself. Additionally, come playoff time we need someone who can create the way Manu used to. We are a very effective system offense but sometimes you need a playmaker down the stretch. Unfortunately in the playoffs Tony’s offense isn’t as efficient as it is during the regular season. He needs help and I’m not sure Leonard is quite there off the dribble.

  • Adam Rendon

    1. Sign Splitter if the price is reasonable…. say 3 years 18.5 millions (back loaded).
    2. Sign Manu for 2 years 8 million or 1 year 5.7 million. if thats not good enough for him Manu should retire. …Or walk. (wink, wink)
    3. Diaw will not opt-out unless he is crazy. Of course, crazy Jackson may have got into his head. Ha.
    4. If Diaw stays (lets hope so), release Matt Bonner. Spurs pay way too much for a slow, low to the ground, not-clutch spotup sharpshooter.
    5. Neal will get offers Spurs will find too expensive to match. He’s gone.
    6. Blair- He’s gone too. (sigh) (smile).
    7. I see Patty Mills and or Cory joseph in a trade. “Penske- how may I help you.” “Uh–Yes, how far is Atlanta from San Antonio”. …”what about Orlando?”
    8. Josh Smith would be at the top of my list of free agents. Image a real rebounder, shot blocker, big man mobile defender and smart scorer next to Timmy? With Smith Spurs have a legitimate response for Thunder and Heat.
    9. Connivence Monte Ellis to sign for Danny Green’s contract numbers (2 years 7.7 million) and trade them. You do that, and you will be GM of the decade, RC.
    10. Nando De Colo. Really really like this kid’s game. Lots of upside. With a Spurs team like I described he could play with broken toe and popcorn buttery fingers, and still get 8 assist as a backup.

  • http://48minutesofhell.com Andrew A. McNeill

    “Connivence Monte Ellis to sign for Danny Green’s contract numbers (2 years 7.7 million)”

    Wow. Really?

  • http://www.nba.com/spurs/?tmd=1 TheRealDirtyP1

    Glad to see you back! I was getting worried. As much as that loss hurt, time to move on and get back.

    I like all your scenarios, and all that made sense to me. I really didn’t understand the vitriol in which posters vented on their dislike of Splitter. I don’t think those guys understood that the Miami series was a bad matchup for him. That team plays with 3 and sometimes 4 guards on the floor, how many other teams the Spurs played did that? None. And guess what? The Spurs beat those teams. You can’t build your team just to beat Miami, especially when you were *that* close. This roster works against most of the NBA and having Splitter also reduce’s Tim’s minutes. I’d rather bring Boris off the bench.

    Here’s what I’d like to see on the 2 Deep:

    Duncan-Baynes

    Splitter-Diaw

    Leonard-free agent

    Green-Ginobili

    Parker-Joseph

    Bonner disappeared in the playoffs again. His numbers go down in the playoffs, not up. The only reason to keep him is to offset Tim’s minutes or the fact that if you lose him you’re getting even smaller.
    It would be interesting to discuss each player specifically and what they mean to this team in terms of production, minutes, and even salary.

    Talking about this team since we’ve gotten to know them so well and who they should cut, it’s like when you’re playing pickup basketball with your 15 best friends and you get down to the last 4 picks and there’s 9 guys left. You feel for the guys that don’t get picked, but you want to beat the other team.

  • Adam Rendon

    In Judy Tenuta’s ‘Love Goddess’ voice, “It can happen”. (smiling)

  • STIJL

    Like the free agency idea. And in Matthew’s scenario, this certainly could be a year the Spurs have the revenue to land such a player. Now whether it’s all in (max contract) for say a Josh Smith or able to land two solid starters would yet to be seen.

    They could also pull a draft day trade much like they did to land Kawhi Leonard.

  • STIJL

    Had to star this discussion. With all bases covered as well as listed, why would there be another reason to read another blog? Great Freakin’ Job!!!! Well Done Write Up!!!

    Something I did not see reflected is the possibility of sign and trade regarding the Spurs free agents. Of course it would all be speculatory at this moment, and dependent on draft night, but wouldn’t surprise me to see the Spurs go that route as well.

    Players like Green, Neal, Splitter have, as discussed, certain talent that other teams might covet enough to trade away if they have overload in an area of Spurs need to acquire one of those players.

    Regarding Ginobili…the man deserves all the respect, accolades and acknowledgement of what he’s provided in the past. But even he (if being a team player) would recognize that IF he decides to select to remain, will need to at a very reasonable new contract. It would only help the team land a “difference” maker player to land yet another NBA title. As pointed out, new contracts for such players won’t be of the 4 to 5 year variety unless that player is a “franchise” type of player. There will be many to choose in areas the Spurs need improvement to select. But that is only going to be based on Ginobili’s decision and the Spurs limit in agreeing to terms. The Spurs organization has got to realize (as mentioned) the window is (will be) shrinking fast for the other two of the big three and probably need to swing for the fences via free agency to land such a player (or 2) to give the Spurs their best opportunity to drive for 5 again.

    Who’s best available will be the key. Who would like to join this organization knowing it is the best team oriented, system run, nba franchise just might make all the difference this year as compared to past years. Reason? The Spurs have founded their organization on those principles. Have never veered from that. And proved in the finals to be the best team to compete against a juggernaut as the Heat. I don’t think any other team in this league could have pushed the Heat to a game 7. And hopefully that bares consciousness of free agents to wanting to win a ring more than filling their pockets.

  • Tmac4Prez

    I know Manu, he feels as he let his family down with his play, and I’m a firm believer of the team shares its success and failures, so I don’t agree with him; but I know he will do whatever is best for the ‘team’, if its signing a mid-level exception he will do it. He will not go broke and most importantly he knows he’s not the Manu of old.

    Boris will not opt out, he and Tony have dreamt since kids on winning an NBA title together, and coming close twice will only entice him to exercise his option. The Spurs will not decline that offer either. Bonner’s, Blair’s, Neil’s and Splitter’s day I sadly feel are coming to an end. Out of those mentioned Neil and Bonner are most likely to be in a Spurs uniform next year with possibly a lesser role.

    So, that will leave us with the $15 million dollar option, again as Mathew stated if Giniobill works with SA to restructure his contract to benefit the team. I think the Spurs will go after Jarrett Jack, Paul Milsap, Josh Smith and Al Jefferson, not all of them will be offered contracts of course but rebounding and back-up ball handling is obviously something that is needed.

    As far as the draft is concerned SA we all know like to go Euro when selecting because “they work harder”, so I can see them selecting Livio Jean-Charles, who has close ties with Tony Parker and at 19 has incredibly athletic. Maybe another big man from Brazil in Lucas Nogueira if he’s around.

    Lots of exciting things can happen for the Spurs in light of what happened in games 6 and 7. I’m proud of my Spurs and am excited to see what our brilliant back office puts together to help ease the pain we’ll have to endure for a little over 355 days when we celebrate our 5th title!

  • TheFG21

    Well, Livio Jean-Charles it is guys. France is in tha house. Probably a stash player. No immediate impact but could in 2 years. Free Agency it is gents. Unless they got a trade under the sleeve a la Kawhi but I doubt it.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Good point. I think everybody was so shell shocked about losing the championship they all needed someone to point a finger at without considering the matchups and strategy of the series they decided to use Splitter as the goat. Splitter didn’t miss 2 vital free throws two different players attempted in game 6. Hell if he would have played his usual minutes in game 6 and 7 he might made some of those free throws everybody was missing. And Splitter definitely didn’t miss a crucial put back in the last half minute of game 7. For all those people that want him gone I hope you get someone who’s going double his production night in and night out for the money they are thinking of throwing at a mystery free agent. I don’t think you can get Josh Smith for 6 or even 7 mil. Try something like 12-14 mil per. And what you’ll get with that is a bunch of ill advised long jumpers to go with that great rebounding everybody’s talking about. Great now we’ll have 2 front court men chuncking up jumpers from the top of key or further. Whose going to get the rebound? Oh my. Just like Jackson Tiago will be missed.

  • Titletown99030507d

    None of this article makes sense.

  • Titletown99030507d

    Or ever. See Ryan Richards.

  • Titletown99030507d

    If the Spurs can’t afford 8 mil for Splitter than go spend the 16 mil for Josh. Good luck with that.

  • Matthew R Tynan

    Not sure you read correctly.

  • Keith Alan

    Timmy set the example of a trophy mentality right in front of most of these guys when he took a pay cut on his last contract and came back stronger and better each year. Career free-throw % for much of the whole team is no coincidence–they would follow him into hell itself.
    Manu and Tiago among others will stay and take the financial hit needed to win that 104th game.
    Our role players came close enough to taste it and watched the celebration on the winner’s home court–no way they bail on the best franchise culture and system in the NBA.
    Who we bring in with the extra $$ is the big question mark, and as much as I would like a better rebounding 7-footer, developing CoJo or another of our guards into something closer to Parker’s skillset and control of each game is just as important.

    Kawhi was huge this year but played way too many minutes and Jax’s flakeout was a killer–we really need someone to handle quality minutes at his position so his health isn’t a factor next season.

  • Melbourne Spur

    Rumours in Australia are that Patty exercised his one year option to stay on, and Assist Coach Brett Brown is now Head Coach at Philly. Pop needs some new helpers.

  • http://www.nba.com/spurs/?tmd=1 TheRealDirtyP1

    The Spurs don’t land big name free agents typically, so I wouldn’t hold my breath. Manu will do what’s right and he’ll still give his all every night.
    Sign and trade the bargain young player that you got in Green? Splitter’s needle isn’t pointing down, with this offense you need someone that can run the pick and roll. He’s a pretty good passer as well.
    I just don’t get people willing to part with Tiago so easily if the money isn’t crazy.

  • TheFG21

    I doubt it. When PATFO said that LJC was easily a top 20 in this Draft is because they knew something we dont. As always.

  • TheFG21

    Is not that they cant afford 8mil on Tiago. Is that at that salary range, they are better off going to the FA maximizing their money. Unless Tiago somehow improves considerably his gameplay in the offseason, he’s not worth that much money.

  • TheFG21

    Patty and his towel exercising his Option is True. He did. Also, is expected that Boris exercise his option too and stay w/ the Spurs.

    Coach Brown going to the Sixers is False.
    http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/9431991/philadelphia-76ers-gm-sam-hinkie-denies-team-hiring-san-antonio-spurs-assistant-brett-brown

  • Coldar Cluck

    Well the thing is if we just outright resign our roster to fair deals. And we don’t win the championship and Manu and Duncan retire along with pop. Then we have tony Parker in his final year with kawhi as the number two guy and that’s it we are terrible. Splitter is a good role player. Danny green role player. Tony Parker has no help. And he doesn’t resign in SA. OR we could get somebody that can help us now AND after Timmy and Manu are gone. We are still a competitive team with cap space andddd attractive to more free agents. We were 5.2 seconds away from winning it all. True. However the rest of the league is trying to get better and we have to to. We can’t just sit on what we already have.

  • TheFG21

    If there’s no money, there’s no money. We ain’t Miami or Brooklyn or LA. We do wonders with the money we got and just under the Cap.

  • DorieStreet

    His dropoff both on the court and in the locker room was unexpected; but the decline and the issues were there before the trade deadline. (It’s spilled milk, but the Spurs chose to “whistle while passing the graveyard”; hence the answer to Jackson’s insubordination= McGrady.)
    Got to add another player who the Spurs can put on the floor regardless who the opponent is in the WCF or Finals.

  • DorieStreet

    Spurs added only one player for 2012-13, and he (de Colo) saw no action this postseason, joining annual playoff sitouts Blair and Bonner The book is out on this team.
    The Spurs need another off-the ball dribble creator to go along with Kawhi’s improvement in that area.

  • td4life

    I believe Iggy will re-sign with DEN, Milsap with UTA. Dwight with HOU, Al Jefferson with ATL, and Andrew Bynum with DAL. If the Spurs can release Bonner, I believe they can be front-runners (for better or worse) to sign Josh Smith. Smith’s tendency to blunder worries me, but I don’t see any other moves which make us more competitive while TD is still playing.

  • Ryan

    This is what I would’ve liked them to do, but they lack the balls to make any sort of bold moves.

    Trade Parker and Nando de Colo for Goran Dragic and the #5; draft Oladipo. Let Neal go unless he’s ready to sign for the minimum. Only resign Manu if he’s willing to take about 3-4 million a season. Only resign Blair if he’s willing to take 2 million a year or less. Renounce the rights to Splitter. Make the strongest run possible for Howard, if he signs elsewhere, get Andrew Bynum at 4 years/50 million or Blatche 5 years/25 million. Offer Oden 4 years/10-15 million(long shot), or more depending on if we get Howard/Bynum or not. Offer Calderon 3 years/9 million.

    The result? Unbelievable line-up. (I’ll go with the most realistic – Howard is a pipe dream)
    Bynum/Blair/Bonner/Diaw
    Duncan/Diaw/Bonner/Blair
    Leonard/Manu/Oladipo
    Green/Oladipo/Dragic/Manu
    Calderon/Dragic/Joseph/Mills

    That’s easily the best defensive unit in the NBA and probably the best defensive unit the NBA has seen since the Pistons and Spurs of 10 years ago – and full of highly efficient players on offense. The most important thing is we get rid of one of the worst defenders I’ve ever seen in Parker, as well as his hero ball ways on offense and we strike while Parker’s stock is at an all-time overrated high. The only possible thing derailing that team is injuries. Of course it will never happen, because the best free agent the Spurs overrated front office have been able to get during the Duncan-era has been a washed up Michael Finley, which further demonstrates Duncan’s unbelievably consistent greatness.

  • STIJL

    Regarding Tiago…if somebody is willing to “overpay” for his services, it might be best to sign and trade for talent a little better.

    As far as Ginobili…it’s never been a question of him giving his all. At this stage of his long career, it becomes a question of what’s his all going to give the team.

    And IF a sign and trade of Green for better talent would be presented…you don’t turn down better talent.

    But…need to emphasize if better talent can’t be had, you don’t give away known talent for “possible” improvement.

    All I’m saying is this…there is better talent out there to be had in this years free agency. And the Spurs proved this year to be a destination for that talent despite the “old” moniker unjustly bestowed. And probably why we won’t see #28 pick of the draft LJC in a Spurs uniform next year.

    IMO…they are going to pursue the free agency with more diligence than in year’s past. Whether it’s successfull is yet to be seen.

  • Jimbo

    Wow. You must have some pretty good drugs :)

  • dennislippy

    I would like to see Pop and RC offer Avery Johnson Bud’s assoc. hc position and sign
    Al Jefferson while keeping Tiago

  • Spurs fan in Australia

    Im not a salary cap expert but I think it’s impossible with the Spurs current cap situation. Further to that, Parker is a much better player than either Calderon or Dragic.

  • Ryan

    It would be possible if the moves were made exactly as how I stated. And yes, Parker is a much better scorer than either of them, but that’s the only real advantage he has over either of them. Dragic has a somewhat comparable PER and Calderon is a rare member of the 50/40/90 club. The real key is that on top of Dragic, they would get Oladipo, but of course it didn’t work out that way.

  • td4life

    Oladipo went #2, so this isn’t even an option. PHX learned their lesson that they aren’t going to win now, and so 31 year old Parker makes no sense with their roster. They’d still be bad, Dragic was their best player last season.

    We’d take a serious step back, losing so much system knowledge in TP that our chances next year would be worse. Our defense also takes time to learn. We were Finalists this year, because we kept the group together. No way Bynum gets 12.5 for 4 years. He’ll get a short contract. Bynum gets (predictably) injured on that roster and you have screwed TD’s last shot even more.

  • camnpat

    I don’t see SA trading Green anytime soon. His performance was great throughout the playoffs and the season. Most importantly, on top of being a Sean Elliot caliber shooter, right now he is probably the team’s best transition defender (Leonard is a better defender overall but he is much better at one- on- one). That’s the sort of versatility the Spurs love. He just needs to be more efficient attacking the basket when a 3- pointer is not an option. He is a great ball handler already so the rest can be taught just like the team trained Parker to become a great shooter.

  • Ryan

    Again, I made that before the draft. But I heard Cleveland was entertaining Deng for the #1, so I figured it was a pretty realistic trade. Parker is a lot better than Deng and Deng isn’t 23, either. It was a weak draft. Also, if Phoenix just wanted to tank, they wouldn’t have entered the Scola sweepstakes last year. I don’t think Sarver wants to field an awful team necessarily. Bynum is a bargain at 12.5 for 4 years, I’ll take that any deal of the week, even on a gamble with his knee. If on the chance his knee never responds… hey, at least they tried. At least they went down swinging. Tony Parker with the keys to the offense will not get it done. He is a career playoff choker. 6-23 and 10 points, 4 assists in the 2 biggest games of his life.

  • Ryan

    I must be, to think the Spurs front office is capable of making competent decisions. See: Their first round draft pick. RC Buford and Holt are both drunks, that’s a fact.

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  • TheFG21

    Agree.

  • TheFG21

    Jim Boylen (Pacers) was hired by the Spurs. Coach Brown takes Coach Bud place at the moment.

  • idahospur

    #1 priority on this list should have been Tracy McGrady. Everyone knows that.
    But seriously, I and many fans are probably of the same thought process of not wanting Manu Ginobili to wear another team’s jersey in the NBA. Every instinct says he’s a professional, he wants redemption, and he’ll work for cheap. Every Spur should look at Tim Duncan and say if that man who played great in the playoffs takes a pay cut for a title, then I will to.
    Tiago Splitter took a few steps back in the Finals, but with the NBA as it is, someone will want to pay him big. I hate to see him walk, but money is money.

    Bonner wasn’t there when we needed him. I have defended him for years, especially when he was the de facto starting center for some point. I thought if he was put in a good place, off the bench, he could put in some 3’s when we asked. He didn’t do it. It’s time to offer him less money, but let him walk if he believes in better opportunities elsewhere.
    Neal gave us one great game. I can’t justify much for that. Many players in the league can offer one great game too.
    The hardest question is who will be better and who can we afford. Names like Josh Smith and Al Jefferson are on everyone’s wish list but are they willing to take less money to be part of a puzzle rather than be the star? If I was a great player (which I’m not being 5’8″ and after rupturing an Achilles I feel like I wear ski boots when I run down the court) I would enjoy the chance to learn from Duncan for a year or two and then take center stage when he walks. The Spurs have some young pieces coming together. Parker has a few good steps left, Leonard looks to be an outside All-Star, and Danny Green could’ve been the Finals MVP. But sadly, there are many great opportunities for players with more money and more “fun” places to play.
    As my brother the Celtics fan always reminds me, Red Auerbach said that Boston stayed loyal to Bird, McHale, and Parrish too long. Which led to the result of Pierce and KG heading to Brooklyn. I felt KG gave his all to Minnesota and had no harsh feelings when he left. But my heart did break seeing Pierce, who stuck with Boston when they gave him nothing for years. I couldn’t imagine seeing an Alamo team that let Manu, Tim, or tony play for another team but maybe I’m just too sentimental. We made it to the Finals on the backs of the old men and with a little bit of luck, we can do it again.
    To Pop, Buford, and the rest of the organization: make us proud in the next couple of months. Put together a great team and I hope to be seeing them play again next June.
    GO SPURS GO!!!

  • John

    How do you guys think an Andrei Kirilenko would fit with the Silver & Black? Just opted out of his deal in Min, and widely assumed they won’t offer him a multi-year deal to stay…

  • GMac

    Drunks with 4 NBA Championships. But I guess if they listened to you they would have won the title every year.

  • td4life

    Sarver learned his lesson trying to avoid the rebuild, now he stuck with some bad player and TP doesn’t transform their picture. With next year’s loaded draft means he pretty much has to tank, with his only chance to land a future HOF worthy talent at a young age. And there is nothing realistic about trading Parker during TD’s last 2 years following a 27-10 playoff record over the past two postseasons. And you are the only person in the world that would offer Bynum 4 years this summer at that price. That’s flat-out crazy, he’ll get a short experimental contract. Little guys struggle in the playoffs against bigger defenders, blame Parker if you want for having to play against LBJ, blame Nash for being guarded by Bowen. Credit Magic, MJ and Kobe for their genetic size advantages.

    Tynan didn’t mention that if we amnesty Bonner and USE THE MLE ON GINOBILI, we’d have more than $19M in cap space. They’d only be over the cap (but still under the tax) for 2 years. All the Spurs need to do is to use their cap space on the right addition and keep the rest of the band together.

  • td4life

    He should have taken his $10M, I question his intelligence and priorities after opting out. But if LAC trades Bledsoe and Butler for Affalo, they should offer him a 3 year deal. Getting him to SA is not out of the question, but I’d rather get either a bigger body or a wing with some handles, allowing Green to play more of a SF role.

  • Tim in Surrey

    I’m with you, Titletown. I’d rather have Splitter and AK47 for $14 million than Josh Smith for $16 million, any day. Although one thing I’ll say for Smith: If Chip Engelland can improve his shot the way he has so many others’ (in other words, if Smith can actually MAKE some of those threes that he loves to take), then suddenly Smith becomes more valuable. But even in a best-case scenario, it’s hard to see him “fitting our culture”. Andre Iguodala, however, might be a different story–again, especially if Chip can help his outside shot.

  • Tim in Surrey

    Anybody who’s reaction to this past season includes trading Tony Parker and adding Andre Blatche, really does have some pretty good drugs.

  • Tim in Surrey

    You can’t use the exception if you have cap space. You can only use it once you’re over–that’s why it’s an exception to the salary cap.

  • Tim in Surrey

    I think he’d fit in great for a couple of years, if he can stay healthy. He can play the 3 or 4 and has enough length and quickness to switch onto the 2 and 5. But not much offense. I’d approach Iguodala first and then AK47.

  • Matthew R Tynan

    Can’t use MLE on Manu, which is why it wasn’t mentioned.