The “Race for Seis” ended Saturday night at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, at least for 2015. Unfortunately I didn’t get to watch it, as I was attending Game 2 on the 2015 Bedlam Baseball Series at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in downtown OKC. Oklahoma State clinched it’s fifth straight series win, beating the Sooners 8-1.
On the last night of the season, the Spurs could have clinched the No. 2 seed and a first round date with Dallas for the second consecutive year. I, and most other die-hards, knew Pop would rest the “Fantastic Four” for at least most of the second half.
The Spurs lost to New Orleans and wound up in the worst possible position entering the night – 6th. Paired up with the second most explosive offense in the West – the LA Clippers.
The first five or six games of the series went about as expected. Then, Game 7. Keep in mind, I didn’t get to watch the game live, but I saw highlights from Bleacher Report.
Game 1: San Antonio 92 @ LA Clippers 107
Game 2: San Antonio 111 @ LA Clippers 107/OT
Game 3: LA Clippers 73 @ San Antonio 100
Game 4: LA Clippers 114 @ San Antonio 105
Game 5: San Antonio 111 @ LA Clippers 107
Game 6: LA Clippers 102 @ San Antonio 96
Game 7: San Antonio 109 @ LA Clippers 111
The most frustrating part of the whole series is that San Antonio didn’t come out of the gate well in six of the games. The winning team eclipsed the century mark in each game and offense was very inconsistent from various Spurs. Being able to play poorly and still only come two points from advancing shows how good the Spurs really are. The troubles lie off the floor, however.
The Spurs have only five players under contract for the 2015-16 season, according to basketball-reference.com:
- Tiago Splitter ($8.5M)
- Tony Parker ($13.4M)
- Patty Mills ($3.6M)
- Boris Diaw ($7M)
- Kyle Anderson ($1.1M; Rookie Contract)
Kawhi Leonard is no longer a potential star in the league – he is one. Four years removed from the draft night which left many fans scratching their heads wondering what a Kawhi is, the wing has made two NBA Finals appearances winning Finals MVP in 2014. Still, no All-Star Game appearances thanks to the small market that is San Antonio and the lack of appeal to the nation in fundamental basketball.
Leonard said two things in regard to his contract making me wonder if he knows where he’s playing. He said he wants a max deal, which the Tim Duncan-esque weapon clearly deserves, but he also said he wants to play his whole career in San Antonio. Um, one problem.
The Spurs don’t give max deals. Case and point, 2005, when Manu Ginobili was the hottest free agent on the market.
Leonard and Duncan are eerily similar – calm, productive, emotionless, incredibly skilled and make everyone around them better. With the massive rise in salary cap, not signing Leonard after winning a ring may come back to bite R.C. Buford in the rear.
Peter Holt by no means has the deepest pockets in the league, but he forked up over $50 million for Tony Parker, $36 million for Tiago Splitter and let’s not forget the massive contract Ginobili had which ended following the 2013 NBA Finals loss.
Tim Duncan could in theory retire, and I’ve seen posts on Twitter from many Thunder, Mavericks and let’s face it, fans of any team. Duncan doesn’t seem to age. Reggie Miller pointed out during the Clippers series that Duncan can’t walk right because his knee is so messed up, but Duncan is playing as well as he ever has.
But, nobody knows how many years Duncan has left. Would I be surprised to see him sign small, short-term deals to stay in basketball but leave plenty of space? I’m not really sure.
I don’t anticipate Duncan demanding he get Lebron James money, because that’s not Tim. However, the sure-fire first-ballot Hall-of-Famer is more than deserving of it.
Manu Ginobili is capable of being inducted in the Hall of Fame, but it won’t be on the first ballot. Ginobili could do the same as Duncan – retire or sign a small deal to keep him around.
Matt Bonner, Aron Baynes, Danny Green are all free agents. With a productive last couple years, Baynes could be an under-the-radar commodity.
Keep all of those names in mind and add one. A big one.
The Portland All-Star post has been quoted as saying San Antonio is at or near the top of his destination wishlist. Gee, he’s not ring-chasing, is he?
With San Antonio going after him hard, the Spurs are trying to beat the Knicks, Bulls and Lakers in a way they traditionally haven’t – free agency.
Many of the 30 teams will be vying for the honor to pay Aldridge a ridiculous amount of money in hopes that he will be the rim protector they all have been hoping for. The Spurs also have the 26th pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, per SB Nation.
Frank Kaminsky from Wisconsin could potentially be on the board at that point. When that was pointed out to me, I forgot a key. Aron Baynes is a free agent.
It isn’t like the Spurs to draft domestic talent, let alone keep it for Opening Night. That’s why many were surprised when Anderson made the Opening Night roster, regardless that he was arguably the best passer in the Pac 12 in his final year at UCLA.
But, Buford is catching up in the game. It seems that the 2013 Finals loss is sitting worse with him than anyone in the organization not named Popovich, Duncan or, deservedly, Ginobili.
The loss in 2015 is conflicting, because the team looked like crap at times, but against key opponents had good records:
- Dallas – 2-2
- Houston – 3-1
- New Orleans – 1-3
- Memphis – 2-2
- Oklahoma City – 2-1
- Golden State – 2-1
- Cleveland – 1-1
The key to decide who all the Spurs go after in this year’s incredible free agent class and fairly average draft, is Aron Baynes.
And that may be the biggest surprise of the whole thing.