Manu Ginobili discusses the state of things following Game 7 (Getty Images)
With every season that ends, for the playoff teams at least, we felt it right to take a look ahead. TNT already has the rights to "Gone Fishin'," and because we're sure that someone, somewhere, still likes that Wyclef song, we're going with "Gone Till November." And, yes, we know the season starts in October. Today? The San Antonio Spurs.
Discussing the future of the San Antonio Spurs is a dodgy proposition, mainly because the team itself will tell you that it has no real future. Younger contributors like Kawhi Leonard and Tiago Splitter are enticing, admirable prospects that 30 out of 30 NBA teams would kill to call their own, but the goal for the 2012-13 San Antonio Spurs was always clear – they knew Miami would be the Eastern Conference’s Finals representative, so the plan was to hang around long enough to put the ball in Tim Duncan’s hands late in Game 7 of the season’s deciding game, with things stuck at 90-88. Sadly, and weirdly, Duncan failed to deliver.
And here we are. Talking about San Antonio’s “future” as if anyone surrounding the team wants to hear about it. It was all about 2013 for this crew. Plotting for 2014 seems absurd.
Duncan energized his team and tied a fitting bow on a fantastic career by losing weight and entering 2012-13 in fantastic shape. The future Hall of Famer saw his minutes minded expertly by coach Gregg Popovich, who helped to put together a roster alongside R.C. Buford that allowed for the sort of think-on-your-feet make-‘em-ups that are needed when a franchise aligns itself with a superstar for a decade and a half. For nearly nine months, and especially for those two postseason months, the collaboration worked.
San Antonio fell just short in Game 7, though, and the only real option the team has in 2013-14 is to try the same thing again. To count on timing and smarts and talent to play until another June 20th. Unfortunately, this is the last thing anyone’s knees want to hear.
The team’s cap situation only looks flexible if certain Spur-killing elements fall into place. For one, the team could be under the cap if Manu Ginobili retires, but that’s not a likely scenario. Secondly, the team is on the hook for Tiago Splitter’s cap hold until the team either lets him flee to another team as a restricted free agent (despite Splitter’s injury plagued postseason, he will be coveted; the dude can play), signs him for the $4.9 million qualifying offer, or signs him to an extension.
Boris Diaw could possibly earn a little more elsewhere, but he’s likely to pick up his $4.7 million player option. Matt Bonner could be waived to clear up some space, but the Spurs will probably pick up his $3.9 million team option. This is to say, the whole crew is probably coming back.
This isn’t a bad thing. June of 2014 seems like a million miles away at this point, but this is also a Spurs team that went toe to toe with the defending champions. This is a crew that is rightfully kicking itself for its missteps in Game 6 and Game 7, and a team that others will want to play for. San Antonio will be far removed from the luxury tax, and should have significant salary cap exceptions options once Ginobili and Splitter’s situations are settled. This team isn’t going to want to even look at a basketball until August, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t attempt to try it all again.
That is a wearing thought, after 103 total games in 2012-13, pitched behind players with gray specks and bald spots. Attitudes tend to change when the leaves do, though, and a smart and persistent 2013-14 shouldn’t be a problem. These are the Spurs, after all.
We’d like to thank them for that. Thank you for being you, San Antonio. See you, not soon enough.
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