Tim Duncan can't believe he just left that much money on the table (Getty Images)
There are unfortunate realities that capped-out NBA teams have to suffer through as they head from one capped-out season to the next. Changing the face of a franchise is no easy task When attempting to switch personnel while over the salary cap, you're more or less stuck with what you had last season. Luckily for the San Antonio Spurs, they finished last season with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker. And, luckily for Spurs fans, Duncan's willingness to cut his pay in half next season will allow the team to keep all three and retain help for the aging trio.
The massive pay cut Duncan took likely represents the last contract of his NBA career — from $21.16 million in 2011-12 to $9.65 million in 2012-13. It's a move that helps the Spurs vie for a championship in his waning years nearly as much as Duncan's play helped win titles at his peak.
And it didn't go unnoticed by the great Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express-News:
After being the third-highest paid player in the league last season, behind only Lakers star Kobe Bryant ($25.24 million) and Boston's Kevin Garnett ($21.25 million), Duncan next season will be the fourth-highest paid Spur.
A two-time NBA Most Valuable Player, the 36-year-old Duncan will see his salary rise to $10.36 million for the 2013-14 season. The team captain is guaranteed $10 million for the 2014-15 season, but he has an opt-out clause.
Duncan's pay cut had been expected, but few thought he would agree to a drop as significant as this.
The dip was more or less sealed when San Antonio made a surprising trade-deadline deal in March to acquire former Spur (and, it should be noted, formerly disgruntled) Stephen Jackson, and his $10.6 million salary. Retaining Duncan with a double-figure salary would place four different Spurs (alongside Ginobili and Parker) in that realm, and that's just not good business sense.
Because a cap is a cap. And even if the Spurs wanted to go all out and dive into luxury tax territory, their flexibility in acquiring players would be greatly reduced.
Money matters to the Spurs, who rarely pay the tax. Duncan's new deal let the team re-sign guard Danny Green, keep Boris Diaw, take advantage of the last year of Jackson's time with the Spurs, re-sign Patty Mills and add 2009 pick Nando De Colo -- who you can trust is a real person because Mike Monroe wouldn't lead us astray.
Duncan's contract also puts the team in a good spot next summer, when it's time to extend Manu Ginobili's contract, and possibly match offers for center Tiago Splitter, who will become a restricted free agent.
None of this cinches the fifth ring of Duncan's illustrious career. But with sound spending and a deep squad the Spurs have a chance. And because Duncan wasn't offended that the Spurs asked that he not approximate his last contract, he'll have a happy and deep team to work with.
Seems a fair tradeoff for all involved.
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