Reloaded: Spurs not only win offseason, they win future
Of all the deals and dollars thrown around since the NBA’s free-agency frenzy began last week, this figure might be the most indicative of the league’s rising — and rebooted — super power: The $1.4 million David West reportedly took to sign with the San Antonio Spurs.
Yes, DeAndre Jordan took his massive skills to the Dallas Mavericks for a massive payday, leaving the Clippers high and dry. Draymond Green did indeed re-up with the defending champion Golden State Warriors. And a guy named LeBron James will soon ink his name on another Cleveland Cavaliers contract, the magnet to so many other stars flocking to the King’s court.
But it is the Spurs who won the week, and more than just free agency. They won the future.
What the Spurs have done this free agency is nothing short of spectacular. West, a winner, true tough guy, respected locker-room presence and fierce competitor added a rare label to his list of basketball virtues: A man for whom money is a distant second to a shot at greatness. He left a $12.2 million player option behind in Indianapolis. That’s real money. That’s $10.8 million. That’s a striking sacrifice that shines a light on just what the Spurs are building, for this season and many to come.
Kawhi Leonard, the second-youngest Finals MVP in league history, signed on for five years and $90 million. He was the young cornerstone of the future for a team already in dynastic levels of greatness. Then San Antonio landed LaMarcus Aldridge, the prize of this free-agency class, for four years and $80 million.
That alone is a dynamic duo, one that makes the Spurs a rising power even as they, improbably, maintain great odds to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy next year. Tim Duncan, who played a critical role in securing Aldridge and establishing the Spurs’ post-Duncan era, will return. Manu Ginobili said Monday he’s back, too, tweeting, “Happy to announce that I’m coming back next season.”
No doubt he is. Now, the Spurs boast the best coach in the NBA in Gregg Popovich. They possess one of the league’s most certain one-two combos for the future in Leonard and Aldridge (I’d take them over Chris Paul and Blake Griffin this season because of the supporting cast, Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns for youth reasons, the Splash Brothers because there’s only one Steph, and so on); a top-five-to-top-eight all-time player in Tim Duncan, who will be able to rest even more in the regular season than the last few; West; Manu; the still-excellent Tony Parker …
The Alamo? Sure, but don’t forget the Spurs, either, or their uncanny ability to continue to reinvent, hand off the torch, and dip into some secret elixir that’s a blend of basketball’s fountain of youth and automatic chemistry.
Even before West said no thank you to almost $11 million so he could get in on the Spurs’ coup, they were 9/2 to win it all, making them, along with the Warriors, Vegas’ second-most likely team to claim the 2016 NBA title. The Cavaliers, at 11/4, are the favorite.
Take the bet. The Spurs are the favorite. They’re the team to beat. The Cavs, for all their greatness, are bringing back Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, adding Mo Williams and looking at Joe Johnson, and they still have that head coach that LeBron for now has allowed to keep his paycheck. Chemistry is no easy things in the best of cases. Cleveland, for all its talent, may need another year of coalescing.
The Warriors, back and fully loaded, are a young team that will fight the same championship hangover that haunted almost every championship team before them. The Thunder have proven themselves injury prone, and often a piece short, and the Bulls have a new head coach with a very new approach. The Mavericks, Clippers and Rockets all have gaping holes.
Yes, the NBA continues to spin, and yet one thing remains the same: The San Antonio Spurs are there, lurking, ready, the best team in the NBA, ready to quietly grind its way to more greatness.
Check that. One thing has changed. The Spurs, against all odds, have maintained this truth while establishing themselves for three, four, five years down the road.
They did what the Lakers today (Kobe), Bulls (Michael), the Lakers before (Magic), and so many other teams failed to do, because it is nearly impossible: They locked up their post-Great One future while he’s still viable and a part of the team.
The Spurs didn’t just win free agency. The won the future, too.