Is the end near for the Spurs’ big three?

LAS VEGAS — The signing of Manu Ginobili for two more years, which not so coincidentally coincides with the years remaining on Tim Duncan’s and Tony Parker’s contracts, was supposed to signal the end of their road.
The Three Amigos finally had an expiration date. Their truly amazing and unique run, stretching back to early this century, is coming to a close sometime in 2015.
“People have been trying to put a finish line on the Big Three era for a long time,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said. “After watching Tim play this year, I don’t think any of us are trying to predict when these guys will stop being effective players. We’re not looking for a finish line.”
Maybe not, but it sure looks like one. Duncan will be 39 and Ginobili will be closing in on 38 after the 2014-15 season. Parker, the young pup of the trio, still should be going strong, but what about his two older friends? Manu has given more than enough hints that he’s this close to hanging up his sneakers up.
“There’s nothing that prevents these guys from playing longer if they choose to and if they’re enjoying their time,” Buford added.
Rather than spending too much more time on predicting the future of the San Antonio’s silver-aged threesome, Buford is rightly concerned with the now. The Spurs have done the heavy lifting on another offseason in which they’ve seemingly done what they’ve wanted.
It shouldn’t come as a shock that the defending Western Conference champions approached the summer of 2013 with a plan that’s been executed to a tee. It’s not about pipe dreams like Chris Paul and Dwight Howard in San Antonio. It’s about doing what’s right for the Spurs and keeping the team in the title mix.
The Spurs kept who they wanted to keep – Ginobili, Tiago Splitter – while adding pieces that fit into the system – Marco Belinelli, Jeff Pendergraph. The moves aren’t sexy, even if they get hoopheads all atwitter on Twitter, but they’re efficient and necessary.
“We hoped to bring back the group that played pretty well this year and we were able to do that for the most part,” Buford said. “We still have some pieces that we’re waiting to see what happens. We’re excited about adding Belinelli and Pendergraph.”
The Spurs did explore others in free agency. Various reports had San Antonio in the running for the likes of Andrei Kirilenko and Kyle Korver, who have signed elsewhere, and Greg Oden, who’s still on the market. And while Oden still might be a possibility, the Spurs zeroed in Belinelli and Pendergraph, and got those deals done.
Belinelli joins a swingman rotation with Ginobili, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. Belinelli could also be seen as insurance for the oft-injured Ginobili.
“Marco’s shooting ability and his ability to play pick-and-roll are both things that can be impactful within our group,” Buford said. “The time that we’ve spent researching him, it appears he’ll be a great fit with our group. The places that he’s played and the things that he’s done look like they’ll work in San Antonio.”
Pendergraph has played sparingly in three years in the league, but the Spurs see athleticism and upside in the 26-year-old forward. San Antonio’s staff has done a bang-up job in finding young players who struggled to get a foothold in the league elsewhere – Green and Gary Neal, for instance – and Pendergraph may be the next on that list.
“He can shoot the ball from 18 feet, he has a high basketball IQ and is a good defender,” Buford said. “Not a whole lot of historical minutes from what we’ve seen in the research we’ve done, but he appears to be a fit.”
That is what the Spurs do. They find pieces that fit, and this summer is no different.