Oh the dog-days of the off-season. There's no use pretending anymore, we're really in the thick of it now. The hot August muck. Fan blowing at full blast 24/7, to the point where we don't even feel cold when it's inches away from us but rather just relieved. You turn the sucker off, just for a minute, and the stifling heat and humidity envelops you like a scratchy wool sweater you have to throw off of your person immediately.
The draft? So long ago. Ages. The Spurs took (gasp!) some French guy who promptly got hurt and wasn't even going to come over this year anyway and some other schmo in the second round whose scoring display during the summer league so impressed the big club that they told him, "Hey, go play in another country, preferably one where they don't care if you don't know how to guard anybody."
Free agency? Another uninspiring blur shrinking rapidly in the rear view. AK-47? LOL, you. As if that was ever gonna happen. You know we can't have nice things. The last time the Spurs acquired a prominent free agent, Mark Cuban was paying him $52 million to go away. The Spurs also didn't get Greg Oden, Sam Bowie or Len Bias. Instead, they got Marco Belinelli: Summer League legend, burgeoning clutch-shooter and future resident of Pop's doghouse. He's already signed the lease and everything. IKEA's coming to fix the place up on Thursday and the satellite guy's due on Friday. Food's covered too-- there are literally hundreds of coupons from Whataburger and Taco Cabana stuffed in the kitchen drawers from the previous tenant.
We also lost DeJuan Blair and Gary Neal, a couple of guys who had a few days in the sun but had both outstayed their welcome and badly needed a change of scenery. They will be...
missed fondly remembered on teams associated with Dirk Nowitzki.
The summer league failed to inspire, as somehow a juggernaut Spurs lineup of Aron Baynes, Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo and Deshaun Thomas failed to bring home the... whatever it is that teams bring home for winning that ridiculous tournament they came up with in the league offices. (Congrats Warriors!)
Admit it, you've been cheating on the Spurs these hot summer months. You've been sneaking a peek at the NFL preseason, or perhaps checking out those other Spurs on the NBC family of networks. Anything to while away the hours in this interminable weather. Lord knows I have.
At PtR we've had to resort to cheap gimmicks like reliving awful nightmares from June with Zapruder film intensity partly to torture you, but also because what else is there to write about? Okay, mostly to torture you. J.R. Wilco has a wife and five kids. He's active in his community and quite serious about his spirituality. He needs some way to blow off steam though, so his dark side leaks out in the form of columns he assigns his minions to make you angry. It would give you chills if you could hear his cackles on the phone. I only write for him because HE'S A WONDERFUL PERSON AND A DEAR FRIEND WHO WOULD IN NO WAY HARM ME AGAIN.
Wait what was this supposed to be about again? Right, the assistant coaches. O' how we'll miss those invaluable, precious, irreplaceable assistant coaches, especially that one guy, you know, the squinty one, and that other one, with the tan.
I mean sure, the turnover rate of the average NBA assistant coach is the kind of thing that'd make Manu Ginobili blush, and although the whole lot of them seem utterly interchangeable, I'm sure San Antonio's assistant coaches were dipped in some kind of translucent magic liquid from the fountain of basketball wisdom that made them more valuable and important than their nameless, faceless counterparts across the league.
The last five Spurs assistants I can recall them losing, off the top of my head: Mike Brown, P.J. Carlesimo, Monty Williams, Jacque Vaughn and Don Newman. Brown lasted as long with the Lakers as my last bout with dysentery and was just as well received. Carlesimo couldn't lead the Nets, despite having home court advantage, past a wholly undermanned Bulls team in the first round of the playoffs and was replaced by Jason Kidd, a guy who has zero head coaching experience on any level. Williams and Vaughn haven't been at their jobs too long and haven't had much talent to work with, but they've hardly done anything worth writing about since being handed the reins in New Orleans and Orlando, respectively. Newman left the Spurs to take a lateral position with the Wizards, which is the kind of move one only makes if the writing on the wall screams to him "leave before we fire you."
Yes, Mike Budenholzer is different. He's been with Popovich since the beginning, a Spur assistant in some form or fashion since 1996. He's been interviewed for top jobs in the past but was never a serious candidate. He has this accountant, nebbish, milquetoast look to him, though I suspect there's a fiery temper simmering beneath the surface. It's been implied at times and an open secret around the team that he was being groomed to take over for Popovich at some point, but maybe Bud just got tired of waiting. Maybe Pop lasted longer than anyone thought he would because Tim Duncan is still going strong at 37. I'm sure ten years ago Pop didn't think he'd still be at this.
Or maybe the Hawks will serve as some kind of temp job for Bud, the way top Premier League teams send their younger, unproven players on loan spells on lesser teams so that they can get valuable playing time and build their skills, the soccer version of the NBA's D-League. It could be that Budenholzer will get his feet wet with the Hawks and once they part ways in a few years, the timing will be right to come back home with the Spurs.
It's hard to figure just exactly how Budenholzer was viewed around the coaching fraternity. He seems like he has the X's and O's chops, but why has it taken 17 years for him to get a top job? Why did it take Danny Ferry, a GM with strong Spurs ties, to be the one to take the plunge on Bud, instead of some other random team? He couldn't impress, like, the Bucks or Cavs for example?
Conversely, why would Budenholzer settle for Atlanta, as low-watt a draw as it gets in this league, taking on a roster without an A-list (or B-list) star, just a couple decent pieces and nothing but mediocrity on the horizon? Did his agent tell him that a team like the Thunder would never come calling? Or maybe he, too, sees the Hawks as a weigh station, a place to cut his teeth before Pop finally hangs 'em up.
Brown's situation is even more curious. He hasn't been with Pop as long, just seven years, but had a decent side gig as head coach of Australia's national team. Budenholzer's exit would've allowed him to slide over one spot on the bench to be Pop's new right hand man. Instead, he leapfrogs two rungs and takes over a Sixers team that'll be hard pressed to win a dozen games all season long with the roster at hand, and that's assuming they'll be trying.
(They won't be trying.)
Why would Brown do this, to be this disposable caretaker, certainly destined to be removed the second the Sixers upgrade their roster and show promise again, whether that's in 2014 or 2114? Yes, it's more money, but at what cost to his reputation and career? Does he think he can really make a difference in Philly? He had a better chance of winning a gold medal with the Boomers than he will of making the playoffs next season in Philly. I can't fathom how anyone would take that job. It makes no sense to me.
As far as what this means to the Spurs going forward, I'd be lying if I said I ever bought into some hometown beat-writer's hackneyed fantasy of the Spurs coaching room being a model of democratic decision-making (I think it leans far more towards the monarchy spectrum, if not outright fascism), but let's say it does, for the sake of argument. Then it stands to reason that A) these gentlemen couldn't convince Pop to keep Duncan in the game late in Game 6, meaning that he didn't respect their opinions, or B) worse, that they actually thought it was the right thing to do. In either case, what's the value of having them around then? Honestly, I think Chip Engelland and Chad Forcier are more important to the staff than Bud and Brown were. At least their specific jobs are known and the results are tangible, we see the fruit of their labors on the floor in Danny Green's shooting stroke and Kawhi Leonard's rapid development. What part of the operation, exactly, can we pin on Brown or Budenholzer?
Jim Boylen, a veteran assistant with 26 years of coaching experience in the NCAA and the pros, has joined the Spurs, having spent the past three seasons with the Pacers. Will he be distinguishable in any form or fashion from his predecessors? Mostly I think he'll be a guy who'll wear suits and nervously laugh at Pop's sarcastic quips, to remind him of how many time outs are left, how much playing time the stars have logged, who's in foul trouble, and when the hotel bar closes in the town they're playing in. Occasionally, he'll have to yell "rebound" or "hustle" to no one in particular, just to show he's engaged and intense. It's a thankless job, existing largely for jackasses like me to mock it.
Anyway, good luck and godspeed Mike Budenholzer and Brett Brown, whose contributions to the Spurs voluminous playbook will be retained so they won't really be leaving us in spirit. May they have success in their future endeavors as long as their teams lay down like ostriches shot with tranquilizers when facing the Spurs.