Training camp is upon us! Michael Erler has been providing us some excellent updates on all things Spurs on that front and there will be a game against Alba Berlin on October 8, which will mark the official return of Spurs' basketball. But before we embark or that journey and start concerning ourselves with the on-court stuff, I thought it would be helpful to do some off-season house-keeping, explaining where the Spurs are on all the boring off-court stuff.
Kawhi's (and Cory's) extension
Kawhi Leonard and Cory Joseph are eligible to get contract extensions this season. Provided the salary cap grows as projected, their starting salary in year one could be as high as $16.6 million. The deadline to reach an agreement is Halloween, so don't expect either side to be in any rush. In fact, in Cory's case, it's extremely unlikely they offer him an extension at all, much less the max. And as mentioned before and elsewhere, holding off on a Kawhi extension could be helpful to the Spurs, but also entails some risk.
That risk seemed to be increasing when Greg Monroe became the first high profile player to sign his qualifying offer in order to become an unrestricted free agent the following season. Restricted free agency is a great weapon for teams to wield only if players feel forced to accept extensions they might fear are lower than they wanted. Had Monroe's decision become a trend, Kawhi could feel tempted to go that route himself if he felt he wasn't getting as big an offer as he had hoped for.
Fortunately, Eric Bledsoe, who was in a very similar situation as Monroe, proved that the most likely scenario remains the two sides reaching a compromise when he signed an extension days before training camp. So Monroe's decision didn't get momentum, which is great news for any team that has a promising young player entering restricted free agency.
The Spurs dipped into the mid-level exception to bring back Baynes
Up until a few days ago, the Spurs had their full mid-level exception to offer a free agent. It didn't seem like they were going to use it but you never know who will become available after being waived or seasons in China and Europe end. Well, they don't have the full MLE anymore because they used part of it to bring Aron Baynes back on a one-year, $2 million contract.
San Antonio could have used their Early Bird rights to Baynes to sign him without having to use an exception but doing that would have necessitated them offering a two-year deal whereas by renouncing him and using the MLE they could just sign him for one season. It will also allow them to make him a restricted free agent again next off-season, as they will continue to have Early Bird rights to him.
Fortunately, Baynes' contract is small enough that it left the Spurs with over $3 million to offer a potential free agent. And since they haven't used the bi-annual exception so far, it should be available next season, provided the Spurs stay over the cap.
Sean Marks is back in the front office and Earl Watson joins the Toros' coaching staff
With the signings of Ettore Messina and Becky Hammon, there was no longer a need for Sean Marks to slum it in an assistant coach position, so he moves back to the front office. Marks has been with the Spurs for a long time and as more and more executives exit, has probably climbed the ladder significantly. I don't expect him to replace R.C. Buford anytime soon but he's likely more important to the day-to-day operations of the club than he typically gets credit for. So I'm glad he's back where he belongs.
As for Watson, the former journeyman point guard will reportedly get a coaching position with the Toros. Watson was always considered to be a high-character guy who made the most of limited physical tools, which generally points to a high basketball IQ. And of course being associated with the Spurs seems to pay off more often than not for prospective coaches, as former Toros coach and current Jazz head coach Quin Snyder can attest to, so this seems like a good fit for both sides.
Boris will meet the team in Berlin
Since the French national team played until the last day of the FIBA World Cup, Boris Diaw got an extended leave of absence and will miss the first few days of training camp before joining the team in Berlin. Boris is in game shape -or at least he should be - after competing at a high level so it makes sense for the Spurs to give him a couple more vacation days.
Tony Parker, who was absent for media day, will join the team in San Antonio after watching ASVEL, the French club he's part owner of, lose in gut-wrenching fashion in the final of a mini tournament that qualified a team to the Euroleague group stage. ASVEL, which employs former Spurs first round pick Livio Jean-Charles, will have to settle for the Eurocup, the second continental tournament in importance.
The D-League season doesn't start until December, so someone will be in a suit for a while
The Spurs have 15 players on guaranteed contracts and it doesn't look like they will trade or waive anyone. The maximum amount of players that can suit up during the season is 13. Patty Mills will be out at least until January, so that's one guy on street clothes. As soon as the D-League season starts, I fully expect Kyle Anderson to be sent to Austin, where he will get consistent minutes. But for a couple of months, someone able-bodied will not be active and getting minutes and the same will happen once Mills is healthy.
My guess is Austin Daye will get the short end of the stick and be the one rocking a suit (or a purple vest) both to start the season and once everyone is healthy. But I guess it's possible the coaching staff decides who goes in the inactive list based on the player's pre-season performances. If that's the case, that adds an extra incentive for the players on the fringes to stand out and could be a fun thing to track for us fans. So keep an eye out for anyone that Pop gives an extra long glare or dressing-down after a mistake.