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A Spurs farewell to Jeff Ayres and Aron Baynes

The Spurs have followed through on Gregg Popovich's pledge to re-tool the roster. That means some Spurs are now former Spurs. Let's take a moment to thank them for their efforts.

Now that "The Red Mamba," has officially re-signed with the Spurs, bringing San Antonio's roster to 14, we finally have a complete picture of what next season's team will look like. And that means it's time to take stock of who they've lost. I've mentioned a few times that the 2013-14 Spurs will be my favorite team in any sport, and five contributors to that team are now scattered to the winds. They were all good Spurs, so let's take a moment to remember them.

Jeff Ayres (2013-2015)

Signed as a free agent to replace the popular DeJuan Blair, Ayres ne Pendergraph quickly fit in with the Spurs locker room and culture. He didn't play much in 2014 and even less this past season, but he never complained about his role and was always one of the loudest and most enthusiastic cheerleaders on the bench. It was a pleasant surprise, because he had a reputation as a bit of a hothead with the Pacers. Perhaps fatherhood calmed him down.

Actually, that reminds me of a funny story: Gregg Popovich used to do pregame and post-game interviews in the locker room hallway of the AT&T Center, but one time Ayres' adorable little daughter (seriously Riley Curry has nothing on this kid) decided to cling to Pop's leg during an interview. You can imagine his reaction. From then on, Pop started doing interviews in the media room.

Ayres couldn't manage to harness his athleticism into a rotation spot. His hands continually betrayed him, to the point of anguish one night in Phoenix. He averaged just 3.0 points and 3.0 rebounds in his 124 games as a Spur. His main duty on the team was to serve as a subtle enforcer just in case his guys were getting manhandled. He did his job well.

Hopefully Ayres will catch on somewhere in the league as teams fill out their rosters. Coaches always need guys who can run hard down the floor and bang in practice. Ayres is a pro, and more teams need pros. If it doesn't work out in the NBA though, there's always a lucrative living to be made playing ball overseas.

Jeff Ayres was a good Spur and he will be missed.

Aron Baynes (2012-2015)


Nothing about "The Big Banger" made sense. A complete unknown when he joined the Spurs midway through the 2012-13 season, we learned that the Australian brute played collegiately at Washington State (where he averaged a nondescript 8.7 points and 5.4 rebounds) before kicking around various European leagues. He obviously had a relationship with longtime assistant coach Brett Brown, who moonlights as Australia's head coach, and the Spurs had a need for another large human, but Baynes was as anonymous of a signing as any I can recall for PATFO.

Baynes made the shuttle back-and-forth between Austin and San Antonio (where apparently he developed a fondness for barbecue) a handful of times and appeared in 16 games that first season, playing just 141 minutes.

And then, suddenly, he ushered Dwight Howard out of Los Angeles. Indirectly, the man they call "Baynesie" was responsible for giving us this beautiful moment.

Baynes played more the following season, taking advantage of injuries to Tiago Splitter and the days off Pop gave to Duncan and flashed potential, but he had his own bouts of injury to deal with during the season. He was mostly a bit player in the playoffs, but he had played a vital role in Game 2 of the western semi-finals against the Blazers and also gave the Spurs some important minutes in the first two games of the conference finals against the Thunder. He was still mostly a mystery though, and was the last Spur to be re-signed for 2014-15.

With Splitter again waylaid by injury, Baynes broke through in his third season. He played over 1,000 minutes, started 17 games in all, and showed himself to be a reliable rotation piece with the hands and coordination to finish off a pick-and-roll and a steadily improving jumper from outside. He was even more of a presence on defense, blocking shots and creating the occasional turnover. Yes, Blake Griffin rather emphatically abused him in the opening game of the playoffs, but there's no shame in getting GIF'd by a superstar. By then Baynes had long proven that he belongs, and the Pistons rewarded him with a three-year, $20 million contract.

Aron Baynes was a good Spur and he will be missed.

(Artwork courtesy of Michal Dye)

Please share your favorite Jeff Ayres and Aron Baynes stories in the comments.