The additions have been known for a while, but old Spurs and new, like David West, are finally putting ink to paper to make the whole thing official. There's still a couple of guys left to go, but we 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. Here was part one of the series if you missed it.
Marco Belinelli (2013-2015)
Belinelli holds a unique position in Spurs lore. He was the one rotation piece signed in the off-season of 2013, to complement a team that came within a hair of winning a championship and to ostensibly be an upgrade over the departed Gary Neal. Like Neal, Belinelli carried with him a reputation for being a fearless --if streaky-- shooter and an indifferent defender, but he had a bit more size to him. The team's thinking was that he'd mesh better on a team with many internationals, including Manu Ginobili, whom he played with briefly in Italy. He would also serve as insurance just in case Ginobili's tank was really as depleted as it appeared at times in the Finals.
Spurs free agent signings are notorious for struggling in their first season, but surprisingly the opposite was the case for Belinelli. Not only did he post career-highs in every category, but he even won the 3-Point Shootout during All-Star Weekend. My favorite bit of minutiae about the 2013-14 Spurs will always be that Belinelli ranked second on the team in minutes played, the only one besides Tim Duncan to crack 2,000, thanks to a mid-season injury epidemic.
Inevitably, Belinelli's numbers regressed to the mean. He cratered in April and lost his place in Pop's shrinking rotation over the final two rounds of the playoffs. Nevertheless, he canned vital threes on the road in Game 6 at Oklahoma City and Game 3 at Miami to snuff opposing rallies.
2014-15 was the inverse of what came before. This time it was Belinelli who had to deal with injuries to his groin and oblique, and he missed 20 games. His shooting reverted to career norms and his defense was more plodding. This time however, he turned it up for the playoffs, and nearly single-handedly saved the Spurs in Game 6 against the Clippers, scoring 23 and drilling 7-of-11 threes. After they lost narrowly in Game 7, Spurs coaches shared with Buck Harvey of the Express-News that perhaps Belinelli should've played more.
The last impression the Italian left was enough to secure a three-year contract with the Kings for just over the mid-level exception. He should get plenty of open looks as people scamper to double-team Boogie Cousins. The Spurs, meanwhile, will look to fill Belinelli's minutes with last year's first-round pick Kyle Anderson and maybe newcomer Jonathon Simmons.
My enduring memories of Belinelli will be his bizarre dominance of the Knicks, his jumper in Indiana to give Popovich his 1,000th win, his goofy magazine cover, his embarrassing display of thirst on social media and his Borat-like accent.
Marco Belinelli was a good Spur and he will be missed.
Cory Joseph (2011-2015)
Joseph's legacy as a Spur will be as a star-crossed afterthought. In many ways he encompassed every virtue and ideal of a Popovich player. He skewed more defensive than offensive. He played hard whenever he was on the floor. He was a perfect teammate, regardless of his role. He improved steadily, year-by-year, but never enough to earn national attention or acclaim.
The Toronto native was "the other guy" in San Antonio's 2011 draft class. Kawhi Leonard got all the attention --deservedly so-- when the Spurs traded George Hill for Leonard, whom the Pacers had picked 15th from San Diego State, but they used their own pick on Joseph, who declared himself eligible for the pros after just one solid but unspectacular season at the University of Texas.
It was Joseph who first opened up PATFO's eyes about what was possible in the avenue of player development through the D-League. He shuttled back-and-forth to Austin, voluntarily, his first two seasons, and played so well his second year he was named an All-Star.
No matter how much he improved though, there were others in his way. Gary Neal. Patty Mills. Nando De Colo. None of them were in Joseph's class as a defender, but Popovich favored them to Joseph next to Ginobili because they were less reluctant to spot up and shoot threes. Joseph worked better as an understudy to Tony Parker, playing with the talented starters and blending in when the wee Frenchman was injured.
No matter how much Joseph improved though, no matter how well he played and how much Popovich praised his efforts in post-game interviews, insisting that he'd earned a rotation spot for good, he always yanked Joseph the second Mills' streaky jumper came around. Even in Game 4 of the 2014 Western Conference Finals, when Joseph crammed one over the mighty Serge Ibaka and showed his teammates to not back down from the Thunder's springy athleticism, his reward in Game 5 was to sit until garbage time. His shining moment of those playoffs came two nights later in Game 6, where he gave the Spurs seven good minutes to start the third quarter with Parker sidelined by a bum wheel, with the Spurs erasing a seven-point deficit in that time.
Despite playing just 204 games so far in his career and barely cracking 3,000 minutes, Joseph's already fifth all-time in Win Shares by anyone drafted 29th. The Raptors, perhaps sensing his potential, brought "Cory Joe" home, with a 4-year, $30 million contract to back up Kyle Lowry. Naturally, they did this after drafting another point guard, Utah's Delon Wright, 20th overall. It's just never going to come easily for Joseph. I'll remember him fondly for those two games against OKC, for quietly developing the best mid-range jumper of anyone on the Spurs in 2015, and for the way he refused to back down from Tim Duncan's merciless abuse in the locker room.
Cory Joseph was a good Spur and he will be missed.
(Artwork courtesy of Michal Dye)
Please share your favorite Marco Belinelli and Cory Joseph memories in the comments.