Since the 1976 NBA-ABA merger, there have been just four postseasons that did not feature the Spurs, and only one since 1989. But I still shudder at the thought of the five-year stretch from 2008-2013 that occasionally featured the Big Three and not much else. With that being said, every true Spurs fan cheered their lungs out for these same players. Even if they couldn't carve their names into Spurs history or the hearts of fans, they should not be forgotten.
10) James Anderson (2010-2012)
The 20th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft had Spurs fans buzzing immediately. After all, the Spurs don't often draft A) an American player, B) an American player who had won his conference's Player of the Year, or C) a player who averaged 22 points per game the previous season. San Antonio was known for being old, slow, boring, and making defense priorities 1, 2 and 3. There's no way PATFO would draft a scoring guard unless the Spurs as we knew them were changing. But injuries marred Anderson's stint in San Antonio, limiting him to 87 contests and 3.7 points per game. Regardless, I fondly remember Anderson (aka &erson) as one of our guys and someone whose drafting hinted that Pop's basketball philosophy was evolving.
9) Keith Bogans (2009-2010)
It was just one season, but Bogans played in 72 games and got 50 starts. Unlike so many of the Spurs' veteran additions, he wasn't on his last legs, from overseas, or a particularly great 3-point shooter (36%) -- so his signing felt a little strange. Sometimes it seemed as if he had snuck onto the court with a Spurs uniform and Pop just decided to go with it. In some ways Bogans perfectly profiles the bench players of this era in Spurs' history: he wasn't here long, didn't leave a lasting legacy, and didn't play poorly enough to be reviled. Bogans' numbers were never eye-popping, and never disrupted the Spurs offense or locker room, which is more than can be said of some other guys. Thanks for that, Keith.
8) Antonio McDyess (2009-2011)
Full disclosure: my four fondest memories of Antonio McDyess' career involve games his Detroit Pistons lost to the Spurs in June 2005. Both in spite of and because of this, it was undeniably cool to see him don the silver and black. As with Robert Horry and Michael Finley, PATFO proved they had no problem setting old rivalries aside in order to bring in proven veterans who could potentially be a spark off the bench. However, unlike Horry and Finley, McDyess wasn't really a spark and never experienced a Riverwalk Parade. The poor guy wasn't even a member of the '04 Pistons championship team. Still, he gave us a solid two seasons of play, suiting up in 150 games while starting 66 and averaging 5.5 points, 5.6 rebounds and 20 minutes. To put these numbers in perspective, here's a brief list of Spurs who played at least 150 games over the last 2 seasons.
1. Tim Duncan
That's it. That's the list. Even the young resurgent Spurs of the past few seasons have been unable to stay as healthy as 36 year-old Antonio McDyess did during his tenure in San Antonio. This is a reminder of how impressive Dice's last two years in the NBA were. Good teammate. Accomplished impressive feats. Solid play off the bench. Old. In some ways, Antonio was destined to be a Spur.
7) Ime Udoka (2007-2009, November 2010-January 2011, August 2012-present)
Ime didn't earn his place on this list because his on-court play was better than the three previous players. His shooting numbers were similar to Keith Bogans' and his minute and point totals closely resemble those of Antonio McDyess. His presence on this list has little to do with his time in a Spurs uniform. The 2nd greatest contribution Ime Udoka made to the Spurs organization came in the 2006-2007 season when he was the starting shooting guard for the Portland Trailblazers. That season he played alongside a rookie big man out of the University of Texas at Austin. Nine years later, that rookie had become a bonafide superstar ready to take his talents home to Texas. Thus came Ime's best moment for the Spurs: joining Coach Pop and Sean Marks on Friday July 3, 2015 in Los Angeles to help entice LaMarcus Aldridge to come to San Antonio. Did it work?
I'm happy to say I'm going home to Texas and will be a Spur!! I'm excited to join the team and be close to my family and friends.— Lamarcus Aldridge (@aldridge_12) July 4, 2015
Yeah, it did. Thanks, Ime.
6) Roger Mason, Jr. (2008-2010)
Mason played 82 games in the 2008-2009 season and set career highs in points, assists, rebounds, steals, 3-point percentage, minutes, games played and games started (72). These numbers are strikingly similar to Danny's 2014-2015 season, though Verde has a significant edge over Mason in defensive efficiency. But the man we liked to call RoMaJu was good to us and, more importantly, he was bad for Suns fans. Thanks for the memories, Roger. And Merry Christmas, San Antonio.
5) Stephen Jackson (2012-2013)
Captain Jack officially called it quits last week. First reflections on his career immediately brought to mind the abrupt end to his second stint with the Spurs just before the start of the 2013 playoffs. Jack had grown frustrated with his lack of playing time, which is a big no-no in an organization where Hall of Famers like David Robinson and Manu Ginobili have willingly taken lesser roles in the best interest of the team. Unable to come to an understanding, the Spurs placed the disgruntled Jackson on waivers in April 2013. Two months later the Spurs would suffer one of the most painful NBA Finals losses in league history. Every excuse was made and much blame was placed. There were rumblings that if Pop hadn't let Jackson go, the Spurs would have won that soul-crushing Game 6 in Miami. We'll never know the answer to this what-if. What we do know is that his stellar play in a Game 6 on the road the year before wasn't enough to save the Spurs' season. If this is your last memory of him, it sure is a bitter-sweet one. Fitting for a player with a bitter-sweet career. Farewell, Captain.
4) Richard Jefferson (2009-2012)
Someone buy R.C. Buford a T-shirt that says "I traded Bruce Bowen, Fabricio Oberto and Kurt Thomas for Richard Jefferson and he couldn't rank higher than number 4 on this lousy list." Summer 2009 saw the Spurs fresh off a first-round elimination and in desperate need of scoring and athleticism on the wings. After averaging 21.1 ppg the previous 2 seasons in New Jersey and Milwaukee, Jefferson seemed to be the answer to Spurs Nation's prayers. He was decidedly not. In two and a half seasons in San Antonio, Jefferson averaged 11.1 ppg. A year after trading for him, the Spurs re-signed RJ to a four-year, $39 million deal that ESPN's John Hollinger called "the worst contract of the summer." PATFO must have come to this same conclusion because 20 months later he was traded to the Warriors for Stephen Jackson. So why is he this high on the list? Well, any man who draws this kind of ire from Manu and The Gentle Giant deserves some kind of recognition. Once a Spur, always a Spur. Except for you, Richard Jefferson.
3) DeJuan Blair (2009-2013)
Few Spurs rookies in recent memory took San Antonio by storm quite like DeJuan Blair. Health concerns saw him fall to the 37th pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, and Blair had a standout first season that included a handful of 20-20 games, a Rookie Challenge MVP award and an All-Rookie second team selection. However, after two adequate seasons as the Spurs' starting power forward, his lack of size coupled with the addition of Boris Diaw and improved play by Tiago Splitter cut Blair's minutes in the rotation at the start of the 2012-2013 season. Less playing time in a contract year saw Blair voice his displeasure through the media and tweets. After signing with the Mavericks in August of 2013 Blair boldly stated "I don't think we've [Spurs] would have came up short if I would've played," referring to Game 6 in Miami where he didn't see a minute of playing time. But DeJuan redeemed himself by helping the Spurs win their 5th championship when, as a member of the Dallas Mavericks, he kicked Tiago Splitter in the head. It was in the waning minutes of a tight Game 4 in Dallas that could have given the Mavericks a commanding 3-1 series lead. Dallas was rolling, but after Blair was ejected, momentum shifted and the Spurs won Games 4, 5 (for which Blair was suspended) and the decisive Game 7 where the Spurs found the dominant form they maintained for the rest of the 2014 playoffs. Thanks, DeJuan. Spurs Nation is forever in your debt.
A strong case could be made for Gregg Popovich as the greatest coach in NBA history. Players like Gary Neal are a key reason why. Neal went undrafted in 2007, played overseas for 3 years, and had a standout Summer League in 2010 which helped him ink a three-year deal with the Spurs. Suddenly a guy who couldn't sniff an NBA contract was a 26 year-old rookie averaging nearly 10 points per game and 42% from the 3-point line on a team that finished the year with the league's best record. Then came his signature moment: in only his 5th career playoff game, Neal saved the Spurs' season by hitting a game-tying 3 at the buzzer to force overtime, where the Spurs won and made it a 3-2 series. Sadly, the Spurs lost Game 6 in Memphis. Neal had good seasons and great moments in a Spurs uniform. Thank you, Gary.
1) George Hill (2008-2011)
"I admittedly, unabashedly called him my favorite player in front of Timmy, Manu, and Tony all the time." - Gregg Popovich
"He's like my little brother...he was a perfect Spurs player. We definitely miss him." - Tony Parker
"When he [Kawhi Leonard] first came to the Spurs, I got really angry because I enjoyed playing with George Hill. I was frustrated that they had traded him for a rookie" - Manu Ginobil
"I thought 'I can't believe we gave up Georgie for him [Kawhi Leonard]. I don't know. Maybe they saw something.'" - Tim Duncan
Oh, George Hill. Pop loved him. The Big Three loved him. Spurs fans loved him. And the Indiana Pacers loved him, apparently. On June 23, 2011, the Spurs traded George Hill to the Indiana Pacers for Kawhi Leonard, the 15th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. While heartbreaking, this was (at the time) the perfect trade from every standpoint for all parties involved. The Spurs acquired the athletic wing they so badly needed. The Pacers received an unselfish, defensive-minded point guard. And George Hill got to return to his home state of Indiana and play for a winning team.
During his final two seasons for the Spurs, Hill averaged a solid 12 points and 28 minutes per game as Tony Parker's backup. His best game as a Spur came in a Game 4 victory in the 2010 first round series against the Mavericks when Hill led the silver and black with 29 points. The Spurs took a 3-1 series lead. Georgie's last game in a Spurs uniform came the following year in a Game 6 loss to the Grizzlies. He scored 6 points on 3-10 shooting in 38 minutes of action. But it was never the numbers that endeared George to Spurs fans. His work ethic, professionalism, defense, and all his other great Spursian-qualities did that.
Trading Hill brought the Spurs their newest superstar, whose presence on the team undoubtedly encouraged Aldridge to come to the Alamo City. Even still, he is greatly missed in San Antonio. Someday Spurs fans should all come together and write a love song about George Hill. That (like this commercial) would have Grammy written all over it.
We'll never forget you, Georgie. Thank you for everything.