The Spurs have hauled in LaMarcus Aldridge. It's a coup. I remember being excited when Michael Finley, Brent Barry and he who shall not be named joined the Spurs. But this is different. This is a big time, in his prime, all-star player who can carry a very big load. This is a guy who's so good that fans from his old team have a hard time pointing out weakness in his game. It's awesome that San Antonio got him.
The flip side to that is that our beloved team that we've seen grow over the last 4-5 years is changing....a lot. We've already said goodbye to Aron Baynes, Marco Belinelli, Cory Joseph and Tiago Splitter. Matt Bonner and Jeff Ayres futures are still unknown. That's 6 guys from the last few years that we've grown to love, to root for and to think of as part of our team. It stinks. It's smelly and no good and it may or may not have caused some grown men to get misty-eyed.
As hard as it is and seems to be to see guys go to other teams, it's really inevitable. The Spurs of the last few years were as deep of a team as there may have ever been in the NBA. They were rolling out 10-12 guys in the Finals against the Heat in 2014. That's crazy. That's simply unsustainable if only for one reason: those were good players and good players get paid.
The Spurs were't likely to keep all of those guys even if Aldridge took his talents elsewhere. You can't pay everybody what they're worth and this is, we have to keep in mind, the livelihood of these guys. Not everybody is Tim Duncan and can take lower pay to help the team. The thing about being successful is that you will lose talent, both coaching and playing, to other teams. It happens in all sports and was bound to happen to this team.
I'm a Dallas Cowboys fan (it's like the opposite of being a Spurs fan). In the glory days of the early 1990's Jimmy Johnson had built what was one of the greatest teams of all time. If the NFL had not changed it's structure to allow free-agents and salary cap and all of that, the Cowboys might have won 4-6 Super Bowls in the 90's (this is a bias opinion, I recognize that). That team was stacked. They had starters at pretty much every backup position and 3-deep in a lot of cases. It was awesome. Then something happened. All these guys started leaving. Both coaches and players got big time paychecks to go elsewhere and the Cowboys couldn't pay both the stars and the backups enough to keep both. Soon, the stars got older and the team faded and has largely been mediocre since. The Cowboys weren't prepared to lose the depth. They ended up over paying stars and it has taken them 20 years to finally start rebuilding the right way.
Pop and R.C. Buford and the rest of the front office have been willing to trade or move on from guys that we as fans have an emotional attachment to. It's their job. They are good at it and as a result the Spurs have not fallen into the trap the Cowboys did. Because of the mentality to always try to get better (and really good players) we have seen the Spurs play at a high level for a very long time. Remember when they traded Malik Rose for Nazr Muhammad in 2005? That helped get San Antonio a title. Then they traded Bruce Bowen, Kurt Thomas and Fabricio Oberto for Richard Jefferson. As bad as we remember Jefferson being, that was a good move. Then George Hill got moved, which was really surprising, but it allowed them to put together the team that played in 3 straight Western Conference Finals, two straight NBA Finals, and winning a championship.
Sports is a tough business and it can sometimes be hardest on us fans (emotionally, I mean, we obviously aren't doing a ton of hard work out here). We love the way guys play and their personalities and it feels like we're losing the team we loved when these guys are gone. I will always root for the guys that have been a part of the last few years in San Antonio. It was a very special group that really did amazing things, maybe even changed basketball.
That said, I'll be spending more of my time rooting for, watching and following all the new guys and hoping that some more awesome memories are created. The Spurs have kept their best players and added another another all-star to the group. It's not easy to see old players go, but this new Spurs team has a real chance to be special. The future is bright and it's going to be fun!