It’s been an eventful past few days for the Spurs. Tony Parker retired, Ime Udoka and Ettore Messina left the coaching staff we had the first rumor about a potential free agency target. Those changes solidify the notion that we are entering a new era of San Antonio basketball, which is both a little scary and supremely exciting.
The league as a whole also had a busy week. Kawhi Leonard’s Raptors won the title, beating an injury-ridden Warriors team that will, for the first time in years, face serious questions about its ability to remain among the elite. This offseason could see the balance of power in the NBA shift significantly
In this edition of In The Bonus, PtR contributors Marilyn Dubinski, Mark Barringto, Bruno Passo and Jesus Gomez join Editor-in-Chief J.R. Wilco to offer their opinions on those topics. Feel free to share yours in the comments.
Tony Parker recently announced his retirement. Will not playing his entire career in San Antonio hurt his legacy among Spurs fans?
Marilyn Dubinski: Not in the grand scheme of things. The main impact of his leaving seems to be that fans have had an extra year to move on from him before his retirement, therefore there has been less emotion attached to his announcement (at least compared to Tim and Manu) because a lot of it was spent last summer when he left the program. That being said, there is zero doubt in anyone’s mind that he is the Spurs GOAT point guard. The role he played in four championships will always be here, and one season in Charlotte (when a lot of fans were ready for him to at least be a third stringer on the Spurs anyway) won’t change that. He will always be a Spur for life.
Mark Barrington: I think casual fans are a little less invested in his retirement than they would be if he had left directly from the Spurs, but people like me, who bleed Silver and Black and follow the Spurs closely, know how important he was to the Spurs titles runs after 1999. The time with Charlotte will be forgotten like Emmitt Smith’s time with the Cardinals was, and he’s going to be remembered for bringing four titles to San Antonio as a key member of the best Big Three ever to play the game.
Bruno Passos: Just as I don’t think Hakeem’s Raptors days change how loved he is in Houston, I think the appreciation fans have for Tony should be more or less the same. His number will be retired next year, the Big Three will all be retired, and I think that should lead to a greater appreciation for Tony’s time as a Spur.
Jesus Gomez: Not really. I think right now it might have caused some apathy from fans, but the more time passes, the more his contributions will be appreciated. His career as a Spur is simply too great to be ignored, his accomplishments too many. I expect his jersey retirement to be an emotional night in which the Big Three is celebrated in retirement and his importance to their amazing run highlighted. Tony might take a backseat to Tim and Manu in a lot of fans’ hearts but he’ll still be a beloved figure in San Antonio.
J.R. Wilco: In the long term, not at all. But it will for the short term without a doubt. I, for one, felt nothing at all when I heard Tony had decided to hang them up, and I was surprised to find how completely numb I was on the subject. This is greatest point guard to ever lace ‘em up for San Antonio, and I’d already experienced the loss of him to the point that his official retirement elicited nothing in me beyond a ho-hum shrug. I don’t know who’s at fault here (it’s either him for leaving, or me for not caring) but that’s messed up.
The Spurs are reportedly interested in Bojan Bogdanovic, but would have to move DeRozan or a couple of rotation players in order to sign him. Is he worth the trouble?
Dubinski: I’m not keen on a trade that ultimately results in DeRozan-for-Bogdanovic. While there are parts of Bojan’s game that would make him a better fit in the Spurs’ system than DeMar (like three-point shooting), he’s not a better player and wouldn’t take the Spurs to another level by himself. And of course, there is always the risk that the Spurs trade DeRozan for cap space and don’t get the player(s) they want in free agency, and it’s for naught. If the Spurs were somehow able to move, say, Patty Mills and Davis Bertans to make room for a player like Bogdanovic, then maybe I could get on board (assuming they’re confident they would get him).
Barrington: As a player, he’s not, but the team may be interested in him for cap relief and a quicker rebuild after DeMar DeRozan leaves. I want to trust Buford, but this seems like a sidegrade at best.
Passos: If the team is thinking of moving DeRozan and going after Bogdanovic (which feels like it’s probably one of dozens of avenues they’re looking at this summer), it’s because they’re open to both of those things individually and wouldn’t necessarily value DeRozan (or those other pieces) as a long-term part of the team anyway. In that case, sure, let them move towards their more ideal version of this team.
Gomez: It’s really a question of talent vs. fit, as I covered here. Ultimately what might tip the scales one way or the other is whether the Spurs are convinced the young guards are ready for a bigger role. If they are, moving DeRozan would make a lot of sense. The ideal scenario would be finding a way to keep DeMar, at least for another year, while adding Bogdanovic. it wouldn’t catapult the Spurs into contention, but it would give them a lot of firepower in the starting lineup and it would allow Pop to bring one of Murray or White off the bench to anchor the second unit’s perimeter defense.
Wilco: I like the idea of Bojan, but not the reality. If the Spurs are giving up DmDr, I’d like them to get more defense and playmaking back for him, even if it means making do without as much offense as BB would bring.
The Raptors are the 2019 NBA champions. Was it at all painful to watch Kawhi and Danny win it all with another team?
Dubinski: To an extent, but the unnecessary damage this whole series has done to the Spurs’ image is the most painful part. Beyond the trade itself, Kevin Durant’s injury somehow dragged the Spurs back into the spotlight over the risks of playing an injured player, all because Kawhi was in the series, and the media was using him as an example despite the two situations not even being comparable. Kawhi’s quad situation seems to be degenerative (despite what Uncle Dennis claims), while Durant’s was believed to be a partially torn calf misdiagnosed as a strain, which is why his Achilles ruptured. That being said, the reality is I’m pained every time someone wins the championship besides the Spurs and have never been one who continues watching the playoffs once they’re are out. I think what that says about me is I’m a Spurs fan, but not necessarily an NBA fan.
Barrington: It wasn’t for me. I still have feelings about how Leonard left the Spurs, but I’m not going to let that keep me from enjoying watching great players play the game. My greatest impression from this year’s finals was how the Warriors somehow managed to make it a contest despite losing so many players to injury. They turned in a really gritty performance, and I found myself really respecting their toughness and guts, in spite of myself.
Passos: It was jarring, for sure. I’m not sure if painful is how I’d describe my viewing experience, but it was hard for me to take it all in objectively without thinking that, on some cosmic level, those two guys should’ve been helping the Spurs finally take down the Warriors. After they won it, though, I was happy for them.
Gomez: Painful is not the word. Uncomfortable might get close to describing how I felt. It was simply impossible to enjoy the finals as much as I have in the past. Between wondering what could have been and having to endure some awful takes on Leonard and the Spurs, it was just difficult to fully appreciate what ended up being a good series. I’m glad the Raptors beat the Warriors, but I’m also glad the season is finally over because I was not having a great time watching them play.
Wilco: Painful would have been watching Golden State trip through yet another postseason to yet another championship while garnering yet another round of adulation from all and sundry. Painful would have been enduring more of Draymond’s self-aggrandizing, more of Durant’s jawing, more of Curry’s shimmies, and more of Klay’s . . . actually, never mind. Thompson’s a good dude; he doesn’t bother me at all. Painful would have been the W’s owner breaking his arm again from patting himself on the back over how superior his franchise is to all other basketball teams and possibly every other organization in the history of the world. Painful was watching the Spurs’ transcendent small forward walk away from what appeared to be a perfect situation for him. Watching him win with his new team wasn’t painful mostly because of how much worse it would have felt for GSW to win.
The Warriors’ lack of depth was exposed in the finals, they will be without Kevin Durant next season and don’t really have cap space. Is the dynasty over?
Dubinski: No amount of depth can replace Durant and a hobbled (then out) Klay Thompson, especially against a deep, healthy team like the Raptors. I do think their dynasty is past its prime at the minimum, and with other up-and-coming teams they will have to revamp behind their core of Curry, Thompson, and Draymond Green if they want it to continue winning. (This is assuming Durant is gone from the Warriors after next season, which I believe will be the case. If he and Thompson stick around, then they could arguably be considered favorites again by 2021 if another super-dynasty doesn’t form first.)
Barrington: Nobody has enough depth to handle the number of significant injuries the Warriors had during the finals. It was more bad luck than poor roster construction. They won’t be as dominant next year, but as long as Klay recovers completely from his knee injury, they should win the Western Conference again next year. Even if the Clippers or Lakers form a superteam, I don’t think they will gel immediately.
Passos: It feels especially silly for a Spurs fan to declare another dynasty over after a decade of people making that same prediction for San Antonio. Still, I do think this is the end of them as we know them — the salaries just aren’t in their favor as they were before, and those injuries are major setbacks that will allow the league to re-calibrate.
Gomez: I won’t consider their dynasty done until they break up the core of Curry, Green and Thompson, but their roster will need a serious overhaul if they want to continue to win titles. Assuming Durant leaves, they’ll need more shooting, another ball handler and some athleticism off the bench to complement the stars. It might be hard to find depth, considering how much salary they’ll have to commit to their top players, but their front office is smart. It will be interesting to see if the owners are willing to pay a huge tax bill. If they are, the Warriors should remain an elite team for the next few years.
Wilco: What? Over? Did you say ‘over’? Nothing’s over until we decide it is!
Seriously though, I simply think it’s too soon to tell. But Durant’s out a year, and ACLs regularly take about that long — so at the very least, they’re likely to have a down season in 2019-20.
Ettore Messina and Ime Udoka are gone. Should the Spurs add an experienced assistant or give Becky Hammon and Will Hardy more responsibility?
Dubinski: I definitely think Becky takes on at least a co-head assistant spot, but with two spots to fill it wouldn’t surprise me if Pop also brings in a veteran assistant, possibly even one with prior head coaching experience in the NBA.
Barrington: Um, . . . both? Becky Hammon is great, and Will Hardy is developing into a really good assistant, but they can’t have too many good minds on the bench. But with Pop as the coach of the USA Olympic team, he should have the right connections to find some great prospects to join the Spurs on the bench.
Passos: I don’t have much of a read on these things, which is why I always have trouble assessing assistant coach turnover beyond having to learn the name of the next person who will eventually become another team’s head coach. Hardy and Hammon both seem capable of stepping into higher roles (and I see both being NBA head coaches somewhere, someday), but Pop and Co. will know if there’s a certain tactical or vocal deficiency that may need filling with an experienced suit.
Gomez: The point of mentoring and developing young coaches is to one day benefit from the wisdom they gain, so I think giving Hammon and Hardy a bigger role makes a lot of sense. Considering that in the past few years the Spurs have signed experienced assistants like Jim Boylen, Ettore Messina and James Borrego, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pop decided to hire someone else. Maybe Chad Forcier?
Wilco: Udoka has always seemed like a Spur to me and I always felt like Messina would be the team’s next coach, so I’m sorry to see both of them go — but I don’t think either of them are irreplaceable. The most powerful factor in San Antonio is what Gregg Popovich brings to the table in terms of intellect, development, mentoring . . . and wine. As long as he’s running things, the organization will be able to create a quality staff.