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The Aldridge-DeRozan era may have come to an end

With the uncertainty surrounding the return of the NBA and the two stars’ contract situation, there’s a chance LaMarcus Aldridge and DeMar DeRozan have played their last game together as Spurs.

NBA: Sacramento Kings at San Antonio Spurs Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports

LaMarcus Aldridge is out indefinitely. DeMar DeRozan can become a free agent after the season ends, if it’s actually completed. There might not be an agreement between the league and players association, according to reports, which means basketball might not return soon.

Have we seen the end of the Aldridge - DeRozan era of Spurs basketball or do you expect the two stars to share the court again wearing Silver and Black? And if it is the end, will you remember it fondly?

Mark Barrington: I think that they’ll be together for another year, because DeRozan is likely to pick up his player option. I didn’t think that he would earlier, but the shrinking revenue in the league has changed the economics, and I think he’s probably going to do best financially by staying with the Spurs another year. I honestly like both DeRozan and Aldridge, although their mix of skills can lead to ugly basketball at times. I don’t think you can come up with two finer men than LaMarcus and DeMar, and they’ve been exemplary team members. But with DeRozan’s inability to hit shots beyond the midrange, and the overall lack of shooting on the team, combined with poor team defense, it’s really been frustrating to watch. I love both guys, but I won’t feel nostalgic for the style of play the Silver and Black had to play with the current limited roster.

I think DeMar might eventually go back to California, or get over the pain of being traded and make a triumphant return to Toronto, where the fans still love him. I hope that LaMarcus retires as a Spur, but I wouldn’t be too heartbroken if he reunited with Damian Lillard for one last shot at a title after his current contract is done.

Marilyn Dubinski: I get the feeling they have played their last game together, and if they haven’t, it’s because DeRozan has decided it’s not a good time to go into free agency and opts into the final year of his contract. That didn’t seem likely going into this offseason, but right now there’s so much chaos it’s hard to judge anything anymore.

As for how I’ll remember their time together, it will always have the shadow of Kawhi Leonard and “what ifs” hanging over it, but I’ll give credit where it’s due — even if it ends up being just one more season, the LMA/DmDr Spurs still managed to extend the playoff streak to at least a tie with the all-time NBA record of 22 straight seasons (in the first season without any of the Big Three, no less) and that’s enough to give the optimist in me at least something positive to remember this mini-era by. That being said, it will also be remembered as the most unexciting stretch of Spurs basketball since the post-Iceman/pre-Admiral mid 1980’s.

Bruno Passos: I would put the odds of them having played their last game together at around at coin flip, which is pretty high given the team’s aversion to big moves. Last year, part of the logic/justification for making no major changes was that the front office was returning a 48-win group. That case can’t be made this time around, and it should make the Spurs that much more motivated to move one of Aldridge or DeRozan (provided he picks up his player option), even if the net return isn’t that enticing.

Jesus Gomez: I hope it is the end. The Spurs have been leaving the books clear of contracts past 2021, which means they have at least considered a reboot of the roster, and I would love it if it came earlier. With a perfect supporting cast around them, Aldridge and DeRozan could lead a team deep into the playoffs, but they don’t have that now nor will they have it any time soon in San Antonio. The timeline of their careers just doesn’t align with the youth movement going on in the background. After a disappointing season I’m ready to move on, which in a way makes me uncomfortable.

Both guys are everything you’d want from stars, personality wise. They are selfless and lead by example; not complaining when asked to shift positions and roles. Aldridge and DeRozan are perfect examples of the type of high-character players we as fans often lauded the Spurs for targeting. And yet I can’t see the team truly going far with them as its best players, so I’m fine with them leaving, which is somewhat hard to reconcile.

Similarly, I can’t say I’d remember this mini-era fondly, even though I’d love to. I’ll just think of it as what I think it was: a transitional period that will lead to something that, for better or for worse, will be more exciting.

J.R. Wilco: This isn’t easy to admit, I’ll be disappointed if they play another game together. I’ve never been as happy to hear that an all-around-good-guy was ready to leave San Antonio...

It was the last full day I spent at my day job, before we were all sent home to shelter in place, when word came that DeRozan would look to opt out if PATFO didn’t extend him. It’s not like I threw a party or anything. How could I? A high-character player reportedly preferred to roll the dice and play elsewhere instead of sticking with Pop and his gold-standard crew.

But I just hadn’t been having a good time watching the 2019-2020 squad play through the regular season, and that’s something I’ve never once said about a Spurs team. It wasn’t just that they were losing, although that was a big part of it, of course. It wasn’t just the poor defensive rotations or inconsistent offensive cohesion, or any of a dozen different aspects that I could list. What it boiled down to was that LaMarcus and DeMar didn’t seem to make each other consistently better; or the rest of the team better.

And that’s something that I’ve always admired and celebrated about the Spurs over the past 20+ years: their total exceeded the sum of their parts. Pop would add a scheme or a player or an idea, and synermagistically — POOF! — things would work in a way that no one could have predicted but everyone appreciated even if few or none could explain it. But that never happened with this team.

Is it the stars themselves? Is it the supporting cast? Is it the coaching staff or even (gasp) Pop himself. Like the number of licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop, the world may never know.

It certainly won’t know if it turns out that the Aldridge/DeRozan era is over, and I won’t be remembering it too fondly.