After watching the Los Angeles Clippers and Houston Rockets square off in the Game 1 of the second round, it feels even more wrong. The Spurs belong in the postseason, deep in the postseason, competing for titles and legacies and as many “Holy shit did they just do that?!?!?” reactions they can muster.
Alas, they’re done. Finished. Kaput. Looking ahead to next season, when everything could change.
Aside from having a crap ton of cap space and needing to re-sign Kawhi Leonard, the careers of Manu Ginobili and, more notably, Tim Duncan are at stake. Both are on expiring deals and could retire. It could happen. And that would be sad. And weird. And signify a permanent changing of the guard.
That doesn’t mean they will retire. Duncan specifically can still play and produce like a 25-year-old. It’s totally reasonable to assume he’ll come back. But it’s also reasonable to believe he could walk away. Thus, the dilemma, a to query to which Gregg Popovich has no insight at the moment.
From Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News:
Do you see a scenario where he returns?
“We haven’t talked yet about that. We’ve got a pretty good number of free agents so with R.C. and the coaches and the group we’ve talked about what we want to do going forward with the makeup of the team but the team will probably look considerably different than it looks this year because we have so many free agents and we want to re-tool a little bit.
“We want to try to start — not exactly over again — but these last four seasons have been a grind and we put the team together with that in mind, that this year we’d have all the free agents so we can decide what we want to do moving forward, as far as the makeup of the team. So we’ll spend a lot of time on that but as far as if guys are retiring or not we haven’t touched that.” …
Do you feel confident that the team has been able to maintain flexibility without mortgaging the future?
“R.C. and his group have always done a great job of doing things, both frugally and with class. If money needs to be spent, it’s spent. But it’s never done unwisely. We’ve never put the organization in a situation where they’re paying a ridiculous amount of money for no value. My complete faith and trust in R.C. is never going to change, because of the track record he has, thinking not just for the next year and the next two years, but the next three years, the next seven years, that type of thing.”
Because accepting what he says here would be too easy, we also have what he said on the heels of Game 7, per SI.com’s Ben Golliver:
Bank on Duncan coming back. The Spurs will have cap space if he agrees to another pay cut, as he did in 2012, and the prospect of playing alongside another marque name (Marc Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge, etc.) or a couple biggish names while competing for a sixth title should prove too good to pass up. Plus, he could play another two, three or four years at this rate.
Ginobili, meanwhile, is a difficult case study. But if Duncan is returning, bank on him returning. Unless, of course, he has no choice. The Spurs could could elect to turn him away in favor of even more cap space.
Still, bank on both being back. It just feels like this core isn’t yet finished.