Tim Duncan? Retired. Tony Parker? Left and signed with the Charlotte Hornets. Kawhi Leonard, the Finals MVP and the should-have-been new franchise player? Gone along with Danny Green to the Toronto Raptors via trade. Who is left from the easy on the eyes 2014 San Antonio Spurs championship team?
Gregg Popovich. Patty Mills. Manu Ginobili, the one everyone always assumed would retire before the rest of them. But Duncan beat him to it. And Parker’s ability and fitness dropped off dramatically in a very short time. Green never really lived up to the new contract he got. And Leonard? We’ll probably know a lot more about what went wrong between him and the Spurs very soon.
It’s going to be a weird season and near future for the Spurs, for Popovich. A team not necessarily built to play the kind of offensive basketball we’ve gotten used to see from his team. Maybe we’ll see a version that’s closer to the old Spurs, the one people hated? He certainly has key players who fit a more old-school style.
LaMarcus Aldridge has adjusted to playing for Popovich and not for the Portland Trail Blazers, but there’s something a bit vintage about his scoring style. The same goes for DeMar DeRozan, who certainly has no problem thriving as a scorer in today’s NBA, but his strengths are not necessarily what modern, forward-thinking general managers are looking for in players they develop.
And so it is. Perhaps Ginobili does retire now that he really doesn’t recognize anyone around him. Unless it’s an even bigger challenge for him. To be the link between a completely new Spurs team, one that actually gives us doubt whether it will make the playoffs this season, and the glory days of before Leonard forced them to shelf their long term plans.
It’s strange seeing a team that has always served as a beacon of consistency and continuity enter this stage, but it was bound to happen at some point. I think Popovich always though he would control the timing and the flow of the switch from the Duncan era to the new one. But Leonard changed his plans, and who knows for how many other people around the league.