The NBA’s labor parties threatened to murder the final season on Tim Duncan’s contract and the second-to-last one on Manu Ginobili’s deal.
Spurs fans everywhere shuddered at the prospect of opening a 2012 training camp without those two future Hall of Famers. The owners and players instead reached a tentative settlement Nov. 26 and preserved an abridged slate with 66 games.
It was fair to wonder in April if Duncan, Ginobili and Parker had taken a final bow as teammates. The pending lockout resolution keeps San Antonio’s star trio together at least one more year and eases the angst and desperation that accompanied a first-round loss to the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.
They can write their own ending.
The Spurs head to training camp this Friday with a middle-of-the-pack average age. The squad boasts some of the league’s oldest All-Stars and youngest role players. That unenviable, abrasive mix of mileage and inexperience puts the squad in a difficult position.
Depending on the five-man lineup, the team’s look will shift from vernal to elderly.
With a payroll north of $73 million and few trade chips, the Spurs' best roster improvement bet is trimming enough fat to slide below the luxury tax threshold. That maneuver would permit GM R.C. Buford to use the full mid-level exception, about $5 million, to lure a role-fitting free agent or two.
The front office can still exceed the cap to sign rookies or veterans with minimum salaries. Those limitations portend solid and significant—but not spectacular—changes.
If the owners and players ratify the proposed CBA, the previous rules will exist for two more years, as the league phases in the more punitive luxury tax and almost $300 million annually in salary rollbacks.
Capologist Larry Coon’s comparison of the new document and the old one is required reading for any fervent fan worth his or her authentic jersey and League Pass subscription.
The work stoppage did not yield imminent upheaval or instant benefits for the Spurs. Instead, they’ll plot and tweak the cast the way they would have with no interruptions to stall business.
The title may suggest to some that the slideshow includes radical transaction ideas and a path to an expensive free-agent acquisition. Prepare for a letdown.
Buford cannot afford Nene, Tyson Chandler, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan or David West. Forget those names, Spurs fans.
This list also does not feature any trade ideas because the team will not soon hijack SportsCenter with a wild exchange or even a roll call shake-up. The dreamers should head elsewhere. The realists will have seen many of these bullet points coming.
Here are 10 things the Spurs must do before the season opens Dec. 26 at the AT&T Center against the Memphis Grizzlies.