Monday, July 28, 2008

Hoopsworld: Ranking the Western Conference

Included for the quick Spurs mention at number 2.

Hoopsworld: There has to be more

By: Yannis Koutroupis Last Updated: 7/27/08 4:45 PM ET | 222 times read

As tough as the Western Conference was this past year, it may be even tougher come next season. At the top of it right now is still the Los Angeles Lakers, who represented the conference in the NBA Finals this past season, and have a healthy Andrew Bynum returning. Knowing that the Lakers are about to get one of the best big men in the league back, teams have looked to improve. Longtime conference powerhouse the San Antonio Spurs may be falling behind.

The Houston Rockets added some much needed shooting and depth to their roster, while the New Orleans Hornets picked up proven winner James Posey to help add some leadership to their young squad. The Blazers were already overflowing in young talent, but are close to drowning in it now with Jerryd Bayless, Nicolas Batum, and Rudy Fernandez added to the fold.

The San Antonio Spurs have been fairly active themselves this summer. On draft night they tried hard to move their first round pick, but ended up going with George Hill from IUPUI to backup Tony Parker. Once they were allowed to talk to free agents the Spurs immediately went for a home run in Corey Maggette. Considering the difficulty the Spurs had scoring last season and their lack of depth Corey just made perfect sense. Unfortunately for San Antonio, Maggette took a five-year deal from the Golden State Warriors worth nearly double what the Spurs could have offered.

Rather than getting caught up in trying to get restricted free agent J.R. Smith, who they have coveted for years but had little chance to get this season, the Spurs lured Roger Mason away from the Washington Wizards. Mason is coming off of a career year with the Wizards in which he averaged nine points a game. From there the Spurs re-signed their own free agent Kurt Thomas in a smart move that became a necessity once Tiago Splitter, the Spurs' first round pick in 2007, signed an extension with his current team overseas. The last move the Spurs made was signing Anthony Tolliver from their summer league team. Tolliver is a 6'8 shooter from Creighton that has yet to suit up for a regular season NBA game.

Roger Mason, Kurt Thomas, and Anthony Tolliver are all good signings. All three players fit a need for the Spurs. Mason will certainly be a part of the rotation, and Thomas may start. Tolliver's role with the team may be minimal, but he's a guy who can hit shots off the bench. The only problem with these signings is that there doesn't appear to be anything else following them.

With the Spurs over the cap and being very wary of the luxury tax their hands are really tied in what they can do. Right now the only way for them to add another major piece would be through trade, but that's tough to envision. The only players that could warrant something in return for the Spurs are the Big Three (Parker, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili), and they aren't going to break that up anytime soon. They also have very little to offer in expiring contracts.

Aside from a few more training camp signings and the possible return of Robert Horry and/or Michael Finley this may be the 2008-2009 San Antonio Spurs.

Tony Parker, Tim Duncan, and Manu Ginobili automatically make them contenders, but their health becomes more vital than ever this season. With Tim Duncan nearing the end of his prime and both Ginobili and Parker playing in the Olympics that is a scary thought.

In year's past we've been trying to figure out ways how the Spurs could not win the championship. This year though we may struggle to find ways they can win it all. The Western Conference has become too good and the Spurs have simply come back to the pack with their mediocre offseason.

The Spurs made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals last year before losing to the Lakers in five games. They nearly were eliminated the round before by the New Orleans Hornets, who gave them all they could handle in a seven-game series. Looking at how much better everyone has gotten, it's hard to like the Spurs chances to get that far again - unless of course there is more.

If the Spurs are going to continue this dynasty and be championship contenders, there has to be.

Express News: Let’s count ways we’ll miss Horry
Let’s count ways we’ll miss Horry
Richard Oliver: Oliver's Twist

I’ll miss Robert Horry.

Not because he’s a great quote, though he is. Not because he’s had his heroic moments, though he has. Not because he treats the common fan with a modicum of respect, though he does.

No, I’ll miss Horry because when the going gets tough, he goes and gets nasty. And the Spurs need that.

The headline example, of course, is the notorious moment two seasons ago when the warhorse forward hip-checked Phoenix guard Steve Nash, causing the Canadian to animatedly flop into the AT&T Center scorer’s table as if downed by a sniper.

Another might be the crunching pick set on New Orleans’ David West and his sore back last year, a forearms-to-the-kidneys move described by one blogger as “cunning and cold-hearted.” West went down in a writhing heap, and our man Horry strolled away with the casual ease of a man checking his petunias.

Those were telling moments, to be sure, but another from last year’s postseason was arguably the most hard-hitting argument for keeping Horry on site.

In a blowout loss at Phoenix, the Suns had several starters inexplicably on the floor while up by 24 with 3:38 left. Thus, when a ball headed out of bounds, the veteran leapt, snatched it and turned to rocket it off the leg of Amare Stoudemire.

It ensured a meaningless Spurs possession. But more importantly, it ticked off Phoenix coach Mike D’Antoni. His face scrunched like a constipated Shar Pei, he groused about the play until he was tossed with a couple of minutes left.

A couple of days later, when the teams continued the series in San Antonio, Horry folded his lanky 6-foot-10 frame over one of the folding chairs on the Spurs bench before the game. Did the team notice, he was asked, that the Suns had starters still on the court late?

Horry, a smile on his face, nodded. Why then, he was asked, didn’t he aim at a more painful target on Stoudemire’s person?

“I used to pitch in baseball,” Horry replied. “I could have.”

Indeed, had the situation called for it, he would have.

And the Spurs need that.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

SportingNews: Spurs' Finley spurns European offer

What, did you think foreign interest was limited to young, emerging NBA players shackled by restricted free agency?

Hold on a minute. There's some room for the elders in the Euro leagues. In fact, according to agent Henry Thomas, 35-year-old free agent (note: not restricted) guard Michael Finley of the San Antonio Spurs was not only contacted by a European team a month ago, but Finley turned down the offer.

"It's not something Michael wants to do at this point in his career," Thomas told Sporting News. "They were very interested in him, and they were impressed with his shooting ability and his experience. But he was not interested in going abroad."

Thomas would not name the team or league that was interested in Finley, but did say, "Well, it's one that has been in the news a lot lately."

That would be the Greek league, which saw one of its premier teams, Olympiacos, sign Atlanta Hawks swingman Josh Childress to a contract this week.

With Finley apparently out of the market for European offers, Thomas said Finley had no shortage of NBA offers. His first choice would be to return to the Spurs. Contrary to reports based on San Antonio's signing of guard Roger Mason Jr., Thomas said the Spurs are very interested in keeping Finley.

Speculation around the league, though, has Finley looking at league powers like the Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks and Boston Celtics.

"There are other teams, championship-caliber teams that want Michael," Thomas said. "But he is not going to be in a hurry. If you know Michael, you know he is going to think about this very carefully and make the right decision for him and his family. He won a ring with San Antonio and he will never forget that. So, that will weigh into his decision."

Staff writer Sean Deveney covers baseball for Sporting News. E-mail him at

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I won't say I told ya so, but...

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Spurs announced today that they have re-signed forward/center Kurt Thomas. Per team policy, terms of the deals were not disclosed.
The 6-9, 235-lb Thomas joined the Spurs on 2/20/08 in a trade with the Seattle Sonics in exchange for Brent Barry and Francisco Elson . He appeared in 28 games for the Silver and Black, averaging 4.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in 18.7 minutes per game. Thomas saw action in all 17 playoff games, averaging 4.1 points and 4.9 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per contest. The former Texas Christian University standout started the season with the Sonics where he played in 42 games, averaging 7.5 points and 8.8 rebounds.

For his career Thomas has played for six NBA teams (Heat, Mavericks, Knicks, Suns, Sonics and Spurs). In 817 career games he has averaged 9.7 points and 7.4 rebounds in 27.3 minutes.

Glad to see KT come back. Not only did the Spurs need to add an enforce to their frontline, but I'm interested to see what this guy can bring after a full training camp and season under the Spurs' system. Considering he's probably one of the most formidable big men left on the free agent block, glad to see his loyalty still lies with San Antonio.

No official link yet...

But sources indicate that the Spurs will resign Kurt Thomas later this afternoon.

Hopefully more info to come.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Express News: No surprise: Spurs' Ginobili to play in Beijing
No surprise: Spurs' Ginobili to play in Beijing
Mike Monroe

Confirming what the Spurs have felt certain would be the case, the Argentine Olympic Committee on Friday named Manu Ginobili one of the 12 players who will try to defend the basketball title Argentina captured in 2004.

Ginobili injured his left ankle early in the Spurs’ playoff run, jamming it badly during the first-round series against the Phoenix Suns. He had assured the Spurs he would only play in the Olympic basketball tournament, scheduled to begin Aug. 10 in Beijing, if he no longer experienced pain and swelling in the ankle.

Since returning to Argentina early this month, Ginobili has kept in daily contact with Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, assuring him he has had “zero pain” in the ankle, which the Spurs re-examined on June 19.

The Associated Press reported that Ginobili has been playing more, without incident, in Team Argentina practices.

“I had been playing more the last few days and it had improved,” he told the wire service. “It feels great, and that makes me very happy.”

The members of the team were announced after a 92-74 victory over Mexico in an exhibition in Mar del Plata, Argentina. Neither Ginobili nor Spurs center Fabricio Oberto, who has been bothered by a sore calf, played in the game.

Oberto, the starting center on the gold medal winning team in Athens, is also on the Argentine roster.

Argentina opens Olympic play against Lithuania. Also in Group A are Australia, Iran and Russia, along with one of three teams advancing from a qualifying tournament in Athens, Greece.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Express News: Spurs sure Manu will play

LAS VEGAS — The official decision won’t come for another day or two, but the Spurs already know that guard Manu Ginobili will be suiting up for the defending Olympic champion Argentine basketball team in Beijing in August.

Spurs president of basketball operations and head coach Gregg Popovich — don’t make the mistake of calling him “Mr. President” if you don’t want to be yelled at — has been in daily cyber-communication with the NBA’s reigning Sixth Man Award winner. The e-mail he got from Ginobili on Wednesday left no doubt Ginobili will be playing in China.

“He played in his first full practice and said he had zero pain in the ankle afterwards,” Popovich said after watching the Spurs’ summer league team defeat the New York Knicks at Cox Pavilion here Wednesday afternoon. “So we know what the final decision is going to be. He’s playing.”

Ginobili’s jammed left ankle hampered him so severely during the Spurs’ playoff run, particularly in the Western Conference finals that Brent Barry, the former Spurs guard who will play next season for the Houston Rockets, quipped that the team had only “Ma” in the series, but not “Nu.”

An MRI test conducted by the Spurs medical staff on June 19, nearly three weeks after the Lakers eliminated the Spurs, revealed significant swelling remained in Ginobili’s left ankle.

After seeing those results, Popovich made it clear he would discourage Ginobili from playing in the Olympics unless the ankle improved significantly before the basketball competition in Beijing began.

The Spurs dispatched assistant trainer Chad Bergman to Argentina to supervise Ginobili’s workouts in advance of the Argentine team’s practices. Popovich trusts his ultra-competitive guard to protect the Spurs’ investment in his talent.

But he also understands how badly Ginobili wants to participate in Argentina’s defense of the gold medal it won in Athens four years ago.

And when the Argentine Olympic Committee announced that Ginobili had been chosen to carry the Argentine flag in the opening ceremonies?

“I knew it was all over,” Popovich said. “I e-mailed Manu something like ‘I’m sure that’s not going to affect your decision at all.’?”

The Spurs’ head coach is encouraged by Ginobili’s e-mailed assurances that the ankle feels strong, but he will be watching Argentina’s games in Beijing holding his breath.

“He said the ankle has felt great in his one-on-one workouts and in his personal training,” Popovich said. “He’s out of shape and says his calves are hurting from all the running he’s been doing, but the important thing is that he says the ankle feels good.”

An Argentine newspaper reports that Ginobili plans to test the ankle in game conditions next week when Argentina plays Spain in what is known in international basketball circles as a “friendly” game that will match the defending Olympic champs against the reigning World champs.

It likely won’t matter if Ginobili intends to limit his playing time in that one. If the game is close, count on his national pride to kick in during crunch time.

New ref bosses? An NBA insider whispered Wednesday that the league soon will announce that former referees Bernie Fryar and Joe Borgia will replace Ronnie Nunn as supervisor of referees.

Nunn has had the job since 2003, when he replaced Ed T. Rush.

He is expected to be reassigned to other duties.

The league is in severe spin control mode about its referees in the wake of the Tim Donaghy gambling mess.

Feel free to consider Nunn a scapegoat for the embarrassment the Donaghy incident has brought David Stern.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

NBA: Young Spurs Struggle, But Show Promise

Young Spurs Struggle, But Show Promise
By Ben Couch

LAS VEGAS-- Dribble. Penetrate. Recognize the roll a split-second late. Force a shuffle pass. Watch blown layup.

It was a sequence San Antonio Spurs rookie George Hill became all too familiar with during the team's 76-68 Tuesday loss to the New Orleans Hornets at the Thomas and Mack Center. And most often, Hill had been targeting big man Ian Mahinmi, who finished shooting 2-for-9 from the floor.

"Ian's a great player, and I think it was partly my fault for trying to get him the ball too late," Hill said. "It's a learning point. I've got to know when to make that pass and when to go finish it. "

Despite the bumbled connections throughout the Summer League contest, "Hill to Mahinmi" might soon be a frequent regular-season result for the Spurs. Hill, drafted No. 26 overall this year, and Mahinmi, finally expected to contribute after two years in France and one in the D-League, are key components of the Spurs burgeoning youth movement.

The team recently jettisoned Brent Barry (36) for Roger Mason (27), and forwards Robert Horry (37), Kurt Thomas (35) and swingman Michael Finley (35) are all free agents. Hill, who averaged 21.5 points and 4.3 assists for IUPUI last season, is making the difficult transition from college two-guard to professional point. Against the Hornets, he seemed comfortable bringing the ball upcourt, but often overpenetrated, which resulted in misses (0-of-10 FGs) or turnovers (five).

But he filled the stat sheet in other ways (seven rebounds, four assists), and impressed when defending against O.J. Mayo on Monday, hounding the Grizzlies star into a 5-for-17 showing. With improved decision-making, Hil's a likely candidate to spell Tony Parker during the season.

Underneath the basket, Mahinmi was active, grabbing nine rebounds (three offensive) and blocking a shot. He also got to the line seven times, sinking six free throws. As the Frenchman becomes comfortable with the American game's physical nature, he should avoid sequences like one in the third quarter, when he stole a pass at the top of the key (good), but heard footsteps on the break and bricked an indecisive runner instead of throwing down hard (bad). Even so, the Spurs coaching staff has recognized the progress Mahinmi has made since being drafted in 2005.

"It's great for coaches to see a player take advantage of a development opportunity and take advantage of the D-League," said assistant coach Mike Budenholzer. "He's gotten great coaching down there in Austin from Quinn Snyder. We've tried to use that to our best advantage to create a great opportunity and culture to develop in. He did well, and this is another part of his process."

Mahinmi admitted it's been tough having to work for three years to get in position to help the Spurs -- after being drafted, he wanted to join the team right away. Last year, he sandwiched a D-League stay with six games for the Spurs, but knows the D-League stay was beneficial. Mahinmi averaged 17.1 points and 8.2 rebounds in 45 games for the Austin Toros, and is looking forward to growing alongside the team's other young talent.

"We're doing it slowly, starting with defense, defense, defense," Mahinmi said. "Then we work on offense and do that. It's really, really slow -- we're taking it step by step -- but we're doing it good. And we really want to do it good."

Express News: Spurs' Hill experience low after starting high

NBA: Spurs' Hill experience low after starting high

Web Posted: 07/16/2008 12:58 AM CDT

Mike Monroe
San Antonio Express-News

LAS VEGAS — The day after Spurs coaches gave first-round draft pick George Hill an A-plus for his defense on O.J. Mayo, Hill put a few substandard marks in his report card in the Spurs’ second game of the Las Vegas Summer League.

Hill did a pretty fair impression of Spurs defensive ace Bruce Bowen in Monday’s summer league opener against the Grizzlies. In his first game with the silver and black, Hill forced Mayo, the Memphis Grizzlies’ No. 3 overall pick of the 2008 draft, into tough shots that translated into 5-for-17 shooting and limited him to six free throws.

“He did just what we wanted him to do: made (Mayo) take tough shots and kept him off the free throw line,” said Spurs assistant coach Mike Budenholzer, in charge of the summer league squad. “It was an A-plus.”

Tuesday’s game against a New Orleans Hornets summer squad that included Julian Wright and Hilton Armstrong, two members of last season’s Hornets team that won 56 games, proved that Hill still has a lot of work to do to make the transition from being a scoring guard for IUPUI to being primarily a point guard in the NBA.

Hill took 10 shots in a 76-68 loss Tuesday night and missed all 10. He grabbed seven rebounds and had four assists, but committed five turnovers.

“If we’re true to our colors, at the end of the day, it’s defense that we think is most important,” Budenholzer said. “So the fact he has a lot of defensive skill is going to give him a lot of rope.

“That’s what summer league is for. You have to learn from games like he had tonight. Not every pro has been good in every summer league game he’s played, so this is a great chance for him to learn.”

Hill understands the challenge he faces with a major upgrade in the level of competition, compounded by the transition to point guard, one of the toughest positions to learn.

“Coming from a mid-major (college), and not really playing a lot of point guard, it’s going to be a learning experience,” Hill said. “My job in summer league was to come here and feel the vibe of the point guard position and learn from my mistakes.”

There were lessons aplenty in Tuesday’s game, which was choppy for both teams, start to finish.

“The toughest part is just when to pass and when to score, because I was mostly a scorer in college,” he said. “Sometimes I try to get into the defense, rather than let the game come to me. It’s going to be a learning point, and I’m ready to step up and take that challenge.”

For now, Hill is grateful that he had a chance to prove his defensive prowess to the Spurs coaches, including head coach Gregg Popovich, observing from the stands at summer league.

“You always accept that defensive challenge,” he said. “When Coach puts you on a great player like O.J. Mayo, it’s a chance to see where you are defensively.”

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NBA: Spurs Open Summer League Stint with Win Over Grizzlies

Straight off the virtual presses of

Express News: Hill holds own against Mayo in summer league debut

Spurs: Hill holds own against Mayo in summer league debut
By Mike Monroe

LAS VEGAS -- The plan was for George Hill, the guard from IUPUI the Spurs drafted with the 26th selection of the 2008 draft, to make his Las Vegas Summer League debut against the Memphis Grizzlies’ Mike Conley, one of the top picks in the 2007 draft.

When the Spurs’ coaches found out Conley wasn’t going to suit up for Memphis, they had a better idea.

"George Hill vs. O.J. Mayo,” assistant coach Mike Budenholzer said before the Spurs defeated the Grizzlies, 78-76, at Thomas and Mack Arena late Monday night.

“It’s definitely a good test for him right out of the gate. I don’t know that much about Mayo, but he was the third pick in the draft and George was the 26th pick. Hopefully, he’s got something he wants to show everybody. It always starts with defense for George.”

Mayo, the explosive guard from Southern California the Grizzlies acquired in a draft night trade involving draft rights to UCLA’s Kevin Love, is the sort of challenge the Spurs believe Hill will readily accept, even as a rookie.

Budenholzer had some advice for Hill before sending him out against Mayo, who had scored 56 points in his first three summer league games.

“This kid is looking to score,” Budenholzer told Hill, “so make him take tough shots, but don’t foul him.”

It was the same sort of admonition Gregg Popovich gave to Bruce Bowen when he sent him out to defend Kobe Bryant in the Western Conference final.

“That’s one of our big things,” Budenholzer said. “Make him take tough shots, but don’t put him on the free throw line. If we can get out of this game with O.J. Mayo shooting six, seven free throws – sort of like Kobe Bryant – then that’s probably a good sign for George.”

By game’s end, Mayo had scored 16 points, but taken only six free throws. Hill also had succeeded in making him take the sort of tough shots the Spurs are content to yield. Mayo made only five of 17 shots.

It was what Budenholzer and Popovich, watching from a seat eight rows up in the stands in a nearly deserted arena, had hoped to see from Hill at the defensive end.

Hill made two of nine shots and scored 14 points, but his defensive work on Mayo – he took two charges and helped in limiting Mayo to two points in the second and third quarters – was all that mattered in his first game in silver and black.

From what I saw online (available at NBA All-Access with free signup), it was a pretty good first game for the Spurs Summer League. After starting off lethargic and shooting horribly, the Spurs posted a comeback and were able to grit out a win.

Hill looked impressive in stretches but obviously is still very raw. His defense was more tenacious than I was expecting though, so if he can bring that kind of effort and find a groove on offense, he could become a very good player.

Ian Mahinmi had some nice moves down lot but overall, did not have a great game. That being considered, 18 and 8 on an off night might be a good sign if he is going to survive the rigors of the NBA.

James Gist was very energetic and eventually found his shooting stroke, but still seemed to be forcing the issue a bit. Malik Hairston had a poor showing and lacked aggressiveness.

If I had to base it off of this game alone, I would venture to say that only Hill and Mahinmi would have a chance to last on the Spurs roster, but there's still a lot of Summer League ball to be played.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Worldwide Sports News: Oberto injured in National League tuneup

Center Fabricio Oberto left the play through injury like the Argentinians struggled against the Poles after trailing forward like many like 10 points in the third quarter.

Well, that didn't take long. The Games haven't even started yet and Oberto's already getting himself hurt.

Joel Jimmel's Illustration News: Tim Duncan

Decent little chuckler making our robotic bigman more than a metaphor.

Express News: Ginobili might still play in Olympics

Spurs: Ginobili might still play in Olympics
By Jeff McDonald

It appears Manu Ginobili could be leaning toward playing in the Olympic Games after all.

After struggling all summer with a jammed left ankle that cast his availability for Argentina's national team in doubt, Ginobili told reporters in his home country he was optimistic he would be able to play next month in Beijing.

“Today, I feel I am more in than out of the Olympics,” he said Thursday.

Two weeks after the Spurs' playoff ouster, Ginobili's ankle was so sore that coach Gregg Popovich said the guard should “definitely not” play in Beijing if it did not improve.

Now, it appears Ginobili might meet that criterion.

Last week, Spurs assistant trainer Chad Bergman accompanied Ginobili back to Argentina, where the national team has begun scrimmaging in preparation for the Olympics. Ginobili has not participated in those workouts, but the Spurs have been pleased with his progress so far.

No timetable has been set for Ginobili's decision.

“He's progressing,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said. “When it's time to play, he'll make a decision then.”

El Contusion II: The injury news wasn't quite so good for the Spurs' other Argentine Olympian.

Fabricio Oberto, the Spurs' on-again, off-again starting center, suffered a bruised left quadriceps in a scrimmage against Poland earlier this week.

The injury is considered minor, and Oberto is expected to miss only a week of workouts.

Bye-bye Barry: Friday marked Brent Barry's first official day with the Houston Rockets.

After four seasons with the Spurs, Barry signed a two-year deal with the Rockets this week. In doing so, he could become the third Barry to finish his career in Houston, joining father Rick and brother Jon.

“Brent and his family have been big part of last four years, of two championships and a great locker room,” Buford said. “He'll be sorely missed.”

Still, Buford couldn't resist one last good-natured gig at the Rockets' newest guard Friday.

“We wish him well,” Buford said, “but hopefully we'll be kicking his butt a few times during the season.”

Express News: Spurs: Replacing old guard with new blood

Spurs: Replacing old guard with new blood
By Mike Monroe

We're older than dirt. — Gregg Popovich

Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children. — George Bernard Shaw

LAS VEGAS — The 13 players who suited up for the Spurs in their playoff run last season averaged 32.46 years old. That made them, if not quite as ancient as dirt, the oldest team in the NBA.

Depending, in part, on what Popovich and his assistants see from first-round draft pick George Hill, who is 22, and a group of equally young players who will put their skills on display in summer league games in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City over the next nine days, the Spurs figure to be significantly younger when the 2008-09 regular season begins.

Simply plugging free agent signee Roger Mason Jr., 27, in the guard spot once occupied by Brent Barry, who is 36, instantly drops the average age to 31.76. It will drop more before next season's opener, perhaps dramatically, depending on which players make the roster.

Fans and media critics who have been calling for the Spurs to get younger and more athletic may finally be getting their wish.

Hill, the combination guard from Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) almost certainly will be on the opening night roster. In a rare show of confidence, Popovich asserted that Hill will be Tony Parker's primary backup and make the Spurs better, at both ends of the court, “right off the bat.”

Like Hill, Spurs second-round picks Malik Hairston and James Gist are 22. Popovich says he thinks both players are good enough to make the Spurs' 15-man roster.

Ian Mahinimi, 18 when the Spurs made him the 28th pick of the 2004 draft, also will be in Las Vegas and Salt Lake City. Entering the second season of the contract he signed last summer, Mahinmi spent most of last season with the Spurs' D-League team, the Austin Toros. His goal this summer: Convince the Spurs' coaches his game has developed to the point he merits a spot in the team's big man rotation, along with Tim Duncan, Fabricio Oberto, Matt Bonner and Kurt Thomas, should the Spurs re-sign him.

Don't make the mistake of calling next season the beginning of a transition period for a team that has won four championships since 1999. The Spurs don't mind being among the oldest teams in the league. NBA history suggests those teams are best suited for extended playoff runs.

“That's the popular thing to say or write,” said assistant coach Mike Budenholzer, Popovich's top assistant and head coach of the summer league team. “But we didn't lose (to the Lakers, in the 2008 Western Conference finals) because we were too old. If you were inside the walls, you'd know we don't believe we lost because we were too old.”

Budenholzer said summer league play is much more important for Hill, Hairston, Gist and Mahinmi than it is for the Spurs, who know they will remain among the league's best teams as long as Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker are healthy.

The youngsters know what they must do. Flattered by Popovich's draft night praise, Hill takes nothing for granted about a spot in the team's backcourt rotation.

“It's a great opportunity to play with Tony Parker,” Hill said. “He's a great player, but you've got a great vet, also, in Jacque Vaughn. You can't count anyone out. There's two players at that position I can learn so much from, just from the standpoint of Vaughn being in the NBA for so many years and Parker just being a great point guard.

“I have the best end of it right now, learning from two great players.”

Budenholzer won't place unreasonable expectations on Hill when summer league play begins Monday night with a game against the Memphis Grizzlies at Thomas and Mack Arena.

“I do think it's going to happen,” Budenholzer said of Hill's development into a rotation player, “but it's hard to put that kind of pressure on him. He might even struggle in summer league. But he's got all of August and training camp to learn.

“I want to slow it down a little bit and not judge him just on the next two weeks. But he has a lot of things we believe in. I think he's going to be good, but it might take a while to evolve. He's a great competitor, one of those kids who is going to find a way.”

Hairston, a former McDonald's high school All-American, has a simple goal for summer league: win.

“That's the big thing,” Hairston said, “and I think that's why I might be a great fit in San Antonio, because they love to win and do everything that it takes. I just want to show them I'll work hard every possession to try to make my team better and do whatever my team needs me to do.”

What the Spurs most want to see from all their summer leaguers is commitment to the Spurs' philosophy of team play.

“We have the same message for all of these summer league guys: Show us you can play defense and are willing to play team basketball,” Budenholzer said. “Be unselfish, make the little plays, get guys open, feed the post.”

And if they do?

On opening night, the Spurs could suit up a lineup with an average age under 30.

Then it will be Spurs 1, Dirt 0.

Spurs Roster

Matt Bonner, F, 28

Bruce Bowen, F, 37

Tim Duncan, F, 32

* Michael Finley, G, 35

Manu Ginobili, G, 30

James Gist, F, 21

Malik Hairston, G, 21

George Hill, G, 22

* Robert Horry, F, 37

Ian Mahinmi, F, 21

Roger Mason, G, 27

Fabricio Oberto, C, 33

Tony Parker, G, 26

* Kurt Thomas, C, 35

Ime Udoka, F, 30

Jacque Vaughn, G, 33

The average age of the current Spurs roster is 29.3.

Note: The Spurs must start the season with 12 active players and can carry up to three on the inactive list.

* — Unrestricted free agent

Hard to believe the Spurs might end up being one of the younger teams in the league, depending upon how the rookies pan out.

As sad as I am to see some really great players go, I think it's time for the changing of the guard (pun intended).

I'm not sure what series Monroe was watching, but the Spurs definitely lost to the Lakers because they were younger, faster, and more athletic. San Antonio was worn down by the Conference Finals. Something about that has to change.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Express News: Patience pays off for newest Spur Mason

Roger Mason Jr. walked into the Spurs' practice facility Friday for the first time since telling the Spurs “no.”

It was just last August he turned down a 3-year deal worth $1 million per season to come to San Antonio, choosing instead to spend another season in Washington, a roll of the dice meant to see if he could increase his stock and his payday.

Eleven months later, he is back in San Antonio, a gamble made good.

Mason, a 6-foot-5 guard, was introduced as the newest member of the Spurs on Friday, two days after agreeing to a two-year contract.

The deal is expected to pay him roughly $7.5 million — or more than three times more per year than he would have made had he said, “yes” to the Spurs last summer.

“It was tough,” Mason said of his previous decision to rebuff the four-time NBA champions. “I just knew that, with all the time I spent in the gym, if I got a lucky break, an opportunity, I'd be able to show off a little bit more.”

Mason got that break — lucky for him, unlucky for the Wizards — when All-Star Gilbert Arenas went down with a knee injury eight games into the season.

That afforded Mason, 27, plenty of playing time off the bench in Washington. He made the most of it, averaging 9.1 points and shooting nearly 40 percent from the 3-point line in what was his first full season as an NBA regular.

When Antonio Daniels got hurt later in the year, Mason got to showcase his versatility by filling in at point guard for the Wizards.

All told, it was a breakout year for Mason, a late-bloomer in his fourth season in the league — one he parlayed into a fatter paycheck with Peter Holt's name on it.

“To Roger's credit, he went out and proved he deserved a much bigger opportunity than we talked about last year,” Spurs general manager R.C. Buford said.

It took more than promise of a bigger bank account to lure Mason away from Washington D.C., the city in which he was born and raised.

In San Antonio, he has the opportunity for more playing time than he was likely to earn with the Wizards — either as a possible starting shooting guard, depending on the future of free agent Michael Finley, or as a backup point guard.

He also ought to have an opportunity to play deeper into the postseason than he ever has. Each of his two seasons with the Wizards ended with Cleveland bouncing them from the playoffs in the first round.

All Mason had to do was glance at the four championship banners on the wall of the Spurs practice facility Friday to know the expectations are higher on the banks of the San Antonio River than they are on the banks of the Potomac.

“You think of San Antonio, you think of title contender,” Mason said. “In Washington, we got beat in the first round. When the playoffs get to June, I'd usually cut the TV off. Hopefully, my friends will be watching me this year.”

The Spurs' courtship of Mason — and he of them — was a year in the making, and maybe longer. Mason auditioned in each of the past two summers for the Spurs, and so impressed them last year that he left with a contract offer.

The Spurs made an impression on Mason as well, beginning with the most prominent man in their locker room.

“I was in a mini-camp, and it was in August, and Tim Duncan was in here playing with us free agent guys,” Mason said. “That tells you what kind of team this is, when your best player is here in August with rookies and free agents who might not even be in the NBA, and he's busting his you-know-what.”

The Spurs believe Mason, renowned for his work ethic and willingness to fill any role, will fit in nicely with their team-first program.

“When we started to differentiate who we were going to go after (in free agency), the guy at the top of the list as far as who's a Spur — that was Roger,” Buford said. “That's what made it easy for us to move him to the top of the list.”

And so, Mason was back in San Antonio on Friday. Nearly a year after telling the Spurs no, he was here to tell them yes.

“I feel blessed, there's no question,” Mason said. “God has given me a great opportunity, and I'm going to make the most of it. I feel like my career is still going up.”

Friday, July 11, 2008

Express News: Rockets swipe Barry with a two-year deal

Rockets swipe Barry with a two-year deal

Web Posted: 07/10/2008 11:00 PM CDT

By Mike Monroe

The Spurs will be younger and more athletic next season, but even if they win another NBA title, it's not likely they will have as much fun as they had during Brent Barry's four seasons in silver and black.

One day after the Spurs reached agreement with free agent Roger Mason, a younger guard who plays the same big guard position, Barry on Thursday signed a two-year contract with the Houston Rockets. The Houston Chronicle reported the deal will pay Barry $3.9 million over the two seasons.

The 6-foot-7, 36-year-old guard has been one of the league's most accurate 3-point shooters over the course of 13 seasons. He signed a free agent deal with the Spurs in the summer of 2004 and was a key contributor off the bench in each of his four seasons.

In his very first season with the Spurs, he helped them win their third NBA championship. In that playoff run he made 28 of 66 3-point shots. Even when Spurs coach Gregg Popovich cut his regular playing rotation down to seven for the final three games of a memorable, seven-game Finals against the Detroit Pistons, Barry was among the seven.

As valuable as he was on the court, Barry was nearly as vital in the locker room, always keeping things jovial and upbeat. He turned the team's annual preseason luncheon into a laugh-filled production that featured skits in which the players lampooned everyone and everything, including themselves. The highlight of last season's luncheon: Manu Ginobili, in a white dress and wig, lip-synching to “Don't Cry for Me, Argentina.”

As valuable as Barry was to the Spurs offensively, his defensive deficiencies often landed him in hot water with Popovich. He nearly was traded to the Hornets on trade deadline day in 2006 in a deal that would have brought J.R. Smith to San Antonio. The deal was not consummated only because it was not completed and submitted before the deadline had passed.

One day before last season's trading deadline, the Spurs sent an injured Barry, at the time recovering from his second torn left calf muscle of the season, and center Francisco Elson to the Seattle SuperSonics for center-forward Kurt Thomas. The Sonics subsequently waived Barry, making him a free agent. Not allowed to rejoin the Spurs for 30 days he waited the month and rejoined the team in time for another playoff push.

Though he began the playoffs with his left calf still sore, by the time the Spurs reached the Western Conference finals against the Lakers, he had regained a spot in a shortened rotation.

Ironically, his best game of the playoffs was in the Spurs' Game 5 loss to the Lakers, when he scored a career playoff high 23 points. Spurs fans, though, will remember the final play of that game, when Barry was bumped as he tried to go up for a 3-point shot that could have given the Spurs a one-point victory, only to have the game end without a foul call.

After reviewing the play, the NBA admitted the referees had erred in not calling L.A's Derek Fisher for fouling Barry on the play. Barry responded to the admission with typical wit, a reference to the “Back To the Future” movies about time travel: “Tell Doc Brown I've got the De Lorean outside. We're going to fire up the flux capacitors and go back and shoot a couple of free throws.”

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Houston Chronicle: Rockets agree to terms with free agent guard Barry

Brent Barry, the free agent guard the Rockets targeted from the first minute of this month’s free agency period to bolster their bench, told the team Thursday that he would sign with the Rockets, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said.

More than four months after the Rockets pursued Barry when he became a mid-season free agent, the Rockets landed Barry following nine days considering their offer of their bi-annual salary cap exception, worth $3.9 million over two seasons.

In March, Barry chose to return to the San Antonio Spurs after he was traded by the Spurs to the SuperSonics and released, spurning offers from the Rockets and Suns. Barry last week opted out of the contract he signed with the Spurs then, and again received offers from the Rockets and Suns.

Barry, 36, made 49.1 percent of his shots and 46.3 percent of his 3s in the post-season after coming back from a calf injury that kept him out most of the second half of the season.

In the regular season, his 12th in the NBA, he averaged 7.1 points in 17.9 minutes, making 48.1 percent of his shots.

Barry’s father, Hall of Famer Rick Barry, and brother, Jon Barry, both finished their careers with the Rockets.

At 6-7, Brent Barry, part of two Spurs’ championship teams, is expected to give the Rockets size off the bench at the wing positions.

And down goes Barry.

Thanks for all the good times and big shots, Brent. San Antonio won't seem quite the same without its Mango Tree anymore.

Cheers to a guy who was a class act all the way through.

YouTube: Ticket 760 Interview With George Hill

Nice little interview with the new rookie PG, first picked up by Ticket760.

Express News: Mason in the bag, but work to be done

Jeff McDonald: Mason in the bag, but work to be done

Roger Mason is on his way to becoming a Spur, having agreed to a two-year deal worth roughly $7.5 million. Contrary to popular belief, however, the Spurs' offseason isn't over.

There is still work to be done, a roster to fill and money to be spent.

The Spurs used just part of their mid-level exception to lure Mason away from Washington. They have an additional $1.9 million to work with, and might not be done shopping for free agents -- though they are almost certainly out of the running for J.R. Smith, James Posey and possibly even Eduardo Najera.

Then, there is the question of their own free agents.

Kurt Thomas is the big one. The Spurs would like to re-sign him, but he's received interest from both the Lakers and Heat.

Brent Barry seems to be out of the equation in Phoenix, according to recent media reports out of Arizona, but is still being courted by Houston and Boston, and hasn't ruled out returning to San Antonio. The Rockets are considered to be the frontrunner for Barry's services, having reportedly dangled their $1.9 million biannual exception at him.

Worth noting: The Spurs could easily match the Rockets' offer with their own biannual exception, or with what's left of their mid-level exception, if they so desired.

The Spurs have talked with Michael Finley about the prospect of returning. They value his veteran savvy and leadership, but it's unclear how he would fit in now with Mason on his way.

It's appearing less and less likely that Robert Horry returns. Though Horry has said he would like to come back for a 17th season, with little market out there for a soon-to-be-38-year-old power forward, it looks like he might wind up retired by default.

The Spurs also have three draft picks vying for a spot on the roster and payroll. At some point, they will sign first-round pick George Hill, and have also discussed inking second-rounders Malik Hairston and James Gist.

The best guess here (and it's only a guess): The Spurs make a strong push at re-signing Kurt Thomas, sign their three rookies, and call it an offseason.

I'm excited about the new prospects, but I still don't like seeing our fan favorites go, i.e. Barry, Horry, etc...

It's like Malik Rose all over again, but with no Nazr Mohammad in return.

Express News: Signing Mason brings bit of tax relief for Spurs

Mike Monroe: Signing Mason brings bit of tax relief for Spurs

Less than 24 hours after the 76ers committed more than $80 million to forward Elton Brand and the Warriors pledged $50 million to swingman Corey Maggette, it was reported that eight NBA teams will have to pay more than $95 million in luxury taxes based on their player payrolls for last season.

A short while later, the Spurs reached agreement with Wizards guard Roger Mason Jr. on a two-year deal that will pay him a total of $7.5 million and still leave the Spurs in position to be major players in the talent-rich free-agent market of 2010.

In about three weeks, Spurs majority owner Peter Holt and his partners will get a check from the league office, courtesy of the eight spendthrift owners. It will be for a little more than $3 million and will help the club maintain its reputation for doing everything in a first-class manner, from facilities to scouting to travel accommodations.

These events are not unrelated.

As much as an eye for talent is required of today's NBA basketball executives, so is a tight grip on the owner's purse strings. So when the Spurs missed out on signing Maggette, an immensely talented player with a reputation for selfish play and occasional churlishness, consternation was minimal at the team's headquarters on Spurs Circle.

Maggette was right for the Spurs because they need to get younger and more athletic. But he would have been a risk, even at the mid-level salary-cap exception of $5.585 million the Spurs reportedly offered. Sharing positions with Manu Ginobili and Bruce Bowen, as Maggette would have and Mason will, means watching your role diminish when the playoffs arrive. Maggette's favorite role always has been designated scorer.

The real beauty of Michael Finley these past three seasons was his professionalism in dealing with Ginobili's in-and-out status as starter and reserve. Everyone marveled at Ginobili's selflessness, an All-Star ceding a starting role for the good of the team. But each time Gregg Popovich put Ginobili back in the starting lineup, that meant Finley went to the bench, always without a whimper. And if Mason's arrival means Finley's days with the Spurs are over, Popovich will not have made the choice without a large measure of agony.

Could Maggette have accepted temporary demotion with similar equanimity? Volume shooters seldom do, and the guess here is that Maggette would have sulked if Popovich asked him to sacrifice for the good of the team. The head coach doesn't easily suffer sulkers.

Mason also is a different sort of combo player. At 6-foot-5 he is a one-two, rather than a two-three, and that means Ime Udoka figures to retain his value as Bowen's primary backup. Mason proved last season he can play the point if the need arises. He is a more devoted defender than Maggette.

The Warriors had to do something to recoup after Baron Davis' defection to the Clippers, but you wonder if signing Maggette to a five-year, $50 million deal didn't contain a dose of payback to the team that stole their top player. Though he averaged 22.1 points last season, and 16.1 points over his nine NBA seasons, Maggette hardly is a $10 million-a-year player.

At least the Sixers can rationalize paying Brand $82 million over five seasons. He is a two-time All-Star, a second-team All-NBA selection just two seasons ago, and a career 20-10 big man. Plus, he is one of the league's solid citizens.

There has been speculation about why Brand chose the Sixers over the Clippers, but the simple truth is more geographic than Machiavellian, as some have suggested. A New Yorker by birth who played college ball at Duke, Brand wanted to go “back East” the last time he was a free agent, but then he was restricted. The Clippers matched the offer sheet he had gotten from the Heat. This time, the choice strictly was Brand's, and now he is much closer to what he considers home.

So the Clippers slide backward, yet again, left to ponder a really outrageous offer to Atlanta's Josh Smith that immediately would make him one of the league's most overpaid players.

Meanwhile, the Spurs improved without breaking the bank.

This article doesn't make a lot of sense. Considering the Spurs used part of their MLE on Mason, it really did nothing whatsoever to count for or against their luxury tax. The team is gonna spend their MLE and LLE either way. Are we supposed to be glad that we didn't spend money we didn't have?

Indeed, Mike Monroe strikes again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

East Valley Tribune: Barry out of picture, Suns still seek wing player

Jerry Brown, Tribune

Brent Barry is off the Phoenix Suns radar. Darius Miles and Devin Brown are on the periphery. And Tyronn Lue remains the favorite to be Steve Nash’s backup at point guard.

As he was last March, the 36-year-old Barry showed interest in signing with the Suns — even though they could only offer him the $1.262 veteran minimum salary. But all indications now are that Barry will wind up in Houston, where the Rockets can offer him their bi-annual exception of $1.9 million.

The Suns weren’t in a position to match or beat the offer. If they fill their remaining roster spots with rookie Robin Lopez and nothing other than veteran minimum contracts, their payroll will be $76.1 million for the 2008-09 season. That’s a shade under $5 million over the luxury tax, leaving the Suns with a payroll and tax bill over $80 million ($81.1 million) — the highest in franchise history.

So with Gordan Giricek likely headed to Europe for a more lucrative offer, the search for a wing backup player continues.

Miles, who has been working out locally with former Suns trainer Robin Pound, was examined by the Suns medical staff on Wednesday — specifically, the right knee that has kept him out of the game for more than two years and led to a retirement settlement with Portland.

While there is some interest for Phoenix, Miles’ past (injuries, substance use, etc.) could go a long way to shying them away. The Portland Oregonian reported that Miles would miss the first 10 games with any new team to serve a suspension for violating the league’s Anti-Drug program — which would be the “fourth strike” on the program’s ladder.

Brown, who averaged 7.5 points in 78 regular-season games with Cleveland last year, is also of interest to the Suns. He is an above-average defender with offensive skills and could fit the bill price-wise (he made $1.2 million last season).

Meanwhile, Lue remains the No. 1 choice at point guard. The two sides have been keeping in contact, although no formal offer has been submitted by Phoenix to this point. Anthony Johnson remains another player of interest.

I'm really sick of the Rockets frontin' up on the Spurs' KoolAid. Whatever the fuck that's supposed to mean, it still pisses me off.

If this ends up being true, then I, for one, will miss Brent Barry. Guy was always great at running the offense and providing a spark, and nailed some big shots in his time here.

But he still needs to find a way to get younger.

Express News: Spurs rebound to sign Roger Mason

NBA: Spurs rebound to sign Roger Mason
Jeff McDonald
and Mike Monroe

The morning after Corey Maggette climbed out of the NBA free-agent pool, the Spurs waded back in Wednesday.

They came out with Roger Mason Jr.

According to multiple NBA sources, the Spurs have reached an agreement with Mason, a 6-foot-5 guard who spent the past two seasons in Washington. The deal is expected to pay Mason $7.5 million over two seasons.

Mason doesn’t come with the sex appeal — or the scoring average — of Maggette. He is, however, coming off his best season as a pro.

Known primarily for his defensive toughness, Mason was an offensive revelation off the bench for the Wizards last season, his fourth in the NBA. Afforded increased playing time after injuries to guards Gilbert Arenas and Antonio Daniels, Mason averaged 9.1 points per game and shot nearly 40 percent from 3-point range.

Mason, who turns 28 in September, should give the Spurs additional depth on the wing behind Bruce Bowen and alongside Ime Udoka. His versatility is a plus — he can also play point guard if needed.

This isn’t the first time Mason has traversed the Spurs’ radar.

He worked out for the Spurs during free agency last summer, and so impressed the team’s staff that he came away with a three-year contract offer worth a little more than $3 million.

Mason rejected that overture, opting instead to return to Washington for one more year. Now, it appears Mason has parlayed that season into a more profitable pact with the Spurs.

News of Mason’s impending arrival in San Antonio comes a day after Maggette, formerly of the Los Angeles Clippers, spurned the Spurs and several other suitors to accept a more lucrative offer from Golden State.

Mason would come at a more affordable price tag, earning only a portion of the $5.58 million mid-level exception the Spurs had earmarked for Maggette. Mason would also be off the Spurs’ books in the summer of 2010, leaving them still well-positioned to participate in what ought to be a bountiful year for free-agent shopping.

One Western Conference scout says Mason will fit in well with the Spurs.

“He had almost a breakout year (last season),” the scout said. “Offensively, the Wizards had used him as a guy to come in off the bench and give them some offense and change the pace of the game. But last year, he got more quality minutes in key stretches of games and showed a much improved all-around game.”

It is unclear how the addition of Mason would affect the Spurs’ decision-making regarding two of their own unrestricted free agents, guards Brent Barry and Michael Finley.

Meanwhile, another potential Los Angeles-to-Bay-Area move Wednesday could produce further ramifications in San Antonio.

Los Angeles Lakers forward Ronny Turiaf, a restricted free agent, has agreed to a four-year, $17 million offer sheet from the Warriors. The Lakers have seven days to match the offer.

If the Lakers choose to let Turiaf go, they might be tempted to pursue Spurs forward Kurt Thomas.

Thomas, who is unrestricted, has said his preference is to remain in San Antonio, but he would be open to offers elsewhere.

Notebook: The Spurs are set to collect roughly $3.082 million dollars, their 1/30th share from the league’s luxury tax pool, paid by the eight teams who were over the tax threshold last season. ..... The team’s three 2008 draft picks — first-rounder George Hill and second-rounders Malik Hairston and James Gist — are scheduled to be in town this morning. All three are expected to play on the Spurs’ summer league team, which opens play next week in Las Vegas.


Position: Guard

Age: 27

2007-08 averages: 9.1 points, 1.7 assists and 1.6 rebounds in 80 games with Wizards

Strengths: A solid defender with a deft 3-point shooting touch. More of a shooting guard, but can play some point in a pinch.

Weaknesses: Not particularly adept at creating his own offense.

A little more info about the latest Spur, fresh off the San Antonio print.

Spurs Sign Roger Mason Jr.

Mason agrees to deal with San Antonio

Roger Mason Jr. has agred to terms of a deal with the San Antonio Spurs. Don't have all the details yet but will shortly. This is not a shocker given the fact that the Spurs liked Mason last summer as well.

This is actually one of the guys I was hoping San Antonio would swoop in on, but wasn't sure if he was really on their radar. This is definitely the most active I've seen San Antonio in the Free Agent Market in recent years.

Not too hip on the kid yet, but he should be a solid addition to our swingman rotation and also gives us another player under 30!

Roger Mason | G
Born: Sep 10, 1980
Height: 6-5 / 1,96
Weight: 212 lbs. / 96,2 kg.
College: Virginia
Years Pro: 3

Sirius About Sports: Top 10 Surprise Winners

5. San Antonio Spurs

What more can be said about the Spurs? People can quibble all day over whether or not they are dynasty (they are not) or if the 1999 title deserved an astrisk (it did not) but the Spurs have a tradition of fufilling the old cliche of "just win baby." And win is what they've done alot of, as the Spurs have made the playoffs 28 out of their 32 seasons and have won 55 or more games every season of Tim Duncan's career except 2000 when they won a measly 53. And the team didn't do so badly in David Robinson or George Gervin's respective eras.

The Spurs also buck a trend by being a hyper-successful franchise in a small, one major league sport market. San Antonio may be the seventh largest city in the country but that figure can be deceiving since it's only the 28th largest metropolitan area and 37th largest TV market (wikipedia is the source, but were dealing with raw numbers here). Even if one were to add Austin to it's market ( a colossal stretch at this current time), it is still smaller or no bigger than cities such as Seattle, Phoenix, Tampa/St. Pete, and Baltimore while being significantly dwarfed by LA, New York/NJ, Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Chicago, SF Bay Area, Atlanta and Washington DC. Factor in proximity to other teams (such as Denver's isolation from other cities) and it looks even smaller. And that's with the current numbers because for most of the team's history San Antonio, the metro area has barely been over a million people.

But that's just the beauty. They don't need to be the flashy big market team to succeed. Quietly, they have surpassed franchises such as the Lakers and Yankees to become the best orgaization in sports of the last decade (as in currently, not all-time). And it's not as if the team has no market appeal. Tony Parker (seen above to the left) is the envy of many since he snabbed Hollywood vixen Eva Longoria, which gives the team an unlikely celebrity presence. Add to it the international prescence Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker bring and the Spurs are not the cow town, low exposure uninteresting team people make them out to be.

But what makes the Spurs go starts and end with Tim Duncan (above, right). Without their career 20.2 PPG and 14 RPG player, the Spurs would be similar to franchises such as Portland, Utah, and Phoenix who all have been ultra competitive but have one title between them. While Duncan is far from being the most dominant player in NBA history, he makes a stable contribution and the team can count on him no matter the situation. It was a real perfect storm of circumstances that allowed the Spurs to draft Duncan, as an injury plagued season in 1996-97 dropped the Spurs to a franchise record worst 20-62. The Boston Celtics had the best chance at winning the lottery, but lost to the Spurs. Duncan has a quiet personality, so he is definitely a better fit for San Antonio than he was for passionate Boston.

Since 2003, he's teamed with Parker and Ginobili (and Robinson in his last hurrah) to win titles in odd years, while being a few breaks away from gaining/sustaining serious momentum toward winning that elusive back to back title. Though they failed to do so again this past year, bad news will be another odd year.

Spurs listed #5. An interesting read for varied sports fans.

Bleach Report: San Antonio Spurs: A Game Plan After Corey Maggette's Snub

While over the next several days, approximately 34,958,094,385 articles will be written on where the Clippers must go now that Elton Brand and Corey Maggette have decided to leave. But for at least one legitimate title contender, Maggette's decision also has a dramatic impact on their offseason.

The San Antonio Spurs, widely considered the favorites to land Maggette's services before the Warriors stepped in and outbid them, are now back at square one in determining how to assemble next year's team.

Last season, it was more apparent than ever that the rest of the Western Conference—in particular the Lakers, Hornets, and Jazz—is catching up and have possibly even overtaken the Spurs.

The Spurs, plagued by a lack of a definitive fourth scorer after the big three of Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, would have had the perfect solution to their problems had they been able to land Maggette.

Maggette possesses a perfect combination of perimeter shooting and slashing with the ability to create his own shot that would have made the Spurs extremely dangerous offensively. Bruce Bowen, Tim Duncan and company would have been able to make up for his defensive deficiencies.

With Maggette out of the picture, the answer to the question of "what's next" will decide if the aging Spurs can keep pace with the rising, younger Lakers, Hornets, and Jazz in the West next year.

Indeed, while the Clippers have a big decision to make over the next few weeks, the Spurs' approach to this offseason may determine the next NBA champion, and the entire league should keep an eye on it.

The obvious need for the Spurs this offseason is to get a younger, more athletic wing player, and they could use a backup big man as well. From here, it appears there are three plausible courses for the Spurs to set this offseason:

Go after the Next Biggest Fish

While the some of the next biggest fish—Josh Smith, Josh Childress, Andre Iguodala, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, Emeka Okafor, and Luol Deng—all figure to be offered more money by their current teams than the Spurs could offer, there are a few free agents left that the Spurs might be interested in that would likely command the majority of their mid-level exception.

The first player who will be linked to the Spurs is Nuggets guard J.R. Smith. Spurs fans have heard of J.R. Smith for a very long time now, ever since he was nearly traded to the Spurs at the deadline two years ago. Though the Spurs' interest in him is old news, he still must be the first player mentioned when it comes to candidates for the mid-level exception.

As a restricted free agent, the Nuggets would have the option to match any offer the Spurs make to Smith. However, while they won't let him walk away over pennies, Smith has repeatedly fallen out of favor with coach George Karl.

Considering how strapped the Nuggets are financially, they would have to think twice before matching an offer of anything over $4 million a year.

Smith possesses a number of skills that the Spurs could find useful. He averaged a solid 12.3 PPG off the bench while shooting a career-high 40.3 percent from three-point range last season.

At only 22, he would provide the Spurs with youth and athleticism that the Spurs desperately lacked last season with Brent Barry, Michael Finley, Bruce Bowen and Ime Udoka taking turns as the second wingman next to Ginobili.

The question is whether the Spurs want to bank on a player with as many character problems and off-court issues as Smith, who has been suspended on multiple occasions due to his behavior on and off the court as well as facing legal issues.

For the Spurs, who pride themselves on personal character, such behavior must give them pause.

The next option has been somewhat less explored, but makes some sense. The Spurs could make a move on Chicago Bulls restricted free agent Ben Gordon. At 25 and a scoring machine at 18.6 PPG off the bench, Gordon would certainly give the Spurs their much-needed fourth scorer.

A player such as Gordon would certainly command the Spurs' full mid-level exception. On talent alone, the Bulls would be certain to match.

However, given his streaky play last season in which several of his stats dipped from 2006-2007, and the crowded backcourt in Chicago (after drafting Derrick Rose and with Kirk Hinrich, Larry Hughes, Thabo Sefolosha, Andres Nocioni, and Luol Deng), the Bulls might elect not to match a full mid-level offer.

Ultimately, Gordon is a long-shot, and I suspect the Bulls would match the Spurs offer.

There are two more players left who have skills that might interest the Spurs at this price range, Blazers forward James Jones and Celtics swingman James Posey.

Jones seems to be seeking a deal starting at about $5 million per year, while Posey appears to be holding out for the full mid-level exception.

Each player can shoot from long range, and Posey plays gritty defense, and they would both be attractive to the Spurs. However, spending so much money on what will likely wind up being an eighth man is what gets teams locked in salary-cap hell. I don't think signing either would be a good move for the Spurs.

Look for a Hidden Bass

OK, so making a subtle allusion to Mavericks forward Brandon Bass, the prototypical hidden impact player signed for the cheap, may not have been the most clever maneuver in the world. Sue me.

Unfortunately, there's a reason why these kinds of players are hidden: nobody knows who they're going to be. So here's a list of players who would be my best bets to be a surprise contributor for a near minimum-salary deal next year. The Spurs could split their mid-level exception amongst two or three of these guys and hope they pan out.

Eddie House gave the Celtics much a much-needed scoring punch in the Finals last year. Unfortunately, the streaky nature of his scoring and his suspect defense led to him being mostly benched for the first three rounds of the playoffs. If the Spurs could get some consistency out of House, they could get a steal at about $2 million per season over two years.

Shaun Livingston is a point guard who showed a lot of promise with the Clippers before having both of his arms cut off by a chainsaw. Fortunately they were able to reattach them and it appears that his rehab is going fairly well, but the Clippers were so wary of his health after four years of inconsistency that they didn't tender him an offer sheet to make him a restricted free agent.

Again, something in the area of $2 million-$3 million per season would probably be enough to get him, but he could be a steal or a total waste of money.

Wizards point guard Roger Mason had a career year last season while filling in for Gilbert Arenas and Antonio Daniels. Whether it was a lucky year or a sign of a developing player is anyone's guess.

Nuggets guard Yakhouba Diawara's name has supposedly been linked to the Spurs. I have no idea why, as his numbers were utterly unremarkable last year and he was another one of those players whose team didn't bother tendering an offer sheet.

Timberwolves guard Kirk Snyder was a solid stop-gap starter who was able to score here and there and shot over 50 percent last year. Unfortunately, his three-point shooting has been plummeting ever since he came into the league, which is usually a requirement to play wing for the Spurs.

Bonzi Wells has never been the same player since leaving the Kings two years ago. But the Spurs still remember what a strong, physical presence he was in their series against the Kings that year, and if the Spurs can rekindle some of that player, the Spurs would have a steal at $2 million. Of course, that's what the Rockets and Hornets have been thinking.

Alonzo Mourning apparently wants to play one more year, and when he's been healthy he's shown he can still be a strong defensive presence. The rebuilding Heat may not want him back, but it's unclear if he would consider playing for anyone else. Also unfortunately, this move would make the Spurs older, not younger.

Heat restricted free agent forward Dorrell Wright has been hyped ever since coming into the league, but he's always been battling injuries that have kept him from achieving his potential. Unquestionably athletic, could the Spurs pry this young guy away from the Heat for $2 million-$3 million a year?

Stay the Course

Likely the least satisfying but perhaps the most probable outcome could be the Spurs simply re-signing Brent Barry, Kurt Thomas, Michael Finley, and Robert Horry and returning the same team from last year.

Though many Spurs fans would immediately wonder why a team that seems to simply be a year older could improve on their conference finals exit, there would be a few reasons why this might make some sense.

First of all, it can easily be argued that the Spurs were one healthy Manu Ginobili ankle or foul call on Brent Barry's three-pointer from making it back to the Finals.

Barry had one of his strongest seasons as a Spur when he was healthy this year, Finley still played well in stretches, and Horry might be able to still contribute if he can stay healthy for the whole season. The Western Conference Finals look a lot closer than the 4-1 final result when seen through those rose-colored glasses.

Secondly, after Maggette, there are just no slam-dunk options available at the Spurs' price range this offseason. The Spurs could find an impact player such as J.R. Smith or James Posey for the mid-level exception, or they might sink all of their financial flexibility for the next 3-5 years over an ineffective player.

They could get a steal by getting Ben Gordon, or they could tie up their money for seven days and watch all of the other available free agents dry up only to have the Bulls match anyways. Re-signing their own veterans allows the Spurs to preserve their money for the future when they might be able to lure a true impact free agent.

Thirdly, the Spurs may be able to get younger through their draft picks. The Spurs are inordinately excited about first-round pick George Hill as a backup to Tony Parker, and they seem to think that Ian Mahinmi and Malik Hairston may be able to contribute this year as well.

Finally, the Spurs still have the ability to improve through trades. Unfortunately, this is likely fools' hope, as the Spurs lack many tradeble assets outside of a few moderately-sized expiring deals between now and 2010 unless one of their rookies develops quickly. Without an expiring deal like Kwame Brown last year, there will be no one like Pau Gasol riding to the Spurs' rescue.


Ultimately, I think the Spurs will most likely wind up simply bringing back the team from last year and let this team have one more run at a title. I think the Spurs find restricted free agency too risky, which might scare them away from Smith and Gordon, while none of those $1 million-$2 million players are so good that they are worth bringing in over someone like Finley who already knows the system.

It may be a far less sexy option than bringing in Maggette that Spurs fans were hoping for, and it probably isn't enough to keep pace with the competition in the West, but it may be the best they can do with the cards they're dealt.

However, if the Spurs could somehow swing bringing in a talent like Gordon or felt confident that they could get a steady head on J.R. Smith's shoulders, they should jump at the chance, in which case the Spurs would instantly move up to being co-favorites with the Lakers in the West next year.

The next few weeks will determine which direction the Spurs go this year, whether they keep their championship window open a crack for a couple more seasons or if it slams shut on their face.

The rest of the league would do well to watch what happens, because with a few good moves, the Spurs just might swing in and keep their bi-annual engagement with the championship trophy next June.

Good article breaking down some of the Free Agent possibilities left. The writer seems to do a pretty good job of putting himself in the Spurs FO mindset.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Express News: Spurs miss out on Maggette

Web Posted: 07/09/2008 12:23 AM CDT

Mike Monroe
San Antonio Express-News

The Spurs on Tuesday night got caught in the undertow of a tidal wave of free agency misfortune that swamped the hapless Los Angeles Clippers and scuttled their dreams of returning to significance in the NBA's Western Conference.

When All-Star power forward Elton Brand, an unrestricted free agent who was the Clippers' best player, reportedly agreed to sign with the Philadelphia 76ers, the decision had a domino effect on other players and other teams, including the Spurs.

The Clippers had reached a verbal agreement a week ago with Golden State Warriors unrestricted free agent Baron Davis to bring the star point guard to L.A. The team also hoped to re-sign Brand, who had opted out of the final season of a contract that was to pay him $16.4 million, for a lesser amount, a deal that reportedly was to begin at about $15 million per season.

Pairing Brand and Davis would have required the Clippers to renounce their rights to swingman Corey Maggette, an athletic veteran who last season averaged 22.4 points.

The Spurs were believed to be the frontrunners among several elite teams, including the NBA champion Boston Celtics, which were willing to give Maggette a contract beginning at the mid-level salary cap exception of roughly $5.85 million for the 2008-09 season.

Spurned by Davis, the Warriors became players in the bidding for unrestricted free agents by renouncing their rights to the point guard. That gave them room under the NBA's salary cap to make a lucrative offer to Brand.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Brand instead opted to accept a five-year, $80 million offer from the 76ers.

Spurned again, the Warriors turned to Maggette, getting a verbal agreement to accept a five-year deal for about $50 million, according to the Times.

NBA teams can begin signing free agent players today, but the market for athletic guard-forwards appears to be shrinking. In addition to Maggette's removal from the list, Warriors swing man Mickael Pietrus reportedly has agreed to a deal with a new team. Florida Today reported that the Orlando Magic have a verbal agreement with Pietrus.

Pietrus' agent, Bill McCandless, told reporters in Orlando that several other teams, including the Spurs, had expressed interest in Pietrus.

According to NBA sources, the Spurs also have expressed interest in Wizards swingman Roger Mason, Jr., and Celtics guard-forward James Posey.

The Spurs' success in finding an athletic wing player on the free-agent market figures to affect their decision-making about some of their own free agents. Brent Barry, the 3-point ace who helped the Spurs win two titles in his four seasons with the club, opted out of the final year of his contract on June 30. He has talked with the Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers and Suns but has not ruled out returning to the Spurs.

Barry is one of four members of the Spurs' regular playing rotation on the free-agent market. Also free to sign with any team are center-forward Kurt Thomas, swingman Michael Finley, who started 61 games last season, and forward Robert Horry.

Thomas, who made $8 million last season, told the Express-News on Monday he owed it to his family to explore his options, but hoped things would work out to allow him to return to San Antonio.

Should the Spurs get shut out of the free agent market, they will look to first-round draft pick George Hill, a combination guard, to help them improve enough to return to The NBA Finals. Hill, limited to a contract specified by the NBA’s rookie salary scale, is expected to sign with the team this summer. On draft night, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich indicated his belief Hill will be Parker’s primary backup next season.

“He’s a really solid player at both ends of the court,” Popovich said. “I honestly believe he will make our team better right off the bat.”

ESPN: NBA sets salary cap for next season at $58.68 million

For those of you interested in the higher math of the NBA, the League set the salary cap for 2008-2009.

This season, the luxury tax threshold will be set at $71,150,000. This gives the Spurs about $16,000 and some change to work with, as well as their disposal the Mid-Level Exception, which is worth $5,585,000 this season. Also the Spurs have their Bi-Annual Exception worth $1,910,000 and a trade exception worth $1,847,000.

The Spurs also have the following Free Agents who may or may not be on the roster next year:

Brent Barry
Robert Horry
Kurt Thomas
Michael Finley
Damon Stoudemire
George Hill
DerMarr Johnson
Malik Hairston
James Gist

New Content Added!

Just a quick note, you might notice the handy new links on the left side to find local coverage for the various NBA teams. Most of the Spurs related stuff should find it's way around here at some point, but this helps keep track of the team when they play their Away games.

Only 113 days left until basketball season begins...

And just as quickly as it began, the Corey Maggette saga is over...,0,7626268.story

In another deal today, former Clipper Corey Maggette reached agreement to join the Golden State Warriors in a five-year deal worth about $50 million, according to NBA sources who requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about player movements. Maggette also opted out of the last year of his Clippers contract last week.

Looks like he'd rather stay on the west coast and waste another few years of his NBA career. Like Nellie ball is really gonna him a ring.

Guess I can't totally blame him. The California beaches are nice. And I like the shoreline, too.

Anyways, looks like it's onto the next best available Free Agents out there, which may be JR Smith or James Posey.

Sucks to miss out on Maggette, but I stopped getting my hopes up as soon as the Spurs were pegged as the 'favorites'. Like I said, for this organization, that just never seems to work out well.

Brand ready to trade coasts?;_ylt=Ai1g3EyXdiD2eqdfbn2O4Sy8vLYF?slug=aw-brandsixers070708&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

If this is true, the Spurs chances of landing Maggette just took a big hit. Without Brand on contract, the Clippers will have plenty of money to make sure Maggette stays, and would almost NEED to bring him back after dropping Brand's production. On the flip side, if the Warriors begin to feel like they have missed out on the Elton-train, they may take a harder shot for Maggette as well.

Frickin' dude just needs to realize he wants to win a ring and come to San Antonio.

Kerr trying to steal Barry again; Nobody surprised

East valley tribune
Jul 08, 2008 3:19 AM EST

Sources have confirmed that Brent Barry has had discussions with Phoenix about possibly becoming a Sun, the East Valley Tribune is reporting.

The Suns, along with the Rockets, tried to sign Barry after his contract was bought out by the Sonics last season, but Barry decided to return to the Spurs.

The San Antonio Express-News said Barry is also being courted by the Lakers, and that the Houston Rockets are prepared to offer him their $1.9 million biannual exception, which the Suns have already used on Grant Hill.

Monday, July 7, 2008

S.A. Express News - Thomas eyes return to Spurs

Kurt Thomas is saying all the right things about wanting to stay in San Antonio, but is still playing the typical free agent game. He will undoubtedly test the market to see what kind of price he can get from contending teams, and that will probably set the price for the Spurs.

Unfortunately, until the Spurs get an idea of what their swingman situation is going to look like and if Rob-asaurus will be coming back, it's hard to really make a move with Thomas yet. Looks like time will tell if this big man will get a second year to prove himself with this team.

ESPN: Corey Maggette Update

Maggette knows his career with the Clippers is over unless Brand stuns the league and goes to Golden State. The high-scoring swingman has no shortage of suitors offering him a multi-year deal starting at the midlevel exception, which is expected to approach $6 million for next season, but Maggette hasn't abandoned hope that a team with salary-cap space (Philadelphia or Golden State) will come after him.

The obstacles?

No. 1: Maggette and Sixers restricted free agent Andre Iguodala share the same representative, which could make negotiating deals for two players who play essentially the same position with one team rather complicated for agent Rob Pelinka.

No. 2: There's a strong sense that the Warriors would prefer to chase restricted free agents Josh Smith (Atlanta) and Luol Deng (Chicago) with the money they threw at Brand, although Maggette's status as an unrestricted free agent -- who thus doesn't have to sign an offer sheet that could tie up a team's money for seven days -- makes him easier to pursue.

It's believed that Maggette, without an offer from a team with cap room, favors San Antonio if he has to sign a contract starting at the midlevel. But he has also drawn similar interest from a variety of enticing contenders -- Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, Orlando, New Orleans and Utah are the known suitors -- and the Lakers would be a dangerous suitor if they wanted to get involved given Maggette's close relationship with Kobe Bryant. The Lakers, though, would have to abandon any interest in resigning Sasha Vujacic and Ronny Turiaf to sign Maggette, and the team still favors retaining those two key reserves.

Looks like Maggette's days in Los Angeles are looking numbered. San Antonio is still being written as the favorite, but most Spurs' fans know that with their free agent history, that probably isn't a good sign.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Looks like Ginobili is still mulling over Beijing...

Manu Ginobili is hopeful that he will be able to play at the Beijing Games but is still uncertain if his left ankle injury will prevent him from helping Argentina defend their title. The superstar guard flew to San Antonio this week to have his ankle examined by doctors and then returned home to Argentina.

“After the second injection they applied on my left ankle in San Antonio, I need to rest three or four days and then have some rehabilitation for five more days,” Ginobili said. “If after that time the pain is acute, then things will be complicated.”

Argentina basketball fans are waiting on the edge of their seats to see if Ginobili will be able to play in Beijing.

Ginobili says everyone needs to be patient.

“They haven´t given me a definite date (about a decision),” he said.

“They only spoke to me about rehabilitation and then we shall see.

“I personally would prefer to have a definite date but for the time being there´s nothing for me to do but wait for the updates every 24 hours.”

San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs did not want Ginobili to play last summer at the FIBA Americas Championship, advising him to rest instead.

“What did Popovich tell me when I was in San Antonio?” Ginobili said of this week’s visit.

“He wants me to go to Beijing but just like the other executives, he told me to be honest when the time comes to take a definite decision.”

Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez, meanwhile, is remaining optimistic about Argentina’s chances in China.

“What would happen if Manu cannot go to the Olympics?” he said.

“There´s always a Plan B but I am optimistic that he will recover.

“But if that didn´t happen, you cannot cry in a tournament because you are missing a player.

“What the team must do is not to focus on the ones that are absent but on the potential the team has.”

Spurs and Boston are the finalists for Posey?
James Posey: The second most popular free agent? He may be, everyone wants a bench defender who can shoot. Posey may have made his case in the NBA finals this year by his stellar play and hustle. Is he a starter? Maybe, but not for the whole season, he is best played off the bench and in crunch time.
Who is interested? Well the Lakers were a James Posey away from winning the championship. They only have a mid-level exception to offer though, will 3 years 20 million be enough? It may be a little larger than that. (Note that teams over the cap can use that mid-level and extend a long term deal using yearly increases that would be about a million dollar a year raise each year.) Posey's agent says that Boston and San Antonio are the finalists, but they both are in the same situation as the Lakers. Posey has to be ready to settle down, and stop moving around. Boston is where he wants to be, but they have to lock him up.

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