Almost exactly two years ago, Gregg Popovich, Tim Duncan, and Tony Parker boarded a plane. Their destination: Los Angeles. Their target: LaMarcus Aldridge.
Now, after 718 days and a couple of disappointing seasons, the Spurs are the ones trying to ship Aldridge out of town in a plane of his own.
ESPN reported Thursday morning that San Antonio is actively trying to deal the power forward. The Spurs are reportedly seeking a lottery pick, preferably a top-10 pick, in return for Aldridge, which is a lofty goal considering his value has plummeted faster than the stock market on Black Tuesday.
The Spurs seem to be hoping a team who still believes in Aldridge as a serviceable scorer can enter the fray and offer something palatable, even if hard to swallow, in return. According to John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports, who first reported the Spurs were shopping Aldridge, San Antonio was already rebuffed in its quest for a top-five pick. The biggest obstacle for the Spurs is this: They have the impossible job of convincing a team that Aldridge still has value despite their desire to get rid of him because he didn’t work out in San Antonio, where everyone is supposed to work out. A lot has changed in two years.
If they’re able to dump Aldridge’s contract, which is worth $21 million this season and includes a $22 million player option for next season, ESPN further reported Thursday that the Spurs have interest in two point guards in free agency: Chris Paul and Derrick Rose, which is like me saying I want to have filet mignon for dinner, but that I could go for a kale salad instead.
It appears the Spurs are keenly aware that they need a ball handler. Tony Parker is aging, while Patty Mills is a free agent and could command more than $17 million on the market. Mills may opt for a pay cut to return to San Antonio, but the Spurs know he won’t push them over the Warriors. Who is available in free agency that can actually move the needle?
This story has been updated to reflect a new report about Paul George.
According to a report by Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, the Spurs have "a real shot" at Paul George in the latest arms race to trade him away from Indiana before he becomes a Laker. And if there’s any team that could parlay a PG-Kawhi duo into an NBA title and convince George to re-sign after they reach the mountaintop, it’s the Spurs. Watch out, Magic. Pop is scheming.
As soon as the season ended, the Spurs seemed to be the team most likely to persuade Chris Paul to decline the massive contract extension he basically engineered (incredible move) and opt for a chance to win a title with Popovich’s crew. The fit in Pop’s system would seem to be, on paper, seamless, given CP3’s pass-first mentality compounded with his ability to score at will when needed. A backcourt of CP and Danny Green would instantly become one of the most frustrating defensive duos in the league.
I’m sorry, but I don’t understand this one. Rose has not shown any signs of being back to comparable form since his injuries and surgeries (yes, his 18 points per game was his highest mark in four seasons) and comes with past off-court issues, but he has also been clear about the fact that he wants a max contract. But, let’s be clear: Rose is not worth a max deal.
The hope for Rose, if he decides to sign with the Spurs, is that he would become Pop’s pet project and find success in San Antonio’s fluid system. He would then undoubtedly shock us all by turning into All-Star-level D-Rose this upcoming season, because everything Pop touches turns into gold.
The connection between Lowry and the Spurs has not yet been reported, but it would seem to make perfect sense. Lowry is a veteran point guard who has all the tools to fit the Spurs like a glove. Lowry, like Paul, would have to leave a lot of money on the table to make his way from the North down to the Alamo. Talk about a culture change.
A sign-and-trade deal sending Blake to San Antonio in exchange for LaMarcus. Who says no? (Not Doc, but definitely Jerry West.)
Not a Free Agent but Still Fun to Think About: Kristaps Porzingis
The thought of LaMarcus Aldridge in the post sounds like something that would make Phil Jackson giddy enough to make this nonsensical trade, which he is apparently very willing to make. Porzingis for Aldridge, any young Spurs player, and a future pick — make it two if you have to. Pop and KP and Kawhi, oh my.
With the recent news that the cap will go down to $99 million from a projected $102 million, the Spurs will have to do some extra financial reshuffling if they do get interest from one of the aforementioned free agents, especially CP3, or others beyond this list. For now, though, let’s take a moment and pour one out for Aldridge, who may have eerily called his demise in San Antonio two years ago when he said, "Maybe I’m not a Spur."