Show me the money

This was an expensive season for the San Antonio Spurs.  At just over $69 million, the Spurs shelled out enough to put them in the top fifteen highest paid teams in the NBA.  With many questions surrounding the team after a disappointing early exit from the playoffs, many are wondering what changes the team can make in the off-season to complete one last run as the Tim Duncan era gets smaller in the window. The answer to that question may rely on the answer to another question: what can the Spurs afford?

Who’s Back?

For 2011-2012, the Spurs have nearly all of the current team under contract, and will cut loose a lot of dead weight contracts on players that have been traded or released.  Most everyone stands to make substantial raises, and even with eight fewer contracts on the books, the team’s payroll is likely to balloon to over $75 million, catapulting the team into the top ten of the league’s payrolls.  

Tim has an early termination option that the team is likely to exercise for what may bring his illustrious career to an end once next season is over.  If the team exercises the option, Mr. Duncan will see a cool $3 million raise next season, topping out somewhere north of $21 million.  Drinks are on Tim next time.

Tony Parker’s re-signing in the fall was much publicized as he remains under contract for the next four seasons, though trade speculation has and will continue to surround his future as a Spur.  Manu Ginobili as well is locked down for next season and the season after.  While most expect that Antonio McDyess plans to hang up his sneakers, he has one more year unguaranteed on his contract should he seek one last swan song.  To the chagrin of fans everywhere, Richard Jefferson will return as the fourth highest paid player on the team at over $9 million, though he is worth every only a penny.

Tiago Splitter, DeJuan Blair, Matt Bonner, James Anderson, George Hill, Gary Neal, Danny Green, and Da’Sean Butler are also signed on for next season as well.

Free Agents

The Spurs only free agents next season are Chris Quinn and Steve Novak.  With his size and shooting ability, Novak seems like a good fit for the Spurs to re-sign, however the late season signing of Da’Sean Butler may complicate Novak’s hopes of remaining in San Antonio.  He may also decide to pursue his accounting career for one of our local firms or potentially enter the professional accounting draft which I believe is held in the fall (just kidding.  Or am I?)  

Look for Quinn to turn into a pumpkin as the clock strikes midnight on his run as the back-up….back-up point guard for the Spurs.  With a mammoth payroll for the upcoming season, it seems likely that the Spurs’ front office will look to cut money where they can as well as possibly restructure or trade othercontracts that are currently on the books (I’m looking at you Richard Jefferson) especially if they expect to have cap room to sign any big men over the summer.  The biggest obstacle the Spurs will face in this endeavor is that over 75% of their 2011-2012 payroll remains tied up in four players that the Spurs are unlikely to unload (Duncan, Parker, Ginobili, and Jefferson).  Though there may be some trade value in the likes of Neal and Hill (forgetting for a second whether it would be wise to trade them) dumping their contracts will not be a big help financially.  Their future may be determined by the fortunes of the Spurs come draft time in finding some much needed size.

With all that said, be prepared for some sort of basketball voodoo on the part of R.C. Buford and Popovich as they try to put together a roster good enough to grab one last championship for Tim before he rides into the proverbial south Texas sunset.   

Show Me The Money

Spurs fan favorite Roger Mason Jr. turned Spurs nation upside down last month when word got out that he requested a trade.

MasonCiting lack of playing time as the reason he wanted to be traded, the Spurs worked with Mason’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, to try to trade Mason before the trade deadline. While there was reportedly a lot of interest in Mason, and several rumors involving him going to Chicago, Philadelphia, Memphis and Miami, the trade deadline came and went, and Mason remained in the silver & black.

So how has Mason done since the trade deadline?

While Mason averaged 19 minutes a game before the trade deadline, he has only averaged 17 a game ever since, to go with 4.4 points per game.

While Mason didn’t immediately get the minutes he asked for, he has been on the floor for over 20 minutes six times since the deadline, even breaking 30 minutes per in three games.

But have those minutes translated into points?

On February 21 against the Pistons, Mason was on the floor for 31 minutes, but only scored two points. On February 26 against the Rockets, he also played 31 minutes. That time he scored 12 points, but it was on four of 13 from the field and three of nine on three-point attempts. Both games also resulted in losses.

His best game this month came Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder. In 33 minutes, he scored 13 points on five of 11 shooting from the field. He also connected on three of seven three-pointers.

If “Minutes” Mason wants to get back in the good graces of Spurs fans, he’ll have more games like he did on Monday night. A good start would be tonight, when the Spurs draw Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, a team he is very familiar with. It was only a season ago when Kobe Bryant celebrated a little too early and had to see Mason hit the game winner.

If Mason contributes to a Spurs win tonight, San Antonio will celebrate “Money” Mase, and be closer to forgetting about “Minutes” Mason.

About Michael A. De Leon

Michael founded Project Spurs in 2004. He started The Spurscast, the first Spurs podcast on the Internet, in 2005. Michael has been interviewed by the BBC, SportTalk, the Sports Reporters Radio Show, MemphisSportLive, OKC Sports Wrap and ESPN radio among others. He is a credentialed member of the media for the San Antonio Spurs and Austin Toros. He is also the founder of Project Spurs' sister sites, Toros Nation and Stars Hoops.