In the very short offseason that came before the Christmas Day NBA tipoff, the San Antonio Spurs were linked to several free agent small forwards.
The plans seemed to be in place to use the amnesty clause on Richard Jefferson and bring in a second or third tier small forward to start, with several options available at the backup position.
Caron Butler, Shane Battier, Josh Howard and Vince Carter all chose other teams, while Grant Hill, who had been rumored to be down to picking between the Spurs and Suns after turning down several other options, returned to Phoenix.
Fast forward one month, and the player who seemed to be one signing away from becoming a free agent, Richard Jefferson, is now out of the dog house in San Antonio and is averaging better numbers than every other free agent target aside from Butler.
A few of the other players have talked briefly about why they didn’t choose the Spurs, from it not being the right fit, to wanting to play with a younger team.
When Phoenix came into town on Sunday, I got some time with Hill to ask about his talks with the Spurs. However, the 16-year NBA veteran described it as a blur.
“I don’t know. I mean it’s all a big blur,” Hill said when I asked about how serious his talks with the Spurs were. “I had some talks with them but talks with other teams as well. It was all so rushed. It was all part of the process.”
While the Knicks and Suns were the biggest suitors for Hill’s services early on, the Knicks dropped out in order to save money to land Tyson Chandler. The Spurs then emerged when news broke that they were willing to add a second year to Hill’s contract, something no other team would offer. Regardless, Hill returned to the Suns for a reported one-year, $6.5 million contract.
With Hill now in his fifth year with the Suns, while he came very close to wearing silver and black, he still sees the Spurs as a major rival.
“We’ve had some great matchups and respect what they’ve done,” Hill said. “I think it’s a mutual respect. It’s a good game whether it’s here or there, so yea, it’s a good rivalry.”
Hill also said he was surprised at the Spurs’ level of play without all-star guard Manu Ginobili.
“I am surprised. They’re playing very well. Playing very well at home,” Hill said. “Of course they’re well coached. They’ve got Tony and Tim out there Pop just puts guys in there and they get it done.”
“They’re still a great team playing a little different than they did in the past. We have our hands full tonight,” Green said on Sunday.
They say hindsight is 20/20, and while no one knows for sure what the addition of Hill would have done to the Spurs, it’s now an afterthought with Jefferson playing well and the emergence of Danny Green.
While the Spurs were unable to land a free agent forward, they had the forwards they were looking for on the roster the entire time.