UPDATE: The San Antonio Spurs have announced that they've assigned Aron Baynes to the Austin Toros.
With no Tony Parker and no Kawhi Leonard in the line up, it was a given that someone, probably multiple people, from the Spurs' bench were going to have to step up against the Orlando Magic this past Wednesday, we just didn't know who. I'm willing to bet not many of us thought it would be Aron Baynes.
Since signing with the San Antonio Spurs at the end of January, Baynes has pretty much been given the Cory Joseph treatment, which is to say racking up the mileage driving from San Antonio to Austin to play with the Toros. Considering he hasn't even had a training camp with the Spurs, none of us really expected his first season to amount to much more than that barring some sort of injury.
The Spurs got good games from Gary Neal, Nando De Colo and Cory Joseph, but Baynes' second half was pretty surprising. Nine points and five rebounds in 18 minutes may not seem so impressive, but it may allow Gregg Popovich to rest not only Tim Duncan, but Tiago Splitter as well in the future.
“It was huge. I didn’t want to play Tiago (Splitter) any more than I wanted to play Timmy (Duncan). Orlando plays hard for Jacque (Vaughn). They come out hard every night and try to execute. They hung in there," Popovich said. "Finally we found a group that made some shots and we got it going. So Baynes was really important in being out there and doing what he did for us.”
Baynes and Splitter are asked to do similar things. Set screens, dive to the basket, play hard. They're by no means similar players, but Baynes being able to take on a similar role to Splitter will be helpful moving forward regardless of whether the Spurs are able to re-sign the Brazilian big man. We'll likely see some more of him in the last two weeks of the season as the Spurs look to get Duncan and Splitter rest before the playoffs.