Buford discusses free agency, says door could be open for Neal return

The San Antonio Spurs officially announced the signings of free agents Manu Ginobili, Marco Belinelli, and Jeff Pendergraph Thursday. General Manager R.C. Buford spoke with the media Wednesday afternoon about the signings of the three players, the anticipation of re-signing Tiago Splitter and he said there’s still a chance restricted-free agent Gary Neal could return to San Antonio.

“We’re in a position now where we have roster space and the ability to make a decision when Gary finds what his market is whether he fits us or not,” said Buford of the possibility of Neal returning to the Spurs.

“The ability to play multiple positions makes him an attractive player to move forward with,” continued Buford of Neal. “With restricted free agency we have the opportunity to allow him to find where his market is and make the decision.”

With 14 roster spots taken now, the 15th spot could be reserved for Neal if the price range is right for he and the Spurs.

On Ginobili, Buford said even in Ginobili’s latter age, he still brings the Spurs an element to the court that isn’t so easily replaceable and said Ginobili made a sacrifice pay-wise to re-sign with the Spurs.

“He’s been the heart and soul of our team for many years,” said Buford of Ginobili. “He made a significant sacrifice to comeback and join this group.”

 There was a report claiming Ginobili said the Spurs’ management had second thoughts initially about brining Ginobili back, but Buford said “not from our side” when asked if the Spurs had any second thoughts about bringing Ginobili back. “I think Manu had spoken openly,” continued Buford of Ginobili’s comments.

“He was still in the top 25% of guards in PER,” said Buford of Ginobili. Buford continued saying he’s not looking forward to the day when Ginobili isn’t playing with the Spurs, because it’ll be tough to replace what Ginobili brings to the court.

With Splitter, Buford said the Spurs knew Splitter would be a big man in demand on the market and the Spurs had to be a bit more aggressive in their negotiations.

“We recognized this wasn’t going to be a casual negotiation,” said Buford of re-signing Splitter.

With Belinelli on board, Buford explained what he will be bringing to the floor. “It’s a great addition to our team,” said Buford of Belinelli. “He fits the way we play.”

Buford said several members of the Chicago Bulls, Belinelli’s former team, commented that Belinelli is a “player that impacts winning.” Buford also said the Spurs were impressed with “his attention to both sides of the floor.”

Finally, on Pendergraph, Buford said new Spurs assistant coach Jim Boylen was one significant reason why the Spurs added Pendergraph.

“Jim Boylen coached him the last two years in Indiana and was very high on him,” said Buford of Pendergraph. “He’s a very physical player. He can play the four and the five.” Buford also said Pendergraph has solid passing ability and can stably shoot an 18-foot jumper, only he didn’t have opportunities to showcase his skills in the past.

With the Western Conference reshaping itself, especially in the Southwest Division with the Houston Rockets adding Dwight Howard, Buford said the move was a factor in the Spurs bringing Splitter back and adding the physical Pendergraph.

Paul Garcia

About Paul Garcia

Paul is a San Antonio Spurs credentialed media member for Project Spurs. He covered the 2013 NBA All-Star Game in Houston, TX, and the 2013 and 2014 NBA Finals. Paul has been featured on WOAI, Fox 29, and numerous nationwide radio shows.

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