Being an NBA player in the era of super teams has to be tough. From player movement through draft day trades, offseason free agency and the midseason trade deadline, it would not be to my surprise if most players rented homes until they complete a full year with a new team.
One minute you are an exciting new player sure to dazzle crowds and the next you can be shipped off to the next NBA city as an underperforming throw-in as part of a trade or salary dump. While player movement has long been part of the NBA, I can’t remember so many key players moving from team-to-team in their careers and collecting a new jersey as their “thanks for playing” prize.
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the San Antonio Spurs. While they have a few moves from one year to the next, the core often seems to be mostly the same. Ask any Spurs fan and they can recount Tim, Tony and Manu stories going back to 2003, and Tim and Dave stories before that.
Lakers, Celtics, Bulls and Pistons fans can remember cheering on what mostly seemed like the same team for several years. Nowadays however, when you look at some of the bigger contenders, their rosters don’t even run past a few years and several of the key players have spent the majority of their careers elsewhere.
One NBA player, who has collected his fair share of team jerseys, says the old way — the Spurs way — is the right way.
“Where there is so much change in the nba, the Spurs did it right. Kept their core guys 2gether for years. That's how the 80's nba use to be,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford tweeted from his @JCrossover account on Sunday afternoon.
While the Spurs haven’t always been able to attract the biggest free agent names, likely due to smaller market size, and possibly because of the allure to play in a bigger NBA city for some can outweigh playing for a better NBA team, the Spurs have kept their core together and add just the right complimentary pieces through free agent signings, smaller trades and the NBA Draft.
Take for example Gary Neal, who went undrafted several years prior to being signed by the Spurs out of summer league. Danny Green went back and forth between the NBA and the D-League before he found a home, and a starting role, in San Antonio. Kawhi Leonard came through the draft as did Tiago Splitter, Cory Joseph, Nando De Colo and DaJuan Blair.
Surrounding key role players around the main core of Duncan, Parker and Ginobili may not bring the same glitz and storylines as a blockbuster trade or big free agent score, but the Spurs have been doing this since the Robinson era, and it’s been good enough for four titles…and counting.