By Benjamin Bornstein, Project Spurs.com
I wrote an article last week about how the San Antonio Spurs deserve an “A” for their efforts this offseason, but it seems they weren’t finished as they announced Tuesday that 6-time WNBA All-Star, Becky Hammon, would join the team as an assistant coach. This makes her the first salaried, full-time, female assistant coach (Lisa Boyer was an assistant in Cleveland 2001-02, but was not salaried) in NBA history.
Is anyone really surprised though? If there were going to be a team to do it, it would certainly be the Spurs. They already have the most diverse roster in the league; why not go for most diverse bench too? It was a good move on all fronts and it could have catapulted this offseason into one of the most successful ones the franchise has ever seen. The Spurs managed to bring everyone back from a championship team and did so without going into the luxury tax (a big deal for a “small market” team), they brought in a legendary coach from overseas, and even made a hire from their own backyard.
One offseason that might challenge this one was the summer of 1989. David Robinson finally came to play, the Spurs drafted Sean Elliot, and traded for Terry Cummings. This would lead to the biggest single season turnaround in NBA history (at the time) as they went from 21-61 to 56-26. They won their division and “The Admiral” finished off the season by unanimously winning the Rookie of the Year honor.
You could probably argue that summer of 1997 wasn’t bad either selecting that one guy with the top pick. I think his name was Timothy Duncan and he was some stiff from Wake Forest. That year saw the team break their own turnaround record by going from 20-62 to 56-26 (beating it by a game). Duncan was not only named Rookie of the Year, but also to the All-NBA First Team.
2002’s offseason was quite an interesting one as well. It was the season where Manu Ginobili finally came to San Antonio to play, the Spurs went out and got a bunch of three-point shooters, and David Robinson announced his retirement following that season. Those shooters I mentioned? Danny Ferry, Steve Kerr, Stephen Jackson, Bruce Bowen, and Steve Smith. It might have been Robinson’s announcement more than anything that inspired such a fantastic season, but it was one that ended in a championship (in their first year in a new arena I might add) over the New Jersey Nets led by Jason Kidd.
However, I don’t think the Silver and Black fan base has ever been as excited about an offseason as they are about this one. This is one of the few times where free agents have decided to stay (and even for less money in some cases), and of course everyone was excited when they heard Tim Duncan opted back in for a potential last season. If he continues to play like he has been the past few years, people should be this ecstatic about the season. There’s still young talent in the pipeline like Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, and Patty Mills, and there’s a perfect mix of veteran leadership to go with it even though those young guys have already been battle tested.
This could be one of the greatest offseasons the Spurs have ever experienced, but it will all come down to how they perform in the regular season and playoffs. Champions aren’t built in one offseason, but many times are forged through the continuity of several, and that is exactly what the Spurs have managed to accomplish with their bevy of re-signings, hires, and extensions.